Thursday, August 21, 2008

WHYGAVS Interviews Rocco DeMaro, Part 1

It is my pleasure to bring to you today the first interview in WHYGAVS history that did not take place with my dad or in my head. Over the past two days I've had an e-mail conversation with the host of WPGB's Extra Innings show. The result is a long, funny, and honest conversation on a wide range of topics including the Pirates, his show, and yes, THAT article. It's incredibly long, so I've broken it into two parts, with the second running tomorrow morning. Enjoy.

WHYGAVS: You're known as the radio host that likes to Rick-Roll your listeners, but you've recently had some pretty big scoops. You called Robbie Grossman's eventual signing back in July when most people thought it looked doubtful and had the news on Quinton Miller the night of August 14th, several hours before the news appeared in any of the papers. I know you can't name names, but can you tell us anything about that? Or just the general transition from pure talk show host to breaking some of your own news?

Rocco DeMaro: Wait a minute--I'm known as the Rick-Roll guy? Really? [Note to self--I've got to get a better calling card...]

WHYGAVS: Would you prefer if I used, "the only radio host that can describe Jamie Romak as a three true-outcomes hitter and know what it means?"

RD: Well, whatever floats your boat, I suppose. And how about young-ish Romak!! He has utter disdain for involving the defense in the ballgame. The man wants to make his own way, one way or the other! Something to be said for that.

But back to your initial question -- the same way everyone gets information ... by befriending certain people, using them for their information and allowing them to use you for your information. And just to clarify -- my show isn't somehow transitioning into a news-making outlet from a strict talk show. I'm going to continue to do what I do best and that's to both entertain my audience and analyze the Pittsburgh Pirates. But we've certainly broken some stories on Extra Innings and my weekend show prior to the signing period ... they just never got reported as such.

Here are a couple examples: Frank Coonelly broke the silence on the Alvarez negotiations on Extra Innings--a big deal as both sides had been silent to that point. We also had Neal Huntington on my weekend show this spring (Weekend Sportsline with Rocco DeMaro, Saturdays 2-4 P.m. ET) break Ryan Doumit's emerging role in 2008. "We're going to commit to Ryan Doumit," he said. Neal went on to say that Doumit would get 'significant' at bats in 2008...this was newsworthy as Ronnie Paulino was still seen as the defacto starter at the time. No other media outlet had that for another week or two. But if no one is paying attention to the news being made on our shows, nothing gets attributed. A tree in the woods, I suppose.

So though my work certainly isn't predicated on breaking news or emulating the work of the fine beat writers in Pittsburgh, we've done our part, including the aforementioned Grossman and Miller signings -- two HUGE stories in my mind as they, along with Freeman (and the other obvious scoop that we've danced around to this point) define the commitment ownership has made in 2008, and ultimately, define the 2008 season for the Bucs.

WHYGAVS: So then let's talk about that other scoop. You reported on your show around 10:30 the night of the draft pick signing deadline that Pedro Alvarez WOULD sign before midnight. That report was quickly refuted by the local media that night, again the next morning, and three days later a local columnist did everything but call you a liar in print for your reports on the Alvarez deal. Can you tell us anything about the Alvarez signing? How do you respond when people put you on blast like that?

RD: Man, the most frustrating thing about this whole thing was that I obviously made some mistakes on some things I absolutely could have controlled ... and as someone who tries VERY hard on a nightly basis to put forth as good a show as I can ... and to be correct as often as possible (hence my love for performance analysis) ... those simple mistakes bother me even more than the baseless newspaper attacks that came following the show.

Some simple grammatical errors, taken out of context, apparently led to confusion as to what I was reporting on the night of the Alvarez scoop. At least once, I suggested that the deal was 'Done' ... when in fact, anyone listening to the broadcast (as you alluded to in your question) understood that was NOT my information. I repeated TIME AND TIME again than my information was that the deal was absolutely going to happen, that it was as good as done, and it would happen in the minutes just prior to midnight.

As a result, A local newspaper cherry-picked, half-truthed and sophism-ed its way through those quotes and decided to deliver an attack on my credibility motivated, it seems, by getting scooped on Grossman, Miller and ultimately Alvarez.

A fellow blog -- Pittsburgh Lumber Co. -- went back and listened to the podcast -- imagine that!! -- of that show and gave a very fair blow-by-blow account of both the broadcast and the resulting hit job done by the newspaper in question.

I also received some bad information on Tanner Scheppers about an hour or so into the show that I quickly retracted. The bad info was there for all of 5 minutes before I got two texts from two different sources informing me that my info was bad. Minutes later, I retracted the initial report. The Scheppers thing was there and gone in the span of 20 minutes over the course of a 3-hour show. You show me a media guy that hasn't gone with bad information and I'll show you a media guy that isn't trying. It happens to EVERYBODY.

Otherwise everything...from the Grossman scoop on July 24th to the Miller scoop on 8/14 to the info on Pedro was ON POINT. Period.

Editor's Note: You can find the archives of Rocco's shows here. The main show in question is from August 15th and it's broken into two parts. Podcasts are available for both the 8/14 and 7/24 show.

WHYGAVS: Were you contacted at all by the newspaper before the column went up on Monday?

RD: No.

WHYGAVS: And you stand by your report on the radio from the night of the deadline and your sources?

RD: Absolutely.

Part two, which I promise is much funnier and less serious, is coming tomorrow.