Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some other baseball notes, also from the opening round

• Okay, first. Baseball, please. Get a better name than "The Division Series." ALDS, especially, sounds like the worst set of initials to anyone who cares about baseball.

Other random thoughts about that past week or so, that started assembling during the great game 5 between Texas and Tampa Bay, just concluded. (Which among other things made me wish, once again, I'd taken notes while things were actually happening):

• Great to see Ron Darling getting a shot at national exposure. I watch the occasional Mets game, and this is in large part due to his (and Keith Hernandez's) commentary. Sorry to say this, as a crosstown fan, but they blow away the Yankees' announcers. (And how great is it to hear such knowledgeable talk about Our National Pastime™ from someone born in such an exotic locale?)

• It was interesting, if occasionally cringe-inducing, to hear Ernie Johnson as a baseball play-by-play announcer. I'm delighted for him that he got this chance. As masterful as he is doing in-betweens and post-games for the NBA, not to mention riding gentle herd on Charles Barkley, you have to believe he's been thinking, "Okay, what do I have left to prove here?" But he was a little green -- a tad too worried about silences (which a baseball announcer should never be), too quick to ask Ron Darling and partner John Smoltz for comments instead of letting them just make them, a bit too prone to tell us WHAT AN EXCITING GAME THIS IS. As is always the case with postseason sports, I can let some of that go -- the announcers are doubtless made aware by the suits that CASUAL FANS ARE WATCHING MAYBE FOR THE FIRST TIME SO DON'T LET THOSE EYEBALLS GO -- but as the Teh Industry saying goes, Ernie, if you want some notes, there they are.

Why is he talking like this all of a sudden?
Who the fuck knows. He use to live in Los Angeles, I think.
But, like, years and years ago, right?
Do they even say "Teh ..." shit, now he's got me
doing it ... "The Industry" anymore?

Who knows. Who cares. Don't get him started
on the dubious currency of his favorite jargon,
or we'll really be here all night.

• The great part about the opening round of the playoffs? No. Joe. Buck. I am sure he will be along to ruin everything for me intone in his why-yes-I-am-an-utter-douche affected-deep voice soon enough, and I don't look forward to it one bit. And not just because he's such a shameless Republican. I hated him long before I knew that. He does baseball like he thinks he's doing football. Invading Europe. For Fox. 'nuff said.

• The hardest part to watch, in round one, by far, was the sudden Iron Glove performance by the Cincinnati Reds' infield. I sent a sympathy note to @TavernWench, commiserating that if there is anything worse than watching your team lose, it is watching them lose in ways you've had every right not to expect.

• Speaking of which series, back when this whole thing got started, I turned on the end of Game 1 of the Reds/Phils only to warm up the teevee for the start of the Yankees game. And thought, eh, maybe I'd catch the last inning, could be fun.

Whoa. No. No last inning to catch. A fast game, evidently. And it was a weird moment when the teevee finally booted up -- why are these Phillie guys mobbing around like they just clinched the series? Okay, so you won, but this is just the first game, amirite? And you're on the field, wearing your mitts, so it wasn't a walk-off home run or anything … -- and oh, shit. I had tuned in just in time to completely miss Roy Halladay throwing a no-bitter.

Sadly, the moment was somewhat ruined by the teevee people afterward. This was not JUST LIKE DON LARSEN!!!1!, okay? Yes, it was a masterful performance. No, it was not a perfect game. Close, but no cigar, to coin a phrase. Don't diminish Halladay's game by trying to fluff it into more than it was. Let it stand on its own. A shutout, a complete game, a win in the playoffs. No hits, no runs. One measly walk. It was Big Time. It was a no-hitter. But it was not a perfect game.

Oh lord. I hear a sermon on the cardinal sin of
adding superlatives to "unique" getting ready to happen.

Shhh. Dude, do not even kid around. He WILL go there.

Big ups, apart from any of that, to catcher Carlos Ruiz for not at all an easy play to end that game -- having to dig that squib grounder out from under the rolling bat, conscious of the moment, could not have been easy. Sly nod to Brandon Phillips, if he put his bat out there on top of that squibber on purpose. That would be baseball at its finest. Non-fans will never understand -- they're probably still hyperventilating about Derek Jeter selling his HBP to the ump back at the end of the regular season and calling it "cheating."

