Editor’s Note: The first part of this story ran June 28. Visit TolucanTimes.com and search “Tom Verducci” to read it.
Baseball is more popular with greater earnings than ever before and no one knows this better than longtime Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci, who agreed to answer a number of hardball questions.
The New York Yankees are synonymous with winning the World Series, including four of five beginning in 1996. Should this have been celebrated?
Yes, it was good for the game, not only because they are the most popular team, but also because an honest-to-goodness rivalry developed with the [Boston] Red Sox. The two teams were the rising tide that lifted all boats – along with a ballpark construction boom and the development of the DVR, the device that most helped baseball grow.
What do you think makes your writing about baseball special?
I strive to tell you something you don’t know in an interesting and well-crafted way, especially when it comes to people and stories you think you knew. I have no interest in skimming the surface, following the pack or producing derivative material. Originality is key. Everything begins with curiosity. I love the sport and want to keep learning more about it, so I’m fortunate in the aspect of motivation. Once curiosity drives you, then comes trust [with sources]. It’s something that stands out from what Joe Maddon told me about managing: forge trust first, then you can go about the business of managing. After trust, then comes reporting, which means asking the right questions, having your radar up for details and exploring the paths less taken.
Baseball has fallen behind football and basketball with regard to popularity.
Baseball is consumed by more people in more ways than ever before. Our society has a crazy supply of diversions and entertainment options that pull at our attention more than ever before, so the competition is way more intense than even 10-20 years ago. That said, baseball does need to improve the pace of action. It needs to look faster. It needs a pitch clock and a limit on timeouts. Baseball is a great game as it is. But there’s no reason for it to be played as slowly as it is now.
Should baseball try to shine a bigger spotlight on its top players?
The argument that baseball needs to ‘promote’ its stars more is a tired and false one. The nature of baseball does not allow its players to be seen and heard as much as other sports, not with 162 games in 183 days and not when you can watch an Angels game for an hour and never see Mike Trout [in between at-bats or plays in the field]. Those factors do not exist for Tom Brady and LeBron James. Also, baseball has become a strong regional game, so it’s more dependent than ever on getting its stars to the World Series for maximum exposure.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.