3/14: A Look Ahead to Opening Day

March 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, Len Berman

With Major League Baseball’s opening day less than a month away, the countdown to the regular season has begun.  What can baseball fans make of the change in the playoff system?  And, who has the best chances of winning this year?  Sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman offered his insight when he spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Len Berman

Len Berman

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Part 1:


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John Sparks
Len, what do you think about Major League Baseball expanding the playoffs for this season?

Len Berman
I think it’s a good move. I think adding a wild card and diminishing the chances for the wild card to advance, I think that’s all positive. I mean it’s going to create some more excitement down the stretch in September, keep some more teams alive, and those two one game play-ins should be very exciting, so I don’t really have a problem. I mean it makes it look more difficult for them to advance. It certainly puts a better premium on winning the division, something the Yankees didn’t really try to do a couple years ago despite what Joe Girardi claims, so I think generally it’s positive.

John Sparks
So then, it puts more value on getting hot at the end rather than persevering over the long haul?

Len Berman
Well, you know, I think that’s always the case in post season, and that’s always the case in playoffs no matter what the team. Look at football, too. I mean, look at what the Giants have done. No, I don’t think that’s a prob…  I mean, yeah, the hot team, my goodness, I mean the St. Louis Cardinals were certainly not picked by anybody last year and certainly didn’t have a wonderful regular season. They got hot at the end, and they carried it through and won the championship, so I don’t think this change in the playoff system alters that philosophy at all.

Part 2:


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John Sparks
Let’s take a look at the upcoming season, what do you think about the Yankees for this year?

Len Berman
Well, they’re always a team to be reckoned with because of their resources. I mean, I think the team they put on the field is strong. Things can fall apart. They’ve never had that problem over the years, but, for example, they lost a good relief pitcher in Dave Robertson because he fell down some stairs. Now he might not be ready opening day. I mean, if that’s the beginning of a series of issues that even great teams can fall in the abyss.  But, with their resources, if something isn’t working, and they do have the injuries, they have the deep pockets to go out and buy replacements midseason, so you never count out the Yankees ever.

John Sparks
I’m curious, A-Rod bounces back this year and what about Derek Jeter at the tail end of the ride?

Len Berman
Well, those are issues. I mean, these guys are older. I mean Mariano Rivera. I mean, I have a feeling this is his last season. What if he doesn’t have it? Hey, there’s always question marks, which is great. I mean I think people are just penciling in the Yankees for one of those playoff spots. What if they don’t make it?  Look at how that opens things up for a lot of other teams. So, yeah, those are valid questions. A-Rod’s age, Jeter’s age, sure, that’s not a real young team. What you find with the teams like the Cardinals, a team that has some young players, all of sudden exceed expectations, and you hope that works out. You like to see that, so maybe there’s a team out there that no one’s considering.

Part 3:


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John Sparks
Let’s go over to Queens and talk about the Mets, what do you see for the Mets this year?

Len Berman
Well, it’s just sad that their mantra is: We’re not as bad as people think we are. I mean, that’s a hell of a sales slogan.  They’ve got problems, and they’ve got financial problems. And until those financial problems get resolved, things are going to continue the way they are. Having said that, these are Major League players. I mean, Ike Davis is a Major League first baseman. David Wright’s a Major League third baseman.  You’ve got some players there. What’s to say that they aren’t this year’s St. Louis Cardinals? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Part 4:


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John Sparks
Let’s go around the League and the divisions real quickly. I’m just wondering, American League West.  Will Pujols bring Los Angeles a division, and what about the Rangers and Yu Darvish?

Len Berman
Yeah, well I think those are both great questions and I think that’s — it used to be the American League East that was spocked[sic]. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got Texas, which has been in two straight WorldSeries, and they had heartbreaking loss in last year’s Fall Classic, and you’ve got the Angels with Pujols. You know, you always lean on the side of pitching, so maybe Texas by getting Darvish is the bigger get. Certainly possible.

