And That Happened

Braves 2, Cubs 0: Javier Vazquez somehow managed to allow no runs despite giving up nine hits and two walks in six and two-thirds. Behold! In these Cubs we have found a team more feeble when it matters most than the Braves!

Rockies 11, Angels 1: Aaron Cook now has the most wins in Rockies’ franchise history at 59, which is pretty neat, actually. Colorado has now won 17 of 18.

Athletics 5, Giants 1: I thought Jonathan Sanchez was supposed to be, like, good. He’s 2-9, has lost four in a row and has an ERA of five and a half. Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill hasn’t allowed more than three runs in an outing in over a month.

Mets 6, Cardinals 4: I know it’s great sport to make fun of announcers, and it’s even more fun to try to out-funny one another when we do it. But when I say this, please understand that there is no snark intended. There is no joke to follow. I do not offer this as a means of piling on. Really, I am being very, very serious, and I hope this is taken seriously by someone in a position to do something about it: Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Phillips — who were together on the same ESPN broadcast team for some reason — are truly wretched and should not be allowed in a broadcast booth.

I am among the biggest baseball fans on the planet. I have devoted thousands of hours over the past few years writing about it and thousands more over the course of my life watching it. I am among those who will watch baseball under almost any circumstances. Scandal. National emergency. Family emergency. You name it, and I’m still wondering when the game starts. Yet after only an inning or two of listening to these men do their best to distract me from the game with their pointless, showy commentary, I changed the channel. I watched a nine year-old “Family Guy” rerun because I could not bear to listen to these disgraces argue about how they’d pitch to Albert Pujols in such a way as to actually interfere in an Albert Pujols at bat. I could not bear to listen to them talk about the legacy of Donald Fehr with an incoherence that was surprising, even for them. I could not stand the cascading cliches, the super-hyped, super-throaty wannabe radio announcer voices, and the seeming unwillingness to let a moment pass without their voices drowning out the sounds of the ballpark and even, on occasion, the play-by-play itself. And before you say “well, I guess we won’t pair them up again,” know that they do it on their own respective broadcasts too. If these men were next to you at the ballpark or sitting on the next bar stool over going on like they do, you’d yell at them to shut up, and if they didn’t, you’d ask them to be shown the door.

ESPN, for all of your faults, you remain the premier venue of broadcast sports. How, then, you allow Major League Baseball, one of your most valuable properties, to be massacred so thoroughly by the likes of Sutcliffe and Phillips I will never know. You are actively driving fans away, ESPN. You are turning off an entire generation to a product that should, by all rights, be bulletproof. Having Sutcliffe and Phillips broadcasting baseball is the equivalent of giving away water in the desert via infomercial. Why bother? People are begging for your product, yet you seem to almost revel in assaulting them in order to get it. The only possible explanation is sadism.

I know many people who work for ESPN. Every single one of them is bright, amiable, and above all else, passionate about sports. How, then, you allow guys like Sutcliffe and Phillips to sully their efforts with their terrible, terrible work is beyond me.

ESPN: dare to give your sport, your viewers, and your employees the respect they deserve. Remove Sutcliffe and Phillips from the booth. Replace them with someone who understands that the game, and not their own mindless prattle, is the product people tune in to see and hear.


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Adam
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Adam
I can not stand Steve Phillips doing color on a game, especially when doing Mets games. Because he invariably goes off on a tangent about Beltran or David Wright. I was disappointed when ESPN let Steve Stone go and he went back to doing local games on WGN, this time for the White Sox. He is one of my favorite low key announcers. The one guy ESPN has that I really enjoy is Orel Hersheiser. I usually learn something about pitching during one of his broadcasts. I’m extremely critical of broadcasters since I grew up in WV, listening to the… Read more »
ecp
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ecp

I couldn’t abide Phillips and Sucliffe last night either, but for me, rather than switching to Family Guy, I wandered over to ESPN2 and watched the College World Series game.  Sure, it’s metal bats, but it was a great game.  And hey, the announcers were all right.

TC
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TC

I still cannot grasp why no one is willing to have a solo booth. Not anyone can be Scully, but why not replicate his format?

Kelly
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Kelly
I agree on ESPN’s repackaging of all things sports into the latest way to increase ADD and irritation in children and adults alike.  But I realized something—a few years ago, I ventured into mlb.tv which, yes, puts many of the games on my less-than-42-inch-flatscreen TV.  BUT what it allowed me to do was to have the game on while my partner watched a show she wanted to or a movie or we could even sit upstairs and read or play cards and I could just glance over at it.  I don’t think I EVER had the sound on.  Last year,… Read more »
Hizouse
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Hizouse

Craig, it is too bad you don’t get to hear one of the announcers for your favorite team, Jon Sciambi, who is very good.  He even does a decent job reining in Joe Simpson when he goes off on a tangent.  I believe Sciambi also does the national ESPN radio broadcast on Saturdays, but I haven’t heard him there.

