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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, October 24, 2002
The World Series on Fox - Game 4
Virtual Manager Poll: What Was Ray Liotta Smoking?
We’ll leave the raging debate over baseball’s greatest “moments” to another forum. Major League Baseball organized the event, and probably selected the emcees: actors Billy Crystal, Andy Garcia and Ray Liotta. It’s somewhat humorous that Liotta was probably chosen for his role in Field of Dreams, in which he played Joe Jackson. Thus, Major League Baseball invited banned players Pete Rose and Joe Jackson onto the field at the same time for its “Greatest Moments” celebration.
Speaking of Ray Liotta, his segments were painful to watch. Perhaps to supplement his dwindling acting income, he has secretly been taking gigs as PA announcer at local tractor pulls. Maybe some clubhouse jokester told him his microphone was broken before he took the field.
When FOX turned its attention to the game, things got a little better. Game Four’s broadcast was generally better than the Game Three fiasco. Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the way FOX presents a baseball game. The question is whether anyone realizes there’s a need for improvement.
Super slow motion is a really cool thing. It was clear that the pitch from Kirk Rueter brushed Eckstein’s uniform. Joe Buck rightly pointed out that he should have been awarded first base-something a lot of casual fans might not have known.
It’s interesting that Lackey is the fifth pitcher in history to start a game on his birthday, but it would have been nice to see a list of the other four, and how they fared.
When the leadoff man reaches base, Tim McCarver jumps into the fray by saying he doesn’t believe the Giants should bunt. That’s obvious to a lot of people, but the postseason makes managers do crazy things, and McCarver does a good job of explaining the reasoning against playing for one run so early.
It’s easy to point a finger at the announcers, but a lot of the problems with FOX broadcasts center on the director. There’s no understanding of what we need to see when a play is happening. When Aurilia gets a base hit to right field, the camera cuts away from the right fielder as he prepares to field the ball, so we can see a shot of Lofton rounding second base. If Lofton falls down, it’s a great shot. Otherwise, it’s a lot more important that we see the play in the field. Another split-second and we could have seen the defensive play before having our attention shifted to Lofton.
When Jeff Kent fails to reach base, Joe Buck blames the intentional walk to Bonds on Kent. It’s true that Kent isn’t doing much for the Giants’ offense, but it seems pretty clear that Bonds would be getting walked anyway. If Kent had singled, it likely would have set up another first-and-third situation, and we know Mike Scioscia will walk Bonds under those circumstances.
McCarver wouldn’t be nearly so annoying if he didn’t go out of his way to “prove” he’s smart. It was nice to be informed that the last World Series grand slam was hit by Tino Martinez in 1998. But that’s not enough. After Buck has apparently decided to move on with the broadcast, McCarver chimes in, “...off Mark Langston. On a 3-2 count.” Thanks, Tim. We all bow to your superior intellect.
Let’s not rehash the whole Pete Rose thing. But it was interesting that FOX’s “Virtual Manager” poll was, “If Pete Rose apologizes, should he be allowed back into baseball? Even a lot of hard-core Rose haters agree he should be allowed back if he admits he bet on baseball, so the wording of the question pretty much assured the positive outcome (81% yes).
On a side note, it was pretty funny when the camera cut to a shot of Bud Selig on the phone, and the announcers wondered aloud whether he was answering the Virtual Manager question.
McCarver rightly points out that Kenny Lofton was the wrong person to catch a fly ball to left-center, because Barry Bonds had the easier throw to the plate on a sacrifice fly.
We all knew it was only a matter of time before FOX pulled out its silly “Toy Story” reference on Rueter (who’s nicknamed “Woody”). Are Buck and McCarver so hard up for material that they have to use the exact same graphic and the exact same jokes as they used in the NLCS? Apparently so. Normally, we could complain about the fact that the full-screen graphic obscured the view of the field for several seconds between pitches. But since this is FOX, all we missed was a close-up of Dusty Baker’s son’s ear.
When Kenny Lofton leaped at the wall on the Troy Glaus home run, he appeared to be upset with the fan who caught the ball. But FOX’s director cut away so quickly, we couldn’t see if Lofton said anything. And the replay didn’t last long enough to see anything either. Did I imagine Lofton’s angry reaction?
