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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The World Series on Fox - Game 3

David sends Tim McCarver an early valentine.

This was ugly.  And I’m not talking about the game.  While Fox’s Game One broadcast was palatable-even downright un-FOX-like in places-Game Three’s broadcast was filled with the kind of stuff that makes you turn down the sound on the TV and wish your radio could show pictures.

Speaking of pictures, did you know that Livan Hernandez has 4,817 pores in his nose?  Neither did I, until last night’s FOX-style close-up frenzy.  Can we please pull back a little bit on those head shots, gentlemen?  (Related note to Ramon Ortiz: when you were giving yourself that last haircut, you missed a stray hair behind your right ear.  You might want to check it out.)

Pre-Game

I understand FOX wants to give us a feel for the wild and crazy crowd at Pac-Bell, but putting the pre-game crew two feet in front of screaming maniacs with stuffed animals and face paint seems a little extreme.

Could someone please explain the meaning of “irony” to Tim McCarver?  It is not ironic that the Angels clinched the division at 5:04 p.m., exactly the time that the earthquake struck San Francisco during the 1989 World Series.  Nor is it especially interesting.  If the Angels had clinched the pennant at 6:19 p.m., would McCarver have found something else to tell us in its place?  “Y’know, Joe, it’s ironic that Mike Scioscia’s youngest daughter was born at exactly 5:04 p.m.”

Top 1st

The overhead, behind-the-plate camera is back! And this time, it appears to be directly behind the plate.  I wonder if there’s some physical reason why the camera couldn’t be placed directly behind the plate in Anaheim?

Bottom 1st

We get replays until we’re dizzy, from every imaginable angle.  But when there’s a really close play, there’s a 50-50 shot we don’t see it.  It happened again on the second pickoff throw with Lofton on first base.  We got several replays of the first throw, but no really good angle on the second play, which appeared to be just as close.

Once again, Tim McCarver is awfully sure of himself in a case where things aren’t quite so clear.  When Lofton stole second, McCarver confidently declared, “He was out!”  Sure, the replay showed the play was closer than it appeared, but it certainly wasn’t definitive, and they never slowed it down enough for us to see what really happened.  But it’s not good enough for McCarver to say, “He might’ve been out!”  No, he has to tell us what did happen, whether it’s clear or not.

Oh, and here’s a doozy from McCarver.  When a pitcher needs a double play, “a pitcher’s intent is to get the hitter to hit the ball hard enough to turn two.”  That’s some skill those pitchers have.  Not only are they able to make batters hit the ball on the ground, but they also are able to make them hit the ball hard on the ground, at an infielder.  I’ve decided McCarver’s problem is that he doesn’t think anything on the field happens by accident.  Everything must be attributed to the skill of a player, even when some things clearly happen by chance.  Yes, there are ground ball pitchers.  But the idea that a pitcher can influence a batter into hitting a hard-but-not-too-hard ground ball is just silly.  This is the kind of thing McCarver says that makes casual baseball fans think he’s really smart.

Top 2nd

Give FOX credit for putting all those cameras to good use when Spiezio slowed up rounding the bases with two outs.  But the theme for tonight is repetition.  So McCarver has to bring it up again, and again, and again, until the inning mercifully ends and we can all get on with our lives.

Top 3rd

Look, it’s Robin Williams in the stands!  Look, he’s wearing cool sunglasses!  Ooooohhhh, they’re shiny!

Look, it’s Robin Williams in the stands!  Look, he’s wearing cool sunglasses!  Ooooohhhh, they’re shiny!

Look, it’s Robin Williams in the stands!  Look, he’s wearing cool sunglasses!  Ooooohhhh, they’re shiny!

I won’t even get into the lame Mork & Mindy references.  But I will point out that for one extended period, we saw nothing but various shots of Robin Williams from various angles-for 21 seconds!!!

Hey, cool, there’s a baseball game going on.  Eckstein patiently works a walk to lead off the inning, and Joe Buck tells us, “That’s the kind of leadoff hitter Eckstein is.”  Eckstein walked 45 times during the regular season, in 152 games.  That’s only 4th-best on a team that features a bunch of guys who don’t walk all that much.

Once again FOX fails to use its multiple cameras when they could be informative.  Eckstein fails to score on a double by Erstad, but there’s no shot showing us where Erstad is on the basepaths when the ball is fielded.  With Eckstein running on the play, it seems reasonable that Eckstein would score, even with nobody out.  It ended up not mattering, but FOX didn’t know that at the time.

Runners on 1st & 2nd, Garrett Anderson hits the ball to the warning track in left field, and gets chastised by Buck and McCarver for “failing to move the runner.”  I understand the allure of little-ball, but can we cut a guy some slack when he hits the ball to the track?  It’s not like he tried to pull an outside pitch and grounded weakly to the shortstop.

“The Sounds of the Game” can be a really nifty feature when FOX uses is right, like they did in the top of the 3rd inning.  We no longer have to read the pitching coach’s lips when he goes to the mound-we can hear what he says.  It was fascinating, even if we did have to listen to it twice.