You should not, however, regret missing Chip Caray on Peachtree TV.

Cooper Nielson
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Cooper Nielson
Amen, Craig! I tuned in the ESPN broadcast during the Pujols at-bat, then tuned-out after the Ryan Ludwick home run that happened during Phillips’(?) rant about how “I’m not scared of Ryan Ludwick.” My schadenfreude sensors were firing then, let me tell you. I agree with you, the thing that bugs me SO MUCH about Phillips (I haven’t paid much attention to Suckcliffe) is that he just talks on and on about his own agenda, and almost never talks about the game in front of him. First of all, why does a color guy have an “agenda”; second, how in… Read more »
Leo
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Leo
Ooooooooooh boy.  Craig, you lost me at “Joe Morgan is fine.”  I, too, think Sutcliffe is useless.  I think Phillips, when he started this gig, did a good job of lending a unique perspective.  How many other color guys were actual GMs? None.  But he has regressed. With that said, I guess I should rephrase my question to ask if you people like any other color guys.  What makes a good color guy?  What should they do?  Can we formulate an ideal color guy by taking chunks of people we like?  What would an objective job description for color guy… Read more »
Wells
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Wells

ecp- I too watched Texas/LSU in the CWS- fantastic game. However, I really found myself wishing Mike Patrick would just shut his trap for a few seconds. That guy bulldozed through everything with some comment or another. Orel & Ventura were fine; Patrick not so much. He should stick to the NFL where for some reason the blather isn’t as offensive.

Texas/LSU game #2 tonight!

Wooden U. Lykteneau
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Wooden U. Lykteneau
ESPN, for all of your faults, you remain the premier venue of broadcast sports. Craig – All due respect, but the evidence does not support this delusion. ESPN has put style over substance for nearly 20 years now, starting with Dick Vitale, the used-car salesmen who allegedly was once a respected college coach Once he became the face of ESPN’s signature product in the 1990s, college basketball, the slide started and it became a requirement to develop a catch phrase, a la Chris “No Talent” Berman. Sure, Berman came before Vitale, but you could stomach his puns when he was… Read more »
themarksmith
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themarksmith

I agree with Kelly. I have MLB.tv, and my dad, a Cardinals fan, would rather watch the Braves game on there then watch ESPN. Sciambi does a really good job. Joe Simpson is, well, an old ex-player who contributes a bit, but sometimes, you have no idea what he’s talking about. Get it quick. Hanson pitches against the Yankees tonight.

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

I also meant to add that with mlb.tv and a flatscreen, i bought one of those LCD projector cords so if it’s a big game I really want to watch, I just hook the laptop to the TV and voila.  But that may be just the definition of “baseball addict” so forget I said anything.

Sam
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Sam
Phillips is awful, terrible GM made terrible announcer. I love baseball and am generaly somewhat knowledgeable about most of the well know SABR metrics but I do not expect the announcers to try to teach or really talk about more advance measurements on the air. I also do not expect them to belittle and degrade that which they are too dumb or ignorant, I really don’t know where Joe Morgan falls on this, to understand. At the very least why OBP > AVG is a simple discussion, the fact that a walk is better then an out really is a… Read more »
hermitfool
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hermitfool
Last time I checked Pete Van Wieren was still retired.  Joe Morgan has an announcing job and Pete Van Wieren doesn’t. How can this be? Morgan, who always develops a theme early in the broadcast, say the need to manufacture runs or be consistent, and then drones on and on with that theme throughout the evening unless the home viewer takes the easy way out and kicks in his TV screen, that Joe Morgan has a job. Why? Because he’s a Hall of Fame jock and the producers at ESPN don’t believe the game of baseball is interesting without layering… Read more »
themarksmith
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themarksmith

Kelly,

I do the same thing. But can you get it to take up the entire screen? Mine takes up most of it, but I can never get it to take up the entire TV screen. I hit Fn+F8 (which switches the monitors). Any suggestions?