John Sparks
Thinking about pitching, let’s move over to American League Central. Justin Verlander and the Tigers, can anybody beat them?

Len Berman
You know, they look awfully solid. They’re certainly the strong favorites going in, and they’ve certainly become a franchise with deep pockets there, so for anyone to pick against the Tigers, that would be a long shot.

John Sparks
Okay. We talked about the Yankees, but let’s talk about the American League East. Can Bobby Valentine bring the Red Sox back, and what about Tampa Bay or maybe even a long shot for Toronto?

Len Berman
Yeah, I mean I love the East. I’m a huge Bobby Valentine fan.  I wish all it took was a manager. I think he’s a great step in the right direction, and he’s going to shake up that clubhouse, and he’s certainly going to make all the games with the Yankees a lot more interesting. He’s just one of the great baseball characters. Do the Red Sox have enough? It doesn’t look like it. Tampa Bay is a solid club. I hope a Toronto or even a Baltimore come out of nowhere. I mean, it’ll be nice, but I think you’re looking at the traditional powers for another year.

Part 5:


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John Sparks
Okay, National League East, Phillies again, they picked up Jonathan Pabelbon. Are they best team in baseball really?

Len Berman
Well, if they are, their fans are going to get a little upset that they don’t win it all. After being to the World Series a couple years, they haven’t for a couple years, so I think they’re a hell of a team so…  are they the best team in baseball? You could make a case, sure.

John Sparks
National League Central, St. Louis without Pujols.  What does that mean for the division?

Len Berman
You know what, I still like St. Louis. I really do. I mean I don’t know where the… Obviously Cincinnati, you always have to look out. Milwaukee, Ryan Braun’s going to have a chip on his shoulder, so that could be a fun — that could be a real fun division. Look for those three teams to mix it up. I don’t… Certainly when you lose Pujols’ bat, it’s going to affect you, but historically teams that have lost a major free agent, it’s for some reason the other players who’ve stepped up, so I’m not going to count them out just yet. But I don’t look for them to repeat, that’s for sure.

John Sparks
You mentioned Braun, what do you think about the steroid thing with him?  Did he or didn’t he?

Len Berman
Well, obviously it’s only he and his urine sample know for sure. I mean the odds are that it’s awfully far-fetched to think that a tester tampered with sample A and sample B, so… In 99.999% of the cases, if it’s in their system, it’s in their system. It’s not some kind of fluke. So, if you put a gun to my head, he dodged that bullet for sure.

John Sparks
Moving out West for the National League, the Giants are pretty tough, but what about Don Mattingly and the Dodgers?  What do you think is going to happen there?

Len Berman
I don’t know. I mean, I’d love to see — I hope that he doesn’t become a… They still have an ownership situation that’s up in the air. I hope he doesn’t become the odd man out because of that. I love… I’m a big personal fan of Don Mattingly. I don’t know if his team has enough, but the Giants still have some of that pitching. I always look at the pitching as being the strength.

John Sparks
Anything else as we look at the 2012 baseball season?

Len Berman
You know, I think the one story you didn’t bring up is the Miami Marlins. New Name, new stadium, they’ve spent a load, and you want to see if the fans come out. I mean, that’s been a market that still you don’t know about that. They’ve won two World Championships, yet that can’t draw fans. If they can’t do it with this new stadium and Ozzie Guillen and Jose Reyes and the rest of the people down there, then they never will. So I think that’s a big story that you got to a — that I think is going to be one of the big baseball stories of 2012, the Miami Marlins.

John Sparks
Appreciate your time, Len. What’s going on in your life these days?

Len Berman
Well, I’ve got a lot of different things going on. I’m still doing The Today Show once a month with Spanning the World. I’ve started this relationship with Channel 5 in New York where once a week I do my Top Five on Channel 5 which is a spinoff of my daily email which people get at thatssports.com, and I’m very excited about my newest book coming out in the fall for kids. It’s going to be Greatest Moments in Sports, Upsets and Underdogs, and it’s more than a sports book. It’s really going to be empowering for young people to see how anyone can succeed no matter where you come from or what your background is, you have a chance to become a champion, and I think it’s going to open a few eyes. As I very modestly say, “Every young people… Every young person needs to read that book.”

