NY Sports Dog: 10 Questions with SNY's Ted Berg

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

10 Questions with SNY's Ted Berg

A big thanks to Ted Berg from SNY, who took time out of his busy (and getting busier) schedule to stop by for a few questions.

Ted, thanks so much for joining us. Tell us a bit about what you do for SNY and how the mechanics of the operation work in terms of the website, writers, and the TV folks.

In addition to writing the column, I manage and edit a lot of the content that goes up on SNY.tv. That basically boils down to making a lot of phone calls to line up press credentials, then working with Tom Boorstein to get the articles and videos posted on the site.

Did you go to school for sports journalism, or did you just stumble upon the dream job of every Met fanatic in the nation?

My school didn't have a journalism major -- I majored in English and Music -- but I wrote a column for the paper there and hosted a sports-comedy TV show. I always wanted to do this, but ironically it was only after I had given up on a career in sports journalism that I stumbled into one. I was all set for a life in academia when I saw an ad for an editing job at MLB.com on craigslist. I applied, got it, started working on SNY.tv, and eventually got promoted.

I'll complain to my friends and family now and then about the daily rigors of the work, but this really is a dream job. I mean, I was a hot dog vendor at Shea when I was in college. Anything to get into the park for free.

From hot dog vendor to SNY--not bad! I am a huge fan of SNY, as are my readers, and think you folks do a marvelous job of keeping us informed while maintaining an element of fairness in your reporting. That said, do you think the criticism of Jose Reyes has been entirely fair? It seemed for a time that the media, including those at SNY, were pushing for him to be traded.

I agree with you; I don't think Jose Reyes has received fair treatment at all. I won't throw SNY or its personalities under the bus for that, though, because I think the treatment is as much a reflection of the attitude of Mets fans as anything else. Reyes was so hyped when he came up and people expect so much out of him now that no one seems to realize what a nice player he's become. The trend is starting to turn with his recent hot stretch, but how many Mets fans or media would suggest Reyes win the MVP award in 2008? It sounds ridiculous, but by most park-adjusted stats, he's actually having a better season than Jimmy Rollins did last year.

We are all such huge fans of SNY and its website, Matt Cerrone’s Metsblog, and of course the guys in the booth—the Mets have the best trio in the business. Who are your favorite guys to work with, and do you have any stories you can share with us about what the atmosphere is like behind the scenes?

Well, I work with Cerrone more than anyone else you see on TV since we're both web guys. He's a funny guy, and like me, he has opinions on just about everything -- not just the Mets. We end up having some pretty esoteric conversations that either entertain or freak out the interns.

I did an interview with Harold Reynolds for the web a while back -- one of my first video efforts. Usually I can keep my nerves under wraps, but Harold was such a pro that I felt totally overmatched and I guess was visibly a bit shaky. So Harold Reynolds starts essentially coaching me through Broadcast Journalism 101, and I realized he was breaking it down the same way he does a baseball game -- same mannerisms and everything -- which cracked me up. The interview came out OK, but only because Harold's great.

As for the booth, those guys are about exactly what you'd expect -- their personalities really show through in the broadcast. Gary's a professional and always willing to help, Ron is smart and always prepared, and Keith Hernandez is Keith Hernandez. I got to interview Keith when SNY did the broadcast from the Upper Deck, and it was amazing how he could answer my questions while essentially performing for the fans. What a hero. And what a mustache.

Ah yes, Keith's mustache....the stuff of legend! Speaking of facial hair, the Mets under Jerry Manuel seem like a different team, and not just the grooming standards. What is your sense of the team under Jerry? What do you believe are his greatest strengths, and how has he parlayed those into the on the field success the team has delivered under his leadership?

For one thing, I think the Mets just needed a new direction; all the Willie dialogue was getting a bit overwhelming. Manuel has a sort of Bobby Valentine air about him, where he tells the press whatever he's thinking and ends up putting the pressure on himself instead of on his players. I think that helps a lot.

Also, I love the way Manuel said from Day 1 that he'd be giving out playing time on merit. I mean, it makes perfect sense, but we heard so much from Willie about going with his guys and riding out the slumps. With Manuel, if a guy has a good game, he's going to play the next day -- no matter who he is or what he gets paid. That's how a team should be run, and I think that motivates the players, too.

Looking ahead everything seems to be in place for a fantastic finish, especially if Ryan Church comes back healthy. Do you think the Mets will add an outfielder before the deadline, or is there a sense that “staying the course” will get it done?

