Wednesday, October 06, 2004

PR Problems

We have a guest blogger today, Michele Blom, a Mets fan from Minneapolis who points out something that I can't believe hasn't gotten more press in the media. Without further adieu, here's Michele:

The Mets need to get rid of their publicist, Jay Horwitz, if they are going to return to being a media savvy organization. I simply cannot understand how this guy has a lifetime job. He was better suited to be a publicist when the Mets were the nice little team in town. After Mike Piazza's arrival, this all changed. The media spotlight intensified and the fans were back. Horwitz has clearly proven again and again that he is not capable for this larger spotlight.

Let's take the biggest blunder: when Art Howe had time to tell the media that Piazza was going to start playing first base, but no time to tell Piazza himself. This is what would have happened if this were the Yankees. They would have been monitoring the interview, if not Steinbrenner himself. Upon hearing the gaffe, they would have had everyone in their entire organization trying to get a hold of the player before the media did. They would have met the player in the player parking lot if need be.

Here is what the Mets did: nothing. The MSG network had time to fax all local media and radio outlets. The media high tailed it over to Shea. Piazza arrived and no one cut him off at the pass so to speak. He was shown in a live interview surrounded by about 20 reporters and no one from the Mets office intervened, not one frickin' person.

Granted, we might say "Piazza is a big boy. Big deal." Here is why it is a big deal. I bet that every friggin' person in that Met locker room was on the phone to friends and fellow players saying "Do you know what they just did to our franchise player?" Players talk. These same players will think "If they did that to Piazza, what will they do to me." Players always stick together even if they're wrong. This kills our ability to sign free agents when the Mets are viewed as an organization that screws over their own players.

Once again, I guarantee you that if this had happened with a Yankee star player that the publicist would have tackled and cut him off in the player parking lot before the media ever got to him. They would have coached him before the media hit his locker. The whole thing would have been a pebble. However this is the Mets where Jay Horwitz, their publicist, has a lifetime job.

Piazza still has not been told what position he will play next year or if he is in the Mets plans. Christ, this must look real good to free agents who will simply say: "If this is what they do to their franchise player, why should I sign there. I would be treated worse."

Let me get this straight: Piazza could be traded but John Franco can stay until he's 44 years old. Are you freaking kidding me? If they piss Piazza off enough where he wants a trade, I hope he gets his revenge. I want him to only accept a trade to the Yankees or an NL East team. After all, if they continue to piss him off so he considers a trade, they will then turn it around and blame it on him saying that he waved his own no-trade clause. At this point, given what he knows about the way things work, why should Piazza care about their feelings.

Normally, the publicist has to act as a buffer from the organization to the media, usually making the publicist fairly hated by them. However, Jay Horwitz is beloved by Mets beat reporters. This never happens. It makes me wonder if Jay himself isn't the source of some media leaks. After all, one player was anonymously quoted two years ago as saying that "Jay works for the media." Very strange. Also, how many publicists have the media ever campained for to get a raise and promotion? One, Jay Horwitz. Weird isn't it?

Any organization that continuously has such PR gaffes would look into what the PR Dept. isn't doing to stop them. I spent 8 1/2 years working in the music industry for The Musicland Group, Inc. Granted, in Minneapolis it was a smaller music market. However, I knew of a publicist who worked for a PR firm that was fired after one gaffe. It wasn't even her fault. She was let go because the company thought that she didn't "have the musician's back." There was zero tolerance of that. If it was perceived that if you didn't have the musician/artist's back, you were considered a traitor or a potential media leak. You were let go. It didn't matter how long you had been with the company or how many friends you had. We had to take secrets to our grave. Otherwise, you were blacklisted even in the Minneapolis market. Heck, after I was laid off, I was not able to get another job in the music industry. This was because my former company, The Musicland Group, had too many enemies in the Minneapolis area, Therefore, I was shunned because of it. It had nothing to do with me. I would have had to leave town to get a job. Obviously, I couldn't afford to do that after being laid off. However, in the sports industry, the Mets sports industry, you have a lifetime job. Go figure.

Mets employees continuously leak things and discredit their players, coaches, and former managers. I can guarantee you that if this was the music industry that they would have looked under rocks and threatened people to find out where the leaks where. Heck in Los Angeles, in the music industry, they have even put mob hits out on people for lesser things. You would be scared to death to leak stuff out there. Piazza even commented the other day about how can you fire someone through the paper? Granted, they didn't exactly fire Art Howe "through the paper" but this is how the players perceive this. If the players cannot even believe what goes on in their own organization they won't be able to recruit free agents with a clear conscience.

