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interview_with_john_oconnelljacko_of_espn_sports_guy_fame_yankee_fan | June | 2009 Articles

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Interview with John O'Connell, Yankee Fan and "JackO" of ESPN Sports Guy Fame

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"Complex litigation, this is John." Thanks to Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy, one of the most famous Yankees in the world (other than Billy Crystal) is an attorney in Connecticut named John O'Connell, also known as JackO, best known from Simmons's recurring "Johnny, Are You Worried Yet?" segments. The Braves play the Yankees tonight for the first time since 2006, and who better to ask about the team we're about to face than O'Connell himself? Without further ado, here he is.

The New York Yankees are about to come to Atlanta for the first time since 2000, and both teams have gotten weaker since then. Despite David Ortiz's struggles, the Red Sox are looking strong at the top of the division. Will the Yankees become buyers at the deadline to try to unseat the Sox? Or will they stand pat and try to keep fending off the Jays, Rays and Angels for the Wild Card?

My guess would be that the Yankees will be buyers at the deadline. Given their payroll and expectations (because of offseason moves) I think that they will still try to make a run at the division. While that may seem implausible given their 0 for 8 record against the Sox so far (unless it's gotten worse. It's been far too painful for me to keep an exact count of their futility), the lead is only four games so it's certainly not insurmountable.
I'm sure they'd like to bolster their bullpen if they could. I've read rumors of their scouts following Huston Street, but I don't think he really gets anyone overly excited. I can't imagine they'd give up any top tier prospects for someone like him. I'm not sure what other bullpen help is out there. Last year they got Damaso Marte at the deadline but that didn't really work out. I would like to see them try to get a back of the rotation starter and move Joba to the bullpen which I think would make them much, much stronger but sadly, they rarely take my advice :-)
Unfortunately, our old friend Mark Teixeira won't get to face your old friend Javier Vazquez in this series, since Vazquez pitched Monday night. (I doubt you miss him as much as we miss Tex.) How do you like the Yankees' offseason acquisitions, and do you see any significant holes in the team that might need to be addressed in the free agent market or on the trading block?

I was a huge fan of their offseason moves at the time and I remain basically happy with what they did. Teixeira is a phenomenal player (as I'm sure you're aware having seen him as a Brave). He's great offensively and defensively. Although I was critical of his slow start, he's been huge for them of late. I think he's already passed Tino Martinez to be their best 1B since Mattingly. I think he'll be great for them for years to come.
While Sabathia hasn't been what I hoped he would be -- the guy we saw with the Brewers last year -- he still is a respectable number one starter and he consistently pitches deep into games, which they need, given their bullpen. I still have hope that he'll come up big in the second half. As for their other big offseason signing, AJ Burnett -- to paraphrase the overused Dennis Green quote, "He is who we thought he was." He's up and down, good one day, bad the next. I wish that he had been able to continue his mastery of the Red Sox that he had as a Blue Jay, but unfortunately that seemed to disappear when he put on the pinstripes.
Leadership -- how are Joe Girardi and the Steinbrenner boys, and how do they get along? Is Joe G. as good a field general as Joe T. was, and is Hank as likely to fire a manager he doesn't like as his father was? What kind of carnage could there be in the Bronx if the Yankees miss the playoffs?

I think Girardi is very lucky that George Steinbrenner is no longer at the helm. I was thinking this week that losing 2 out of 3 to the Nationals would have triggered a legendary Steinbrenner explosion. I could envision post-game tirades and savage quotes in headlines in the New york tabloids. That performance coupled with their record against the Sox might have lead to Joe looking for work. In his heyday, George certainly fired people for less.
However, with the new ownership in place, I get the sense that they're still finding their way. They were kind of thrust into a leadership position because of their father's deteriorating health. Although I don't agree with Simmons that it's akin to a "Fredo from the Godfather" situation, I do find it odd that neither Hank or Hal were groomed to take over the team. George was grooming his son-in-law to take over until he made the mistake of divorcing George's daughter. so Hank and Hal are working on figuring out how to run the Yankees.
I think that GM Brian Cashman has more power than any GM had during the Boss's tenure. It's his team for good or ill. Should the team miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, I think that either he or Girardi or both could walk the plank. Changes would have to be made, given the prices they charge and the expectations that their fans have.
I like certain aspects of Girardi's managing. I like that he's fiery and willing to mix it up with opponents (like his fight with the Sox first base coach and his comments about Brad Penny throwing at hitters). I think it's a welcome change after the laid back style of Torre. I loved Torre, but I think after that many years it was time for a change. If the team fails to win this year, though, Girardi may pay the price.
The economy: have the Yankees had to tighten the belt at all since their free agent TARP bailout over the winter? How is the revenue flowing at the new stadium? Is there any concern that the current economy will significantly affect their baseball decisions?

I think that the Yankees are one of the few sports teams and probably one of the few entities in America that is fairly recession-proof. With their new stadium and the YES network, they have an almost unlimited revenue stream. Ownership claims that they too have a budget, but it never seems to limit their ability to get whomever they want. They made some mistakes with the new stadium in charging absolutely obscene prices, but even with that, tickets are hard to come by and the stadium seems generally full (with the exception of the exorbitant seats which the media harps on). So I don't think they will become a small market team any time soon.
Over the last decade, your friend Bill Simmons has gotten extremely popular, and through his column and podcast, you've become an internet celebrity yourself. (You have a Facebook fan page and you're the subject of a song by a Christian metal band, not to mention your recurring podcast gig on The B.S. Report.) Has it been weird? Has your life changed much?

The attention I've received from appearing on the BS Report has been kind of surreal, but very, very fun. As Bill and I have commented to each other, the conversations that we have are ones that we would have anyway (although there would probably be more swearing and political incorrectness) so it's funny that people seem to enjoy listening in. Bill is very talented and he and I have an enormous amount of chemistry from being friends for twenty years so our podcasts are really natural and easy to do. I get an enormous kick out of doing them and the attention through Facebook and Twitter and the song have been really humbling and enjoyable. Although I find the attention from the paparazzi and the tabloids troubling (HA-HA).
Bill forwards me e-mails from around the country and my friends inform me about messages on the Facebook site and I always enjoy them (even the ones that disparage me) so it's been really, really cool. My friends and family keep me from getting too big of a head so hopefully people will continue to tune in, continue to listen and continue to enjoy us for a long time to come.
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