John Sparks
Well, I’m looking forward to reading it also. It’s always a pleasure, Len.

12/2: “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time”

December 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, Len Berman

Sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman has stirred up a little controversy in his new book, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.  Find out what the fuss is about in his interview with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Len Berman

Len Berman

John Sparks
Len, you had to have opened up a real hornet’s nest with a book titled “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.”  That’s a pretty tall order. What kind of responses have you been getting from the book?

Listen to Part 1 of the Interview:


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Len Berman
Well, it’s …   I probably should’ve given this some more thought before I decided to do it, but what happens is people are passionate about their local teams.  So anybody who gets left off the list, they think I’m nuts.  How could you possibly leave off Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan or Yogi Berra or Roberto Clemente?  So I’m in the weird position of talking about my book, and most authors get to talk about what’s in their book, I have to spend half the time talking about what’s not in there.

John Sparks
Now, since I’ve read the book, I know, of course, that you didn’t come up with the list all by yourself.  I can’t blame you for not wanting to take all the heat.  In fact, you had a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel. You had Bernie Williams and Jeffrey Lyons and Ralph Branca and Frank Deford, just to name a few. How did you go about selecting your partners in crime?

Len Berman
Well, first of all, when you’re trying to do something, you want to reach out to people you know and will get a response from, so clearly I looked for initially people I knew and journalists I knew and respected, and then I asked the Hall of Fame for a suggestion. I knew they couldn’t get involved. That wouldn’t be proper for them to vote, and the Director of the Hall of Fame suggested Roland Hemond, who’s a longtime baseball executive in Arizona who’s seen it all. So, I tried to spread it around as much as I could to different ages and generations. People have seen a lot of ballplayers and seen a lot of games, and I told them just vote. Give me 25 names, and you don’t have to say what position they play or what era they played in, and that’s how we got who we got.  And I don’t think I agree with all of them, but I do agree with most of them.

John Sparks
Well, let me follow-up. You wrote that there were 11 unanimous choices. How did you settle on the other 14?  Was there a weighted vote?  Was your vote the only one that mattered?  Did you ever get outvoted by your own panel?  Did they change your mind on anybody?

Len Berman
I didn’t vote at all, and the 11 unanimous choices were Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams, and I can’t argue with any of them.  The other 14 were just whoever got the most votes.  And, since I had seven panelists, luckily it broke down where four votes got you in and three didn’t.  Well, listen to this collection of ballplayers who got three votes and just missed: Grover Alexander, Barry Bonds, Lefty Grove, who some considered to be the greatest pitcher ever, Satchel Paige, and Roberto Clemente.  So, those were the people that just missed.  The shocking thing to me was Yogi Berra got one vote out of seven, just one that came from Bernie Williams, and yet there’s ten World Series rings.  I mean somebody had to catch all those pitchers.

John Sparks
You know, the book’s been out a little while, is there one player that readers have taken the most exception with?

Listen to Part 2:


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Len Berman
Well, sure. That would be the only active player who made the book, and that’ll be Alex Rodriguez, who’s controversial for any number of reasons. Number one of which, he took performance-enhancing drugs and admitted to it. Number two, there are active players, such as Albert Pujols, who, if this book were written 10 or 15 years from now, might receive even more consideration. But Alex Rodriguez got four votes, and what I found most interesting was not only did he get a vote from Bernie Williams, which you’d expect, I mean Bernie Williams also voted for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but I mean — but he also got a vote from Roland Hemond.  So, that tells me that there’s widespread belief that his talents just rise above anything he may or may not have done. And the truth be told, if it weren’t for Derek Jeter playing shortstop, Rodriguez would be ensconced at shortstop and would be considered the greatest shortstop ever this side of Honus Wagner.

