How baseball announcers are destroying the game
Perhaps the last great short-form descriptive phrase to be concocted then adopted was “crunch time.” That said it all. The game was on the line. It needed no further explanation or embellishment.
Now the emphasis is on conjuring the opposite — the long-form vague, the phony-hip, the arcane and impractical, a blend of the supercilious with the silly. Copy, paste, perpetuate.
All games now end with a “walk-off” something or other. Jumping to catch a football has become “high-pointing the football,” all goals scored in hockey and soccer “find the back of the net” — even if they didn’t — and who on Tour isn’t “an excellent striker of the golf ball”?
And Aaron Boone sure appreciates those batters who “impact the baseball.”
Last Sunday, the Mets trailed Arizona, 5-1, when Mickey Callaway brought in Wilmer Font to pitch the seventh. That’s when SNY’s Gary Cohen — who used to speak simple, discernable, pleasing baseball English — said something he picked up just last season, perhaps catching an on-air borne disease.
After saying Font has been good of late, he added, “Perhaps he’ll be in line for something more highly leveraged.” Hmm.
“Highly leveraged,” according to my secret baseball-to-English decoder, is “crunch time,” now often assigned to closers, even if the closer or eighth-inning designee is designated by nothing better than attrition, disqualification or desperation.
In Sunday’s case, the Mets, 7-1 losers, were down 3-0 after one, thus the “high-leverage” moments were long gone. “High-leverage” situations don’t discriminate.
Wednesday on YES, one of the network’s cavalcade of mix-and-hopefully-match announcers, Ryan Ruocco, noted the Yankees’ bullpen is rich in “high-leverage guys,” meaning there’s no expression so ridiculous that it’s unworthy of duplication.
In Wednesday’s case, the Yanks used five relievers to lose 11-7 to Toronto. Three of them allowed seven runs in the seventh and eighth, thus high-leverage guys, including big-ticket Zack Britton, de-leveraged the game.
But it all stands to reason given that watching baseball has become a chore, too often a burden to endure unless put to DVR. And, again, for no good reasons.
Last week, the Yanks beat Boston, 5-3, in 8½ innings. Still, the game ran an unreasonably long 3:20 — as the teams combined to use 11 high-leverage pitchers who combined to strike out 24 batters, most of the latter in pursuit of hitting 800-foot home runs on two-strike pitches.
In that game, Mookie Betts, a fast runner, batted in the top of the second, Boston up 1-0, runners on first and third. The shift was on with the runner at first being held on. A simple push bunt or swinging tapper — Betts last year hit .346 — between first and second would end up in right field.
Instead, Betts struck out, swinging. All Red Sox outs that inning were swinging strikeouts. In exchange for their 14 strikeouts and three runs, Boston left 24 (!) men on base!
If one were to examine why Boston this season started so poorly, one would see that they were reduced from hit-the-ball, move-the-runners, attractive whatever-it-takes World Series champs to more of an all-or-nothing strikeouts team.
Last week the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 4-3, in 8½ innings. Good game, right? Wrong. Twelve hits, 24 strikeouts. But baseball has lost its romance, its mysteries and intrigues to all-or-nothing batting and the prefabricated removal of pitchers who are managed as if attached to “on/off” switches.
Baseball is still filled with wonder, but the wrong kind. One is left to wonder why baseball would do this to itself.
MLB recently conceded attendance is down — again. Off 4 percent last season, another 1-plus percent this season. But I suspect it’s worse.
Consider what Michael Kay on YES is regularly handed to read during Yankees home telecasts: “An announced crowd of 38,000,” or thereabouts, which often appears to be exaggerated by 10,000 as the best, destination-resort expensive seats, since the new Stadium opened 10 years ago, remain unoccupied.
As for daily and nightly highlights, the home run — which MLB marketers, managers and baseball-makers have turned into pop-fly routines to best replicate the money-driven Steroid Era — often rattle against empty seats.
To that end, reader Joe Fulfs asks if the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby is necessary: “Perhaps, with the defensive shift now so common, a better test of hitting skill would be a Base Hit to the Opposite Field Contest.”
Not bad. But given the way the wind blows, MLB would first sell Home Run Derby sponsorship to FanDuel, DraftKings or a casino conglomerate, with pitch-by-pitch proposition bets posted right there on the screen.
That’s the kind of high-leverage thinking that’ll keep a highly leveraged audience glued to their TV sets. And I’m only partially kidding.
TV won’t tell you Tiger is bad driver
For all of TV’s freeze-frame, slow-motion examinations of Tiger Woods’ swing, I’m still waiting for one of the experts to tell us what many can’t miss:
He has become consistently wild with his driver. And that’s the one club a golfer doesn’t have to rely on to win the Masters, as Augusta National doesn’t have punitive rough, not the where’s-my-ball kind.
Woods used to devour par-5s. Driver, long-iron to make a one-putt eagle or two-putt birdie.
Now, he bogeys and double-bogeys par-5s because on-in-two dictates he start with driver. And if we can see it — how can we miss it? — why can’t TV’s experts?
Dietrich is just a poser
It’s all backwards. Reds second baseman Derek Dietrich is an immodest, all-about-me man on a last-place team. When he hits one deep, he stands at home plate in exaggerated, obnoxious self-regard — like Mussolini on the balcony. It’s called “pimping,” as if pimping is a good thing.
Last week, Pirates broadcaster John Wehner took a deserved shot at Dietrich, noting that Dietrich’s grandfather, former big league third baseman Steve Demeter “is rolling over in his grave every time [Dietrich] hits a home run.”
Of course, it was Wehner, not Dietrich, who was pounded on the Internet as a cranky old man who just doesn’t get it.
If you’ve watched the College World Series, men’s and women’s versions, on ESPN, you’ve not only seen several episodes of immodest bat-flipping home runs, you also have heard praise and joy for it by ESPN’s announcers who no doubt would preach and teach demonstrations of rank public conceit to the kids in their lives.
Whatever. I don’t know what ESPN has for us Sunday night, instead of Cardinals-Cubs, the game ESPN has scheduled but won’t allow us to watch. ESPN, in consistent violation of the Geneva Convention, badly confuses excess with progress.
Say, why not join in a baseball fans’ class-action divorce, charging ESPN with alienation of affections?
Source: Read Full Article