Someone asked Bobby Ojeda what he would have said on SportsNet New York last Saturday after Jenrry Mejia was suspended 80 games for testing positive for Stanozolol. We could almost see him glaring intensely into the camera before he decided there was much more to offer than knee-jerk commentary concerning the closer’s selfishness.
“I would have said, ‘Bud Selig, thank you for not initially addressing the problem. Thank you for sweeping it under the rug for years,’ ” Ojeda, sarcastically, said. “What we see now is some 20-odd years later guys are still using the drugs.”
Ojeda continued ranting, resurrecting memories of the six years of viewer whiplash he caused with fearless unpredictability anchored with analysis built through the course of a baseball life. His summer pulpit was chopped down when Ojeda and SNY brass, who hired Nelson Figueroa to replace him,could not reach an agreement on a new contract.
Money, as always, played a role. Our guess is they were not that far apart, more like five figures than six — but what do we know? “I know a lot was made about the difference and the money, although it was minor,” Ojeda told me over the telephone. “But I didn’t make a decision like that based solely on one thing, which would have been money. That would have been disingenuous on my part.”
See, on his way to becoming the top local studio analyst in baseball, Ojeda learned you don’t arrive at that destination without plenty of help. Walking the high wire like Ojeda did necessitates a safety net. For the first four or five years, he worked largely with the same production personnel. They made it possible, and provided everything, for him to focus solely on working in front of the camera.
Last August, Ojeda said, he saw things beginning to change. Craig Germain, the senior coordinating producer, who oversaw the pre- and postgame shows, left SNY to join NFL Network. Gerard Guilfoyle, who produced the shows, began taking on other projects.
Ojeda looked down from that wire and saw nothing but concrete.
“All of a sudden it was, this is going to be a daunting task ahead of me. Am I able to do it? Are we going to be able to continue doing as good a job as we had been doing?” Ojeda asked. “When the players (production personnel) started to change, then go, the uncertainty started creeping in. . . . I found myself almost having to train people, very good people, to do what we had been doing.”
Through almost all of Ojeda’s SNY tenure, Guilfoyle was his producer. “(Last season) his time in the producer’s chair was starting to turn over,” Ojeda said. “Honestly, it was Gerard who was driving this thing. I cannot be more emphatic about that. His ideas, his insight — especially with the man on the street. He knew what the man on the street was curious about. Gerard really fueled me. He was a big boost to me.”
Let’s look at this logically, which may not be a great idea. But what the hell? Last season, Ojeda saw the infrastructure SNY built around its Mets studio beginning to change. That has an affect — even on little things. Like while the core group knew exactly what video to pull when Ojeda wanted to analyze a certain style of pitching, Ojeda now had to get more involved in the production process. Get it?
On top of the changes, Ojeda was looking down the barrel of a contract negotiation. In his mind, he was worth more dough not only because of his performance but he believed his job description changed.
“It began to be a little bit more than I signed on for. I was willing to do it,” Ojeda said. “But with that added responsibility, I think there should be added compensation. That’s quite fair. It’s that simple.”
The “responsibility” includes the prospect of being a target of criticism that is not deserved because of a behind-the-scenes glitch. “If it doesn’t fly, me and Gary (Apple) are going to take the fall,” Ojeda said. “Sure I miss doing the show. But it started to become a lot more than I felt I was able to do.
“But the reality is that’s just my own shortcomings I was afraid of,” Ojeda continued. “That was part of it. I had so many people helping me do that job and they began to turn over. And I began questioning my abilities a little bit.”
History tells us insecurity is in the air all these guys breathe. Yet Ojeda is quick to embrace the idea of a return to broadcasting. Or a front-office position. Or becoming a member of a coaching staff. For through all that went down, all the experiences over six years behind a microphone, Bobby Ojeda learned something about himself.
“I found out I still have a passion for the game that I didn’t know existed,” he said. “Now, I’m sort of in between innings.”
Credit to the NY Daily News who originally published this article