Monday, August 24, 2009

Sabathia 1, Ellsbury 0

Amidst what was universally considered an abysmal performance (on Twitter at least) by a typically poor broadcasting team, there was a moment in the first inning when Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were actually -- insightful. (That sound you hear is Ken Tremendous rolling over in his digital grave.) With CC Sabathia ahead in the count 0-2 against Dustin Pedroia, Miller asked Morgan about Sabathia's move to first base because Jacoby Ellsbury was one steal away from breaking the Red Sox single season record.

Morgan responded by explaining how Sabathia was varying his leg kick in an effort to keep Ellsbury off-balance. Sabathia followed by delivering a pitch with almost no wind up, which would have been almost impossible to steal on. On the ensuing delivery, Sabathia raised his knee as if he were starting a wind up, which was exactly what Ellsbury was waiting to run on. Unfortunately for Ellsbury, Sabathia was one step ahead of him and instead of throwing to the plate, he fired to Mark Teixeira at first, who threw to Derek Jeter just in time to beat Ellsbury to second.

What was great about this sequence was the timing. Miller brought up the point, Morgan was spot on with his analysis and two pitches later, something relevant to their conversation actually happened. They didn't belabor the point incessantly only for it never to happen like so often occurs.

I'm a pretty serious baseball fan but I'll admit that I don't often notice the interplay and mind games that occur between a prolific base stealer and the pitcher trying to keep him at bay. Perhaps it's because aside from Brett Gardner, the Yankees haven't had a truly frightening speed threat in the line up since Rickey Henderson. Tim Raines was in his mid-to-late 30's when he joined the Yanks, Alfonso Soriano wasn't on base enough and Steve Sax and Roberto Kelly had their moments, but none of those guys stole more than 45 in a season wearing pinstripes. And the most recent of that group, Soriano, has been gone for 6 years already.

That moment last night represented what broadcasts are supposed to do and what Miller, Morgan and Phillips fail to do with remarkable consistency: convey things to the people who are watching that they didn't already know or wouldn't typically notice. It's difficult to do in baseball, but it shouldn't be as difficult is the Sunday Night Baseball crew makes it seem.

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