Today I’m pleased to present the latest installment of the Yankeeist interview series: a conversation with NoMaas’ Sensei John Kreese. NoMaas has been around since 2005, and quickly established itself as a unique presence in the Yankee blogosphere. Whereas most Yankee blogs generally focus on posting multiple news items daily, NoMaas has been the go-to source for Yankee comedy. Kreese and his staff of fellow fictional characters from bad ’80s movies have never been afraid to indict the Yankees on poor play on the field, inept managerial decisions and questionable signings, often in scathingly hilarious fashion.
Of course, in addition to boasting the best Yankee-related PhotoShopping skills on the web, NoMaas is clearly written from the perspective of a group of very passionate fans. Their willingness to pull no punches has — in addition to the development of a loyal fan base — earned them the respect of a good number of professionals in and around the game, including The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand and even Yankee General Manager and Senior Vice President Brian Cashman.
In honor of the Yankees’ 27th World Championship, NoMaas recently underwent a redesign, and the site looks better than ever. So scroll on down for my interview with John, in which we discuss said new layout, the history of NoMaas and the joy of anonymity. For past Yankeeist interviews with River Ave. Blues, Bronx Banter, RLYW and Was Watching, please click here, here, here and here.
Yankeeist: What compelled you to start NoMaas and when did you start blogging? What was your first post about?
John Kreese: NoMaas kicked off in May 2005 due to utter frustration with how the Yankees organization was being run from top to bottom. The complete neglect of the farm system, outdated player evaluation methodologies, allowing certain personalities to be bigger than the team (cough Torre cough), lack of creativity and roster flexibility, belief that experience was more important than talent, fiscal inefficiency — these were all issues we wanted to bring to the public because no one else was doing it.
I think our first post was about Tony Womack, the first of many regarding Joe Torre’s mancrush on him. Our first five or six posts did not involve PhotoShop, oddly enough. We just inserted funny pictures we found online. This was our first PhotoShop (posted 05.31.05) and it was pretty terrible.
Yankeeist: I’m a fan of the new layout, although we still don’t know who is responsible for what post – will you be adding author bylines? Additionally, you guys and RLYW’s SG are the only major Yankee bloggers still posting in anonymity. Will you ever reveal your true identities?
JK: I don’t think we’ll be adding author bylines. NoMaas is one cybernetic organism: living tissue over a metal endoskeleton.
Our true identities? What, do you not think I train students for the All-Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament?
Yankeeist: Despite the anonymity, you’ve managed to develop some impressive relationships with high-level sources, including Damon Oppenheimer, Tyler Kepner and Mark Feinsand, among others. And, as you note on the site, Brian Cashman purportedly is a fan. How did you guys cultivate these connections? Was the anonymity ever a hindrance?
JK: The relationships we’ve developed are a testament to what we do and how we’ve claimed a unique space in the Yankee blog universe. There really isn’t another Yankee site out there that has our approach, delivery, and style. As a result, we have captured the attention of many
baseball insiders and once you garner that respect and credibility, it’s much easier to approach people, and people are more willing to approach you. At that point, it really doesn’t matter what pen name you call yourself. We’re like baseball’s version of The Economist.
Yankeeist: You guys haven’t always updated as frequently as some of the other popular Yankee blogs, although appear to be addressing that with the new site. With so many sites out there competing for eyeballs, it can be hard to get people to continue to come back if you’re not giving them something new every day. Though you’ve managed to grow a substantial fanbase without posting daily, have you felt pressure to keep up with the other sites?
JK: That’s a great question. It’s true that we haven’t updated NoMaas with the frequency as some of the other big Yankee blogs who update multiple times per day. We normally update on a nightly basis. And yes, I am looking to increase our frequency by capitalizing on the ease of new software (no more typing manual HTML) as well as making a bunch of staff additions. But, I would like to emphasize that NoMaas will never be about quantity. While it would be great to update the site every couple hours, it’s not going to happen for a couple of reasons.
First, it would be really cool if my wife didn’t divorce me and my house wasn’t foreclosed on. NoMaas already takes up enough time. If I started devoting even more hours to it, bad things would happen, my friend. Bad things. I’m sure the same can be said for the rest of our staff.
Second, we’re not in the news business. When a story breaks, we don’t feel the pressure of being the first site to post a link, or even to post a link at all. That’s not what we do. And that’s precisely how we’ve been able to grow our readership in an overly-saturated Yankee blog market, despite a lower quantity of actual posts. People don’t go to NoMaas to see who was put on the 40-man roster or what the starting lineup is. They go for strong opinions and comedy. That’s why we don’t feel the pressure to make intra-day posts. We offer a different product.
Yankeeist: What are your ultimate goals with NoMaas? Do you foresee a day where you’ll be able to quit your day jobs and make a living doing things like PhotoShopping a pile of crap on the infield of Yankee Stadium (my personal favorite NoMaas graphic of all time)?
