Early Yankeeist readers may recall the interview series that we did last November featuring several titans of the Yankee blogosphere. In case you missed any of them, here they are in chronological order: Bronx Banter, RLYW, River Ave. Blues, Was Watching and NoMaas.
To that end, I’m pleased to announce that I was recently able to sit down with a blogger whose site has rapidly risen up the ranks of my daily Yankee blog viewing since last fall: TYU’s Moshe Mandel.
Though we haven’t actually met in person, Moshe has been a very good friend of Yankeeist, and he and I tend to share similar sensibilities when it comes to the team.
Yankeeist: What compelled you to start writing about the Yankees on the internet, what was the date of your first-ever blog post and what was it about? Where did you begin your Yankee blogging career? Have you always been at TYU?
Moshe Mandel: As I remember it, news of the second Randy Johnson trade in late 2006/early 2007 — or at least when it went from a tiny rumor into a full-blown story in the Yankee blogosphere — was what ignited my desire to eventually start writing about the Yankees.
I was desperate for information about the trade, and a friend directed me to MVN’s The Bronx Block (TBB), which seemed to have a lot of the relevant news at the time. However, as that story died down, I was disappointed with the quality of the work being done there. MVN’s Red Sox blog was significantly better, and for some inexplicable reason I did not do a lot of searching to find other Yankee-related material on the web at that time.
I found myself discussing the Yankees with Red Sox fans rather than Yankees fans, which can be an infuriating experience. I e-mailed Evan Brunell, who ran the MVN network as well as the Red Sox blog at MVN, and told him that The Bronx Block was dying and that I thought I might be able to do a better job. He put me in touch with EJ Fagan, who now writes for us here at TYU. EJ was running Pending Pinstripes (MVN’s Yankee prospect blog) at the time, but had just been given the reins at TBB, and he brought me aboard. I started writing in January 2008, and my first post was a breakdown of the 2008 schedule, with the second post being on Yu Darvish. A few weeks later, EJ left TBB to focus on Pending Pinstripes, and I was put in charge of TBB.
Yankeeist: You have quite the stable of contributors, including Chris from iYankees, who also does his own blog. How did everyone come aboard, and are you interested in adding writers?
MM: I left MVN in September of 2008 when I started law school and my wife had our daughter, but started to miss writing that December. I knew that I wanted to start an independent entity rather join a network, and floated the idea to EJ. Being that starting from scratch with unknowns would be difficult, I wanted to launch with a handful of writers that I was comfortable with quality-wise and knew would have at least somewhat of a following built in. I had been chasing Chris for a while to come aboard at The Bronx Block, to no avail. When I contacted him about TYU, he jumped aboard quickly, as did EJ. Tom Gaffney and Tony Gicas of TBB joined as well.
Later, when Tony and Tom had to cut back on posting due to time constraints, Steve S. came aboard after we “found” him commenting at RAB. Matt Imbrogno was discovered at RAB as well, although he had also done some blogging at Bronx Baseball Daily. Finally, part-time contributors Eric Schultz, Rebecca Glass and Stephen R. were all people who had blogged in the past and interacted with me on Twitter or at RAB.
As for adding writers, we recently added Stephen to cover weekends and help out occasionally during the week. We have four “regular” writers and a number of part-time contributors, so I think we are set for the moment.
Yankeeist: The site’s frequency of posting is impressive. How/where do you find the time to post so often while still providing such comprehensive coverage?
MM: Well, that is a function of two things: our large team and our schedule. We look to have about six to seven posts a day, and have assigned specific writers to certain slots based on the time. While our schedule is not set in stone and real life often steps in, the schedule makes sure that we never go too long without fresh content. As for our large team, while we only have four writers posting regularly (Steve, myself, Chris and Matt), it helps to be able to fill in at times with content from the other members, and the large staff allows me to find someone to fill in when a time slot empties unexpectedly.