I'm a bit frightened to say I have no idea what they'll do because I don't know what they have to offer, and I don't know what's out there. There's been some talk of going after Xavier Nady or someone like that, but I can't imagine the front office wants to decimate the farm system any more than it already has. Others suggest Fernando Martinez could come to town, but I don't think he's anywhere near ready and I don't think this would be the best time to develop a player so young -- not with the pressure to win that's on the 2008 Mets.

As a fan of your column, Flushing Fussing, I’m very appreciative of your in-depth knowledge of baseball economics and true player value -- in fact I’ve been accused of over-relaying on stats myself -- a criticism I gladly accept. For you, did this start as a “back of the baseball card” thing and grow from there?

Back of the baseball card, RBI Baseball on Nintendo, wherever. I have no idea why or when it started, but I've always taken interest in the way a team is constructed and what makes a team succeed. Stats are obviously a big part of that. Sometime in high school, I started reading Rob Neyer's columns on ESPN.com and studying stats on the Baseball Prospectus web site, and it's been more of the same ever since.

Who is your favorite Met and why? In fact, give us two -- former player and current player.

Currently it's Carlos Beltran, mostly because I don't think he gets nearly enough credit for how good a baseball player he is. Dude is the best center fielder in the game, a very good hitter and one of the most successful basestealers of all time. Mets fans are still down on him for striking out against Wainwright in 2006, but forget the way he carried the club that year.

Historically it's hard to say. I loved Doc Gooden when I was young, but that seems like too easy an answer. I'm going to go with Dave Magadan, because I always respected the way he made a career out of being a one-dimensional player who got on base a lot. He had no power or speed, but boasted a .390 career on-base percentage.

Not so put you on the spot, but give us your fearless prediction for the second half?

In the Willie Randolph tradition of "Going With My Guys," I'll predict a big second half for Pedro Martinez provided he's healthy. Obviously his ability to stay injury-free is a huge caveat to that, but I do think Pedro's going to turn it around in a big way this season. Aging and fragile though he may be, he's still Pedro Martinez.

Last question: What advice would you give to the aspiring writers, bloggers, journalists and reporters out there?

As an editor, I can't stress enough how important it is for aspiring writers to learn and follow the rules of grammar. Editors hire writers, and no editor is ever going to bring in someone that will make editing more difficult.

Getting off the soapbox, I find that nothing helps me as much as reading good sportswriting with an eye on the craft. I don't mean just breezing through something for pleasure, I mean actually breaking down what makes it work.

I love blogs and I think it's awesome that the internet has developed to the point where anyone who wants a forum to speak his mind can have one. That's fantastic, but the downside to the internet is that there's just so much stuff out there and a lot of great writing goes unread. The internet is still a relatively new phenomenon, though, and I like to think that talent will eventually be rewarded once we get this whole new world sorted out. So to anyone starting or working on a blog, I'd say keep plugging away. If you've got a unique voice and a creative angle, people will come.

-- Ted Berg can be found all over SNY, at Flushing Fussing, on Metsblog, and in Shea Stadium...next time you see him ask him to demonstrate his "Hot Dog Heeeeeeere" call from back in the day.

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Anonymous said...

Hey Dog,

Just please answer me this...
I haven't been to this site in a long time. It hadn't been updated in like a year. Today I came to just see if it is still dormant, and bam! You've been busy.
So, what happened? If you are the same person, I enjoyed following your daily updates on the Zito chase, the Harden/Haren/Blanton story line, and other similar stories from that winter.
Just please, tell me what happened!

NY Sports Dog said...

Different site now....only Mets, no ads ever, and no rumors as fact (I was burned a few times and suffered for it)....if there is speculation it will be written as such.

As to why it wasn't updated--I took on a very fast paced job at the Pentagon as a speechwriter for a 3-star General....it was also my last year in the Service (I retired after 21 years)...bottom line is I had not time....now that I have retired from the military, I do.

I appreciate you coming back around!

Zoe said...

Ted, I love how the pic I took of you in Philly--showing off how SNY makes you use your own equipment--has become your unofficial headshot :-)

We're due for more Ted and Matt's excellent adventures, no?

Fun interview!

NY Sports Dog said...

Zoe, all incriminating, errrr, "action" shots of Ted are always appreciated.

I think Matt and Ted should head to DC for some BBQ and beer during the next Nats visit.

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