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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Zurawik: Some final TV thoughts on TBS, Orioles, Yankees, Ripken, Johnson, Smoltz

TBS: The Booth Sucked

Finally, a note to local media: Please no conspiracy talk about Major League Baseball and TBS wanting a big market team that would presumably bring higher ratings. Forget any crazy innuendo that the powers that be somehow conspired to let the Yankees advance.

Really, thinking you can explain anything with the one piece of so-called knowledge that big market teams mean higher ratings is, well, Exhibit A for a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. And while TBS prematurely posted a promo for the Yankees-Tigers ALCS online today, I suspect there was also one made up for an Orioles-Tigers series as well. Channels and networks have them ready to go so they can hit the target audience with the promo right after the ALDS ends.

Just let go of the conspiracy stuff. Start by forgetting the rightfield foul pole “home run.” Buck Showalter himself said in the postgame that wasn’t why the Orioles lost. And by the way, if you were one of the locals complaining about TBS not being pro-Orioles enough all week, you don’t get to cite the channel’s on-field reporter, Craig Sager, reporting that he interviewed an usher in the right field stands who said the ball nicked the pole.

Repoz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 08:31 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media

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   1. Riki Tiki Javy Lopez Posted: October 13, 2012 at 08:58 AM (#4267806)
Agree with his comments on Smoltz. I thought he was outstanding, and really brought a lot of analysis and 'why did he do that' explanations to the broadcast. Hopefully Smoltz gets a lot more air time, because he was excellent.
   2. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: October 13, 2012 at 09:30 AM (#4267823)
I wasn't that big a fan of Ripken's as a player in the 1990s. Oh, I appreciated all the things that made him one of the most important players in the history of the game. But there were several players on those Orioles teams that I felt more of a connection to.

But I truly came to admire him after listening closely to his work in the booth for TBS this week. As I previously wrote, I came to understand what a great student he is. He is constantly asking questions and trying to figure things out -- like what makes Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez so effective. Ripken would not rest until he got answers -- from Smoltz, Showalter, anyone he thought might know.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 13, 2012 at 09:49 AM (#4267833)
I can't recall a better pairing of jocks in the booth. Glad that TBS gets the ALCS while the NLCS gets stuck with FOX.

Just let go of the conspiracy stuff. Start by forgetting the rightfield foul pole “home run.” Buck Showalter himself said in the postgame that wasn’t why the Orioles lost. And by the way, if you were one of the locals complaining about TBS not being pro-Orioles enough all week, you don’t get to cite the channel’s on-field reporter, Craig Sager, reporting that he interviewed an usher in the right field stands who said the ball nicked the pole.

It's sure a funny conspiracy that results in the Yankees' rotation being completely fouled up by the postseason schedule, while the Tigers' rotation is left wholly intact.
   4. TR_Sullivan Posted: October 13, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4267848)
There are no "press box buffets" in the playoffs. They served the industry-famous "box lunch" that consistents of a cold sandwich, bag of potato chips, piece of fruit and a cookie. During the regular season, the Yankee Stadium press box buffet is particularly outstanding among the rest of the American League but we do pay $13 there. All ballparks charge for their meals now, nothing is for free. Nor should it be...and there is no alcohol in any press box anywhere except maybe Colorado.

This guy also commends Craig Sager for going out to right field to see for himself and condemns other reporters for not doing so. And he found an usher who said the ball "nicked" the foul pole. Um, isn't that why we have instant replay, because we can't trust first looks?

To me, a reporter leaving the press box in the sixth inning to ask fans about a controversial home run call in the middle of the sixth inning is like leaving a presidential debate halfway through, going out outside and doing man-on-the-street interviews about one particular question. Although it's not like Sager had anything else to do at that particular moment. Not disparaging his work but what else was he doing.

Johnson, Ripken, Smoltz and Sager were really outstanding.
   5. donlock Posted: October 13, 2012 at 10:40 AM (#4267877)
Why does everybody have to be ranked in broadcasts? Cano is the best hitter in baseball in September. Teixiera is the best defensive 1B. Reynolds has the most range of any 1b except Puhols. no 2B can go back on a ball like Cano.