Fred Wilpon needs to look at the whole organization, not just the players, from top to bottom. If the players perceive the Mets as having a publicist who would sell them out, they will not sign here. Players work with the publicist more than they do any other front office member even the general mananger. This is why we need one that will support the players, not stab them in the back.

Food for thought.


At 11:29 PM, Blogger a2d said...

Although I agree that it's probably Horwitz's time to go, I don't believe he was a better publicist when the Mets were a little team. This is the same guy who did the spin jobs for the '86 Mets and he did a pretty good job of it.

It seems as though he's just gotten too comfortable with his job, and isn't very afraid for his security right now. This seems to be the major problem with a lot of the Mets employees these days.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Nails11 said...

As a former PR director for several pro hockey teams, I totally agree with this piece. Well done. A PR guy in sports has a choice: you're with the media or your with the team...not both.

In sports, the word "Team" means everyone, all the time. For PR pros, sometimes that means going against what your training because that what's best for the team. There were plenty of times I had to make decisions that pissed off reporters at a player's request. That's part of the JOB! It's also how the players know folks in the office are looking out for them.

No player should ever have to worry about being ambushed by the media...EVER.

It's funny that Peter Gammons seems to be the only journalist who hates Horwitz...and rips him every chance he gets.

At one time, I dreamt about working in the Mets PR dept., but I'd never compromise my professional integrity like that now. Sad.

One more thing: No one had Piazza's cell phone number to give him a head's up? Yikes.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Mets beat writer, I can tell you two things: Jay is not "beloved by Mets beat reporters" as he frequently makes our jobs harder. He also is not the source of any leaks about anything that would discredit any player. If anything, Jay is overprotective of the players. The MSG/Piazza thing happened in literally 45 seconds. No publicist in the world could have prevented it. And please exit the fantasy land where free agents choose teams because of how players are treated by publicists. Free agents choose teams based on money, playing time and proximity to home in that order. The PR guy matters not one bit. I love blogs but when uninformed fans start asking for a guy to be fired after 25 years on a job, that's going too far. When is the last time you were around the clubhouuse or dealt with Jay, Michele?

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Jay said...'s my take on the subject, for what it's worth. I don't know Jay or what goes on behind the scenes. But I don't think anyone can argue that the Mets have made a litany of PR gaffes over the last few years and no one, no one, seems to be accountable.

Maybe this isn't Jay's fault but it seems to be that a well run organization could have organized the whole Piazza thing well before Howe ever had a chance to mess it up. Heck, everyone had only been talking about it for two years. Then there was the Reyes return date (a day, a week, a month, Christmas), the "leak" of Howe's firing, the lukewarm offers to numerous free agents that everyone knew weren't genuine (Guerrero and Castillo come to mind). And on, and on, and on.

The Mets have become a laughingstock because of these gaffes and there doesn't seem to be any incentive to change. If it's not Jay's fault, and maybe it isn't, then who is going to be held accountable and when are things going to change?

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I have to agree with the anonymous Mets beat writer to a large degree. I worked with Jay Horwitz when I was doing a lousy job of covering the Mets for UPI in the early 1980s and a better one as the associate editor of Inside Pitch, their house magazine. Jay has been in a tough position for many years -- PR man for a team that has been through wild ups and downs and more than its share of controversy. He's had to cope with the drug problems of Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, the anti-social behavior of Bret Saberhagen and Vince Coleman, the self-absorption of Rey Ordonez, the sexuality of Mike Piazza, the social life of Daryl Boston, and the weight of Mo Vaughn. This in the media fishbowl of New York, where a player's every move is radio talk show fodder for weeks. The Mets have not really treated him well over those years, apparently regarding him as just a whiny fat Jewish guy from The Bronx. I think rather than fire him, they should get him more help and support. My image of Jay remains seeing him hunched over a typewriter in the press box, batting out the post-game notes, his TV monitor in front of him held in place by a milk crate.

At 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the one common link in all the Mets' messes the past 25 years? That's right, Jay Horwitz.

Horwitz is the worst PR person in sports. He paints himself as the hardest-working man in baseball, when the truth is his staff does all the work, leaving Jay plenty of time to show his mug on TV. Worst image I've ever seen was of Jay and Al Leiter in a pool.

God bless Gammons for bashing Horwitz every chance he gets.

I'd love to know what kind of blackmail pics he has of Fred Wilpon. Gotta be something involving barnyard animals.

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