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.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
We interrupt this regular old Tuesday night to inform you that Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is working on a perfect game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. He has not allowed a hit or a walk through seven innings and he’s thrown just 78 pitches despite striking out nine Colorado hitters. Updates to come.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took a round of batting practice on Tuesday night at Double-A Springfield and has been cleared to catch five or six innings there Wednesday in his first minor league rehab game.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
He didn’t cover very much ground before the dive, but A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes saved a couple of runs with this two-out grab in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday at Houston’s Minute Maid Park …
Aug 26, 2014, 9:23 PM EDT
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen returned in just 15 days from an avulsion fracture in his left rib cage and had hit three home runs in six games since being activated from the disabled list. But he aggravated the injury on this catch against the outfield wall in the third inning Tuesday versus St. Louis …
Aug 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EDT
Joey Votto is finally beginning to make some progress in his recovery from a severe quad strain. According to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, the Reds first baseman began taking dry swings and throwing lightly on Tuesday afternoon.
Aug 26, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
Watch as Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo reaches 30 home runs for the first time in his young career with this moonshot to the right-center field seats at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park …
Aug 26, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro flew home to the Dominican Republic last Wednesday following the death of his cousin and three close friends in a car wreck. He is back in the Cubs’ lineup Tuesday, having been activated from the bereavement list.
Aug 26, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
From Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star comes word that Yordano Ventura has been scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start against the Twins due to stiffness around the middle of his back. Liam Hendriks will pitch in his place.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
Not so long ago Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was on the hot seat–and rightfully so, after four consecutive losing seasons–but then he broke the bank for Robinson Cano this offseason and now the Mariners are 71-59.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
Mark Cuban may have good reason not to like Bud Selig. But if he’s going to go after him, he should at least do so with facts, not fantasy.
Aug 26, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT
Recently there have been conflicting reports about the status of David Wright’s injured shoulder, but the Mets third baseman is out of the lineup tonight for the second straight game and admitted that he’s still hurting.
Aug 26, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Here at the end of his tenure, baseball is closer to Selig’s nirvana than perhaps ever before.
Aug 26, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Get used to a lot more Robbie Ray, Tigers fans.
Aug 26, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Twins prospect Byron Buxton missed the first two-plus months of the season following a spring training wrist injury and missed the final two weeks of the season following a concussion suffered during a gruesome-looking outfield collision.
Aug 26, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Acquired from the Reds this offseason after posting a .360 on-base percentage through his first seven seasons in the majors, Hanigan hit just .212 with a .309 on-base percentage in 61 games before the injury.
Aug 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Giancarlo Stanton may be the NL’s MVP this year. But he may be in the AL as soon as next year.
Aug 26, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
No reason was given. Probably because there’s no justification for not upholding the protest.
Aug 26, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Jason Giambi has been out since June with left knee inflammation and has played just 15 games for the Indians all season, but now the 43-year-old designated hitter has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment.
ESPN’s Calvin Watkins doubles down on his Yu Darvish nonsense. Also fails to understand how the DL works.
Aug 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
In which an ESPN analyst apparently believes that the disabled list is like the NFL’s injured reserve.
Aug 26, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton is off the disabled list after missing the past three weeks with a strained oblique muscle.
- Andrew McCutchen departs game versus Cardinals after aggravating injured left rib cage 2
- Mariners extend general manager Jack Zduriencik’s contract 12
- Money, money, money (and Bud Selig’s nirvana) 14
- These days, the correlation between payroll and winning is historically weak 60
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 49
- Report: Cubs calling up top prospect outfielder Jorge Soler 40
- Shin-Soo Choo to undergo season-ending bone spur surgery on elbow 13
- Bartolo Colon and Scott Feldman clear revocable waivers; eligible to be traded to any team 22
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare (247)
- Forgiveness for Pete Rose? Not in this lifetime (142)
- Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million (96)
- A pitch clock in Major League Baseball? No thanks. (92)
- Even if he’s reinstated, does Pete Rose make the Hall of Fame? (89)