I’m a baseball fan. I really enjoy watching the games on television. I especially look forward to those Sunday nights through the summer watching the game on ESPN. However, lately, ESPN seems to want me to stop watching.
Something you should know about me is that I tend to get annoyed easily. I get aggravated driving behind someone doing 35 in a 40 mph zone. I don’t want them to speed, I just want them to drive the speed limit. Is that too much to ask?
And is it too much to expect shoppers at the grocery store to push their carts on the right side of the aisle? I want to yell at the oblivious aisle blockers, “What side of the street do you drive on?!”
Am I wrong to be annoyed by these things?
So, how is baseball on television annoying me? Or more specifically, how is the coverage of baseball on television annoying me?
It’s not the announcers constantly referring to all the sabermetrics that have taken over the game. Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, RBI, ERA, OPS, WAR, wOBA, BABIP, 12XU, HOT… The Ideal Copy…
Don’t get me wrong. All of that is annoying. I mean, who cares how fast a home run ball left the park? What’s really getting under my skin is the way the announcers are becoming part of the game.
Yes, they already were sort of part of the game, but their part was well-defined. It was usually two fellows (there are some women getting into announcing the game, which I do like) sitting in the booth calling the game. One would be the play-by-play announcer, who would keep the viewers informed on what is happening on the field; while the other, usually a former player, would provide color and analysis. The two would also tell stories of the game and have conversations related to baseball in general.
A good announcing team can be great to listen to as you watch.
But there has been a slippery slope over the years that has seen the announcers encroaching more and more into the game. They are almost literally climbing out of the booth and creeping into the dugouts and onto the field.
For decades, interviews with managers, coaches, and players were limited to before and after the games. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the way the Baseball Gods intended it to be. (I feel I can speak for them.)
But, then, some TV exec had the idea of putting a reporter in the stands who was allowed to talk to team representatives to get some inside information. The reporter would do this off camera, behind the scenes, and then would go on camera to relay injury reports and other bits of information to the announcers in the booth. They are baseball’s equivalent to the sideline reporters in football.
“All right. I’m ok with that,” I would think to myself.
But, then, the idea of putting a small microphone on a designated player was hit upon. The player would be recorded as they played. Then later things they said to fellow teammates, the umpires, or opposing players would be played back. Those moments were called Sounds of the Game™.
“Hmmm. Is this really necessary?”
But, then, the ideas people thought fans would love to hear from the managers during the game. However, they would wait until between innings to talk to the managers. That way the interviews wouldn’t interfere with the manager’s job and could be played back later in the game using a split screen.
“I don’t like where this is going.”
But, then, the TV people realized that there are players who won’t be playing in that day’s game. The player might be injured or they’re the starting pitcher for the next game, so they’re just watching. Why not talk to them while the game is being played? Heck, we might get lucky and catch some playful hijinks with teammates throwing sunflower seeds at the player while he’s being interviewed.
But, then, the TV execs figured, what the hell, let’s get the managers to talk to the announcers as the game is being played. Forget that between innings stuff.
“This is going too far…”
But, then, the brain trust declared, “Hey! We’ve been mic’ing up players for Sounds of the Game™ for some time now, why not fit them with an earpiece so the announcers can talk to them as the play?! Of course, we’ll only do that during the All-Star Game. (Wink, wink.) It’s an exhibition game. It’s just for fun. It doesn’t count.”
“No! No! No! NO!!“
And now ESPN, during the Sunday night games, have their announcers talking to the players during the game. Regular season games. Games that count.
“I knew it! I knew this was going to happen!”
Soon, this intrusion will expand to every televised game. Maybe they will mic up every player and carry out conversations all through the whole game. A hitter will be asked what pitch he expects to be thrown. A pitcher will be asked what pitch he’s going to use. Outfielders will be asked if they plan to dive for the ball or let it drop.
Ok, now I’m falling into the slippery slope fallacy. The intrusion probably won’t go as far as that. But, considering how far it has gotten, do you blame me for worrying that it might?
Last Sunday, I watched the St. Louis Cardinals/Chicago Cubs game on ESPN. They mic’d up Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong. While he was chatting with announcers Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez, a ball was hit to him. He stopped the conversation, fielded the ball, and threw to first. The runner was safe by about half a step.
Did the conversation and the earpiece coming out as DeJong attempted to make the play cost him a second or two in his reaction time? If he had been allowed to pay full attention to the game, might he have made that play and got the runner out? I don’t know, but if this intrusion continues and gets worse, we are going to have players claiming they were distracted by the unnecessary coverage.
The TV people were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Major League Baseball, I appeal to you. Tell the announcers to get their butts back in the booth and let the players play!
Oh, and while you are at it, stop the ESPN people from calling home runs “going yard.”
Gah! I hate that!
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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.