John Sparks
When going through the book, I couldn’t help but think about that age-old controversy about whether ballplayers should be considered role models.  You mentioned about A-Rod and the steroids, some of your other 25 had their personal demons. Cobb was snarly. Ruth was a drinker and carouser. Mickey Mantle wasn’t a saint, and Pete Rose liked to gamble. Did you have any difficulty in trying to go beyond that issue? Did you judge strictly on talent on the field?

Len Berman
Well, you’d have to ask the panelists, but as far as how I addressed this, since the book is primarily aimed at young readers, I certainly did not skirt the issue. So I addressed the Alex Rodriguez issue head-on and the Pete Rose gambling issue head-on.  I didn’t get into Babe Ruth’s carousing and Mickey Mantle’s drinking. The publisher did take out one story, though. I did write that Ty Cobb’s mother shot his father to death in an accident, thought he was an intruder and shot him to death. He thought she was fooling around and was sneaking into the house. The publisher, I think, decided it wasn’t a warm and fuzzy enough story for young people to read about, so that’s out of the book.

John Sparks
You know, I’m glad you mentioned that because I noticed that omission as well, and I recall seeing a — I think it was a two-act play that Gabe Pressman and I went to, believe it or not, and it was about Cobb, and according to the play, he had witnessed that incident, and the whole thesis was that that affected his demeanor in the way he interacted with other players.

Len Berman
Well, an amateur psychologist would tell you that, gee, if mom shoots dad to death, it’s going to affect your personality in later years. I don’t know if he actually witnessed it. There’s some debate over how the incident took place. Cobb has a descendant, like a great, great something, nephew or grandson who’s debunked part of the story. Some of it’s shaped in myth, but I would … yeah, anything you write about these guys from way back when is kind of speculation. We don’t know much about, for example, the great Negro League catcher Josh Gibson who made the book. We don’t. What’s written about him or what’s said about him is not really well known because it didn’t get the press coverage, and the statistics weren’t really accurate, and a lot of what he did may have just been the stuff of myth. So, you just don’t know about a lot of these people when you go way back when.

John Sparks
You mentioned a minute ago about aiming the book at young fans, but I’ve got to tell you, I think you did a masterful job at aiming your book at fans of all ages. That’s the beauty of baseball, I think.  I remember my late father at the age of 80 sitting in the back seat of my car on the way home from a Texas Rangers’ game talking to an eight-year-old son of my neighbor, and baseball bridged a 72-year-old age gap when it came to conversation. I really thought you did a great job at trying to talk to people at all ages.

Listen to Part 3:


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Len Berman
Well, thank you.  There’s a couple of factors involved there.  Number one, I think baseball’s the one sport that does bridge the generations.  My dad told me about seeing Babe Ruth bat, and my eyes just lit up, so I think that’s one.  And number two, I’ve always — this is my second — or actually it’s my fourth kids’ book, but my second of this kind of style. Last year it was the 25 Greatest sports moments of all time, “Greatest Moments in Sports” it was called, but I’ve never tried to write down to kids.  So I think if you — in some respects maybe the vocabulary might be on the high level for youngsters, but I just always — I wrote simply. I didn’t write complex sentences, but I always tried to just write simply, and I think the publisher did a wonderful job of putting picture — the old pictures are just great, which I had nothing to do with, and I think that’s why kids, as I like to say, of all ages might enjoy the book.

John Sparks
No, it’s really packaged well.  Any plans for a sequel, and if so, what would you call it?

Len Berman
Well, I don’t know if I want to follow-up on the baseball. I’m not sure of the other sports.  We’ve had some ideas we’ve been running back and forth with the publisher. Nothing that’s in cement just yet, but I think the publisher wants to keep the series going.  It’s just a matter of hitting on the right …  I mean one thought is greatest athletes of all time, then you incorporate people like Jim Thorpe. Although Jackie Robinson’s, who’s made my last two books, would also make that book as a great.  Jesse Owens, so there’s some great, great athletes.  Jim Brown.  So I don’t know. That’s a possibility. Another possibility would be a blooper, like the greatest craziest sports moments of all time, some serious and some not so.  You could do Buckner and Bonehead Merkle and Wrong Way Corrigan and some of those other classics.

