I’ve been laid off. A lot of people who work or have worked in media have been laid off at some point. Our own John Stolnis told a particularly cruel story of his own, and his is just one of countless anecdotes from sports media that ended with a pink slip and a long walk home.
Granted, the personalities cut from ESPN yesterday in some recently announced and dreaded layoffs have, in most cases, several years of high profile experience on their resumes, and in other cases, an amount of celebrity to fall back on. But the act itself is a tough grenade to swallow. You don’t know what you’re going to do, you don’t know where you’re going to go, and you haven’t even started the act of telling friends and loved ones (Not everyone sees your tweets). While every loss was lamentable, some of the network’s cuts came from the Phillies family.
Raul Ibanez was hired by ESPN in April of last year, joining Baseball Tonight coverage for the 2016 season after doing some analyst work with FOX and MLB Network. He was replacing another former Phillies player who deserved to lose his job and did the unthinkable by actually losing it. Ibanez was the perfect hire in such a circumstance, being constantly considered one of the nicest guys in baseball after 19 years as a player. You remember Ibanez as Pat Burrell’s replacement in left field after 2008 until 2012, who hit over .310 and OPS’d over 1.000 for his first two months in Philadelphia and was the namesake of the frequent "Rauuuuuuul" chants. He heaped praise on ESPN - and FOX, and the Dodgers, and anybody who was brought up, really - in a June 2016 interview about his job. Baseball Tonight’s loss of Ibanez was announced during programming last night, as was that of Doug Glanville, during a Wednesday Night Baseball broadcast of the - get this - Yankees and Red Sox.
Doug Glanville joined ESPN in 2010 following his retirement and five seasons in Philadelphia from 1998-2002 (along with 87 games in 2004). Glanville gained a reputation as an insightful voice not only on baseball with his book, "The Game From Where I Stand," but on community and police training and through his work as a New York Times columnist. A review of his book from the Washington Post spoke to this without hesitation:
Doug Glanville was always different from other baseball players -- in a good way. In a testosterone-fueled realm where any player who works on crossword puzzles at his locker is deemed cerebral and any player who says "hello" is bestowed with the "good guy" tag, Glanville, a center fielder who played from 1996 to 2004, was legitimately intelligent (he graduated from Penn with an engineering degree) and legitimately nice. Oh, and eminently quotable.
Word in 2014 that Glanville might have been joining the Phillies’ broadcast team was welcome news (He didn’t).
And finally, seeing Jayson Stark cut from the ESPN roster had everybody, from Philadelphia-area reporters to national columnists to MLB managers, express regret - if not anger or devastation - toward his surprising exit. Operating in baseball circles, this was obviously the "big one" to most of us, given that Stark got his start at the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote books on the Phillies (including our precious 2008 version), and in general provided new information on aspects of the sport that were simply being echoed from every other outlet. A line of regional sports writers stood up to announce he had been the reason they had gotten into the business. In sports coverage, it’s tough - or at least easy not to - be distinct, to join the static and live with yourself, but Stark found a way to shine light on factoids that you hadn’t heard a hundred times before. The obviously good news is that he is also probably just going to be scooped up thirty seconds later by some other outlet.
What yesterday’s moves say about ESPN - it never seems like the right people lose their jobs - is more telling than anything else. Baseball Tonight itself will be shrinking down to Sunday nights only, and along with Glanville, Ibanez, and Stark, ESPN’s baseball coverage lost several other key figures. Seeing your heroes - or hearing yourself - be considered superfluous is a gut check. You feel devalued, angry, confused, sad. Part of you might resent those who kept their jobs or what the collective wave of layoffs indicate about the industry as a whole. It seems difficult in this industry to lose your job for being an ass (or doubling down on being an ass), but when the company sees downward trending numbers - look out. Wednesday won’t be the last day we watch a staff get smaller via social media, and it’s a shame. But people who know how to keep their heads up always land on their feet, especially when there is no choice but to push onward.