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.
Jul 24, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
The Mariners brought back Kendrys Morales in a deal with the Twins today, but they aren’t done attempting to upgrade.
Jul 24, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
The Phillies appear ready to move on from Ryan Howard.
Jul 24, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman continues to stay busy.
Jul 24, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT
Zach Putnam has had a share of the closer role with the White Sox in recent weeks, but now he’s headed to the 15-day disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Before the injury Correa was having an excellent season, hitting .325 with 20 steals in 62 games at high Single-A as a 19-year-old.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT
It’s been bad in Philly. Is it starting to get ugly?
Jul 24, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka is supposed to rest for six weeks before doctors determine if he needs Tommy John elbow surgery, but 10 days into the process things aren’t going well.
Jul 24, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT
Jul 24, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Frank Thomas is headed to the Hall of Fame thanks to his legendary batting eye.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Everyone has a gift. This is my gift. I shall now share it with you.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
According to K-HOU television in Houston the 46-year-old Knoblauch has been charged with assault of a family member, Cheri Knoblauch, whom he divorced in 2012.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT
Kendrys Morales had a good first week for the Twins after sitting out the first two months of the season and then signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal in June, but he’s been horrendous since then while hitting .209 with one homer and a .524 OPS in 33 games.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Dan Haren finished last season strong for the Nationals, signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers this offseason, and got off to a nice start in Los Angeles.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
And it provides us with an opportunity to think about what it means to be a Hall of Fame manager.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT
Taijuan Walker rejoined Seattle’s rotation Wednesday after spending most of the season on the disabled list and at Triple-A, but after struggling in his start against the Mets the Mariners have sent the 21-year-old rookie back to the minors.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Not exactly a big trade, but whatever.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT
Oakland acquiring Jim Johnson from Baltimore and agreeing to pay him $10 million this season left a lot of people shaking their heads and now the move is officially a spectacular failure. And over, too.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
When the Tigers signed Joel Hanrahan in May they were hoping the former All-Star closer would be ready to return from Tommy John elbow surgery by the All-Star break, but he hasn’t progressed as planned and now they’re not hoping for much of anything.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT
Who is buying? Who is selling? Who is on the block? And is next week’s trade deadline really a deadline?
- The eyes have it: Thomas’ greatness built on patience 9
- Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams 141
- Mariners re-acquire Kendrys Morales from Twins for Stephen Pryor 19
- A’s designate $10 million reliever Jim Johnson for assignment 34
- Everything you need to know about next week’s trade deadline 33
- Impending free agent Jon Lester won’t talk contract with the Red Sox until after the season 19
- Ten years ago today the Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek brawl changed the narrative of the Sox-Yankees rivalry 87
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 30
- Verducci: baseball should think about an “illegal defense” rule to combat shifts (162)
- Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams (143)
- Luke Scott released from Korean team after calling coach a “liar” and a “coward” (108)
- Yankees acquire Chase Headley from Padres (108)
- Who is the next Face of Baseball? (97)