McCarver: “Molina is a catcher that hits, as opposed to a hitter that catches.” Molina is certainly a catcher, but to say he “hits,” with that.596 OPS during the regular season, is a bit of a stretch.
McCarver again: “With Halloween only a week away, two nightmarish at-bats by Jeff Kent.” Okay, this is McCarver being clever. We understand that. But he didn’t use this line until long after Kent had been retired, and three balls had been thrown to Bonds, and the subject of Kent had long since passed from our minds. It’s no wonder McCarver says so many silly things, because he’s so concerned about thinking of the next clever thing to say.
FOX put some nice information on the screen in this inning, showing Major League batting averages on various counts. Sure, it’s just batting average, but it was still good to see such a useful graphic instead of more Toy Story schlock.
If we’re going to complain about FOX’s incessant close-ups, I guess we should give them credit when their penchant for tight shots pays off. And it paid off twice in this inning, once on the squib hit by Rueter, and again on the bunt by Lofton. FOX provided a great replay showing the backspin on Rueter’s hit, and provided even better replays of that bizarre bunt hit by Lofton. Ten years ago, we’d never have seen that view of the ball, and the debate would be raging about whether it was really fair or foul.
McCarver pointed out a base running mistake by Bonds, who failed to tag up on a fly ball/line drive by J.T. Snow. Nothing wrong with that, but McCarver does tend to dwell on such things longer than necessary. And he did it this time, too.
McCarver made a nice point that might have been lost on a lot of viewers if not for his comment. He pointed out that Scioscia made a “strategic mistake” by trying to bunt with Gil, because it left Gil in the hole. That goes beyond the analysis of whether the bunt’s a good idea or not, but shows a second level of thinking that often gets overlooked. Of course, McCarver made the point after the fact, so it’s not clear he would have thought of it beforehand, either.
It’s the cast of Firefly! I actually don’t mind this so much, as long as FOX gets in and out quickly, and gets back to the game. As celebrity fan shots go, this one wasn’t too intrusive.
We’ve complained a lot about the director of FOX’s telecasts, and here’s another opportunity. If you ever wanted proof that the guys behind the scenes don’t know enough about baseball to give us good coverage, it came when McCarver noted that Reggie Sanders was creeping toward the infield in right field. The director immediately went to a wide shot showing left and center field. After McCarver conspicuously said “right field” again, the camera finally panned over to show Sanders.
Virtual Manager Question: “Should the Angels pitch to Bonds?” That’s an interesting question, I suppose, but it’s hard to answer until you know what Kent has done to lead off the inning.
Bonds came up and we got a shot of the Taco Bell raft floating in the water. Is Taco Bell even a sponsor for the World Series? Some guy deserves a big bonus over in their marketing department for getting all this free publicity.
At some point during this inning, the director called for a wide shot of the field-I think it was from behind the left-field fence. It struck me that I naturally relaxed when the camera pulled back, and I realized I had been bombarded with nothing but non-stop fast-edit close-ups for several minutes. Part of baseball’s allure is its relaxed pace, but FOX doesn’t let you feel that very often, because it produces baseball like a music video. I suppose they have market research showing this is what works, but have they checked the ratings? Baseball has a lot of problems, but couldn’t falling ratings conceivably be attributed to the way FOX shows us the games? Just a thought.
McCarver needs to purge his brain once every 3 years. Calling Francisco Rodriguez “Francisco Cabrera,” completely out of the blue, is a little scary.
Joe Buck mentioned that Reggie Sanders had no sacrifice bunts all season, right before Sanders popped out. But neither he nor McCarver seemed to give it much significance. At the time, that seemed to be a major flub, and the strategy of bunting with Sanders deserved more scrutiny.
At first blush, I thought J.T. Snow’s “slide” into home plate was one of the worst I’d ever seen. But McCarver gets credit for pointing out that Snow was preparing to run over Molina, in case Molina tried to block the plate.
Someone tell the FOX director the difference between right and left. This time, McCarver noted a “big hole on the right side,” only to have the director cut to a shot of the left side of the infield.
Adam Kennedy singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, yet FOX still managed to cut to eight different camera shots during that time. During Brad Fullmer’s at-bat, FOX used 25 different camera shots, with no shot lasting more than six seconds. But when the game ended, we were again treated to silence from Buck and McCarver, with pictures of the celebration at Pac-Bell continuing uninterrupted.
Overall Grade: B-
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