Yankeeist: You’ve had some issues with blog names, and had to rechristen the site TYU last December. What made you decide on TYU, and were there ever any other potential names in serious consideration?
MM: Well, the initial name was The Yankee Universe, which I liked because it had Yankee in the name, was unlikely to get stale due to its generic nature, and had an acronym I found appealing. When we had our little legal snafu, we took suggestions on the name, but were dead set on sticking with the TYU acronym, simply because that was how we had been referred to in the Yankee blogosphere. We considered The Yankee University, but some of the staff felt that it came off as elitist, as if we were lecturing the fans, which is the last thing we want to do. So we decided to go with The Yankee U, leaving it sort of open ended, and agreed that we would simply use TYU as the blog title whenever possible.
Yankeeist: How do you decide who is going to write what on any given day/what time specific pieces are scheduled to be posted? Do you have a particular preference as far as what types of
pieces you personally enjoy doing the most?
MM: The writers have full discretion to fill their slot with anything they see fit. I have a lot of faith in the abilities of all our writers, so I do not worry about whether we get certain content or a certain writer’s work posted during peak times or not. Generally, Steve posts in the early morning, and Matt, Chris and I divide up the rest of the day based on our schedules.
I like to write about everything, although I have started to lean towards some broader issues about sports, media, and fandom that really get my creative juices flowing. I’ve written a bit about racism in sports, and a lot about the role of media in the current sports landscape. I actually have another blog in the works that will focus on that sort of issue across all sports, but it is still in its infancy and likely will not go live until September.
Yankeeist: Another big reason why I greatly enjoy your work is how level-headed TYU is on a day-to-day basis. While it’s easy for Yankee fans to get worked up – and as I wrote last week, near-impossible to completely remove emotions from the equation when rabidly following a baseball team 365 days a year – your even-handed tone makes for a satisfying reading experience. How do you manage to stay so rational in your recaps and analysis?
MM: While our writers are free to write about whatever they want, we attempt to only bring in writers who try and exhibit that sort of rational analysis and reasoning. While we are not perfect and occasionally slip into emotion, I think readers on the internet are looking for an alternative to the insanity of talk radio. When you write out of emotion, you often find that you do not agree with your own words a few hours later. I prefer to stop and think, “Will I feel this way tomorrow?” before I post anything.
I just want to note one thing about this: I think that some take this approach as elitist, and I really want to dispel this notion. I am not saying that a blog should be written like a legal treatise, entirely removed from passion, or that a blog written with emotion is necessarily an inferior one. There is simply a line between passion about the team and emotion of the moment that I think it is better for TYU to avoid crossing. We want our writers to exhibit passion and differing viewpoints, but writing from extreme anger or frustration often leads to poor writing.
I do think that the public nature of what we are doing when we blog keeps us in check. I know that if I post something hasty or emotional, one of my commenters, fellow writers or the RAB guys will call me out for it. I remember a post I wrote at MVN in which I got linked by RAB for the first time. It was a post about things that need to change in the new Stadium. The Yankees had just finished a series with Tampa, I believe, and the cowbell was driving me nuts. The next night, a home game, I seemed to hear Freddy banging that pan everywhere, and it sent me over the edge. I included him in my “things that need to go” column, and I think it was Ben who called me out on it. It taught me to consider the source of the post: am I writing from reason or emotion? I think it is something we grapple with every day. We are all very involved and passionate about every pitch, and we wouldn’t be blogging if we weren’t. But that was an example of a post that I would not have written a few days later.
Yankeeist: What are your ultimate goals with TYU? Can you foresee a time when you might be able to make a living writing about the Yankees in some capacity?
MM: The goal used to be to become the best Yankee blog on the web. However, the Yankee blogosphere has became almost like a family, to the point where I do not really feel like TYU is competing with other sites for that title. RAB has posted my work in the past, linked us numerous times, and I consider the three writers there friends. Same with IIATMS, Yankeeist, BBD, Fack Youk, and a number of other blogs. It simply is not an environment that fosters competition.
