Michael Morrissey is a baseball writer for the New York Post since 2000. He covers the New Yankeesí 2006 season in his book The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl. The following is an interview with the author.
Interviewer Ram Subramanian: From a structural point-of-view, what was your rationale to devote chapters to individual players (Damon, Jeter, Rodriguez, etc.) rather than a chronological diary of the 2006 season?
Michael Morrissey: I really felt that it would be far more interesting to delve into the fascinating personalities of the major players on the team, rather than simply recount the box scores from each dayís games. As I mention in the acknowledgements, New York has a terrific number of beat writers and columnists who handle the day-to-day stuff so well. I veered from that and instead tried to engage these people and allow them to talk about the ups and downs of being a Yankee in their own words.
From your narrative, Jeter comes across as having done less than what he could as a team leader to help Rodriguez overcome his horrendous batting and fielding slump. Yet, the media coverage of Jeter in New York generally seems to be highly supportive of him. Is there an explanation?
Derek Jeter is certainly a terrific player and has done so much to help the Yankees win over the course of his career. Obviously, he has the four world championship rings to show for it. Between his singular focus on being a great player and the fact that heís an upstanding citizen whoís never embarrassed the club, I think the coverage has rightfully been overwhelmingly positive.
I felt, though, that in 2006 he missed a critical opportunity to speak up for A-Rod in a manner that couldíve dampened the negativity around the Yankee third baseman. All it wouldíve taken from Jeter is something to the effect of, "Look, the people who are booing Alex need to understand that if we want to reach our goals, we need Alex to be at his best.Ē I found it interesting that Rudy Giuliani spoke up for A-Rod last year, while the captain mostly remained on the sidelines.
As reading (and viewing) public, our view of a certain player depends upon how the media portrays him. What could A-Rod have done differently for him to have positive press?
Talk less, for one. Historically, Rodriguez has put his foot in his mouth by either trying to tell people what he thinks they want to hear or, occasionally, saying something outrageous that you canít believe. Heís minimized those statements this year, coincidental (or maybe not) to his great start.
I believe Rodriguez also has stopped pressing at the plate, perhaps thinking and overanalyzing less. Joe Torre spoke recently that A-Rod tried to guide the ball off his bat in 2006; heís done a lot less of that this year.
You appear to have had tremendous access to the Yankee players and front office personnel (particularly Cashman) although your regular coverage of the team for the New York Post has been candid. Is this because they (players, Cashman, etc.) see this as a chance to have their version told to the public?
I think itís more that these people realize theyíre part of a unique organization that operates in a highly public sphere, and they understand the coverage that goes along with it. I think the fact Iíve covered the Yankees off and on since 2000 and knew many of the key participants going in made them pretty cooperative. But Iíve found that people are generally cooperative as long as they know a project isnít about slinging mud. This book wasnít a valentine to the Yankees, as my editor Jason Kaufman so aptly put it, but it was an honest look at the franchise that fans can enjoy.
The book captures in telling detail both the pride and the pressure that Yankee players face because of the clubís history and the high expectations of Steinbrenner. A number of Yankee players seem to have failed to handle the pressure Ė Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, for example Ė while others such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have thrived in it. Is it just supreme talent in these two or is it something else that explains their success?
Part of it is athletic excellence, but part of it is mental and emotional strength above and beyond the normal major leaguer. Letís face it, people like Brown, Rogers and Pavano were talented enough to make the majors and enjoy success to various degrees. But beyond that, you need to understand what the Yankee Fishbowl is about Ė specifically, the highest highs and lowest lows Ė and understand why the media and fan scrutiny is the way it is. Those who canít comprehend or canít cope with those realities are more likely to fail, regardless of how long they succeeded elsewhere.
What are your future writing plans? Any book plans?
I donít have any second book in the works, so Iíll continue to write for the New York Post in the near future. Perhaps someday Iíll write a second book. I would like someday to work outside the realm of non-fiction, perhaps in screenplays or even graphic novels, but thatís more of a fantasy than anything else.
Michael Morrissey has been covering Major League Baseball since 1997 and has been a baseball writer for the New York Post since 2000. He has been honored in The Best American Sports Writing three times, and national television and radio outlets frequently seek out his expertise. He lives in New York.
Contributing reviewer Ram Subramanian interviewed Michael Morrissey, author of The Pride and the Pressure: A Season Inside the New York Yankee Fishbowl (see accompanying review), about
his book for curledup.com. Ram Subramanian/2007.