They said it


Abraham Lincoln is among those credited with having said that it’s better to keep quiet and let people think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

I’m not so sure it was him. Because I don’t think they had baseball broadcasters back in the day, and there might not be any better proof.

(He could have just as easily said something about bloggers and words on a tablet and screen grabs, but Lincoln was known for his wisdom).

I get that team broadcasters are more into marketing than they are into journalism or even sabermetrics, and I understand that promoting the next big bobblehead doll night is as much a part of the job as presenting Caleb Grindl as the next Mike Trout.

I understand they’re as annoying (not you Vin Scully) as the ringing of the home telephone, and just as persistent. I understand outrage is supposed to be reserved today for Ryan Braun (really? A home run hitter used PEDs? What in the name of Barry Bonds is going on?)

But my focus is on something even more insidious in baseball: broadcasters who hang out comments like Joe Blanton does curveballs. Doesn’t anyone in the broadcast booth have the Google? Or a third-base coach in their head to put up a stop sign as a wayward thought runs out of the baseline?

You wouldn’t think so Sunday, at least by my bad experience with the remote.

Start with the Mets’ broadcasters, who are typically better than the team they cover. Of course, so are the commercials between innings. They were discussing the 2010 draft, apparently because one of them had said the six teams who picked before the Mets were kicking themselves for not taking Matt Harvey. Given that the Nats took Bryce Harper No. 1 and the Orioles took Manny Machado at No. 3, there’s two teams not thrashing their legs.

The question was then posed as to which of the three would be the best to have today. Ron Darling — at least I think it was Darling, but he and Keith Hernandez sound alike, and I’d hate to think Darling’s Yale education went to this reasoning — said he would take Harvey over Harper but Machado over Harvey.

Fair enough — Machado’s 5.1 WAR leads Harvey’s 3.5 and Harper’s injury-reduced 1.6 this year, and you could reasonably rank all three of them anyway you want. But it was why that took a bad hop. Because Machado is three years younger, he said, than Harvey.

Makes sense. Of course, there was no mention — at least not before I clicked the remote which I did with the speed of Harvey’s best fastball — that Harper is three months younger than Machado. I’m not sure if the Mets lost their internet privileges when they settled the Bernie Madoff suit, but if not, it’s pretty easy to check.

Maybe Darling doesn’t like Harper as a player. Or maybe Darling thinks Harper won’t stay healthy. I never found out.

Click.

Next was Thom Brennaman, the Reds’ second-generation voice and fitted with a tone that says he knows more than you whether you’ve been watching the Reds since Ernie Lombardi was catching or Ryan Hanigan. Like Joe Buck, only smugger.

Brennaman was talking about Jeff Kent — perhaps he had tired of touting Devin Mesoraco — and went on to say Kent was a late bloomer and that Toronto didn’t want him and that Kent was woeful with the Mets.

Hmmm.

That might be how Brennaman remembers it, but it’s not quite how baseball-reference.com did. First, it wasn’t necessarily that the Blue Jays didn’t want Kent but that they wanted to win a World Series more. They traded Kent in 1992 for David Cone, which made some sense given that the Jays’ second baseman was Roberto Alomar, who’s one month older than Kent (was then at age 24, remarkably still is today).

With the Mets, Kent hit 21 homers in ’93, .292 in ’94 and 20 homers in 95. Not as good as he went on to do for the Giants, but hardly woeful, especially for a second baseman. If so, what does that make Justin Turner?

Click.

Speaking third was Chip Caray, the Braves’ announcer and like Brennaman son of the team’s one-time voice. Except that Chip is to dad Skip as an announcer as Dale Berra was to Yogi Berra.

Of which we were quickly reminded. First Chip said something about Dan Uggla being the right batter with the bases loaded and none out vs. the White Sox’s Jose Quintana. For the White Sox, maybe. Because what could go wrong with a .195 hitter who strikes out every 2.5 at-bats? Surprisingly, Uggla struck out.

Then Chip got to talking about the Hall of Fame inductions next summer and how it could be a real Braves’ affair: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, GM John Scheurholz and manager Bobby Cox. To tout the latter two, he quoted Peter Gammons, saying it was one of Gammons’ best lines: After all, paraphrasing Chip quoting Gammons, what more could they have done?

Oy. First, anyone who has read Gammons for longer than the length of, oh, Jason Heyward’s career knows it wasn’t one of his best lines, Check out his work from the ’75 World Series or the ’78 pennant race. That’s Hall of Fame stuff.

Secondly, here’s what more they could have done: win the World Series. Yes, the Braves won 14 division tittles in a row, but their supporters, like a loyal spouse, have a blind spot when it comes to the World Series.

In the span the Braves were winning all those divisions, here’s a list of teams who won the World Series more than they did: the Blue Jays (’92-93), the Yankees (’96, ’98-00) and the Marlins (’97, ’03). The Marlins won the Series twice despite never winning their division because the Braves were, which puts into perspective how important both feats are. (The Red Sox and Cardinals also have more Series titles than the Braves if you continue counting after 2005, the year the Braves’ streak ended).

Yo, Chip, that’s what more they could have done.

Click.

My mother is 85, soon to be 86, and still watches every Yankee game. She mutes the commercials. I’m beginning to think she has it backward.

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4 Responses to They said it

  1. Jeff says:

    The Yankees rotate David Cone, Ken Singleton, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neil and occasionally Lou Piniella to work with Michael Kay on TV. That concept works. Although, I sometimes get tired of listening to Kay.

    • Jeff, this may surprise you, but I almost never watch the Yankees telecasts. Not as any judgment of the quality of their work, but just because. When I’m at my parents, my mother and i watch in separate rooms because she watches the Yankees telecasts. That’s not enough distance if they’re playing the Sox.

  2. Mike says:

    I always enjoy Michael Kay when he talks about how a struggling player is “trying too hard”. The Boss would be proud…

    As for the Harvey/Harper/Machado comments, while agree neither the Orioles or Nats are “kicking themselves” as the Mets guys stated, given the rarity of seeing a pitcher stay healthy and dominate the way Harvey is (we’ll obviously know a lot more in 10 years), it is very reasonable to believe that Harvey could wind up being the best player of the three. Harper loses (if the results were sealed today) simply because of his position. There’s plenty of players who do what he does, less doing what Harvey and Machado do. Of course, it all comes down to injuries with a hard thrower like Harvey, which is why this chapter cannot be written for quite some time. Reminds me of a certain fantasy draft I had five years ago in which I had to “settle” for Clayton Kershaw after Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria went ahead of him. While again, the chapter isn’t final just yet, clearly I have no regrets.

    • As I said, I think you can make a case for any of the three, and I’d probably defer to either of the position players because theyre considerably younger. But I’m not sure why Harper loses because of his position. He won’t be 21 until after the season, he’s got the second most homers in the history of baseball by any teen, and his OPS was .973 before he went on the DL. If anything, what concerns me about Harper is his health.

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