Instead, the goal is simply to continue providing the best original content that we can on a daily basis. It is an internal goal about quality. While I keep track of the blog traffic, we do not really have traffic goals, we have not pursued much advertising (although that is mostly my fault in not having enough time), and we do not really do much strategically to drive traffic. All we want to do is write, and write well.
About making a living writing about the Yankees, that would be my dream, but it is an unrealistic goal. I have a wife and three kids now, and the newspaper business is dying. While there is money to be made on the web and I would likely give it a shot if I was single, my family situation dictates that I go for something more stable. Of course, with the state of the legal market, who is to say what happens in the long run?
Yankeeist: What Yankee and/or baseball blogs/websites do you check in with every day?
MM: All of them. Seriously, I have about a zillion sites in my feed reader, so tons of blogs are just a click away. The Yankees blogs that I check religiously and read most of their output are: Pending Pinstripes, Yankeeist, Mystique and Aura, Fack Youk, iYankees, RLYW, Marc Carig’s blog, IIATMS, and Bronx Baseball Daily. Among general baseball sites, Baseball Think Factory is a must, as is The Book Blog, Hardball Talk, Fangraphs, Rob Neyer’s blog, Beyond the Boxscore, and Baseball Analysts.
I left out two sites because I wanted to address them individually. River Ave. Blues is the best team-based blog on the web, and that includes USS Mariner and the like. You likely would not have been able to say that even a year ago, but the amount of growth those three guys have gone through as writers and analysts is amazing. I don’t mean to come off as a proud brother or something, but I am amazed at the high level of content that they produce each day. It is a credit to the three of them, who also happen to be the nicest group of guys you’ll ever come into contact with. The success has not gone to their heads at all.
I read Was Watching daily, because I like to see a perspective radically different from my own and because I enjoy some of the commenters there. Steve thinks I hate his guts and read simply to mock him, but that is just not true. I’m extremely critical when I feel the work deserves it, but I do not read the site for that purpose. I just wanted to clear that up, because I have been asked about that a few times based on my comments on Twitter.
Yankeeist: How old were you when you realized you were a Yankee fan for life, and what is your first vivid Yankee memory?
MM: I was 11. I am an Orthodox Jew, and the 1995 ALDS ended on Sukkot, so I could not watch it. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard about that loss, and I knew at that moment that I was hooked. The first actual play that I remember vividly was the Leyritz homer in Game 2 of that series (Editor’s Note: That was the first playoff game I ever attended!).
Yankeeist: Favorite all-time game/season/moment as a Yankee fan?
MM: Favorite game and moment was probably the Boone game in 2003, although the Brosius homer in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series comes close. My favorite season was easily 2009. The fact that I was writing about the team and living in Boston while the team had a ton of comebacks and A-Rod carried them in the postseason was simply a surreal experience.
Yankeeist: After the 2009 World Series I wrote that the 2009 championship was the most meaningful of my life. While 2009 was obviously a special year, 1996 seems to occupy the top spot in many younger Yankee fans’ hearts. What’s your favorite championship year and why?
MM: Is it a cop-out to say that I can’t really choose between 1996, 2000 and 2009? As I just outlined, 2009 was awesome and it came at the peak of my fandom. But 1996 was an entirely different experience, the moment when I realized baseball was amazing and exciting and could have this fantastic emotional payoff. And 2000 was great because I had a lot of friends who were Met fans. Gun to my head, I take 2009, but it’s close.
Yankeeist: Favorite Yankee of all time? Favorite “bad” Yankee of all time?
MM: I have answered Paul O’Neill to that question for the longest time, but I’ve recently found myself gravitating towards Mariano. Favorite bad Yankee is going to sound bad because he has been in some trouble since, but Shawn Chacon won an elimination game in the playoffs (Editor’s Note: Chacon started and threw a great game, but Al Leiter actually picked up the win) with me sitting in the bleachers, and I will always have a special place in my heart for him.
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