I’ve had about as much fun with the Joe Torre book as anyone, but this is profoundly stupid:
The Yankees are considering including a “non-disparagement clause” in future player and managerial contracts in order to prevent any more tell-all books such as “The Yankee Years,” co-written by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Yankee official said yesterday that some members of the front office staff already are required to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to protect “proprietary knowledge of our business model.” The proposed clause is intended to ensure that future books about the Yankees are “positive in tone,” and “do not breach the sanctity of our clubhouse.”
There’s a big difference between confidentiality regarding trade secrets and proprietary information on the one hand and a simple “don’t say bad things about us after you’re gone” requirement on the other. The former is necessary to keep a going concern going. The latter is simple P.R. control and the stifling of free expression. Which, because the Yankees aren’t the government is legal of course, but which is a dumb move all the same.
Why? Because The very existence of non-disparagement clauses — assuming they’re public, as any involving the Yankees now would be — would do more to harm the team than help it. It sends a signal to the public that the team has more embarrassing secrets to hide than whatever it is Torre is going on about, and will lead to more uninformed, lurid speculation among the fans and the press than already exists. Torre’s book may not be popular with the Yankees’ brass right now, but in many ways it constitutes a necessary blood-letting. If he and the 1995-present Yankees were gagged for life, all manner of gossip and innuendo would go unchecked. Instead of that blood-letting you’d get death by a thousand anonymous cuts.
Even worse is that the existence of non-disparagement clauses often serve to magnify, rather than minimize the damage some bad press can cause. Let’s say five years from now Jorge Posada is speaking at a luncheon and makes some intemperate remark about Derek Jeter’s personal hygiene. As it stands today, there would probably be a brief blurb about it in the New York tabloids, and then it would go away and join all of the other fun junk in Yankees’ history. If Posada was subject to a non-disparagement clause, however, the Yankees would have to sue for damages. This would serve to magnify the issue of Derek Jeter’s hygiene by a factor of about a billion, because now the matter would have to be litigated. It would also place the team in the unenviable position of going after a guy who is a minor hero in the minds of Yankees fans. And if you say “no, the Yankees would never sue Posada,” than what’s the bloody point of having a non-disparagement clause anyway?
Also, let us not discount the chilling effect such a clause would have on potential future Yankees. Sure, at some point player X is going to sign with New York if there is enough money on the table, but what of players Y and Z? Maybe Y and Z fancy a future in broadcasting. How would FOX or ESPN feel about hiring Y or Z if they knew beforehand that they’d never be able to share stories about their Yankees days lest they be sued for disparaging the ballclub? If I were them I’d pass on Y and Z and hire the ex-Met instead.
Finally, let us remember that if the Yankees had non-disparagement clauses in the 60s, we never would have had Ball Four, so that’s reason enough to be against the idea.
If I were Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenners, Alex Rodriguez or Johnny Damon, I’d be pretty steamed at Joe Torre this week. I’d have the sense to realize, however, that the best way to fight bad press is to either ignore it or to fight it with good press as opposed to litigating the matter or stifling the speech of my future teammates and coworkers.
The best revenge is living well, New York. Let Torre have his week of publicity, and then go out and win 100 games and the World Series without him. Then, in a couple of years, write a book speculating why Joe Torre couldn’t win a World Series for the final seven years at the helm.