John Sparks
You generate a lot of controversy when you go after the 25 greatest, but I got to thinking: You’d probably generate just as much controversy if you wrote about the 25 worst baseball players of all time.  I mean I just wonder who might be on that list?

Len Berman
I know.  I don’t know how you would figure that out.  I mean that’d also be kind of mean.  I mean could you imagine telling your grandkids: Look at this, I’m one of the 25 worst of all time.  There are some interesting stories.  I once interviewed a guy who passed away who played with Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators and got into exactly one Major League game, and I asked him how he did, he said he couldn’t remember.  So, I don’t know.  I don’t know how you’d pick the worst.

John Sparks
It’s a great book, Len. You always do great work, and it’s always a pleasure talking to you.  Before we go, could I get you tell the Marist listeners how they can subscribe to your Daily Top Five for those that don’t know that?

Len Berman
Yeah, just simply go to my website, http://www.thatssports.com and I send out a free daily email, if anyone’s interested.  It’s on my musings on sports, and there’s always something to talk about.  So, thatssports.com is the place.

6/2: Dugout Chatter — Baseball in NYC

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Len Berman, Sports

Baseball season is in full swing!  From Major League Baseball’s ticket prices to new stadiums’ impact on the game, there’s a lot of chatter surrounding the sport.  In an interview with The Marist Poll’s John Sparks, sports journalist Len Berman weighs in.  Check out their conversation below.

Len Berman

Len Berman

John Sparks
Len, we conducted a poll and we asked the public if they thought the cost of a ticket to a major league game was a good value for the money.  83% of those who considered themselves baseball fans said, “No, it is not a good value”.  In fact, 84% of those who make $50,000 a year or more also said a big league ticket isn’t a good value.  I was just wondering what you think and why you think folks responded as they did?

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

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Len Berman
Well, I think in some new stadiums and some old stadiums, the price of tickets has gotten out of hand.  I mean clearly all the publicity is focused on the new stadiums in New York City.  I mean to spend hundreds of dollars for a baseball game is patently absurd. We all have long memories.  I mean mine goes back…  I bought a reserved seat at the Old Yankee Stadium for $2.50 because I couldn’t afford the $3.50 box seats, so I mean we all have those memories.  I think it’s just gotten out of hand in some places.

John Sparks
Well, you know, at the beginning of the season, you mentioned the new Yankee Stadium.  I think those premium seats went for $2,500 a game and then they slashed those in half, but those seats are still just too pricey; don’t you think?

Len Berman
Well, absolutely.  In fact, I was just reminiscing about Jay Leno’s last show coming up, and I was fortunate enough to be a guest on his program on the Tonight Show back in 2005.  Now this was four years ago, and one of the questions Jay asked me was, “What would I do if I were commissioner for a day?” and I just off the cuff said that, “Gee, I’d like to make a couple of tickets at every game be affordable.  Maybe, you could buy them by lottery just so the average family could go to the ballpark.”  And, the audience erupted into applause, so I knew I touched on something four years ago and now four years later, things have only gotten worse.

John Sparks
Absolutely.  You may remember that George Steinbrenner was always pressing for more luxury boxes, the old Yankee Stadium built it and back in 1923, it wasn’t equipped with luxury boxes in those days.  That was one of the motivators behind building a new stadium, but those suites are not being filled.  Could it be that major league baseball has finally out-priced itself?

