Broadcasting for Stupid People
At some point every year I complain about the fact that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver broadcast MLB’s Game of the Week. This is the one opportunity every week for baseball fans to watch two top teams play on free TV, yet they are subjected to Buck/McCarver’s lame humor, painfully obvious “inside baseball” comments and other baloney.
I caught the last inning and half of today’s Cardinals/Rangers game. Two top teams playing — great baseball, terrible announcing. It didn’t take long for Tim McCarver, a man who almost certainly knows more about professional baseball than 99.9% of the U.S. population, to say something that annoyed me.
Veteran closer Joe Nathan came in to pitch the ninth in a save situation. McCarver, in giving Nathan’s bone fides, said something about Nathan’s “big break” coming when the Twins acquired him. What nonsense! As if the Twins trading for him had anything to do with Nathan developing into a great closer.
Giants’ fans know that Nathan was a hot prospect who regressed for a couple of seasons due to wildness and shoulder problems. He came back from it, and in 2003 at age 28, he went 12-4 for the Giants with a 2.96 ERA and a pitching line of 79 IP, 51 hits, seven HRs and 33 walks allowed and 83 Ks.
In short, Nathan was all the way back from his shoulder problems, had developed command and was poised to become a great relief pitcher. However, the Giants needed/wanted a catcher and traded Nathan, along with Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano, for A.J. Pierzynski and cash. Pierzynski had hit .300 or better two years in a row and was not yet 27 when the trade took place. It takes talent to get talent.
Why did the Twins trade Pierzynski? Because he’s a dick. Why did the Giants get rid of Pierzynski after only one season? Because he’s a dick.
There’s more to it than that. Pierzynski, a left-handed hitter, not surprisingly hit a lot worse playing his home games in the now-named AT&T Park in 2004 than he did in the Metrodome in 2003. He also hit into an ugly 27 double plays in his one season for the Giants.
Even so, he was a young and decent hitting catcher who could play every day. The main reason the Giants got rid of him, at least in my opinion, is because of an incident when he reportedly kicked the Giants’ trainer in the nuts. Maybe the story is true, maybe it isn’t, but it seems fairly certain that Pierzynski was very unpopular in the clubhouse. The Giants under General Manager Brian Sabean, and for that matter the Twins for the last generation, highly value team cohesion.
As everyone well knows, Pierzynski moved on with great success to the Chicago White Sox, a team where a Polish-named catcher who reputedly kicks trainers in the nuts is more highly valued.
At any rate, everyone was surprised at just how good Joe Nathan became. However, anyone with a brain knew that Nathan was the principal piece in a trade for a .300 hitting catcher at the time the November 2003 deal was made. The Twins didn’t have much to do with Nathan’s success. If the Giants had held on to him, his pitching would have eventually compelled the Giants to make him their closer.
An example of pitcher who benefited from a change of scenery? There are many, but one that comes immediately to mind is Santiago Casilla. He was a marginal major leaguer for the Oakland A’s, despite pitching his home games in a park even friendlier to pitchers than AT&T. However, after the Giants signed him as a free agent in the winter of 2009/10, he almost immediately developed into one of the best set-up men in the National League.
I’m not sure what turned him around, although I think his pitching style was much more suited to the senior circuit. AT&T Park may also be a tougher park to hit the ball out of than the O.co Coliseum, which inhibits offense more by its enormous expanses of foul territory.
My criticisms of Tim McCarver are sometimes nit-picking, but it’s something that has built up over time like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Why, after so many years of lame commentary are baseball fans still subjected to having to sit through Joe Buck and Tim McCarver making the Game of the Week so much less enjoyable than it would otherwise be? Thank goodness for the mute button.