Blah, blah from announcers. Machado will learn a lot from being in the game. Jeter is so steady. MacLouth is a valuable addition. Hitters are slumping. Pitchers are doing well, except they aren't throwing strikes. Thome has been in pressure before.

Should be only two voices in booth. The studio cutbacks with Wells and Eckersly were boring, unfocused and inept.
   6. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4267880)
Sounds like you'd prefer no voices in the booth, which is what the mute button is for.
   7. gehrig97 Posted: October 13, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4267883)
Smoltz really was a revelation. Truly outstanding. I was less enamored with Cal Jr. but he certainly didn't detract from the game.

   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 13, 2012 at 10:55 AM (#4267893)
Smoltz really was a revelation. Truly outstanding.

Smoltz is truly the perfect storm: Long and outstanding playoff experience as both a starter and a reliever, as well as having been on the winning and losing side in countless numbers of series.
   9. john_halfz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4267911)
Man, I thought Smoltz was kind of partisan. He could barely bring himself to credit Ibanez for his HRs. His "color" in the 12th in a sad voice: "“He was sitting on sitting on such emotion and dead red fastball. Throw a fastball up, all he does is get the barrel of the bat to it.”

When he stuck to analyzing and predicting pitch sequences, he was quite good. But he definitely came across as pulling for the Orioles (whether because he was directed, or because he pulled himself together, he did start qualifying "unfortunately" with "for the Orioles" after Game 1)...whereas Mr. Oriole, Cal Ripken, seemed objective and genuinely excited by the outcomes.

I actually found Ripken's insights on infield positioning and play possibilities more interesting and involved than Smoltz's.

Ernie Johnson is kind of annoying in the NBA.
   10. AuntBea Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM (#4267914)
Sounds like you'd prefer no voices in the booth, which is what the mute button is for.


The mute button also mutes the crowd noise. Ideally there would be an announcer mute button, or even more ideally, separate volume controls for the announcers, the crowd, the field noise, and whatever else you can think of. Which reminds me, I thought we lived in the era of "interactive television" or some similar buzzword. Why hasn't this caught on yet?

The sad truth is they will probably never let us mute only the announcers; a large fraction of what they say involves station branding and advertising.
   11. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4267926)
But he definitely came across as pulling for the Orioles


Well, he is human, after all
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4267931)
Man, I thought Smoltz was kind of partisan. He could barely bring himself to credit Ibanez for his HRs. His "color" in the 12th in a sad voice: "“He was sitting on sitting on such emotion and dead red fastball. Throw a fastball up, all he does is get the barrel of the bat to it.”

Did it ever occur to you that this particular "partisan" comment might have been driven by the fact that Smoltz was seeing this from the pitcher's POV, and that it was a critique of the pitch?
   13. john_halfz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:30 AM (#4267933)
[11] Some of us can't help rooting for the Yankees. Our only defense is that we were also trained to root for the Knicks. And I should clarify...this was SO much better than Buck and McCarver. It's just that we spend all year having to deal with Kay, Sterling, and Waldman. Some teams have good regular season crews.
   14. john_halfz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4267935)
[12] Yes. And in this case, a little less walking in Matusz's shoes would be appropriate. The ball went into the second deck and was no YS cheapie. He didn't seem quite so crestfallen on behalf of Yankee pitchers when Nate McClouth was embarrassing them.
   15. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4267939)
Having listened to Smoltz on Braves broadcasts, I can't fathom him doing a good job in the booth.
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4267940)
Yes. And in this case, a little less walking in Matusz's shoes would be appropriate. The ball went into the second deck and was no YS cheapie. He didn't seem quite so crestfallen on behalf of Yankee pitchers when Nate McClouth was embarrassing them.

I'd have to see those clips again, but as a lifeline Yankee fan, I never noticed any particular partisanship by either Smoltz or Ripken on behalf of either team. What I heard was a lot of terrific commentary from two players who've been there and done that.
   17. Repoz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4267943)
I liked Smoltz and that "Peter Palmer" moment was a thing of dunce-brimming beauty.
   18. john_halfz Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4267944)
[16] Fair enough. My take was that Ripken was better. No one ever agrees on this stuff, though. To be fair, the only game I didn't watch on TV in its entirety is the one I'm complaining about, since I was there. But I noticed in G1 that Ripken really seemed on, talking about some bunt plays, conveying excitement in the 9th, etc.
   19. Leroy Kincaid Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4267957)
The mute button also mutes the crowd noise. Ideally there would be an announcer mute button, or even more ideally, separate volume controls for the announcers, the crowd, the field noise, and whatever else you can think of. Which reminds me, I thought we lived in the era of "interactive television" or some similar buzzword. Why hasn't this caught on yet?

