Nov 9, 2010, 6:58 AM EST
I was reading a great interview of “Bloom County” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed yesterday, and came to the following exchange:
RUSSELL: The Internet’s biggest impact on culture has been the fragmentation of discourse — there’s no one central album or TV show or comic strip that’s a universal discussion point any more. How blessed do you feel for having gotten out of the game before that fragmentation really set in?
BREATHED: Your question is my answer. Blessed. The last hurrah. People think that things will unravel with rising sea levels. I happen to think that it’s because we won’t all ever be humming the same song at the same time around the country… or laughing at the same cartoon.
I found myself nodding my head because I realized that, no, I don’t read the same comics as everyone else anymore. I don’t watch the same shows. I don’t listen to the same music. If I didn’t work from home I wouldn’t be able to stand at the water cooler and discuss whatever the current version is of last night’s “Seinfeld,” because there isn’t such a beast anymore.
It’s not that I’m hip and have rarefied tastes. Even those of us with awful taste have our own niche interests these days thanks to the Internet and iTunes and Netflix and hundreds upon hundreds of TV channels at our disposal. There just isn’t as much room for consensus on pop culture as there used to be. The only exceptions are a handful of reality shows.
Oh, and sports. Sports have to be one of the last great common meeting places, because why else would the news that ESPN was kicking Jon Miller and Joe Morgan to the curb make for such a common discussion point last night? Maybe it’s only consensus within a niche, but everyone in this little niche of baseball had an opinion on the news last night. For all of our localized rooting interests and TV work-arounds like MLB.tv or watching games with the sound down and the Twitter feed providing silent commentary, we all pretty much watched Morgan and Miller on Sunday Night Baseball because, hell, what else are we gonna watch? “Desperate Housewives?”
And in keeping with the consensus of watching those two, there’s a consensus on ESPN’s decision to end their run: mild disappointment that Miller won’t be calling the games anymore, but considerable happiness that Morgan won’t be providing the commentary. Not surprising. Miller is one of the best around. Morgan, well, we all know about him.
Here I break a little from the consensus. I agree that Miller was fantastic. I like his announcing style. I like his voice. I even like his corny humor. Most of all, I think he rises to the appropriate level at dramatic moments — high enough to make it clear that something big is going on, but not so big that he’d have you believe that history was being made every other damn play — and keeps things moving along. To the extent he ever found himself in the weeds it was because he was dutifully trying to retrieve some rhetorical ball Morgan sliced in there.
About Morgan: I take no issue with any of the specific criticisms of the guy. As has been painstakingly chronicled on FJM and countless other websites, he seemed aggressively ignorant calling games at times, unwilling to acknowledge that any given bit of old school conventional baseball wisdom could be wrong or that any bit of new thinking — sabermetrics or otherwise — could have any insights. This is not uncommon, or course, as many broadcasters are resistant to such things. But it was particularly galling from Morgan, because every account I’ve ever read about the man personally talks about how sharp he is, and everything about Joe Morgan the player suggests that he was among the smartest baseball players to ever play the game.
Indeed, Bill James even once determined that Morgan had the highest baseball I.Q. in history, measured in terms of on-field decision making when it comes to things like base running, defensive positioning, when to swing and when not to swing, etc. Stuff that takes thought and strategy as opposed to pure athleticism. Stuff to which Morgan, as a commentator, was consistently hostile. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine Morgan the announcer disdainfully discounting the skills of Morgan the player, and that’s what made us tear our hair out listening to the guy. In large part because we all suspected that he knew better and was taking contrarian positions rather than saying what he believed. We all felt, didn’t we, that if we found Morgan sitting next to us in a bar that he’d give us a wink and let us know that, no, he did not believe that a double was better than a home run because “home runs kill rallies.”
All of that said, I depart a bit from my fellow baseball fans when it comes to my reaction to the news of Joe Morgan’s departure from Sunday Night Baseball. To be clear: it was a good move for ESPN to go in another direction. New blood is needed and I certainly won’t miss him. But at the same time, I can’t bring myself to join in to all of that “ding dong the witch is dead” nonsense I read all around the baseball web last night. Morgan annoyed me, but never so much that I’d celebrate his departure. Mostly because, for as wrong as he could be at times, he was fairly easy to ignore. His voice wasn’t assaulting. He didn’t inject his commentary at the wrong times. He didn’t distract us from the game going on in front of us. He’d occasionally offer some good insights to go along with the bad stuff. In fact, it was often exciting to hear him say something insightful, because it was like catching someone trying to get away with something.
The point is, Morgan was never an announcer that would keep me from watching a game or who would cause me to turn off the sound. And believe me, there are a lot of guys who are that way. Guys who call baseball like they’re watching football games. Guys who seem to be paid by the cliche. Guys who think that Every. Single. Thing. That. Happens. On. A. Baseball. Diamond. Has. To. Be. Analyzed. Guys who, as they do all of that, have voices of annoying pitch and cadence who make watching a baseball game a hostile experience. Indeed, after catching some of them during midweek games, it was almost refreshing to ease into a Miller-Morgan broadcast because, even if it wasn’t fabulous, it wasn’t openly assaulting like a lot of guys I could name but won’t.
Damning with faint praise? Nah, because my point isn’t to praise Joe Morgan. Like I said: not good, and better gone. But I do think some perspective is due here. Morgan was not the worst guy calling games. Not by a longshot. He even had some charms. I can’t help but think that if, at some point, maybe 15 years ago, an ESPN producer sat down and tried to work with him to reign in his worst excesses he even could have developed into a good commentator. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but not a gigantic one.
