Monday, October 24, 2005

Fight Night: McCarver!
By Blogger

I went into Game 2 of the World Series thinking a solid angle on the Fox broadcasting team would be the most interesting story coming out of the game. I'll be damned if this Series isn't suddenly shaping up as a Level 2002, or even a Level 2001 if Roy Oswalt does what we expect in Game 3 and Brandon Backe can forget that Freddie Garcia is a better pitcher in Game 4. If that happens, with Roger Clemens's injury, we could be looking at either Andy Pettite coming back on short rest for Game 5 followed by Oswalt on short rest for Game 6, or we could see Wandy Rodriguez or even Russ Freakin' Springer starting for the 'Stros in Game 5, or we could get Clemens trying to one-up Schilling by having his left leg amputated and literally pitching on one leg. In any event, Konerko-Vizcaino-Lidge-Podsednik will live on as one of Those Nights that defines a postseason for the generations that follow, just as Buckner defines 1986, Eck-Gibby defines 1988, Sid's Slide and Kirby "See You Tomorrow Night!" define 1991, and Felix Rodriguez-Speizio defines 2002.

I said I thought the broadcasting would be the most interesting angle to take, and even though the on-field drama rightly occupies my thoughts, at least I'm going to follow through on the project I undertook for Game 2...

In many quarters, it's thought that one of the great disservices baseball does its fans is to allow Fox to broadcast games, and, specifically, to allow Joe Buck to team with Tim McCarver during the World Series. This is not a generational thing, as my dad and his sister, who is seventeen years older than him, both chuckle out loud at the inanities Buck and McCarver regularly spew.

While Buck is a problem (has any announcer ever sounded as bored as he does?), McCarver seems to be the one that should just retire already and let someone else take over. It was 2003 when he kept referring to Bronson Arroyo as "Brandon" and it was 2001 when he last did regular broadcast work during the season (for the Yankees; in 2002, he worked 20-25 games for the Giants, and by my dad's account mailed it in).

So, to judge McCarver's efficacy as a color commentator, I decided to hold Fight Night: McCarver! In a bout scheduled to go ten rounds, Good McCarver (GMC) faced off against Bad McCarver (BMC). Points were awarded based on my judgment of whether or not McCarver said something Neutral, Good, or Bad. A Neutral comment was counted when McCarver merely re-stated exactly what was on the screen, said something that brought nothing to the table yet wasn't particularly inane, or said something that would be obvious to anyone who had watched baseball before. A Good comment was counted when McCarver brought real insight into the inner workings of the game, intelligently questioned in-game decisions by either players or managers, or otherwise illustrated or explained something that might have been confusing to someone who had some baseball knowledge but hadn't necessarily watched that many games. A Bad comment was counted when McCarver said something that significantly detracted from the game, said something that was simply wrong (for instance, if he were to insist a player was out despite visual evidence), or said something so inane it made my head hurt. The first round was the pre-game chitchat, and each subsequent round began with the top of the inning and ended at the conclusion of the bottom half. Again, while scoring was based on my subjective judgment and my relatively arbitrary rules, I tried to design them such that an average color commentator would come out with a draw when judged by most knowledgable sports fans. On to the fight!


This is gonna be a good one. I've sought refuge in my aunt's house because A)she has cable, so I don't have to worry about the antenna on the TV at home, and B)my folks had some sort of church meeting at their house this afternoon without telling me, so I wouldn't have been able to watch the game there, anyway. I live for this! It's raining in Chicago, and I'm a little nervous that the game might be delayed until I see Chris Myers come on and say that it's on no matter what, pretty much. I just have to forget that he once interviewed Leon during a World Series game, otherwise I'm going to throw my shoe through the TV.

And we cut from Jeannie Zelasko (who apparently was doing traffic updates in San Diego only ten years ago) to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Neither says anything worthwhile, though Buck looks back at the field in an exaggerated show of confusion over whether or not the game will start at all. The first round comes and goes in a draw.