The sad truth is they will probably never let us mute only the announcers; a large fraction of what they say involves station branding and advertising.


If you have at least the mlb.tv audio subscription you can watch "condensed" versions of the games that have the sounds of the game and NO ANNOUNCERS. It's a beautiful thing. Well, besides the fact it's not live.
   20. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: October 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4267958)
Wow, I thought Ripken was awful. He said about 20 completely ludicrous or flatly incorrect things every game.

Smoltz overall was pretty good, which is about the best I expect from any announcer.

EJ is kind of a dope, but whatever.
   21. Belfry Bob Posted: October 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4267977)
He said about 20 completely ludicrous or flatly incorrect things every game.

Such as? I thought he was fine.
   22. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: October 13, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4267980)
Such as Phil Hughes being the best in the business at putting away hitters with two strikes. WHAAAAAA?????
   23. DKDC Posted: October 13, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4267998)
Such as Phil Hughes being the best in the business at putting away hitters with two strikes. WHAAAAAA????


What are the other 119 wrong things he said? I was at all but one of the Orioles playoff games and I watched the other one on mute, so I honestly have no idea how good Cal was.
   24. Gotham Dave Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4268045)
Smoltz definitely straight up hates the Yankees, but if you ask me it seemed like he toned it down on air this year compared to the last two postseasons. And his analysis was fantastic in a way I hadn't noticed before. I'm totally ok with TBS in the ALCS over the Fox team, which, no need to comment on those guys.
   25. Gotham Dave Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:14 PM (#4268046)
23- I missed it personally but saw on a Yankee blog that one of the announcers - not sure which - praised Granderson's ability to make contact, which is about as wrong as the Hughes thing, if not moreso. Don't have any other examples. Overall, though, the TBS booth is vastly improved with Ripken over Darling. Not that Darling was bad, but Ripken meshes better with Johnson and Smoltz, I think.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4268051)
It seems like play by play men these days are selected for their baritone voices more than they are their ability.
   27. Shock Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4268052)
Huh.

I thought Smoltz was awful as was the rest of them. Go figure.
   28. Conor Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4268055)
Ernie Johnson is much better suited to be a studio host than a play by play guy. He's great with the NBA, much more eh for baseball pbp.
   29. StHendu Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4268062)
I am surprised Smoltz sill has a job after his nasty words against homosexuals. Usually that much vulgar bigotry gets people fired from jobs with so much publicity. See Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek.

"Atlanta Braves closer John Smoltz criticized those who want to legalize gay marriage. "What's next? Marrying an animal?" he asked derisively."
CBS, Feb 11 2009
   30. PreservedFish Posted: October 13, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4268063)
You know what? I haven't heard Smoltz so I can't really comment on him. But I remember being really impressed by the debuts of Orel Hershiser, Tony Gwynn, Al Leiter, Terry Francona ... I think that this is the unusual type of job where the newest people are often the best at it. They are motivated and they say things you haven't heard before. Put any of these guys in a booth for 400 games over the next few years, force them to do all the product placements and the professional segues and such, make them watch the same situations reoccur hundreds of times: they get bored, the novelty wears off, the unique perspective becomes a tired rant.


Of course not everyone new is good, but, I think this mechanism is at work.
   31. Flynn Posted: October 13, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4268085)
Another thing about broadcasters is that retired players aren't known for their fastidious research, so when a lot of their opponents are still playing on the field they will have a lot more insight than 10 years later when all their opponents are retired. Some players who are research junkies (like Ron Jaworski, who basically has a 9-5 watching tape at NFL Films) or extremely insightful (Keith Hernandez) can overcome that but the average player is going to decline some.

I think McCarver is a strong example of this, he was excellent doing Mets games in the 80s when he had only recently retired from the league and he's become progressively worse since then.
   32. Flynn Posted: October 13, 2012 at 03:24 PM (#4268087)
Ernie Johnson is much better suited to be a studio host than a play by play guy. He's great with the NBA, much more eh for baseball pbp.