• Speaking of loose bats and umps, though, a firm dope slap to the back of the head of whoever the home plate umpire was during the penultimate game between the Braves and Giants. Even high school umps know to kick the bat out of the way when a play at the plate is imminent. Thank the FSM that catcher Brian McCann wasn't hurt too badly, but we should not have to be giving these thanks. Do your job, ump, even if it's not in your job description. A kick in time saves … okay, we won't try to force it.

• There was a chunk of time last night (night before last, by now), while watching the Giants/Braves, when I had to think that the happiest guy on the planet that the Giants scored a clean hit and a run (this was before they won) was Braves' shortstop Alex Gonzalez. For more than half the game, it looked like he was going to be the guy known only as the one responsible for Derek Lowe's "imperfect game." (h/t: Tom Seaver)    (Ask your grandparents)

• Meh cap on. Sorry, but I don't care that much about Bobby Cox leaving the game. Yeah, fifty years, and yeah, I'm sure he was loved by many, but the whole OMG SUCH A PLAYERS' MANAGER™ tongue-bathing from the booth was the worst thing I've heard from sportscasters since the last time I had to suffer through stiffs talking about Brett Favre. ("The last time," admittedly, was only last night. (Why do I even click over to Monday Night Football, even during commercials? I hate everything about what teevee's notion of pro football has become.) But there have been many, many other torturous times.) Anyway, nothing against Bobby Cox, but there have been a thousand or ten other guys who also gave their lives to baseball, who did right by their players the entire time, who did it for a trainload less money and never got a moment's thought, much less thanks, from any of us. Meh cap off.

• Ick. Nolan Ryan is now on my teevee, post-game, talking in his mumblety-drawl, sounding every bit like the Texas Republican he is. He is, apparently, much better at baseball matters than that other Texas Republican who used to clutter up the owner's box in the Dallas suburbs and elsewhere, but … low bars, and so forth.

• As much as I hate to say it, because I do like the guy, I think Ryan Howard must be developing a rep in major league clubhouses (though you'll never hear about it from the broadcast booth) as the easiest of all easy outs, especially given his spot in the batting order. <vestigial-irish-superstition>I'll probably come to regret saying this if the Phils meet the Yanks in the World Serious, but</vestigial-irish-superstition> for now: is there a left-handed pitcher above single A ball who can't get him out? Cheese 'n' rice, Mr. Howard, but you're turning into the George Scott of this generation. Punch a couple to the opposite field, will ya please?

• New likes. Besides Tim Lincecum, I mean: Buster Posey. And OH YEAH: Elvis Andrus.

• Commercials: the Conan promos have lasted well (still waiting to see a repeat of the one that made me gripe before (and if I don't … COINCIDENCE???)). I like the car commercial with the dweeb getting to be the superhero by picking up the doughnuts. The Liberty-something insurance commercial, showing nice people helping each other after seeing examples in the previous frame of other people doing nice things … eh, what can I say. I'm a sap for things like that. There was a decided insufficiency of talking babies talking about online investing commercials. (I'm also a sap for those.)

Hate, hate, hate the investment counselor one with the obviously rich guy whining about being told to plan his retirement around buying a vineyard. (I can keep from screaming only by pretending he was semi-cartoonized to keep him safe from us pitchfork wielders.) Yeah, I can acknowledge that the upper crust watches these games, too, and that due to their money, they're no doubt a Target Demographic™, but seriously, just STFU. You're almost as tone-deaf to the reality most people are facing these days as that other investment house commercial bragging about how they were the ones to count on during the last meltdown or whatever their message is. I mute it every time, but I can tell you for sure that they do not mention getting their sorry asses bailed out by you and me, during the middle of the crisis they and their cronies let happen. And I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts (no idea what made me think of that cliche) that they're among the ones funding the Astroturf anti-Obama teabaggery about "Out Of Control Government Spending™."

Okay, this is starting to get overtly political, and I am sick of politics, as you can tell from the recent dry spell in posting, so I'll shut this here thing down now. Stay tuned for the NLCS and the ALCS (these are not diseases, either, except for the part where Joe Buck and his hairspray infest your broadcast booth). Maybe I will have slightly more concurrent things to say about them.

Wait, where ya going?

