10:20 am Oct. 11, 20121
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
EATING UP RAUL: Last Tuesday after defeating the Red Sox 4-3 in a 12-inning game, Nick Swisher proclaimed: "Everybody order your Raul Ibanez jerseys!"
Ibanez was called in as a pinch hitter in the 9th, where he hit a homer to tie the game. A single in the 12th sealed the deal for the Yankees.
"He’s one of the nicest guys in baseball, one of the best teammates in baseball," Mark Texeira said. "So when you get a chance to see him come up big like this—he’s done it a couple times this year—it makes everyone so happy."
And he's done it again, only better. The caption at the bottom of the Post front page: "Raul Ibanez belts a solo shot in the 12th inning last night to give the Yanks a 3-2 win and a 2-1 ALDS lead. He tied it with a homer in the ninth—pinch-hitting for A-Rod."
That latter bit is important. After a run of sluggish performances but with $114 million and five years left on his contract, 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez is no longer the star of the lineup, and yet it's hard not to treat him like one. As Howard Megdal put it yesterday:
The luxury [Yankee manager Joe] Girardi has in his 2012 Yankees, one the team didn't have just a few years ago, is that Alex Rodriguez really isn't the difference-maker in his lineup anymore. They can survive whether or not Rodriguez starts hitting again.
Girardi went so far Tuesday night as to refuse to rule out moving A-Rod down the batting order. He didn't do it last night, but he did bring in Ibanez, a pinch hitter with a history of big hits in big moments. So while it's tempting just for the storyline to think of Ibanez unseating A-Rod in the lineup, it's more likely just one of these happy events that Ibanez creates a few times each season. That might be enough to make Ibanez a serious asset, no doubt, if not a usurper.
The Post goes with that on the front, but not on the back Sports page. The front: "RAH, RAH, RAUL! Pinch hero's two homers spark Yank comeback." The back: "A-WHO!" (Probably should have been a question mark there, so it looks less like a sneeze.) It comports with the fact that everyone coming to the sports page already knows all about last night's game; what they want is gossip, intrigue, a storyline. For the rest of us just looking at the front, a big round of applause for nice-guy Ibanez is plenty.
Shall we talk about the photo? It's an action shot, and the Post has chosen the impact moment of the bat on the ball, with Ibanez straining his face in concentration (looking a little like he's in one of those astronaut flight tests).
The News, which also gives over its whole front page to Ibanez, has him mid-bat-drop, his eyes following the ball in one direction as his knees pick up to run in the other.
"PINCH ME!" reads the big, knockout-white text. "Ibanez, hitting for A-Rod, belts HRs in 9th & 12th to stun Orioles, take series lead."
There's an uncharacteristically Posty looking little box of lead-in text on the front of the News, too, and I'd like to spend a moment on it:
"IN A SHOCKING move, Yankees manager Joe Girardi pinch-hits for struggling superstar Alex Rodriguez with Raul Ibanez in 9th inning of Game 3 last night. Ibanez responds by tying game with solo homer and then winning it with second bomb in 12th."
I have a little trouble with "shocking," since maneuvering A-Rod out of his crucial spot in the lineup is exactly what the sports press has been trying to get Girardi to do lately. And since the Ibanez strategy was a winner in the series with the Red Sox not a week ago.
OBSERVATIONS: Today is a perfect illustration of a major genetic difference between the Post and the News: Their sense of language, and their notions about density on the page. I wrote it already, though, two and a half years ago in The New York Observer, so with apologies, I'll just quote myself:
The Post just has a better understanding of the value of density on the front page than the News does. Filling the page with images and type in such a way that every element seems ready to explode from its container is a way of expressing urgency, even agitation; it’s one of the defining elements of the emotional landscape the Post uses to lure in readers every day. I used to say that I thought there was a full-time staffer at the Post that read through the copy and replaced all latinate words with germanic ones: “arrest” becomes “nab,” “rapidly” becomes “fast,” “assist” becomes “help,” “error” becomes “mistake,” “salary” becomes “wage.” The dense front page is somehow the visual equivalent ...
Let's apply this to today's papers. First of all, "RAH, RAH, RAUL" vs. "PINCH ME!" They're pretty evenly matched, I'd say; the Post's Germanic preferences, which are really part of a history of newspapers from the Victorian era in England promoting the use of Saxon words over Latinate ones for political reasons (yep!), are bleeding over into the News under the helm of new editor Colin Myler, who is an alumni of British tabloids (and Murdoch tabloids here and there, too!) But the page density thing is still lost on the News sometimes. The letters are taller and thinner, and while they take up more of the negative space in the photo than the Post does, they're are lots of tiny words, up-and-down letters; at a glance, the Post is readable. This is especially true in the deks. Compare:
Pinch hero's two
for A-Rod, belts
HRs in 9th & 12th
to stun Orioles,
take series lead
And while from a strict documentary perspective, the News has a tighter alignment of its photo selection and main headline (Ibanez asks to be pinched as he watches the ball sail into the sky) than the Post (which has none: We cheer Ibanez in retrospect and look at a picture of the hit before it became a homer?) these literary accomplishments are not really the proper business of a tabloid front, when they get in the way of the sale. The Post photo is just more intense, and the text gives you a black eye; you can't lose sight of it.
Winner: New York Post.
ONE YEAR AGO TODAY: "Would the 'B'KLYN PERV' story be any less meaningful if it were Brooklyn pervs?"
TWO YEARS AGO TODAY: "Carl Paladino and Rabbi Levin create gay mishegoss."