Len Berman
Well, I mean I don’t think anyone predicted the recession.  For years, everything was just going up, up, up, up, up, from housing to luxury cars to everything. I mean there was never a downturn so this was just the perfect storm that killed the golden goose.  I mean I just think – - listen, fortunately I make a nice living and a few friends of mine, we decided to go to baseball game in a couple weeks so we decided to buy a ticket for $190.  Now, it’s per person and it’s just a couple of guys, so I’m going to spend $190 to go to a baseball game. Now I think that’s way out of line but thank God I’m not buying tickets for my family.  I guess the flipside is there are plenty of tickets available online.  I got a great email from somebody the other day saying they were able to buy some cheap seats in the upper deck at Citi Field, and they had a great time.  So, I mean I guess there is a bright side to this somewhere.

John Sparks
Do you think it’s reached a point where the game’s in danger of survival?

Listen to Part 2:

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Len Berman
I’m not sure survival is ever an issue.  I mean that’s been spoken about for years.  I mean it’s come up during the war. It came up in the 40’s.  It came up when baseball took a year off for the strike in ’94.  I think the game is strong.  I think people will figure out a way, but I think those owners who envision just riches that would be on top of riches, I think there’s another thing coming.  I mean listen, the Giants and Jets built a new stadium.  There was nothing wrong with the old stadium.  It’s a fine – - it’s a fine facility and the Giants always had this legendary waiting list with hundreds of thousands of names for tickets.  Well, they’ve burned through the entire waiting list, and they’re still looking for people because fans are just balking at the idea of personal seat licenses.

John Sparks
In that regard, we also asked New York City residents if they follow professional baseball a great deal, somewhat…

Len Berman
I love that question.  I absolutely love that.  In fact, I’m writing about it on my website; but go ahead, I’ll let you finish the question.

John Sparks
Great.  Well, almost 50% said they don’t follow the game at all; and when you add those that don’t follow it very much or somewhat, it’s a whopping 84%.  Now, I grew up loving baseball and I’m concerned that we may have lost a whole generation of fans. Would you agree?

Len Berman
I think there’s two parts to that. Yes, I think some fans have been lost.  You’re certainly going to lose kids who can’t stay up late at night to watch the World Series and whose parents can’t afford to take them to games.  But, the other side of that is I’ve always felt that the number of sports fans were over-rated.  I’ve always argued with people that the majority of people are just not sports fans, and people look at me like I’m crazy.  I think the sports fan or the non-sports fan is intimidated into thinking that he’s in the minority because of ESPN, and All Talk radio, and the tabloids.  The truth of the matter is the majority of the people aren’t big sports fans, so maybe that’s another eye-opener to some of the owners that their audience is dwindling.  That’s one of the reasons I started my website: LenBermanSports.com, and I send out daily emails, the top five, to my subscribers is because I think there are people who aren’t big fans, who would like to know a little bit about what’s going on and that’s what I do.  I provide some water cooler information.

John Sparks
One of the things that I noticed now is that it’s more of a complete entertainment venue.  Besides the game, you’ve got dot races and certainly at the minor league level, a lot of these fan participation stunts between innings, but even at the Rangers and the Yankees…  Between innings, you’ve got all kinds of activities.  The fans are on the Jumbotron engaged in contests and things, so it sounds like that the owners have really expanded beyond the game itself.

Listen to Part 3:

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Len Berman
Well, it’s the old idea of get them in the tent.  You’ve got to provide entertainment.  I mean I would naively think the ballgame would be enough, especially at the major league level.  At the minor league level, I think it’s wonderful.  I mean the tickets are reasonable.  The players sign autographs. They’re accessible to the fans, and they have all these little fun contests.  It really makes kids and people excited about the sport.  There’s nothing wrong with that at the minor league level.  It’s the major league level that needs a lot of help.

John Sparks
You know, at the major league level, because of the ticket prices, is it a different caliber of fans that go to big league games these days?

Len Berman
Well, that’s another interesting question.  I mean the old idea that corporations are going to buy up the seats used to work, and then they distribute it to people.  Sometimes they’d sit in it themselves, so you wouldn’t have the hardcore blue-collar fan rooting for the home team.  I mean I noted the other day that at a Yankees’ game against Philadelphia, there were so many Philadelphia fans.  Well, that’s another sign of the times of fans.  If your home team can’t afford the tickets or don’t want to buy them or are easily reselling them, then it makes it much easier for the other team to get into your ballpark, and it really does diminish the home field advantage.

