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.
Mar 26, 2015, 6:25 PM EDT
It will be Gallardo’s sixth straight Opening Day start and first as a member of the Rangers.
Mar 26, 2015, 5:32 PM EDT
Even after all of these years, baseball’s preeminent B.S. shoveler remains on top of his game.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:07 PM EDT
Which doesn’t mean that Citi Field has gotten less safe. It does mean, however, that the Mets will have a much harder job convincing people of that.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Burton had a 4.36 ERA and 46/25 K/BB ratio in 64 innings for the Twins last season.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Archer will be the first pitcher other than David Price or James Shields to start Opening Day for the Rays since 2007.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:51 PM EDT
The pitching is great and the offense should be better. But is better good enough?
Mar 26, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
“I’ve had enough of St. Louis.”
Mar 26, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
The Rays and Marlins have some challenges a lot of teams don’t.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT
We shouldn’t forget about the 28- and 29-year-olds getting sent down, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus all ranked Lindor as a top-10 overall prospect this year.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
Buck was trying to win a job with the Braves on a minor-league contract.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Saunders was acquired from the Mariners in exchange for J.A. Happ in December and will be the Blue Jays’ starting left fielder once he’s healthy.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
The country with the world’s highest murder rate is no longer a safe offseason home for many Venezuelan natives.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Delabar was an All-Star in 2013 and now he’s headed to the minors.
Shane Victorino lashes out at talk radio guys for blowing his Cole Hamels comments out of proportion
Mar 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
And, from what I can tell, he’s right to do so.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Presumably he’s done enough to get the job.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:32 AM EDT
Bonus: A-Rod talks like a scout, and sounds pretty convincing doing it!
Mar 26, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT
Our second favorite meme rides again!
Mar 26, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT
Alex Gordon still would’ve been out, by the way.
Mar 25, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was diagnosed with an oblique strain early last week, but it’s thought to be a fairly minor injury and he is expected to be ready for the beginning of the 2015 regular season.
- 2015 Preview: Seattle Mariners 12
- Cardinals add “OT” patch for Oscar Taveras 75
- 2015 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates 12
- 2015 Preview: San Diego Padres 22
- MLB is looking into some strange gambling tweets involving Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart 46
- 2015 Preview: New York Yankees 63
- 2015 Preview: Cleveland Indians 10
- Dodgers sign Cuban star Hector Olivera for $62.5 million 55
- College baseball player cut after making offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis (115)
- Ex-Cardinals outfielder Curt Ford was assaulted in St. Louis and told to “go back to Ferguson” (99)
- Joe West ejects A.J. Pierzynski by calmly telling the Braves’ dugout “you need a new catcher.” (97)
- Mo’ne Davis says college ballplayer who wrote an offensive tweet about her deserves a second chance (88)
- Andrew McCutchen cut his hair for the first time in eight years (75)