I wish there were a C-SPAN for baseball — just the game with no announcers, no analysis, no interruptions. They don't have to have it all year. Just October.
In the post-season, one would think that one would want a little help. With the Mets not involved, it would figure that a Mets fan could use some assistance figuring out four teams who are not usually top-of-mind, including one (the White Sox) the Mets haven't played in three years.
But I have only one favor to ask those charged with communicating baseball to me this month.
Shut up, all of you.
Alas, nobody who's delivering the game to me is doing me any favors. What I hear is almost uniformly inane or incorrect. For that matter, the only time I needed to hear something, I heard nothing.
Here (besides a flame this high) is a sample of what's been burning my ass.
1) During Game Three of the Braves-Astros series, when Jeff Francoeur came to bat, Josh Lewin (the Fox announcer who intoned solemnly after 9/11 that the Mets, carrying the burden of hope for all of America, were really the New York Metaphors) gushed that the rookie's been “the biggest thing to blow through Atlanta since Michael Vick.” The biggest thing to blow through Atlanta… How could anybody start a line like that and not finish it with “…since Gone With The Wind“? Geez! Even “…General William Sherman” would've worked in a perverse way. “Braden Looper in September” would be a more relevant answer. But Michael Vick? A football player? It wouldn't win you a point on Match Game 05. On a network where everybody sounds as if he's been assigned on merit to the B-game, it's safe to say Fox announcers don't know nothin' 'bout broadcastin' baseball.
2) In the car between 6:30 and 7:00 pm Saturday evening, I tuned to the black hole that is ESPN Radio, WEPN 1050-AM, to stay in contact with Game Three of the Cardinals-Astros series. I heard an audio feed of ESPNews. Others may have been flustered, but not me. I was prepared. I knew that right around this time some godforsaken hockey game was scheduled to bump the NLCS to Radio Disney, WQEW 1560-AM. Except when I went there, there was some pre-adolescent girl winning a trip to Jamaica, followed by a song that wasn't Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Back to 1050: A commercial. Back to 1560: Song. 1050: Long music bed. 1560: Song. 1050: Static. 1560: Song. 1050: An entreaty to get ready for some hockey. 1560: Another song. 660 (just in case): Notre Dame football. In the largest media market in the United States, the pivotal game of a series that will determine one of the participants in the championship round of our national pastime was nowhere to be heard. Fourteen Octobers ago, I found myself in a rented automobile speeding from Dallas to Waco and looking forward to following the 1991 NLCS between the Braves and the Pirates. I couldn't find it. It was the day of the Texas-Oklahoma game and the area affiliates that would've carried the CBS Radio 'cast of the game went for football. I listened to part of the baseball playoff game on a Spanish station and part of it via a weak, distant Houston signal. At the time, I rolled my eyes over how these maroons in Texas didn't know enough to make available important post-season baseball. I sincerely apologize to Texas for that observation. New York radio is apparently no better.
3) During Saturday night's Angels-White Sox clash, as Freddy Garcia was en route to winding up Chicago's third consecutive complete game, Fox noted it would be the first time a pitching rotation had finished what it started thrice in a row since our own beloved 1973 Mets — Seaver, Matlack, Koosman — did it. That made me smile. But this didn't: When ESPNews (Cindy Brunson) and later Baseball Tonight (John Buccigross) borrowed this factoid, they referred to it taking place during the Mets' sweep of the Reds. You may be thinking “what sweep?” The Mets won that thrilling series in five games back when it was a best-of-five affair. Ah, but that would take on-air talent (including the alleged experts Jeff Brantley, Harold Reynolds and Larry Bowa) knowing what they were talking about. Apparently they or their producers — ESPN generally has excellent researchers — heard “three straight complete games” and assumed they were three wins. They were not. Tom Seaver threw a brilliant Game One. Thirteen strikeouts, no walks, six hits. Unfortunately, he allowed a solo home run to Pete Rose in the eighth and another solo home run to Johnny Bench in the ninth while Jack Billingham, Tom Hall and Pedro Borbon limited the Mets to a single run. It was a complete game loss. They've been known to happen. This botched recitation of history that didn't happen is an insult to those Mets and those Reds. And no, this is not nitpicking. When you're producing what's billed as a serious baseball show for serious baseball fans (who else on Earth is going to be watching?), you, like Doug Eddings, have an obligation to get this sort of thing right.
Lame announcing. Careless engineering. Mindless reporting. Welcome to October baseball, fans. As Stephanie asked me after the second blithe mention of the Mets' '73 sweep, “so, are they even going to show the World Series on television this year?”