Baseball on TV Strikes Out

Wednesday, October 30 2002 @ 05:38 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

(transferred; Posted Oct. 7)

It's not a good time to be a Southern Ontario baseball fan. Spoiled by the excellence of Dan Shulman's play-by-play and Buck Martinez' analysis, we now have to endure the ignorance and incompetence of three different networks, unable or unwilling to find talented broadcast crews. All I can say about Rob Faulds (Sportsnet) and Rod Black (TSN) is they make Brian Williams (CBC) sound knowledgeable. Williams, best suited for roles like studio host during the Olympics, has at least asked some intelligent questions this year, but unfortunately they were evaded by fence-sitting, bland "colour" man John Cerutti. The least flaky left-hander in history, Cerutti is so dull, he makes "aw, shucks" good ol' boy Pat Tabler seem like interesting company. Neither analyst has been able to educate his partner on the nuances of the game; Black and Faulds consistenly get all excited on foul fly balls and shallow popups, and are the last in the building to realize when something imprtant is happening.

Give me no-frills analysis like Joe Morgan pointing out that a Mark Mulder hook "went around the plate" into the catcher's glove, which sat dead centre of the strike zone and never moved. When the "K-Zone" replay proved Little Joe's assessment to be 100% accurate, partner Jon Miller, whose inflection on the live call questioned the ump's vision, simply said, "quit showing off," injecting wit to his admirarable passion for the game. The replays of two non-catches at second base (by Ellis and Guzman) incorrectly called outs because the ump invoked the ridiculous "transfer rule" also allowed Morgan to shine; Joe had expressed doubt on both calls, and the replays confirmed his judgement.

The upstart Canadian network, The Score, began as a headline service with a ticker, and somehow circumvented their original CRTC mandate to begin providing video feeds, then live games. Production values aren't the greatest, and the studio hosts are tiresome, but their weeknight "Diamond Surfing" show was a blessing, allowing us to see live action from all over the majors. All the playoff games not shown on Fox have been scrunched into The Score's distorted aspect ratio above their ticker, but a short, wide baseball game is better than none. (I'm sure Boomer and Livan would skip a dessert or two if they saw themselves from behind on Channel 53.)

The Score plans to drop their live baseball package next year for economic reasons; terrible news for this deprived broadcast market. It may be a ploy -- wait until all the other Canadian networks pass, then grab the same rights for a lower fee -- or we may lose all our non-Blue Jays coverage, including Sunday night and Wednesday afternoon ESPN feeds, and the excellent Diamond Surfing. What a shame.

My beef with The Score is their attempt to be "hip" and interactive, asking viewers to vote, via the Internet, on all kinds of dumb polls. Not only did they ask fans which 4:00 p.m. Saturday game they wanted to see ("the one not on Fox" wasn't an option) but they have taken managerial second-guessing to new lows. Asking a small percentage of viewers (those who sit at their PCs while they watch TV) whether Ron Gardenhire should have stayed longer with Brad Radke in Game Five is hardly scientific, yet the "results" of such a poll cause the talking heads to yammer worse than usual. For the record, after allowing Dye's clutch single up the middle, on a pitch that was up, Radke fanned Justice (two previous easy outs, both on the first pitch) with a beautiful change, then almost hit Mark Ellis, but was fortunate to get him to pop up on another high pitch. Brad was done, and Gardy's decision to bring in lefty Romero to face T-Long was astute, correct and not subject to criticism. I think the "poll" blamed the skipper for a quick hook; nonsense.

Should the Score stop bothering us with inane "live" questions? Cast your vote now.