When breakfast becomes breaking news
Late last night, as I was heading home in a taxi after a long day's flight back from a family visit to California, I got a text from a good friend of mine. "I'm sure you're jet-lagged," Mark wrote. "But I have an extra ticket to the Cashman breakfast tomorrow morning." My first thought was, "Brian Cashman breakfast? I hadn't heard about this." My second thought was, "Oh man all I want to do is sleep." My next thought was, "There will be bacon. I can't say no to bacon." Finally, I thought, even if WFAN's Mike Francesa hogs the stage and the Yankees' general manager spews out some boring platitudes about the Yankees, this was baseball. Oh sweet baseball, how I miss you! Yes, I would be at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
This morning, after hitting the snooze button a few too many times, I made sure my Blackberry was fully juiced, threw my recording device into my purse and headed to Times Square. I anticipated sending a few live tweets here and there from the event, hoping that Cashman would say something interesting, especially as baseball fans grow increasingly desperate for spring training to get underway. Little did I know that a few hours later, a tweet from the breakfast would be breaking news across the sports pages and blogs.
From minute one of the conversation ("Hi Brian, how are you?" Francesa asked. "I'd be better if I had a starter," Cashman responded), it was clear that we were in for something more than just a bunch of tired cliches from the Yankees' general manager. It was then that I grabbed my iPod microphone and hit "record." Which tweet was it that sparked all the hubbub? There were a few nuggets to choose from during Cashman's stunningly honest and candid conversation with Francesa.
Was it the one where he confirmed what all Yankee fans and bloggers had long suspected -- that Joba Chamberlain was not the same pitcher after the shoulder injury he sustained in Texas in 2008? Or was it the one where Cashman said that right now, the Red Sox are better than the Yankees, but the Yankees have a better bullpen? How about when he said that Andy Pettitte "is still not in, but he's not retired." Or was it the one where he said Mariano Rivera "is the best Yankee I've ever seen"? No, it was the one where Cashman candidly said he'd "be surprised" if Derek Jeter stayed at shortstop for the next four years and thought that a move to the outfield might be possible. That's when all hell broke loose.
My Twitter timeline exploded with retweets. Blog posts popped up in real time, using my tweets as the source. Controversy had arrived just weeks before pitchers and catchers. E-mails were flying. All because of a tweet of something Cashman said at a breakfast. In an instant, thanks to my Blackberry, I went from a fan attending a fan breakfast to a source of breaking news. Which got me thinking. Yes, I'm a contributor to espnW, but I'm not officially a reporter and I wasn't at the event in that capacity. But thanks to smartphones and Twitter, aren't we all reporters? Anybody else at that event could have tweeted the same thing. There were over 150 people there this morning at the sold-out event. We all heard Cashman. I was just the one person there who tweeted the nugget. I also happen to have a large Twitter following in the baseball community, which meant that it spread like wildfire.
Having had a few hours to reflect on today's events, I think what was really news was not what Cashman said about Jeter, but that he said it publicly. I think most Yankee fans (myself included) are skeptical of Jeter's ability to continue to play shortstop at a high level for another four years. Many (if not most) are already skeptical of Jeter's ability to play at a high level even this year. Whether Jeter moves to third base or left field or center field (as Cashman stated this afternoon was a possibility), that's not the stunning revelation. What is stunning is that Cashman chose to reveal his honest thoughts about the Yankee superstar at a public event that's been covered before. More stunning is that Cashman was somehow surprised by this.