Subway fever spills over, Yankees-Mets announcers in ‘best booth’ feud

Yankees' YES booth and Mets' SNY booth.
Sara Molnick
Thursday June 27, 2024

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Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay expressed frustration on his radio show over an advertisement from SNY, the Mets’ television network, that aired during his program. The ad, promoting the Mets’ TV booth as the “best booth” in Major League Baseball, was broadcast during “The Michael Kay Show,” which is simulcast on YES Network.

Kay acknowledged that his comments might stir controversy but stood by his belief that the Yankees’ booth is the best in baseball. He criticized the decision to run the SNY ad on his show, calling it a lack of awareness from those in charge of ad placements.

“I’m sorry, I think we’re the best booth in baseball,” he said on Tuesday. “We appreciate every single one of the people that spend their money to advertise on the show. And SNY is one of those people. So, ya know, the game’s on YES tonight and the game is on SNY. So the way it breaks down is Mets fans usually watch on SNY and Yankees fans will watch on YES. But their ad which ran during the last break, Enjoy the Subway Series with the best booth in baseball. I mean, do you expect me to just take that lying down? I think our booth is the best booth in baseball.”

The broadcaster questioned the judgment of upper management in allowing a competitor’s ad, especially one making such a bold claim, to air during his program. Kay, who takes pride in his Yankees broadcast team, found the situation particularly irksome given that his show is simulcast on YES Network, the Yankees’ television home.

“I think they should feel that way. And I feel that way [about the YES booth]. But you also have to be somewhat out of a mindset of being completely clueless to run that on ‘The Michael Kay Show,'” he said.

Kay’s reaction underscores the competitive nature of sports broadcasting and the deep loyalties announcers often feel toward their teams and networks. While he acknowledged his appreciation for advertisers, he took issue with the claim made in the SNY ad. He asserted his belief that the Yankees’ booth, of which he is a part, is the best in baseball, and questioned whether he should ignore such a statement made on his own show.

His co-hosts offered a more nuanced view. Peter Rosenberg noted that promotional claims of being “number one” are not always factual, while Don La Greca asked whom Kay should direct his frustration toward, revealing that SNY had previously attempted to secure an ad read with the show.

Kay, who has been calling Yankees games since 1992 and transitioned from radio to television after a decade, questioned the logic of running an ad that could provoke a rebuttal from the show’s host. He expressed respect for the Mets’ broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez but maintained his objection to the “best booth in baseball” claim being made on a show hosted by a member of a competing broadcast team.

The incident underscores the competitive nature of sports broadcasting and the sensitivities surrounding promotional claims in the industry.

The Yankees-Mets rivalry sets the stage

The SNY broadcast team made light of the “best booth” comments from Michael Kay.

This rivalry between the Yankees and Mets has now extended to their respective broadcast networks, YES and SNY, which have been competing since their inceptions in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

Kay expressed his belief that the Yankees’ booth, which includes himself, Paul O’Neill, and David Cone, is superior to the Mets’ team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez. While he acknowledged the quality of the Mets’ broadcasters, the Yankees voice stood by his assertion that the Yankees’ booth is the best in baseball.

In a follow-up comment to The Athletic, Kay characterized his initial remarks as lighthearted and commended the Mets’ broadcast team. However, he reiterated that the debate over which New York team has the best broadcast booth is still open.

“I think our booth is the best booth in baseball. … I’ll take [Paul] O’Neill, [David] Cone and me over Gar, Ron and Keith. I would. I mean, they’re great, but so is our booth. The way you want people to watch is to say, ‘Join the best booth in baseball?’ I’m sorry, I think we’re the best booth in baseball,” he said.

This incident underscores the ongoing competition between the two New York teams, extending their rivalry beyond the field and into the realm of media coverage.

While acknowledging the quality of the Mets’ broadcast team, Kay questioned the basis for declaring them the best in baseball. He emphasized that such assessments are subjective and noted that his Yankees colleague, Paul O’Neill, had also found the ad’s placement on Kay’s show surprising.

“Does it make sense for them to have the host of the show retort what they said?,” he told. “And I’m a big fan of Gary, Ron and Keith. I think they do a great job. But to say ‘best booth in baseball’ when one of the hosts of the show that you’re running it on is in the other booth.”

Kay explained that he had previously avoided addressing this topic out of respect for the Mets’ broadcasters. However, he felt that the perception of the Mets’ booth as the best in baseball had gained unwarranted traction over time. The YES broadcaster questioned the source of this claim, wondering if it had been validated by industry experts or notable figures like Bob Costas.

The Yankees broadcaster recognized the strong connection between Mets fans and their announcing team, suggesting that Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez might be more beloved than any Mets player. However, he maintained that this popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to being the best in baseball.

“It takes a lot of hubris for SNY to run that ad,” Kay said. “For them just to come out and say, ‘Go listen to the best booth in baseball,’ advertising it on my show, I thought was a little odd, so I thought I’d poke fun at it. I think it’s subjective. I think that they’re a terrific booth. I really do. Yeah, I think they’re great. And I think that we’re a terrific booth. I’m not saying they’re bad. I’m just saying that, to say that they’re the best — well, who says?”

“I got a text from Paul O’Neill who was listening to the show driving in and he said, ‘I couldn’t believe that they ran that ad on your show, I’m glad you said something.’ Not that it’s combative at all.”

“I’ve never wanted to address it, because they are a terrific booth, so who am I to say they’re not?” Kay said when asked if the topic had simmered over time. “I just feel like that over the years, it’s gained too much traction, that they are the best group in baseball. Well, OK, according to whom? I mean, is it a panel of experts? Did Bob Costas say that?

“Who exactly has said that?” Kay continued. “Mets fans love their booth. I think that Gary, Ron and Keith are probably more beloved than any Met player. I really do believe that. And their fan base is very protective of the announcers, so I think it’s gained traction over the years. And again, it’s hard to argue, because they are terrific. But you know, to say that they’re the best booth in baseball, listen to them instead of YES, I thought I’d stick up for my guys a little bit.”

Kay also shared his personal opinion that many in the industry consider the San Francisco Giants’ duo of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper as the top broadcast team in baseball, further emphasizing the subjective nature of such rankings.

Mets booth takes aim at Yankees’ Michael Kay

During Wednesday’s broadcast of the Mets’ 12-2 victory over the Yankees, which secured a two-game Subway Series sweep, the SNY team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez responded playfully to Michael Kay’s recent remarks about their “best booth in baseball” claim.

Michael Kay, David Cone and Paul O’Neill in the Yankees' YES booth in 2018.
Robert Sabo

During a rain delay, Cohen mentioned meeting Emmanuel Berbari, a young Yankees broadcaster who now shares radio duties following John Sterling’s retirement. Cohen praised Berbari as a talented up-and-comer.

When Darling asked about Berbari’s opinion of their show, Cohen noted that Berbari hadn’t expressed a particular view. Hernandez then made a humorous comment, suggesting that the rain at Citi Field was “the best rain in Major League Baseball,” referencing Kay’s criticism of SNY’s “best booth” advertisement.

Cohen, laughing at Hernandez’s remark, suggested it was time to return to baseball coverage.

This light-hearted exchange came as Kay himself shared a similarly humorous sentiment on social media, indicating a shared sense of humor about the situation. But the incident underscores the ongoing friendly rivalry between the two New York baseball broadcast teams, with the SNY crew addressing the recent controversy through humor while keeping the focus on their game coverage.

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