John Sparks

You know, I guess in this age of government bailouts, it doesn’t look too good for these corporations to be, whether they’re buying naming rights or even entertaining clients in luxury.

Len Berman
Well, it just doesn’t look good on your corporate report to say you’re spending hundreds of thousand dollars on premium seats.  Listen, you mentioned a $2,500 seat for the first row at the Yankee Stadium, that’s if you bought it on a season ticket basis.  Well, if you bought four seats, that’s $10,000 per game. That’s $800,000 for the season.  Now how’s that going to look on your corporate report?  If you’ve spent $800,000 for baseball seats for your clients, I don’t think it looks very good.

John Sparks
I agree with you. Listen, you mentioned the new Yankee Stadium and, of course, the Mets have a new home field as well.  New York fans were pretty much evenly divided when we asked them if building these new stadiums was a good thing for baseball.  What do you think?  Was it a good thing that they built two (inaudible) ball parks?

Len Berman
I was surprised by your poll results.  I would’ve thought because of all the flack that has transpired, I would’ve thought a bigger percentage would’ve been against the idea that this was good for baseball, so that did surprise me.  I guess it’s good in a way that it draws more interest and more attention.  I’ll tell you the fact in your poll that I found fascinating when it came to New York City was that the only demographic that considered themselves Met fans as opposed to Yankee fans were people over 45.  So, I really got to thinking about that, and I obviously…  It might have something to do with the more recent success of the Yankees.  I mean they won World Series as recently as 2000 where the most recent Mets World Series won was ’86; but I’m also wondering if that has something to do with the fact that the older fans still have an allegiance to the old Dodgers and Giants, who used to play in New York and might have considered themselves national league fans.  But, I thought that was – - There was the fascinating tidbit in your poll about the over 45-year-old people, who are Met fans.

John Sparks
Are you a Mets or a Yankees fan, Len?

Listen to Part 4:

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Len Berman
Well, the thing is, is that when I became a journalist, I kind of became neutral because I worked in Dayton, Ohio, and that was Cincinnati Reds country, and, then, I worked five years in Boston, so I was a Red Sox reporter.  I grew up a Yankee fan back in the 50’s because Mickey Mantle played for the Yankees, but he doesn’t play for them anymore.  So right now, if anything, I’d probably lean toward the Mets out of compassion. I was actually hoping in 2000 that they could win the subway series.  I mean the Yankees have won so many, so I’m an odd individual to ask. I don’t…  I’m not really a fan from that sense because I am a journalist.

John Sparks
The Yankees certainly struggled last year.  They didn’t make the post-season.  Now, I saw the other day, I think I read that there were 17 games this year in which they’ve come from behind to win.  It seems to me that the free agents aren’t necessarily making a team; and at the same time, the Yankees don’t seem to be good at growing their own on the farm like they did with those great teams of the late 90’s. Yet Tampa Bay, the Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins seem to be having more success with developing their players.  Now is this a problem for the Yankees?  Should they consider a different approach?  Is it a question of their scouting department being inferior to other organizations these days?

Len Berman

I’ve long advocated that the Yankees change their ways.  I mean they have gone about buying free agents every year since their last World Series win in 2000.  None of it has worked.  I mean I can make you the whole list from Mike Mussina, to Jason Giambi, to Randy Johnson, to Alex Rodriguez, to Johnny Damon, to Hideki Matsui, to every… Right down the line, it hasn’t worked, and I’ve long advocated it.  I love the fact what the Red Sox and Tampa Bay and those teams have done, and that’s why I give them an edge.  I mean they have those young people, young players who aren’t afraid to get their uniform dirty and until the Yankees can develop those kinds of players, I think just buying up players, who are older in nature by their age and their free agency, I think it’s a losing proposition.