APBA Guy
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APBA Guy
Wow- Too bad you all didn’t get Jon Miller hosting Ray Fosse along with Mike Krukow like we did here in NorCal. To this day the thing I blame Angelos for the most is his running Jon Miller back to San Francisco. Thanks! The beauty in the telecast was not just the pairing of ex pitcher and catcher, but the subtlety of the barbs between the color guys for the A’s (Fosse) and the Giants (Krukow). The telecast was on a Giants station so the two guys dressed as McGwire and Canseco holding a replica of the World Series trophy… Read more »
MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio
In the past ten years ESPN has been putting a greater emphasis on the Entertainment component of their name and less on the Sport component and has followed MTV lead by leaving the programming that got them popular in the first place (e.g. reality programming rules over music videos).  I seldomly watch ESPN for sports news as I pop into ESPNews to get news and highlights and then head to MLB tv for baseball commentary, Versus for hockey and the Golf Channel.  Seldomly do I watch ESPN for anything more than game coverage and often with the volume down as… Read more »
Michael
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Michael
As a Cubs fan, I listen to Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, and they work well together and I love both their work, especially Len’s.  I’m grateful to have Joe Carter and Chip Caray gone, but I do miss Steve Stone, and I’m still mad at the Cubs for causing a rift with him. ESPN really is for the casual fan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them intelligent, insightful announcers instead of showboats.  Their ridiculous announcing is unacceptable, and so is the nonsense Joe Morgan and Jon Miller spout out.  Miller’s someone who hasn’t been noted yet that… Read more »
Brian
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Brian

I couldn’t agree more Craig. There’s absolutely too much talking during baseball games that it truly is distracting. I never understood why ESPN thought Sunday Night Baseball needed a third broadcaster, especially Phillips.

Nothing is more annoying than listening to conversations about whether or not Manny should be allowed to rehab while he’s suspended while watching an amazing play in the background. Vin Scully is really the gold standard. He usually completes his thoughts before the pitcher steps on the rubber, and rarely talks over actual game action. Basically he talks as if he’s a batter or a base runner.

Steve A
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Steve A
I don’t mind announcers that focus on the game in front of them.  Yes, there are bad announcers, but if they’re talking about the game they’re announcing, then at least I can push them to the back of my head.  I can turn them into voiceover guys more than information givers, if that makes sense.  However, the ESPN craptastic duo of Sut and Phillips is unlistenable.  Their meandering commentary on everything BUT the game takes so much away from trying to watch it. My other beef with ESPN baseball coverage is their overreliance on the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox… Read more »
Michael
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Michael

Craig, let me paint a nightmare scenario for you:

Phillips, Sutcliffe, Morgan and Chris Berman.

The only thing saving us from that is likely that ESPN tried it in a simulated game, and kept blowing out the sound mixer.

But take heart: Tim McCarver won’t live forever, and I would say Sutcliffe and Phillips are competing for that job right now, so at least one will be offloaded to Fox where I’m used to watching with the sound down anyway.

TC
Guest
TC

APBA Guy:

“The beauty in the telecast was not just the pairing of ex pitcher and catcher, but the subtlety of the barbs between the color guys for the A’s (Fosse) and the Giants (Krukow).”

SUBTLE INTERPLAY BETWEEN COLOR COMMENTATORS?!  I don’t believe it. 

APBA Guy is lying to us, everyone.

Adrian K
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Adrian K

Don’t, since the demise of the glorious Channel 5 baseball coverage ( come back JG and JC ) I have had to put up with day old ESPN highlights on Setanta at midnight.
Sound down, beer in hand.
I don’t know to cheer or not that Setanta have gone bust and ESPN have snaffled up one third of the Premier League live footie games.
Who in the name of sanity are they going to pick to present them?

Rory
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Rory

Sorry to pick nits—but it was Mets 6 Cards 4…

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Rory—that’s hardly a nit!  Thanks.  I was so caught up in my rant that I completely confounded the score.

Ron
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Ron

Adrian, you need to get the mlb.tv package. It’s worth the £15 a month, and you get to pick the audio feed you want, if not always the video one.

Craig, how many reasons now for the extra innings package? Will Shyster Wife cave at 1000?

Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra

I don’t know; she likes Family Guy more than baseball, so this rant may actually have been counterproductive for me.

I think her rule still holds, however: I can get it if and when writing about baseball becomes my full time job and thus disappearing down the baseball rabbit hole every evening is at least arguably justified. I can’t say I blame her for taking such a position.

MJ
Guest
MJ

I don’t know to cheer or not that Setanta have gone bust and ESPN have snaffled up one third of the Premier League live footie games.
Who in the name of sanity are they going to pick to present them?

Considering it’s only 30 something games from ‘10-‘11 and ‘12-13, I’m sure they’ll have some combination of Tommie Smith and/or Derek Rae doing the games.  As long as it’s not Harkes and JP Dellacamera, I’m excited.  Granted I’m sure they’ll still be showing the games at 2:30 when everyone and the world is still at work, grr

Andy H.
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Andy H.

I have MLB network, and watched Sandy Koufax shut out the Twins in Game 7 of the ‘65 World Series.