The point: I think the reaction to his dismissal, like that to his commentary itself, is a bit overblown.
Dec 9, 2013, 12:53 PM EST
According to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, free agent Jeff Francouer recently had LASIK surgery and has decided to go to a lighter bat in an attempt to salvage his career. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Francoeur finished last season out of the league after being let go by the Giants in late August. On the heels of a…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:40 PM EST
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote a fascinating article about the Mariners’ dysfunctional front office, featuring vicious quotes from former manager Eric Wedge and former assistant to the general manager Tony Blengino. And now general manager Jack Zduriencik has issued a statement in response. It’s too long to reprint in its entirety–you can get…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Along the same lines as David Price‘s tweet about female drivers right before Thanksgiving, here’s Logan Morrison just now: I dont think Rachel ray is attractive. Then she started cooking, got slightly attractive. she stopped cooking. she stopped being attractive — Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 9, 2013 Sigh. (Last year Morrison tweeted criticizing mothers for…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
You won’t be shocked to hear that baseball’s union leaders, past and present, issued statements late this morning condemning the Veteran’s Committee for not electing Marvin Miller. First up, current MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark: “Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Roy Halladay‘s shoulder let him down in the end, but not until after one of the best 10-year runs in memory. From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards and finished second twice more. During that…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers have contacted the Rays to discuss a potential David Price trade. But don’t get too excited, as Hernandez says the Dodgers “don’t plan to aggressively pursue Price” because they don’t want to completely deplete their farm system. Still, you can’t count the Dodgers out…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
Three years ago Roy Halladay was arguably the best pitcher in the National League, going 19-6 with a 2.36 ERA while finishing runner-up in the Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw after winning the award the previous season. And now, as Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly tweeted, Halladay is retiring at age 36 after struggling…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
I think Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are no-brainer Hall of Famers. Congrats to them and to the Committee for voting them in. I think that the rest of the Hall of Fame ballot contained mostly borderline selections. I’d vote for Ted Simmons. I’d consider Steinbrenner for historic reasons. But I shed…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Jorge Cantu, who played eight seasons in the majors, has signed a one-year deal with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization. According to the Yonhap News Agency he’ll earn $250,000 up front, plus another $50,000 in potential incentives, which is about the middle ground between what he’d earn at Triple-A in America and…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:20 AM EST
This should super-charge the Matt Kemp trade speculation: Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d “be surprised” if the outfielder isn’t traded by the Dodgers. “I haven’t heard a player’s name floated around like that and something not happen,” Stewart noted, adding that “Matt wants to be a…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:14 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — For the first time in a long time we have living, breathing inductees for the Hall of Fame. The Veteran’s Committee has elected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. They will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown. La Russa – unanimously elected by the sixteen member Veteran’s Committee…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Yesterday we learned that Orel Hershisher is leaving ESPN to take a job broadcasting Dodgers games. Because, for some reason, ESPN thinks that a three-man booth is good for baseball (it isn’t) they felt obligated to fill Hershiser’s spot. And because, for some reason, ESPN thinks Curt Schilling is someone people want to listen to…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:19 AM EST
Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reports that ”teams are pushing Chicago to consider” trading Chris Sale. Intriguing, but it seems to me unlikely. Mostly because I have found it useful in life to go back to the idea that if people keep telling you that you should do something you weren’t already considering, it’s more in their best interests…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:59 AM EST
Tim McCarver retired as Fox’s leading analyst after the World Series. But he’s not dropping the mic just yet: Fox Sports Midwest is about to hire him to do a limited number of Cardinals games next season. The idea is for him to do 20-25 games, with opportunities coming as a result of an expected reduction…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:56 AM EST
The Hall of Fame will gain a few members later this morning as the Veteran’s Committee will vote on inductions this morning. The official announcement will take place at 10AM. The nominees: Dave Concepcion Bobby Cox Steve Garvey Tommy John Tony La Russa Billy Martin Marvin Miller Dave Parker Dan Quisenberry Ted Simmons George Steinbrenner…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:40 AM EST
Munson. Martin. Mariano. Mattingly. Mandela. Wait, what? During a triumphant visit by Nelson Mandela to New York in June 1990, shortly after he had been released from a South African prison, one of his most memorable stops was a rally and concert at Yankee Stadium, where he put on a team cap and jacket and proclaimed, “I am…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:50 PM EST
Though Chase Headley‘s name has been found in trade rumors every now and then, you can expect him to stay in San Diego for the time being, writes Bill Shaikin for the L.A. Times. Headley is eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time and is expected to get a bump over last year’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:55 PM EST
Speaking to the media earlier today, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he expects to start the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, tweets Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. The Mets were reportedly interested in Jhonny Peralta before he signed with the Cardinals. With Stephen Drew leading the class of remaining free agent shortstops, the…
Dec 8, 2013, 9:00 PM EST
You’re never too old to start learning how to play first base. Delmon Young, shockingly only 28 years old, has never played a single inning at first base in his entire professional baseball career, but he has been working out at the position lately in order to make himself more attractive as a free agent,…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:10 PM EST
CC Sabathia was among the many observers shocked to learn that second baseman Robinson Cano will be donning a Mariners uniform, rather than Yankee pinstripes, when the 2014 regular season begins. Sabathia had been Cano’s teammate for five years, ever since he signed a seven-year, $161 million contract to join the Yankees on December 11,…
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- Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB 46
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