The typical reader of the Wall Street Journal might not be changing, but the product itself is. In recent years, the paper has devoted more of its considerable analytical might toward both sports and the greater New York area. It's a shift personified by Mets beat reporter Jared Diamond.
"By the time the playoffs rolled around, it seemed to me that fans were brimming with confidence, and rightfully so."
"Mets beat reporter" is a phrase that immediately calls to mind an elderly chain-smoker hammering out game stories on an old Selectric, perhaps peppered with a few choice "throw the bums out"-isms. But Diamond, it's safe to say, is neither old nor analog. At 27, he's been covering the Mets for the past three seasonsa job he started less than year after graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He brings to his game stories the same analytical rigor someone on the finance side might employ to cover rising interest rates, while managing to find interesting ways to tell the story of a game you likely saw the highlights of last night.
In the following interview, which was conducted over email and edited for clarity, Diamond tells Gelf what it was like to cover this World Series team, how media-friendly the front office is, and who gives the best interview in the clubhouse.Gelf Magazine: Can the Mets ever overtake the Yankees as the city's favorite team? Or do you think they already did in the 1980s? Is that even desirable?
Jared Diamond: I like to think of it this way: The Yankees belong to the world. The Mets belong to New York. The Yankees will always command more attention than the Mets. They will always be more popular and spend more time on SportsCenter and command the back page.
But the Mets have a local quality to them that I find quite endearing, and it's something the Yankees don't seem to have as much. When the Mets are good, the city rallies behind them differently than the Yankees. New Yorkers claim them as their own. I think that's why whenever the Mets do rise, the groundswell of support seems so dramaticbecause the Mets have a way of connecting with New Yorkers, while the Yankees exist in a universe that extends so far beyond just one city.
Gelf Magazine: How much did the 2015 Mets use the best of baseball analytics? Are those overrated?
Jared Diamond: It's no secret that the Mets' front office, led by general manager Sandy Alderson, is a major proponent of analytics, but these days, every team is. It's no longer a niche, but part of baseball's lifeblood. The best teams seem to be the ones that manage to combine analytics with old-fashioned scouting to form a unified organization. The two sides need to work together and see the value in each other's existence. Stats people do best when they don't totally dismiss experienced scouts, and scouts are more useful when they try to understand how numbers can help them do their job.
Gelf Magazine: How did New York transform during the playoffs?
Jared Diamond: The transformation really started before the playoffs, when the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes at the end of July. That deal gave people hope and made them believe that this team really had a chance. By the time the playoffs rolled around, it seemed to me that fans were brimming with confidence, and rightfully so. The Mets were able to line up their starting pitching, and they wound up rolling to the National League pennant. Certainly, the Mets inspired a lot of hope in a lot of disillusioned people.
Gelf Magazine: Which current Mets would be the best TV guys for the team in 2040?
Jared Diamond: I actually asked the Mets' players themselves a similar question for a story I wrote this season.
As you can see, Curtis Granderson was the winner, followed by Michael Cuddyer, who just announced his retirement over the weekend. It seems that Cuddyer wants to find a coaching job at some point. I absolutely think Granderson will wind up in media after his playing career.
Gelf Magazine: How do the Mets compare in media-friendliness to other franchises?
Jared Diamond: For a New York team, especially, the Mets are fantastic to deal with from a media perspective. They understand we have a job to do and rarely do anything to impede it. Jay Horwitz, the Mets' longtime PR man, might be old-school, and he might not be the most technologically savvy executive in the game, but he is ultimately a friend of writers who looks out for our interests. That goes a long way.
Gelf Magazine: Who's the best/worst interview?
Jared Diamond: David Wright is as incredible to deal with as his reputation suggests. I will never forget what he did following Game 4 of the World Series, the game Daniel Murphy's error contributed to a brutal Mets loss. David had nothing to do with that play, but he stayed at his locker for at least 45 minutes and maybe even up to an hour and answered waves upon waves of questions. The questions repeated themselves, and some of them were just inane, but he stayed there and never got upset, never snapped back at everyone. That's the kind of guy David Wright is, and when the captain is like that, it rubs off on the rest of the clubhouse.
I'll refrain from naming a worst interview subject, though I suspect fans could pretty easily guess some of the top candidates.