Editor’s Note: I had the opportunity to talk with ESPN’s Buster Olney. Olney is the host of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast as well as the reporter for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball along with Dan Shulman and John Kruk. You can catch the Yankees when they take on the Boston Red Sox, Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage begins at 7 pm with Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown with Karl Ravech and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. I was able to speak with Buster for a few minutes about the Yankees, twitter and writing. You can follow Buster on twitter @Buster_ESPN -JE
First of all, thank you for taking time to speak with me. With the trade deadline looming, and with David Price and Jeff Samardzija probably unattainable, who should the Yankees be looking at in acquiring? Pitcher? Hitter? Both?
Buster Olney: I agree with you in that Price and Samardzija are unrealistic at this point. The market would really have to fall, and I think the Cubs would have to find a player in the Yankees’ system that they love and have to have. As far as pitchers go, they could look to the Cubs for Jason Hammel. They could talk to San Diego about Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross. Brandon McCarthy or Colby Lewis could be had too. They are probably going to look at the infield market, but pitching is a priority. I would expect both the Yankees and Oakland to land a pitcher.
Jason Evans: Is Yankees vs Red Sox still the best rivalry in the game? Do you think it’s lost some of it’s luster in recent years?
BO: I think it’s lost some luster to a small degree. There’s less hatred between the clubs.If the Yankees had pushed the Michael Pineda incident more there might be some more hatred there. You look at Dustin Pedroia and Derek Jeter, and they have the utmost respect for each other as do the organizations. This is actually one of the most important times they are facing each other with each club trying to gain some traction. As far as fan interest, it will never be surpassed, but as far as hatred between teams right now, I think you look at Dodgers/Diamondback and Pirates/Cardinals.
JE: I, like many others, follow you on Twitter and you’re very active on it. Tell me what are some of the best parts and some of the worst.
BO: I grew up in Vermont, where we had no TV or paper or radio during the day. We would get sports at 7:15 on WDEV that’s it. The best part is the instant access to information. I will say some of it wears you down. You can tweet about, for example, the Milwaukee Brewers 11 times and then tweet about the Yankees or the Red Sox once and people jump on you for it. I grew up a Dodger fan, and people assume I’m a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan, and my fandom of specific teams has gone away since covering the game.
JE: Speaking of covering teams, you covered the Yankees during their championship run, and with Derek Jeter turning 40 this past week, can you share something about Jeter from your years in covering him?
BO: Jeter’s two best traits are how consistent he is, and how confident he is. One of the amazing things is that Jeter is only five pounds heavier then when he broke in. One of the interesting things about him I learned in 1998/1999 was how a coach said that when he was younger, he had to do long toss every day. So everyday before the game, you’ll see him throw long toss whether it was with Luis Sojo, Robinson Cano or Alex Rodriguez. To demonstrate his confidence, former coach Gary Denbo had a great story. Even when Jeter was in a slump he was always confident. He would go into the cage, and take a few swings, and say I got it. With a guy like Ricky Ledee, he would always keep grinding in the cage when he was struggling.
JE: There was some controversy this past week with Tino Martinez receiving a plaque in Monument Park. You covered him with the Yankees. Do you think he deserved one?
BO: To me, if they want to give him a plaque that’s fine. The fans had the highest regard for Tino, even when he left and came back, and that’s what it’s about. It’s not about a power ranking. I wouldn’t retire a guy’s number for example if they don’t make the Hall of Fame.
JE: Masahiro Tanaka has come over to the Yankees and been dominant. Where does he rank among pitchers in MLB right now? Top 10? Top Five?
BO: Top five no doubt, and it’s a bit of a surprise. I thought, and people I talked to around the sport thought he’d be a number two or three starter with potential to lead the staff. I talked to Brian Cashman, and asked him about Tanaka, and he said he talked to execs with other clubs after the deal was done, and they said the same thing. I talked with Angels’ pitching coach Mike Butcher, after the Angels faced Tanaka on Sunday Night Baseball this season, and he said the rotation on the splitter and the fastball are so similar that the hitter can’t tell the difference. I had Justin Havens on the podcast this past Friday, where he broke down the top pitches in baseball, and Tanaka’s splitter was number one.
JE: What advice would you give people out there who want to be the next Buster Olney?
BO: Write as much as you can. Organize your thoughts. There are plenty of people who in high school and college who want to get into the business, and do something else, and being a good writer is important for any profession.
JE: Thank you for taking the time Buster.
BO: You’re welcome!