JK: If I could somehow use feces to provide the income necessary to fund my financial goals, that would be fantastic. However, it’s not the most realistic aspiration.
We just want to continue to push the envelope, generate conversati
on, be thought-provoking, and make people laugh. It always takes the sting off a Yankee loss when you can go to a website and see a picture of Peter Gammons performing fellatio on Dustin Pedroia.
Yankeeist: You guys have been known to make some bold prognostications, some of which are dead-on, others which unfortunately fall way flat (Alan Horne comes to mind). What’s your most out-of-the-box idea for the 2010 Yankees, and what’s your most regrettable suggestion from the past?
JK: NoMaas is our name, and bold prognostication is our game. When I said earlier that we offer a different product, this is part of it. We created the site with the intent of being direct and to the point.
I think sometimes people get too caught up in covering their own buttocks and are afraid to be wrong. We ain’t got time for that jibba jabba. We have research-based opinions and we express them confidently. If we end up being wrong, so be it. What good is an analyst if he/she doesn’t provide a call?
Regarding 2010 recommendations, we’d really like Matt Holliday. Not sure if that’s “out of the box” or not, but there are a fair amount of fans who don’t want him.
I don’t know if regret is the right word, but I like to think we’re right most of the time. We campaigned hard against the Damon signing, and that worked out well for the Yankees, although they signed him as a CF and now he can barely play LF.
Yankeeist: Lane Meyer’s draft blog was a big hit and a great resource for Yankee fans interested in the team’s minor league operations. Any plans to bring it back with the new NoMaas?
JK: Oh Lane, my little sparrow. Lane has flown the coop and has set up shop at Pinstripes Plus. It’s sad to see him go, but it’s the right move for him professionally.
When he was initially approached by PP, he let me know right away and asked me for my advice on what he should do. Knowing Lane like I do and what his career aspirations are, I told him that he should spread his wings and fly. He has a better shot covering the minors as a career with PP than NoMaas.
It actually makes me feel like a proud parent. But it also shows you how NoMaas is really respected among baseball people.
Yankeeist: What Yankee blogs/websites do you check in with every day?
JK: Well of course, The Yankeeist, you silly goose. River Ave. Blues and Lohud sans-Interested Reader are the others I check out most often. To be honest though, I don’t visit other Yankee blogs on a daily basis. And I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Sometimes I just need a break. My brain can only absorb so much Yankee material before it explodes. If you make pizzas all day, the last thing you want for dinner is pizza. You know what I mean, Larry? You feelin’ that, Larry?
Yankeeist: Did you have any idea how influential a voice you would wind up becoming among legions of Yankee fans? How does it feel?
JK: We started the site with the hopes that it would be influential, because there were aspects of the Yankee organization we wanted changed. But, I don’t know if anyone knew or expected it would blow up like this. Cashman reads us on the regular. I’ve been told the players hang up our PhotoShops in their weight room. When I was down in Spring Training, I sat next to some of the players’ families, and they knew about NoMaas. It’s been truly wild.
But with popularity comes downside too. Expectations grow. People demand more of you. They hold you to higher standards. It’s like they forget that you’re just some guy with a hairy chest and shoulder pubes. You have other things going on in life. That’s when it becomes to feel more like a job. Plus, you’ll start to get the haters because it’s always easier to hate than to create.
But overall, it’s been amazing and very rewarding. When you put so much time into something, and see that others get lots of enjoyment out of it, it makes you feel good.
Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?
JK: I don’t know if I know the exact age, but I remember getting the complete 1986 Topps Yankee team set. I wasn’t much older than Brett Pedroia’s preferred mates. Plus, my father taught me to hate the Red Sox.
My most vivid memory as a kid? I’d probably say following Mattingly’s consecutive game home run record.
Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?
JK: Wow. So many to choose from. I guess I’d have to go with the Aaron Boone home run vs. Boston and then seeing Mariano collapse and cry on the pitcher’s mound.
Yankeeist: I’ve recently gone on record as saying that the 2009 championship has been the most meaningful of my life. While 2009 was obviously a special year, 1996 seems to occupy the top spot in many Yankee fans’ hearts. What’s your favorite championship year?
JK: I’d also have to say 96. It was a whole new feeling for me because it was the first one I’d seen live. But, 2001 was also a special series even though they lost. Seeing those home runs off Byung-Hyun Kim, after New York had experienced 9/11, I really thought God was a Yankee fan. But then, God turned out to be an expansion team owner.
Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?
JK: All-time favorite Yankee: Danny Tartabull. I don’t know why, but I loved him. I remember being sick when the Yankees left him unprotected during the expansion draft (I think for Florida and Colorado). I had posters, a jersey and autographed memorabilia. To this day, I have no idea why I was so infatuated with him. I just was. Why did I love you, Danilo? Why?!?
Favorite bad Yankee? Sal Fasano. That’s all I need to say.
Yankeeist: Really, not Kevin Maas? Fascinating. In any event, thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.
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