Good: 1
Neutral: 4
Bad: 1

I realize that I should be writing down examples of Good points and Bad points, so I decide to write down the first example of each from each round. GMC easily takes this one, despite one "I'm just saying this because I have it written in front of me" statement that nearly scores as a knockdown. If Neutral McCarver were in this fight, it looks like he'd win in a TKO.

Good: 3
Neutral: 9
Bad: 1

Good: "[Biggio] stands so close to the plate that he takes away the outside corner from Buehrle."
Solid explanation of why he thinks Biggio will have success against Buehrle.

Bad: "Nine National League runners tried to run on Andy Pettitte. Five made it. He just shuts down the running game."
Actually, he has this all mixed up. What it implies is that Pettitte's reputation has scared a lot of teams into not even trying, and on the few times they did try to run on him they were successful at a rate below league average but not nearly at "shutting down the run game" levels. Small sample size caveats apply, of course. The point is, he should have pointed out that Pettitte is so deceptive that runners don't even try to run on him.

BMC comes storming back with a flurry right out of his corner, knocking GMC for a loop. In fact, GMC stumbles and nearly takes a knee when he takes the first haymaker. GMC regains some dignity in the bottom half of the inning by clearly emphasizing that Aaron Rowand made a baserunning gaffe.

Good: 1
Neutral: 7
Bad: 4

Bad: [In reference to the Astros' playoff beards] "The Astros resemble a troupe of Shakespearean actors."
My head hurts.

Good: "Rowand has to be at least half way... and he has got to be on third with less than two out."
Rowand's big mistake was in not getting to third. It's not because he wasn't waiting half way, though. I'm giving this point to him partly out of pity, but partly because I think it was the right move to emphasize that a ball off the left field wall ended up a single because of Rowand's indecision.

GMC better come out swinging, and fast, otherwise BMC is gonna have this one locked up on points. My trepidation at giving GMC the point on Rowand's baserunning is justified, as BMC scores when McCarver chastizes Rowand again, even after he is heard explaining to Ozzie Guillen his reasoning. Rowand said that he figured the ball was either out or caught, so he hustled back to the base... but then the ball hit the wall. This is good reasoning, but if that was the case, Rowand should have been on the base, facing the outfield, not hustling back to first as the ball hit the wall. It is also important to note that Rowand should have known that Chris Burke is a second baseman who's been asked to play outfield this year, so no fly ball in his direction is a gimme. Therefore, Rowand's logic is correct if there is an everyday outfielder there, but incorrect with an inexperienced outfielder. McCarver missed all this.

Good: 1
Neutral: 6
Bad: 3

Bad: Going off on Rowand again.

Good: [Ausmus blocks a curve in the dirt] "Catchers anticipate breaking balls will go in the dirt, so they go down with it."

Ho hum. Nothing Good. Nothing Bad. Although Chris Myers provides us with the most puzzling statement of the night. In a brief interlude describing the North Side vs. South Side dynamic in Chicago, Myers says he spoke with Bill Murray about it. Then, at the end of the segment, he inexplicably says, "I asked [Murray] if he'd done anything since Ghostbusters. Then he hung up on me." Uuuuuuuuuuh... I guess Myers hasn't seen Groundhog Day, Wild Things (shut up, he was good in that one), Rushmore, Charlie's Angels, The Royal Tenenbaums, or Lost In Translation, let alone some brilliant movie or two I've probably missed.

Good: 0
Neutral: 6
Bad: 0

This is turning into a boring, John Ruiz type, fight. Lots of clinching and posturing going on here, but little in the way of actual punches. GMC lands solidly on a point about a batted ball hitting the batter-runner, but BMC gets frustrated yet again with a lot of near-misses that end up in Neutral territory.

Good: 1
Neutral: 12
Bad: 0

Good: Adam Everett bunted a ball that was ruled foul when it hit him in the thigh as it bounced back up. McCarver did a good job of explaining the rule and why the umpires ruled as they did.