• Oh, no, really, wait. One other thing. A fringe benefit, to me, of the baseball playoffs is that I am finally persuaded to turn on a teevee. Due to my ACD which is like OCD only worse, once I sit in front of a teevee for long enough, I will, once the thing I finally consented to sit down and watch is over, look (in desperation, sometimes) for something else to watch. And so a big shoutout to whoever it was who came up with the idea of running late night repeats of South Park on multiple channels.

Which reminds me of that story about how I lost all respect for Isaac Hayes back in aught-six, but you kids probably don't have any desire to hear my thoughts on that. Any more than you do to hear my impression of Cartman.

Respect my authoritah.

Respect my authoritah


graz said...

Your authority is duly noted.

It's like we're in a mind meld on all your observational points, ranging from the actual games, announcers (fuck Buck and love Darling) and even our disdain for the cartoonized vineyard disparager.

Lincecum vs. Halladay - be there or be square. Go Yankees.

E R E said...

awesome post.

-joe buck may suck, but at least chip "batsman" carey will not be returning.

-are you knocking the yanks radio or tv announcers? either way, i disagree. i love michael kay (miss him on the radio), and am a big fan of the john sterling/suzyn waldman pair. broadway references galore...which this musical theater aficionado can't get enough of.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to recognize the authority of any Yankee fan. Otherwise great post! Go Phils!!-- Uncle Eb

PS I couldn't agree more about Joe Buck. I had no idea he was a Republican but I'm not surprised at all.

PPS Lincecum is art in motion.

Brendan said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all. Glad to hear my anti-Joe Buck feelings are becoming a movement! ('course, as long as Fox keeps winning the bid for the World Series …)

@ERE: I like the Yankees' radio team okay. I'd call them competent, and I like that a woman is part of the team without it ever having been made into a big deal. But they are not so good that I look forward to them, the way Messer and White were, or later, the way Daron Sutton was on the radio for the Angels. (Or Marv Albert, for the Knicks and Rangers, way back when.)

Oddly enough, I can't think that I've ever noticed a Broadway reference from John or Suzyn, but that probably says more about my lack of interest in that subject and consequent lack of attention/retention.

It is probably also part of a larger problem I have with baseball on the radio these days, and this is not the fault of these two announcers. I find it, generally, almost unlistenable. I can barely stand the infestation of ads into every second of the game, quite apart from the breaks between innings. ("This call to the bullpen sponsored by," etc.) It's somehow tougher to take on radio than it is on teevee, probably because, in a metaphorical sense, it's a much narrower channel, and not as easy therefore to shut off one part of what's flowing and pay attention to other something else, as when watching the game on television.

Anyway, it is the case that I spend most of the time listening to ballgames on the radio trying not to listen, if you see what I mean. I only put them on in the car, these days, and think occasionally with sadness back to the time when the radio people were so good real fans would mute the teevee and have the radio for sound instead.

Back to the teevee side: I did not used to mind Michael Kay, but I have started to notice some irritating tics, such as his habit of calling virtually every ground ball a "hot shot," no matter how routine it is, and his cringe-inducing attempt to have a branded home run call ("track … wall … gone!") Itemizing these things makes me sound like a crazy person, perhaps, but when a verbal tic starts to bother me, that's just the way it goes -- it becomes a real distraction that jabs my neck every time it happens, and worse, causes apprehension every time I think it's about to happen.

I like Ken Singleton's voice a lot. I think he'd make a fine play-by-play man. John Sterling is a pretty good commentator, and he and Singleton have a pretty pleasant rapport. Paul O'Neill is sometimes good, and never worse than inoffensive. (I think former outfielders generally tend not to make very good color men -- catchers are best, infielders can also be good (Keith Hernandez for the Mets is a good example, Joe Morgan and especially Phil Rizzuto maybe not so much), and pitchers can talk about the game in a different way, but usually considerably more thoughtfully.

I think it's also generally true that the less of a star the announcer was as a player, the better he is as an analyst/commentator. This also seems to be true more often than not in other sports, and it also applies when considering managers. I guess the people who were stars in their playing days did not have to spend as much time taking things apart and putting them back together to be able to scratch out a place on the roster. By contrast, those that did have had a couple of decades' head-start in articulating the nearly ineffable.