The latest in Yankeeist’s interview series brings us Was Watching’s Steve Lombardi. Steve’s one of the elder statesmen of the Yankee blogosphere, having kicked things off in 2005. As a fellow stathead, I enjoy Steve’s in-depth analyses and willingness to dig deeper to find out what the numbers are telling us.
Steve can be one of the more polarizing figures in Yankee blog-land, oftentimes going against the grain of what the general consensus of Yankee bloggers advocates for the team as well as extrapolating the negative from many a Yankeeland development. He is also Brian Cashman’s most outspoken critic on the Internet.
Love him or hate him, Steve’s a big presence in the online Yankee scene, and I appreciate his willingness to chat with me. For past Yankeeist interviews with River Ave. Blues, Bronx Banter and RLYW, please click here, here and here.
Yankeeist: What compelled you to start a Yankee blog, what was the date of your first-ever blog post and what was it about?
Steve Lombardi: I started WasWatching.com back in April of 2005. I had been writing about baseball in general at various Internet outlets since 1997. In the past, some shared that they thought my writing was sometimes too Yankees-centric. But, I’ve been a diehard Yankees fan since 1973. So, what else could one expect? This all led me to ponder the notion that I should start something where I could focus just on the Yankees and go in the direction where I seem to be headed most of the time anyway. And, that’s how the blog started.
Believe it or not — and you should because it’s true! — one of my first posts at the blog was about the promise of Carl Pavano. Needless to say, I was being optimistic back then…yes, me, optimistic. Go figure?
Yankeeist: Steve, you’ve been doing this for longer than a lot of other Yankee bloggers have. What’s the secret to your longevity? Do you ever foresee a day where you won’t feel like weighing in with your thoughts on the Yankees on a daily basis?
SL: The secret? Writing WasWatching.com has become an outlet for me. Baseball, especially Yankees baseball, is one of the top things that I’m most passionate about in my life. Doing the blog is just another way to exercise that passion.
Now, do I see it coming to an end? Yes, without question. Everything comes to an end. But, more so, things have changed since I started the blog back in 2005. There was no microblogging back in those days. And, in the last year or so, things seem to be going in that direction — more so than the “traditional” blog format.
I can understand that — we live in a microwave society now where people want things short and quick. And, personally, I cannot stand bloggers who prattle on with 1,000 word entries. Hence why WasWatching.com is “laconic commentary from a Yankeeland zealot.” Further, I’m pretty sure that studies have shown that people who read things on the internet will not read things that take them more than a few minutes to scan through, etc.
Back to point, I suspect that someday, maybe soon, we’ll look at blogging as some trendy thing that was hot around 2007 and then went the way of the mood ring and the pet rock about eight years later. And, I’ll be out of “it” before that happens. Maybe even much sooner?
Now, will I be into the “next thing” after blogs? Dunno? Guess it all depends on what that is?
Yankeeist: You’ve built up a strong and steadfast group of supporters over the years, although you seem to have turned some folks off given your glass-half-empty view of some of what goes on in Yankee-land. I’m not saying everything has to always be roses and sunshine, but it does seem like you’ve recently made some attempts to be a little more positive in your commentary—does the criticism that you are “too negative” at times have any affect on you or the way you write?
SL: Nah, what I write in the blog is what I’m thinking. Never do I think “I should write this because it will make people happy” or “I should not write this because it will tick people off.” In fact, in the blog, I have written that I realize that I would have more “fans” and readers — and the site would have more visits and page views — if I were to pander to the mob and feed the fanboys all the pablum that they crave…but, that’s not my game.
Now, I do understand why some get upset when I don’t paint everything in Yankeeland as being, as you say, “roses and sunshine.” When I was 15 years old, I was that way too — meaning if you said something bad about the Yankees, regardless if it was true or not, I was ready to go toe-to-toe with you on it. But, I moved past that point a long time ago. You can love something, and want it to succeed, while also being a realist and recognize its warts and short-comings…and talk about those as well as your “positive” feelings.
As far as my commentary being “a little more positive” now…well…when your team wins 100-plus games and wins the World Series, there’s really not all that much to fuss about, is there?
Yankeeist: You’ve added some additional contributors this year — any further plans for expansion at WasWatching?