Bottom 3rd

Joe Buck goes a long way toward revealing the mindset of most traditional baseball broadcasters during an exchange with McCarver.  McCarver suggests Aurilia might consider stopping at 2nd base on a single to right field by Kent, so 2nd base isn’t left open for a potential walk to Bonds.  Buck’s response?  “You have to play the game the right way.”  I don’t necessarily agree with McCarver, but it wouldn’t take much creativity to come up with a better reason than, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Buck’s mindset is why broadcasters are still relying on batting average and RBI’s to judge a player’s value.  We expect doctors to keep up with the latest findings in medicine.  We expect contractors to know the latest construction techniques.  And yet it’s not clear most baseball broadcasters are even aware of anything discovered about baseball in the past 30 years.

Top 4th

McCarver again shows he doesn’t think anything on the field happens by accident.  He praises the Angels offense for its “flexibility,” because they can “hit line drives and they can get little flares in.”

Bottom 4th

I don’t remember what happened in the bottom of the 4th inning because I’m haunted by three lingering memories: the Pepsi Fan Cam, the long, rambling discussion of Ramon Ortiz and his barber shops, and the shot of Bud Selig eating.

Top 5th

In discussing The Sporting News Player of the Year Award, Buck casually asks McCarver who he thinks won the award.  Without hesitation, McCarver says assuredly, “Alex Rodriguez, I would think.”  I’m sorry, but that whole thing must have been a setup. To choose A-Rod with no consideration of Bonds is just too unbelievable.  Of course, McCarver also says A-Rod has been the best player in the game almost since the moment he came into the game.

Bottom 5th

We got to see the Barry Bonds home run trot from several angles, which was nice, I suppose.  And again, “The Sounds of the Game” feature was used nicely, to let us hear the conversation between Bud Black and Ramon Ortiz on the mound.

Bottom 6th

The little anecdotes about players can be overused, but I actually enjoyed the story about Bonds buying Shawon Dunston a Mercedes to fulfill his promise early in the season last year.  It didn’t last too long, and it was told at a semi-relevant time, with Dunston making an appearance in the game.  As long as we don’t get one of those stories every half-inning, they work.

Top 7th

Cool.  Did you realize Major League Baseball and Master Card are going to be choosing “Baseball’s Most Memorable Moment” during Game Four?  I hadn’t heard about that.  I wonder why they didn’t publicize it more, to give more of us a chance to vote?

Top 8th

Where’s the FOX statistical crew?  Don’t they realize this inning marks the first time in World Series history that players named Benji & Bengie have batted back-to-back?

Not only is Tim McCarver telling another story, but he’s commenting on his story-telling after it’s over.  First, we hear about Bengie Molina’s father being inducted into a hall of fame in Puerto Rico.  Then McCarver follows the story by saying, “Nice story.”  I’m reminded of the way Red Skelton always laughed at his own jokes.

When Benito Santiago makes an obvious error on a play at the plate, McCarver first jumps to his defense by blaming the pitcher. “We talked about this in last year’s World Series-pitchers are used to throwing pitches that move.”  The replay didn’t show Scott Eyre’s throw “moving.”  Instead, it showed Santiago pulling his glove away too quickly, as he prepared to throw to first base.  Unfortunately, most of the replays were so close up (or so far away), we weren’t able to get a good handle on what happened.  It’s not only that FOX insists on close-up head shots of players and fans while the action isn’t happening-it’s that they zoom in too closely on the play itself, making it hard for viewers to get any perspective.

Bottom 9th

No, it doesn’t matter.  But if you’re going to select a “Defensive Play of the Game,” shouldn’t it go to the best defensive play?  The FOX crew chose an easy double play ball right at Eckstein, when Rich Aurilia and Jeff Kent had turned a much more difficult play just a half-innning earlier.

Overall Grade: C- 
FOX’s broadcasts are going backwards.  Game One featured a relatively good focus on the game.  But as the Series has worn on, we’ve seen less baseball and more gimmicks.  Game Three was a lot of close-ups, a lot of repetition, and a lot of Robin Williams.  In other words, unfortunately, FOX is reverting to typical form.

David Brazeal Posted: October 23, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Rob Wood Posted: October 23, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606894)
Great commentary. Tim McCarver is an unsufferable jackass. I cannot begin to articulate how much he ruins a baseball telecast.

Does anyone have a solution? I have tried turning the sound off on the TV and listening to the radio, but that is no good since there seems to be a significant time delay between the two. So I hear on the radio what is just about to take place on TV! Interesting way to watch a baseball game, but I don't recommend it.
   2. SM in DC Posted: October 23, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606896)
One option is to can the sound and find the game on ESPN Radio where Miller and Morgan are doing the games... unfortunately, my stereo is too close to my TV and AM signals are static'ed out when the tube is on....
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 23, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606897)
Another, better option is to pay the fee to MLB.com for the GameDay Audio, and listen to the local broadcasts. I've had the Giants' broadcast on KNBR on the entire series, and Joe Angel, Duane Kuiper, and Mike Krukow have been very good. I also listened to the Angels' radio team during the ALCS, and they were very good, also. Here's to a McCarver-less and Morgan-less postseason!

