Sunday, June 28, 2009

Game 75: I Wish You Wouldn't Say That

For the players, it seems, being on Sunday Night Baseball is a fairly big deal. Only once a week during the regular season does the baseball world grind to halt and showcase two teams in a nationally televised game without any others running concurrently. The ESPN banners get put up on the packed camera wells down the first and third baselines and the personalities of the Worldwide Leader in Sports roam the clubhouses. The atmosphere is at the ballpark is undoubtedly elevated

Conversely, most fans at home dread Sunday Night Baseball. It might be because they have to wait until 8PM to watch their team play and it keeps them up later than they'd like. It's probably not because it overlaps with Law and Order SVU or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Million Dollar Password, although that might be part of it. It doesn't matter to Yankees fans that the team gets national exposure, because if anything, there's already too much of that. I think you know where I'm going with this.

Jon Miller and Al Michaels are both smooth and competent play by play guys who do their job and set the table the Joe Morgan and John Madden, respectively. For all the fun that people have at Madden's expense, I think most can agree that that his understanding of the game of football runs far deeper than the average fan's, even if in his effort to transmit it, all the clumsy chuckles and "booms" get in the way. That has never seemed to be the case with Joe Morgan. Plenty of man hours have been dedicated to explaining how and why Morgan is a terrible baseball analyst and an even worse broadcaster. He's overly nostalgic and unabashedly anti-intellectual and it comes across crystal clear in every broadcast, but I think the real difference between the two guys comes down to the differences between the sports.

Baseball is easy to digest because it unfolds slowly in front of you, one play at a time. The average viewer doesn't need to have an RBI double to left center broken down by the TV crew in order to understand what is happening. The best broadcasters provide context when it's necessary, but otherwise step aside and let the game unfold. Each play in football, on the other hand, occurs like an explosion, while the announcers work frantically in between snaps to piece together what happened.

Since baseball is played 6 or 7 days a week, fans are much more familiar with the team than the broadcast team who is stopping by to do just one game. The context is far more important to fans and the Sunday Night Baseball crew, as it is currently composed, it's terrible at providing any sort of valuable insight as to how this game fits into the season thus far. Instead Morgan tries too often to relate what's happening to his own playing experience and the newly added Steve Phillips offers insipid big picture "insights" that are either factually incorrect or painfully obvious to any regular follower of either of the teams involved.

Yes, the broadcast is meant for a national audience, but it's at the expense of the fans of the teams on the field. I'm not Michael Kay's biggest fan, but listening to a Yankee game with him behind the mic is infinitely more enjoyable than one with the ESPN crew.

Tonight, expect Miller and Morgan to laud the Mets for signing Livan Hernandez and point to his 5-2 record and 4.05 ERA as proof that he is in the middle of a resurrection. Never mind the fact that last year he started out 6-1 with a 3.90 in Minnesota before watching his ERA balloon two runs northward, his WHIP expand to 1.667 before getting DFA'd. His numbers might look decent right now but Livan is only one start away from being the rubber-armed base hit machine he's been for the last three years of his career.

Don't expect any grand insights into Chien Ming Wang's lack of success this year aside from his inability to "keep the sinker down" and recover from his foot injury last year. Wang has taken small steps towards being not historically terrible, coming off of back to back 5 inning, 6 hit, 3 run, four strikeout outings against fellow National League East members Washington and Atlanta. Perhaps the spacious confines of Citi Field will be home to Wang's first quality start of the season.

Derek Jeter returns to the line up tonight, but Johnny Damon is still down with the flu.

Miller and Morgan aren't so much "talking heads" as "disembodied voices", but you get the idea...

There are places that I won't forget,
And I guess I'm never going back,
Guess it's information that I lack,
I've told lies without a hint or regret.


  1. That screenshot is priceless. Morgan looks like he's trying to hand the microphone to someone (if only...), Miller has the vacant, dunce-like expression which perfectly matches his on air ramblings and Phillips looks the villian in a porno knock-off of a James Bond movie.

  2. Hahaha... well done, sir.

    And perhaps the reason that Livan Hernandez is so good with RISP is that his BABIP is .205 in those situations, as opposed to .367 with no one on base.