Nov 9, 2010, 6:58 AM EDT
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.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:32 PM EDT
Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick is serving as the Phillies’ interim president and CEO while David Montgomery recovers from surgery for jaw cancer and chatted with reporters at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday for the first time since assuming the gig.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is batting just .210/.295/.240 since the beginning of August and newly-promoted prospect Joc Pederson is starting over him on Tuesday night against the Nationals. Which gives you some context for this string of tweets from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times …
Sep 2, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton picked up his 35th home run of the season and 100th and 101st RBI with this blast to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday night in Miami …
Sep 2, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT
It’s usually an honor reserved for players who have recently had their number retired, or been elected to the Hall of Fame, or died. But the Yankees want to sell some merchandise, people …
Sep 2, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT
MLB.com’s Scott Merkin wrote last month that there was a “better-than-average” chance of left-hander Carlos Rodon — who was selected third overall in this year’s draft — joining the White Sox as a September callup. But it’s not going to happen.
Sep 2, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
Chris Owings and A.J. Pollock are back with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday after lengthy disabled list stints.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
It’s particularly rough timing, as Milwaukee hosts a four-game series with St. Louis beginning Thursday.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Michael Wacha’s recovery from a shoulder injury has gone so well that the Cardinals just announced he’ll come off the disabled list to start Thursday against the Brewers.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Before being shut down in mid-July the 25-year-old rookie from Japan went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts, including a 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT
If it weren’t for expanded rosters for September, he’d probably be on the DL.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Morrow has been exclusively a starter for Toronto since 2010, including what looked at the time like a breakout season as a starter in 2012.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Wrap your head around THAT for a second.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Young flopped with the Mets on a one-year, $7.25 million deal.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Not too many managers seem to be on the hot seat. Part of that is because being a manager today is very different than it was back in the day.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
Bring out yer dead!
Sep 2, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT
Raburn struggled mightily before going on the DL, hitting .173 in 70 games after playing well enough in a part-time role last season that Cleveland handed him a two-year contract extension.
Sep 2, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
From a baseball to a slip of paper to a giant statue of the biggest baseball star who ever lived.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
Please keep in mind that the Twins are currently in last place at 60-77 following three consecutive 95-loss seasons and only the Astros have fewer total wins since 2011.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Polanco went 4-for-26 (.153) during his brief demotion and was in a nasty two-month slump before being sent down, hitting just .204 with a .564 in his last 40 games.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Toronto transferred infielder Brett Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the active roster before the season ends.
- Carlos Gomez diagnosed with sprained wrist 3
- Michael Wacha to start Thursday for the Cardinals 4
- We’re not going to pretend that Bo Porter had no idea what he was getting into, are we? 51
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 50
- The Cardinals have moved ahead of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central 37
- No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves 61
- Bo Porter fired by the Astros 56
- Settling the Score: Sunday’s results — and a reminder of what Labor Day is all about 48
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. (221)
- Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card (104)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (101)
- Baseball is dying, you guys, because no one would recognize Mike Trout in a bar (76)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (75)