Nov. 1, 2007: Postseason Coverage Falls Flat
No one likes a skunk at a party -- the dour host who starts vacuuming the living room before even half the guests have departed -- but as the 2007 Major League Baseball season winds down, I’m feeling mighty prickly about the television and print reporters and analysts who have covered the postseason.
Let’s concede that the most irritating TBS commercials during the playoffs featured that comically impaired guy named Frank and consider for a moment a better, if too-often repeated, advertisement, a spoof on hop-scotching outfielder Kenny Lofton, last seen as a member of the Cleveland Indians. (By the way, guess my prediction that the Tribe would win the World Series a few weeks ago was about as prescient as those O’s fans last April who were convinced Daniel Cabrera was on the verge of a breakout campaign.) The DHL spot was pretty funny, as Lofton’s belongings are shipped from city to city while the rumormongers in the media are left befuddled about his eventual destination.
Translation: There’s too much information, whether in the papers, the tube or online about sports in general, and baseball in particular. Don’t be mistaken; as a lifelong fan who remembers a time when NBC’s “Game of the Week” was the only opportunity -- aside from the World Series -- to see teams from outside your city, I’m grateful for ESPN and the cable package that for a reasonable price gives a consumer access to more than 10 games a day. A sensible response to this glut of baseless speculation, blogs that are incomprehensible, bereft of proper grammar and sometimes obscene, and television commentators like TBS’ Chip Caray and MASN’s Gary Thorne -- who can’t get through an inning without making a factual mistake -- is to mute the tube and simply read the box scores the next day. Unfortunately, especially at this time of year, this fan takes it all in.
And it’s not pretty. Like many PressBox readers, I’m virulent in my intense dislike of the New York Yankees, an organization that pretends it’s the “class” of sports when in reality, its owners perform the near impossible task of making Peter Angelos seem like one of the Berrigan brothers. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, who’s often seen in a front-row seat at Yankee Stadium, but recently sold out his team to root for the Red Sox in the Series, and has rightfully been called out by that team’s partisans as a “Mass.-kisser” with the New England primaries coming up, I stand by my team and always root against the smug club in the Bronx.
Still, it was easy to feel bad for deposed manager Joe Torre last month, who was not only trampled by the Yanks’ “braintrust,” but whose privacy was continually violated by the reporters who camped outside his home trying to get a comment from the toppled skipper. Whether or not you like the team Torre took to the postseason for 12 consecutive years, he was always accessible to the media after a game, and for hundreds of reporters to chase him around during a trying time is sports sensationalism at its worst.
Oh, and let’s put in a word for “Millar-gate,” wherein the mediocre O’s first baseman committed the unpardonable sin of throwing out a first pitch before an ALCS championship game at Fenway Park, his place of employment for three years. Yes, it was a little weird, but then again, so is Millar, and that’s why teammates like the guy. Yet I don’t recall Millar ever laying down for the Sox during the regular season; limited as his capabilities are, he’s still a competitor and by all accounts he likes his present status as an Oriole.
Has Baltimore’s franchise fallen into such disrepair that a meaningless gesture like Millar’s causes such an uproar? Apparently yes, since even the Baltimore Sun’s sanctimonious editorial page weighed in on the non-controversy.
On Oct. 24, a spurned Sun editorialist vented about Millar’s disloyalty. “Baltimore fans don’t ask for much,” it read. “We give our pro athletes downtown ballparks, linked to a new public transit system, and millions of dollars in ticket sales [even if those “millions” are being reduced each losing season]. A smidge of loyalty in return would be nice… Is it any wonder that sports fans feel like they’re trapped in a strictly one-sided love affair?”
Here’s some breaking news that apparently is still stalled on the pony express to the Sun’s Calvert Street offices: Orioles fans aren’t doormats and they do “ask” for more than the ineptitude under the Angelos regime. They do ask (and hope that newcomer Andy MacPhail can change the culture at Camden Yards) that the team’s management shows sign of a pulse during the offseason when trades can be made and free agents acquired.
Fans wonder why an excellent utility player like Chris Gomez was traded to the Indians for a jug of cheap wine. They do wonder why the sulking Miguel Tejada wasn’t traded two years ago when he still had the value to land a couple of young prospects. And they wonder, while acknowledging that a team’s fortunes are cyclical, why a franchise like the Tigers could go from baseball’s bad joke to the World Series within a couple of years yet the O’s are, barring divine intervention (perhaps the Christian-based Colorado Rockies could help out here) are destined to fight off Tampa Bay for years to come.
Finally, isn’t it time for the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, once a gifted sportswriter, to hang up his cleats and spend quality time with the grandkids? Boswell, an unabashed Nationals booster -- which is OK, especially since he continues to slice up Angelos -- was cheesed at MLB commissioner Bud Selig for sanctioning this year’s altered playoff schedule, which allowed for extra days off for the benefit of television revenues.
That’s a valid viewpoint, but after the Red Sox crushed the feel-good Rockies in the first game of the Series, Boswell was in a dither, claiming that team’s eight-day layoff (a result, by the way, of the team sweeping its NL rivals in two separate rounds) ended in the “mortification” of the Rockies. Apparently Boston’s Josh Beckett, who has been on a roll all year, and vanquished the Angels and Indians on the way to the Series, had nothing to do with it.
This is the third installment of a series of columns that will examine the ethics and mores of the vast sports industry in the early 21st century. Readers are encouraged to share their opinions, pro or con, on the often-controversial topics under scrutiny. Send comments to MUG1988@aol.com.
Issue 2.44: November 1, 2007