Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Better than the numbers indicate

I watched the final game of the Mets' three game spank-o-rama of the Cardinals in St. Louis, over which the Mets outscored the Cards by 20-2. This is almost exactly the same Cardinals ball club that, I suppose in some technical sense, "won" the "World Series" last season, so it was extra sweet to see this humiliation imposed while Cardinals home-town announcer Joe Buck made comments like "that World Series ring looks really great."

Tonight's announcers on ESPN grew bored with the game in front of them, and went on a lengthy riff about whether Barry Bonds would break the home run record this year. Commentator Steve Phillips pronounced Bonds "healthy" and went on to predict that Bonds will hit 40 or more home runs this year. This man, Phillips, is the same guy who, as Mets GM, pronounced Mo Vaughn "healthy" after watching him for an hour in Vaughn's personal batting cage after Vaughn missed the entire 2001 season due to injury. Phillips traded for Vaughn and his $46 million 3-year contract. Vaughn broke down 37 games into the second year and never played baseball again.

The Cardinals, hurting for starting pitchers, have converted mediocre reliever Braden Looper into an undoubtedly mediocre starting pitcher, by the ESPN guys really wanted the story line of this game -- a 10-0 Mets win -- to be Looper's surprisingly good first-ever pitching start. He threw five shutout innings, but got touched up for 3 runs in the sixth and left the game with a pitching line of 6 innings, 8 hits, 3 earned runs, 4.50 ERA, and his team losing 3-0. This is the very definition of a so-so performance, but the announcers must have said at least 6 times that he pitched "better than the numbers indicate." I don't get that at all. He pitched exactly as well as the numbers indicated.

Last week I happened to catch a few innings of the 1982 World Series (Cardinals-Brewers) on the Classic Sports Network. Despite having two former major leaguers as commentators (Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek), the announcing team found almost nothing to say about the game that my mom couldn't have come up with by watching on TV without the sound. They would describe the play in the most general terms -- "a single," "a fly out," "a swing and a miss" -- but they never said a word of "inside baseball." I don't think they even identified the pitch type, even once.

It really puts tonight's exceedingly lame ESPN broadcast into perspective. Not nearly as dumb as their words indicate.

Ah, Mo. How I miss my Big Fat Mo of 1995. Big Fat MVP Mo. See what happens to your career when you leave for the Mets?!
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