I can understand why he wants to do it with his dad being an ex-Brave and ex-Braves broadcaster. Baseball's probably his favorite sport and he's the face of Turner Sports so he can make it happen.

But he just doesn't have the pipes and he always sounds rusty.
   33. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: October 13, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4268088)
Smoltz was clearly and openly disappointed when "unfortunately" things went badly for Baltimore. Ripken was referring to Baltimore as "we".
   34. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: October 13, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4268106)
I am surprised Smoltz sill has a job after his nasty words against homosexuals. Usually that much vulgar bigotry gets people fired from jobs with so much publicity. See Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek.


Yes, let's fire anyone who disagrees with you. Please take the tolerance police act somewhere else.
   35. StHendu Posted: October 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4268123)

Yes, let's fire anyone who disagrees with you. Please take the tolerance police act somewhere else.


I did not write that I thought he should be fired. In fact, I feel the exact opposite - Greek and Campanis and Smoltz should not have been fired for voicing their opinions and it is impossible to have freedom of speech if you can lose your career by exercising such freedom. I just said it surprises me that Smoltz has his job despite expressing views much more hateful and vulgar than Greek's or Campanis'. I would also be surprised if you got over 300 on the reading section of the SAT.

   36. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: October 13, 2012 at 04:37 PM (#4268129)
I thought Cal and Smoltz were awful. I couldn't stand listening to them.
   37. Tim D Posted: October 13, 2012 at 04:55 PM (#4268148)
As a Tiger fan I am just glad McCarver won't be coming to town yet. Had great respect for him as a player. He absolutely makes my blood boil as an announcer. I would rather listen to Sterling do the Grandy Man schtick than McCarver.
   38. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: October 13, 2012 at 05:04 PM (#4268159)
This phrase:

"it is impossible to have freedom of speech if you can lose your career by exercising (freedom of speech)."

Does not go very well with:

"I just said it surprises me that Smoltz has his job despite expressing views much more hateful and vulgar than Greek's or Campanis'."

Clearly, the reason why it surprises you because you feel that, in a perfect world, people like Smoltz (who say "hateful and vulgar" things) would be kept off the air.

I would also be surprised if you got over 300 on the reading section of the SAT.

And this comment just proves you're a smug jerk. Tolerance, indeed.
   39. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 13, 2012 at 05:27 PM (#4268181)
C'mon, RMc, that just does not follow. if there's a pattern of canceling contracts of people who make derogatory comments against groups or individuals, then whether or not you agree with the policy you have every reason to be surprised when someone is not fired for such comments.
   40. Shock Posted: October 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4268195)

Of course not everyone new is good, but, I think this mechanism is at work.


Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. A lot of announcers, when they start, have a personality and a contribution, and it seems like at some time they are all sent to announcer camp and molded to into being the same as all the rest.

I don't think SMoltz is particularly new, but I remember a lot of praise for him when he was. I think he is crap now to be honest. The same as all the restt.
   41. StHendu Posted: October 13, 2012 at 07:02 PM (#4268266)
This phrase:

"it is impossible to have freedom of speech if you can lose your career by exercising (freedom of speech)."

Does not go very well with:

"I just said it surprises me that Smoltz has his job despite expressing views much more hateful and vulgar than Greek's or Campanis'."

Clearly, the reason why it surprises you because you feel that, in a perfect world, people like Smoltz (who say "hateful and vulgar" things) would be kept off the air.

I would also be surprised if you got over 300 on the reading section of the SAT.

And this comment just proves you're a smug jerk. Tolerance, indeed.


If you think people are smug jerks for responding to an insult with another insult, then what do you consider yourself for hurling an insult at someone who hasn't insulted you? On the topic of reading comprehension: I wrote nothing about a perfect world, only of what usually happens in these cases. The Mayor is right.

Even though I will strongly fight for people's rights to all speech without losing their job or interference from the government, I will not hesitate to speak out against bigoted ignorant hate speech. Smoltz is a slimy #########. He shouldn't be arrested or fired for it or even forced to apologize, but he should expect people to be upset enough to speak out.

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