Yet again, GMC wins a closely contested round as BMC can't seem to get into a groove. It's an odd inning, as Juan Uribe makes a horrible baserunning error, getting caught off second on a comebacker to the pitcher, but neither Buck nor McCarver rips him for it, instead choosing to praise Andy Pettitte for having "veteran savvy". Later, GMC earns a point for illustrating how Pettitte's pickoff move is exactly the same as his move home and rides the line between legal and balk.

Good: 1
Neutral: 7
Bad: 0

Another hard-fought round in which GMC salvages a draw. One would think that in an inning with a controversial hit-by-pitch call followed immediately by a grand slam, pontification would ensue. However, both Buck and McCarver show either restraint or undue laxity, depending on your point of view.

Good: 1
Neutral: 5
Bad: 1

Bad: "I hope neither side is penalized by the wet ground..."

Good: "Dye is a low ball hitter, while Wheeler has to keep the ball down to be effective."

We're getting near the end, and, without looking back, I have the odd sensation that GMC is at least even with BMC if not ahead. This, even though BMC has probably landed more punches. The eighth inning went by without much noise, although Buck and McCarver nearly tread into Head Hurting Territory with their discussion of the ball that hit Dye's bat, but was called a hit-batsman. BMC scored during this discussion as McCarver made a nonsensical statement about the play, first saying something about listening for ball hitting bone as opposed to ball hitting wood, then trying to make up for that by saying that the ball goes down if it hits the bat, but it won't go down if it hits the batter's forearm. Huh? Try again, dude.

Good: 0
Neutral: 3
Bad: 1

This is it. Doesn't look like either side will get a knockout, nor does it feel like either side has an edge on points (I still haven't counted up the rounds). In a wild ninth inning that will be remembered for Phil Garner's head-scratching yet successful decision to pinch hit Jose Vizcaino and the subsequent Byun Hyung Kim-inization of Brad Lidge, GMC gets the final word in the top half of the ninth and BMC can't respond, possibly out of shock that the fight is this close. GMC doesn't know it's supposed to be a show. He thinks it's a damn fight!

Good: 1
Neutral: 7
Bad: 0

Good: McCarver brings up the numbers on Bobby Jenks's wildness during the season (4 wild pitches), and that it's something both teams have to keep in the front of their minds as they approach the inning.


After ten rounds, we go to the scorecards. Our one and only judge, David, has the fight scored at 97-96 in favor of...

GOOD McCARVER!!! My God, it's an upset! Bad McCarver is furious. He's saying something to the commissioner, and now he's stalking back to the dressing room!

First, as it turns out, it came down to the final round, and GMC came through in the clutch, and, for what it's worth, if you count bringing nothing to the table with a comment as a Bad point, BMC wins in a TKO sometime around the third round. Second, although it could be argued that McCarver blew it with his statement that Lidge had put the sour taste of Pujols's home run behind him, I'll argue that the statement merely made the moment even more unbelievable. Scott Podsednik. Fantastic. In any event, Joe Buck blew it with an infuriatingly bland home run call. If you get a chance to listen to both the TV call and Jon Miller's radio call (which I did because I jumped in my car to go home soon after the game ended, and I heard a highlight replay), notice how Miller IS EXCITED. It was a walk off home run in the World Series, and Joe Buck announced it as if it was a single up the middle in the second inning of a June game in Tampa. Inexcusable. I called my buddy Aaron not one minute after the game ended, and we giggled like maniacs as we recounted what had just happened, and how Podsednik had hit ZERO home runs for Aaron's fantasy team this year, and how Buck could have simply said, "There's a drive, deep to right center, and won't this taste sweet, it's a home run for Podsednik!" or just about anything else other than what he actually said.

