Yesterday’s American League playoff game was a study in contrasts. It started at 5:00PM Eastern time, so I had to listen to it on the radio, which meant getting re-aquainted with my old pals John Sterling and Charlie Steiner. I still miss the old team of Sterling and Michael Kay, but the Sterling & Steiner show is not bad either. There is something about the radio guys, the good ones, that adds a whole other layer to baseball games. Their ability to verbally paint you a picture of the action, the repartee that evolves after 162 regular season games, and the feeling that you are a part of their little gang, all help to make listening to a ballgame just as much fun as watching one.
Around 6:30PM I headed for home, with the game 2-1 in favor of the Red Sox. I brought my portable radio, but apparently it’s useless on the train—presumably the catenary wires cause the interference. Whatever the cause, I listened to half an inning of this before giving up:
“Mussina gets the sign, he stretches, he deals…ssshhhhZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZssshhhh…and, there’s one away.”
I rode along, silently wondering what was happening up in Boston. The conductor was good enough to inform the passengers that the score had changed to 4-2 Yankees, and as I walked home from the station I got to listen to an inning of scoreless baseball on the radio, dutifully reported by my friends John & Charlie.
Then I got home, and put on Fox.
There was brilliant green Fenway Park, the second greatest ballpark on the planet, in stunning clarity. Unfortunately, there too were Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, the Heckyl & Jeckyl team of Major League Baseball. It’s not that Buck tends to say idiotic things to break the silences, it’s not that McCarver is didactic to the point of extreme annoyance. It’s the fact that Timmy is a card-carrying Yankee hater that annoys me about that team. McCarver dislikes the Yankees and it affects his ability to be impartial, and Joe Buck—in his never-ending quest to burrow his nose up Tim McCarver’s ass—is also starting to show bias. And the national guys are supposed to be impartial.
All night long, balls that painted the inside corner of the plate were strikes without question when thrown by a Boston pitcher, yet suddenly pitches to the same location—I mean, the exact same fucking location—are “borderline”, “close”, or “called a strike” when hurled by a Yankee. This happened all night long, and it’s been happening for years, and I’m tired of it. And I’d be just as pissed off if the Yankees had won last night.
Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, get a room already. There are plenty of people who can do your jobs. Jim Kaat, for example, is a master at teaching the art of watching baseball, and he does it in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s talking down to you.
Again, bias on the part of your team’s regular broadcast team is to be expected, and is in fact all part of the fun. But when the show goes into the postseason, and we have to endure people like Joe Buck and Steve Lyons, the least they can do is try to call the game and stay the hell out of the way.
Not to slight the third guy in the booth last night, I think Al Leiter has been doing a good job up there and is settling into a groove. Maybe when Tim & Joe go on their honeymoon we can get a couple more smart commentators that can be impartial viewers to join him. Like, say, Jim Kaat and Joe Morgan.
“Why don’t you listen to the radio and turn the volume down on the TV?”, you may be wondering. Well, I used to do just that. But ever since I got cable, the TV and radio are about three seconds out of sync, making that an impossibility. Believe me, it’s upsetting. Besides, I’m not sure which is worse, listening to the radio ads for Geico auto insurance or watching the incessant pitches for the latest piece of crap “reality show” that Fox has cooked up.