SL: This is an interesting topic. In the past, I was hesitant to add writers because I believed a blog should only reflect the voice of its author/operator — and that having other voices out there would work against that goal. But, I also realized that having other writers would certainly take away from the burden of being the only one adding content to the blog. Since I had some vacation time planned with the family this year — where I would be away from computers, etc. — I decided to give it a try…meaning have some pinch-hitters. And, those guys did a great job while I was away.
At this time, I’m still mulling some changes to the future format of WasWatching.com — and I may elect to have some additional writers added to the blog (to join my voice). But, I’m not certain, at all, that I will go this way. I still find myself going back to the question of: “Did Leonardo da Vinci have some others help him paint the Sistine Chapel?”
Yankeeist: What Yankee and/or baseball blogs/websites can you not go a day without?
SL: I don’t hit as many sites as one would probably suspect. Baseball Think Factory is a daily stop — and a great source of information — although many of the commenters there, in my opinion, are veiled ivory tower elitists who like to come across as tough guys by taking shots at others. Then again, the internet is
full of cyber-tough-guy-wannabes hiding behind fake names, I suppose.
Baseball Reference is a site I use several times a week. Of course, all the beat writers who cover the Yankees have blogs these days and they’re all very valuable sources of information. Outside of those sites, I try and visit the blogs of my friends — such as Bronx Banter. Lastly, there are other sabermetric-type sites that are great for data, like Hardball Times and FanGraphs, but I don’t consider them “must see daily” — at least for me at this stage of my internet usage.
Yankeeist: Did you have any idea how influential a voice you would wind up becoming among legions of Yankee fans? How does it feel?
SL: “Influential”? Me? Really? I dunno…there are several other Yankees blogs out there who get ten times the traffic that WasWatching.com gets — according to some of the stats that I’ve seen recently. That said, I do take a lot of pride in the feedback that I’ve received from the baseball beat writers and columnists out there who have shared that they read WasWatching.com and they enjoy it — and they have complimented me on the job I do there.
And, it’s sort of surreal when I run into people during the course of life and when they find out my name they tell me that they know me because they read the blog and enjoy it.
When it comes to measuring quality, there’s always the point about how there’s a difference between batting average and slugging percentage. One measures hit frequency while the other measures the quality of the hit. So, maybe WasWatching.com doesn’t get as many hits as other blogs, but, the ones I get tell me that people, including professionals in the field, like what I’m doing — and I find that to be very nice.
Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?
SL: I went to my first Yankees game in August of 1973. I was 11 years old at that time. Been hooked ever since then. Most of my memories of the Yankees prior to 1976 are fragmented. I would have to say my first vivid Yankees memory would be the 1976 season — getting out of Shea and back to Yankee Stadium, Don Money’s grand slam getting called back, the big trade with the O’s, the sale of Vida Blue getting voided, Munson winning the MVP, the Chambliss homer to win the pennant, all that great stuff.
Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?
SL: It’s impossible for me to pick one. It would probably be among the games that I’ve seen in person. But, it could range from when Dave LaRoche used “La Lob” to whiff Milwaukee’s Gorman Thomas in 1981 to when Boone hit the homer to win the 2003 ALCS. Then again, I watched the play-in game on October 2, 1978 on TV — and I’ll never forget that experience. It would probably be easier to make a list of my top fifty all-time faves than to just pick one.
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 and why?
SL: I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. At WasWatching.com, after this World Series, I asked this question and was surprised at how many readers ranked this 2009 ring highly compared to other Yankees rings. The majority of them ranked it above the 2000 ring. Me? I can’t go there. Next to beating the Red Sox in the post-season or in a play-in game, does it get any better than beating the Mets in the World Series? Personally, if I had to rank the Yankees ring-seasons that I’ve seen, I would list them as 1978, 1977, 1996, 1998, 2000, 1999 and 2009.
The ones from the ’70s get top seeding because I was a teenager when they happened and my life revolved around the Yankees those days. And, I would rank 2009 last here because 1996 was the “return to glory” time and 1998-2000 was the “dynasty” team, etc.
Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?
SL: My all-time favorite Yankee? I’ve always been drawn to the Munson-Mattingly-O’Neill types. I like guys who are leaders, work hard, play with passion, not afraid, etc. As far as the favorite “bad” Yankee, I’ll say Mike Blowers — just because Scooter Rizzuto thought he was good-looking.
Yankeeist: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
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