Final thoughts as I wrap up:

1)Even though Good McCarver "won" this fight, I'm sure the outcome will be disputed, and a rematch is almost certainly in order, perhaps with a different judge, or multiple judges. I'm certain that other judges, with their own biases and subjective interpretations, even of my guidelines, would score the fight differently.

2)What the hell is Vin Scully doing this time of year? Don't you get the feeling he'd be ecstatic to work the World Series for Fox? Seriously, the guy works for Fox Sports Net during the season, so why couldn't they get him to do at least one playoff series, if not the World Series?

3)Jon Miller and Dan Schulman, who announced the LCSes for ESPN Radio, impressed me very much with their work, especially Schulman, who I don't get to hear work Giants games like Miller does. Those two guys are both worlds better than Buck because they sound like baseball fans above all else. They are happy to be watching baseball, and they sound like they want to talk baseball and bring the action to the fans all night long. This, opposed to Buck, who has sounded excited exactly once in his broadcasting career, when Randy Moss did his fake moon in Green Bay. Buck has mistaken "laid back drawl" for "sounding like he's reading charges in open court". For all his token attempts at conveying excitement, he just can't seem to bring himself to be moved by the game, to wonder at the newness of every pitch, to just be happy to be at a World Series game. Come on, dude. I've been to a World Series game, and I barely remember it. In fact, I may have been to two in 1989, but I was so young and so freaked out by the earthquake that I can't remember that period clearly. Do you know what I'd give to be able to remember? Do you? I don't think you do, because so far you've never demonstrated that you love the game as much as an average fan. And that hurts like hell.


Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

David, this is why I shelled out the big buck in the offseason to bring you in. I can say without qualification that this is one of the five best pieces to even appear on Sportszilla, even if I can't get behind the verdict.

3:12 AM  
Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

Why can the suits at Fox not understand how bad these guys are? I watch the games with the sound on mute. Great writing on this. A classic event that rivals Ali-Frazier......well...ok at least as good as any Tonya Harding fight.

12:10 PM  
Blogger HadesGigas said...

I think the problem with Joe Buck is he tries to keep this impeccable personna of professionalism, like excitement would somehow make him seem like a fan and connected to a certain team or something. Jon Miller, on the other hand, is excitable and is very conversational when he works with Joe Morgan. He not only stays professional, but he adds to the game much more than Buck, has a better rapport with Morgan than Buck and McCarver (who could get along with that troll anyway?) and he could go bonkers at any time. Remember Jack Buck when Ozzie Smith hit that homer in the LCS against LA? He said "Go crazy, folks" as he proceeded to go crazy. The only time Joe Buck has gone crazy is when a football player celebrated a touchdown dance with an improper motion (which you mentioned). Aikman was in the booth with him and he whispered "Jeez, calm down, it's not like that's your son on the field, hell, I played with Michael Irvin and he practically took a dump when he scored." Okay, I made that up, but Buck has got to go.

FOX burns me up to no end anyway. Last year the world series saw the St. Louis Cardinals, who McCarver played for and I believe Joe Buck currently works for during the season, against the Boston Red Sox, a team that rivals McCarver's Yanks when he was employed for them, and I'm sure Buck hates them for their improper facial hair.

People forget that two years ago FOX invited Bret Boone to be in the booth for Game 7 of the ALCS and I'm sure they all busted a collective nut when his brother Aaron hit a walk off homer so they could cut off to brother Bret shedding a tear, only he could not cry because steroids seal tear ducts.

As you can tell, I'm pretty bitter about some rather nitpicky stuff. Ultimately, I just wish Jon Miller and Joe Morgan or even Bob Costas could do this stuff. A corporation as big as FOX, who I'm sure is flooded with hate mail, should be able to get it right. How many Bill Simmons articles would it take for them to read to realize McCarver is a dolt and Buck is a zombie? My guess is 1,249.

By the way, I'm a Red Sox fan, like you couldn't tell.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Alex Fritz said...

Wasn't Chris Myers being sarcastic?

6:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home