John Sparks
Listen, I want to kind of divert for a moment. We asked fans in an earlier poll about the effect of steroids in the game.  Now, we had all this A-Rod business this year and, again, this ties into the success of the Yankees or the lack of.  Do you think there’s been some kind of clubhouse dissension that has accompanied A-Rod that not just this year that it really hasn’t reached the service that we haven’t been reading about but it has its affect on the Yankees team?

Len Berman
Well, I mean A-Rod has not been successful anywhere he’s been. Now, I don’t know if that’s cause or effect.  It’s hard to say.  He’s an enormously talented baseball player, but he does seem to cause friction or “look at me” and he comes bigger than the team.  Is that a reason they don’t win?  I mean I don’t know.  I’m not in that clubhouse.  I do know that he’s a unique individual; everything always revolves around him, even when he says it doesn’t.  Maybe at some point, it does have an effect on the team.  I mean I think there’s more factors at work.  I mean obviously it’s all about pitching, and it’s about staying healthy, and it’s about playing some defense.  It’s a lot of other things, but it may not be a coincidence that A-Rod’s never been to the World Series.

John Sparks
Let’s look in the crystal ball and look again to October and just say for the sake of a discussion that we’ve got a repeat of 2000, a subway series. How would you stack up the Mets versus the Yankees?

Listen to Part 5:

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Len Berman
Wow!  That would be a wonderful… That’s a great question.  I thought you were going to ask me which teams would get there other than the Yankees and the Mets.  Who would stack up better?  In a short series, which is what a subway series is, you have to lean toward the pitching, and the Yankees get the slight edge of the starting pitching.  The Mets get the big edge with the bullpen.  I think, believe it or not, who wins the All-star game will determine home field edge.  I would think if the Mets could play four of the games at Citi Field against the Yankees, Citi Field is a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.  The Mets might have an edge.  That’s weird that it might come down to some anonymous player from the Washington Nationals winning a game in the All- Star game and determining home field edge, and that gives the edge to the World Series; but I guess I would give the Mets the slightest of edges based on their bullpen.

John Sparks
You know, Len, there’s another factor in this home field advantage, and you know the World Series is two, three, and two, and the All-Star game determines the home field advantage now. But, they’re really two different ball games going on: the American League game and the National League game.  Do you think it’s time that they got together and either both leagues do the DH or both leagues go back to the traditional game?

Len Berman
Well, no, that’s a broad question.  I would think once you get to the World Series, you just play under one set of rules. Now, what that rule would be, I don’t know.  I mean teams in the American League are constructed for the designated hitter and that’s how they run their payroll and their roster and play their games and the National League plays a different game, so I guess the only fair way is to have two different rules in the World Series; but I guess if push came to shove, I would favor one set of rules for a sport.  I mean it’s odd to me that you have different rules.  I mean it’s like…

John Sparks
It’s a different ballgame.

Len Berman

Yet half the basketball teams played with six players and half of them against each other, and then the Western conference played with only four players on the court.  I mean that’s how odd it seems.

John Sparks
Finally, Len, tell me what you’re up to these days.  Broadcasting has changed for all of us.  You’re no longer at NBC.  What are you doing these days?

Len Berman
Well, I’ve just recently left my NBC gig, so I’m spending a lot of time on my website, LenBermanSports.com.  I’m sending out daily emails, my top five everyday. I’m talking to a lot of people.  I’m talking to radio.  I think there’s some things I want to do.  I want to continue my “Spanning the World” feature.  I think that’ll continue in some fashion.  So, I definitely plan on continuing in broadcasting, but there’s nothing I’m ready to announce today.

John Sparks
Now, if I go on your website, I can register and get an email sent to me with your top five; is that right?

Len Berman
Yeah, they would just register on my website and they would get my top five; and it goes out Monday through Friday. Some of it’s…  A lot of it’s offbeat.  It’s not hardcore, super hardcore sports. A lot of it is the offbeat stuff that I like to dabble in.

** The views and opinions expressed in this and other interviews found on this site are expressly those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Marist Poll.

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