-- MWE
   4. Rob Wood Posted: October 23, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606901)
To be fair, if I spoke as much as McCarver did during a 4-hour telecast, I'd probably say some stupid things too. I'm sure I wouldn't say the stupid things Timmy says, and hopefully I'd say fewer stupid things, but I'd likely have some whoppers of my own.
   5. MGL Posted: October 24, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606909)
Bernard, you are right on the money! I hope everyone reads and understands your post. I've always laughed to myself when a commentator has suggested that it might not be correct to take an extra base beucase the folloiwng batter might be walked or pitched around. Let me put it another way and clarify one thing.

If advancing the extra base invlovles some risk of making an out, then yes, the fact the next batter could be walked or pitched around CHANGES THE BREAK EVEN POINT OF THE DECISION TO ADVANCE OR NOT.

However, if the advance is guaranteed (no or almost nor risk of an out), then IT CAN NEVER BE CORRECT TO DECLINE TO ADVANCE!

The reason is if the offensive team would rather have a runner on first with "Bonds" up than runners on first and second and Santiago up (IOW, declining to advance the extra base), then that would HAVE TO mean that the defensive team would rather have the opposite - first and second and Santiago up rather than runner on first and Bonds up. As Bernard properly stated, the correct stategy for one team cannot also be the correct strategy for the opposing team. In fact, if one of two strategies is correct for one team (like in this case, if it were correct for the runner to decline to advance), the OTHER strategy HAS TO be correct for the other team. So in this case, if not advancing a base intentionally is correct for the batting team, it must follow that the runner advancing a base and then walking "Bonds" must be the correct play for the other team. If that were the case (that it is better for the defense to have runners on first and second with Santiago up than a runner on first and Bonds up), then all the defensive team would have to do is force the runner to second (with an intentional balk) and then walk Bonds! Of ocurse, they don't have to actually force the runner to second first and then walk Bonds - they can simply walk Bonds and accomplish the same thing. I threw in the "forcing the runner to second with a balk" thing to emphasize the fact that if it is wrong for a baserunner to take an extra base when it is given to him (as Tim or Buck suggested might be the case), it would do absolutely no good to remain there since the defense could force him to the next base anyway with a balk or with a walk of the next batter. The fact that they DON"T walk the next batter tells you that they didn't want the runner to advance the extra base and that it WASN"T wrong for the offense to advance the runner. If it were correct to walk Bonds whether the runner was on forst or second (which it could be), then it wouldn't matter if the runners advanced or not, would it?

So the only 2 possibilities are: 1) the runner DOES want to advance, or; 2) it doesn't matter when he chooses to advance at all (in which case if there was any chance at all of making an out, he shouldn't) - this only occurs if it is correct to walk the next batter whether the runner is on first or second.

The third possibility, deliberately not advancing, can never be the correct...
   6. Benji Posted: October 24, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606910)
I love Baseball Primer for so many reasons, now you have given me another. Using the SAP to get rid of annoying announcers! No more Dick Vitale! No more Jimmy Kimmel! The entire YES Network in a langauge I don't understand! I won't dread the return of Rusty Staub! Even Dennis Miller and a reincarnated Cosell could come back! Thank you Primer Posters and Bless you!
   7. Jason Posted: October 24, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606914)
I just think that Fox on the whole is trying to make us stupider by watching their network. They can take even the most wonderful of things like baseball and turn it into a drooling advertisers dream. The point of their putrid network is to be tabloid - it always was. They don't profess to be smart or aim to do things the right way because there already were three networks that did it that way. It is quite frightening to think of the money mongering suits that actually think their network does a good job, because they don't actually want to do a good job. They run their network like that on purpose, because it's different. They hire and put on TV the dumbest and stupidest people they can find, because they can. Because they feel the idiots of the world not only need their say, but also can be profited from at the same time. You have to give them credit for their "fresh" point of view. We can mock the telecasts for every little stupid thing we see, but remember it starts from the top and filters its way down. This network doesn't want to challenge me or entertain me in a positive way, it just wants to poke my shoulder, nudge me in the ribs and quick hit my brain into impulse buying trends. I'm just happy for baseball's sake that nobody worth anything is taking a fall for this. Except we the true fans are forced to endure such mockery.
   8. Clyde Posted: October 24, 2002 at 12:58 AM (#606916)
I had the sound turned down when they kept panning to Robin Williams, but my buddy insists that McCarver was about to explain to the audience at home how 3-D glasses worked, but Buck stopped him cold.
Can anyone testify to the veracity of this?


Supposedly, McCarver was calling them "Mindy and Mork" glasses, a minor quibble, but it doesn't do much in my mind to defuse my image of him as an unhip doofus.

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