Jason @ IIATMS
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Jason @ IIATMS
The MLB Network has become my go-to, as well.  And yes, I sat with my son and watched an inning of the ‘65 World Series, too.  “Jake, lookit!  It’s Sandy Koufax versus Tony Oliva.  Watch for the curve.  Watch for the curve!” I still check in on BBTN on ESPN but I’ve gotten sick with it.  They are trying to be like every other news organization with people standing in front of monitors, awkwardly, instead of at a desk.  So you have a 6’6” Winfield next to a 5’10” round Kruk or an even smaller Karl Ravich.  Like bring your… Read more »
dtro
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dtro

Here, Here Craig! I haven’t watched an ESPN baseball broadcast since the fateful day when Steve Phillips explained to me why Carlos Beltran was the worst baseball player/human being in history.

In fact, I have consciously tried to avoid ESPN in general since baseball is my favorite sport and they actively try to ruin my enjoyment of it. They have mostly lost a viewer in me and I hope that their continued mistreatment of the national pastime costs them more ratings.

Howell
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Howell
Maybe it’s just me but I can’t stand to watch any of the baseball TV shows anymore. I don’t need to hear more mindless prattle about how some team wanted it more, or how people caring about stats is ruining the game. It seems like every time I turn on the TV to watch BBTN or whatever the MLB Network equivalent is my senses are under assault. Even when they bother to talk about something like PECOTA, they give you 3 ex-players talking about how stats don’t mean anything. It’s a waste. There are maybe 5 major league teams that… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

I don’t even mind that stuff—at least not too much—on the studio shows. At least those are supposed to be venues for talking about games.  The booth, however, should not be turned into a talk show.  It strikes me that every ESPN-broadcast game comes prepackaged with “storylines” for discussion by the announcers, often with only a tangential relationship to the game.

How about this: discuss the game on the field. If the game on the field inspires another topic, great, but let the damn game lead, OK?

Wade
Guest
Wade

Certainly a channel-changing pair in Sutcliffe and Phillips, but can I get some of that not-love for McCarver too?  Yeah, yeah, he wasn’t yapping it up last night, but jeez-o-peet.  Somebody put him outta my misery, already.  Set him adrift on a boat with Sutcliffe and Phillips.

Have a good Tuesday everybody.

Rob²
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Rob²

Sutcliffe and Phillips in the same booth?  Did that make four people trying to get their words in edgewise?

Leo
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Leo

Are there any good announcers out there?

John_Michael
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John_Michael
Craig:  We can both agree that the standard ESPN baseball hosts are not something that “hardcore”/knowledgeable fans find appealing, but in your own words, ”I am among those who will watch baseball under almost any circumstances.”   Because of your (our) passion for the game, the attrition risk of your respective fan segment is quite low. I believe ESPN is more of a marketing company than a sports news company.  They make money by catering to the casual fan who is just learning, for example, why OBP > AVG.  ESPN has a responsibility to their investors to create a product… Read more »
Josh in DC
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Josh in DC

Bravo! Bravo!

The absolute REFUSAL of many announcers to talk about the game in front of them is an insult to all fans of the game.  Sutcliffe can turn ANY discussion into a treatise on Derek Jeter.  Chip Carey (at least on TBS) can’t let go of Manny Ramirez during Red Sox games.  (Little known fact: The Sox won two World Series with him.)

And the INCESSANT belittling of statistical analysis is like listening to a 16th Century dentist tell me that leaches are good for me.

Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra
Leo:  Many. I’d say most of the play-by-play guys I hear, be it on ESPN, local and RSN networks and radio broadcasts do a pretty good job.  They convey the info, they have pleasant enough voices, and they usually don’t get in the way.  There are even many color commentators who do OK.  This may be shocking, but I think Joe Morgan is fine. Not because he necessarily brings anything to the party—he’s demonstrably wrong about so many things—but at least he doesn’t actively distract fromt he game. His voice is relatively low key, and while his points aren’t necessarily… Read more »
Mike
Guest
Mike

Good Lord, did anyone see BBTN a few days ago when Kruk and Kurkjian were arguing about what was harder, golf or baseball?? It was absolutely atrocious, contrived crap that even those two couldn’t hide their contempt for having to do it.

I also agree that Orel is probably the best they have. Sut doesn’t bother me as much just because he’s kind of like the drunk uncle going on and on. There is some strange comfort to it.

ms. met
Guest
ms. met
i agree completely.  I am a woman.  I love the mets.  I love ron, keith and gary on SNY.  they increase my enjoyment of watching the game with my husband.  I learn from them, and laugh with them, and i don’t mind watching 4/5 games a week with them.  on the other hand, I cannot watch ESPN games.  I always want to watch family guy instead.  the commentary is boring and incoherent.  they never talk about what’s going on in the game… and they definitely alienate both the hard core fan (my husband) and the regular fan (me).  i couldn’t… Read more »
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