April 21, 2016

NESN 2016: Another Listen To Dave O'Brien

As I posted last night, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jerry Remy last night. I've been able to watch Red Sox games on NESN for more than a decade thanks to the MLBTV package, and I don't think I have heard Remy have a better game than last night. Infield placement, pitch selection and reliance, a baserunner's mindset, the variations in a relief pitcher's leg kick, he was offering solid insights about everything.

However, all was not perfect in my NESN listening experience. While I praised play-by-play man Dave O'Brien when I wrote about the first two games of the season, he has been annoying for several reasons since then.

O'Brien has the bad habit of saying, when there is a runner on second base, that a hit will result in a run. He says it definitively, as though the concept is in the rule book. Of course, as any fan can tell you, there are many scenarios where a single will not result in a run; in fact, an infield single could actually result in the runner on second having to remain on the bag. And in Fenway Park, with its smaller left field, it is often the case that a runner from second will have to stop at third base. (This is one of the problems with the stupid and inaccurate phrase "scoring position". If you think about it, a runner on any base is in scoring position. The batter is in scoring position - he can score on a home run (or a hit and a fielding error(s)).)

O'Brien should know better. As a long-time broadcast who has called many national games, he should understand that part of his role is explaining aspects of the game to newer or less knowledgeable fans. Insisting that a run will score from second on a hit does everyone a disservice. Because when the hit comes and the run does not score, as happened in the third inning of Tuesday's 3-0 loss, the less educated fan naturally will be confused. The announcer said the run would score, so why did it not happen?

In the bottom of the fifth, Christian Vazquez batted with runners at second and third:
Two down as Eveland fires, and it's going to be a strike over the inside corner. David Ortiz, who had doubled in a run, now at third base, Brock Holt at first base. He runs, and it's going to be a strike. No throw. [Remy talks about Holt's great jump.] Sox are now 10-for-11 for the season in thefts, and now a base hit would mean two and make it 8-0.
He did it again in the next inning, with Dustin Pedroia at the plate with Mookie Betts on first:
The runner goes and the pitch is going to go all the way to the backstop. Mookie takes a big turn but it rebounded back to Conger, so give him a stolen base because he was running. [Remy talks about Webb's leg kick and Betts's jump.] So a base hit by Pedroia would make it 7-2 and put the Sox in front by five again.
After Pedroia struck out and Webb threw a wild pitch on his first offering to Chris Young, allowing Betts to go to third, Remy offered a much-needed correction:
Always better to be at third base with two outs at Fenway, because there is no guarantee on a ball to left field that you're going to score on a base hit because it's so shallow out there. So if you can get to third base with two outs, you get there.
O'Brien also makes too much of a pitcher's win-loss record, putting forth the statement that you knew Porcello was having a good season because of his record:
That's a great pitch, I mean, that's where he needs to live to be successful. ... We have been seeing the Rick Porcello that we saw at the end of last season after he came back from the DL. ... And if he wins tonight, he goes to 3-0.
He also emphasized David Price's 2-0 record this month and said that Archer could fall to 0-4 with a loss. Citing a pitcher's W-L is useless, and even more useless when we haven't even played three weeks of season.

O'Brien also noted that if Jackie Bradley can maintain a good batting average, that will help him win a Gold Glove.
So Jackie hitting .268. And if he finishes the season at .268, that means he's going to hit 600 times, and that means you like his chances to battle for the Gold Glove in center field.
I have heard this from other commentators, so it's not only O'Brien. but think about that statement for a minute. Doing well at the plate will help a player win a Gold Glove. Perhaps this says more about the stupidity of the players and coaches who vote on GGs than it does about O'Brien, but he should have pointed out the illogic of the statement.

Finally, one of the more bizarre things I have ever heard. After Mookie Betts's two-run homer in the second inning increased Boston's lead to 5-0, O'Brien made the bizarre implication that Chris Archer's poor start this year might be due to having taken a couple of extra plane flights (related to charity work) during the winter.


somepainter said...

Last year when the team was tanking, i looked forward to Don and Jerry. They were very enjoyable. This year, Dave Obrien gives me a headache. I dont watch much. He talks to much, his voice is hard. Reminds me of my exwife. Sorry Dave might be a nice guy, but hey.

allan said...

From last night's game thread:

Maxwell Horse: "Something that I'm already finding annoying about O'Brien... the small talk has a sort of condescending air to it. Like he's forcing himself to act 'casual' to appeal to the cheap seats"

Jere: "That's what I've not liked about him on radio for years, that's exactly it."

Maxwell Horse said...

Just to expand on my comment: I know a lot of people found the silly banter between Don and Jerry grating. I, myself, alternated between being entertained by it, to at times finding it annoying.

However, one thing it never felt like was "fake." Don acted silly, and it felt like, hey, this is a silly guy.

O'Brien, however, feels like he's talking down to the audience, particularly in those times when he tries to joke around. It's like he's making a conscious choice to lower his IQ so that the riffraff in Titanic's steerage will be able to relate to him.

It's not something you notice the first couple times you hear him. But it gradually wears on you until you realize (usually in a game in which the Sox are doing poorly), "You know, this guy is sort of getting on my nerves."

Jennifer said...

I'm pleased with the combination, if only because it seems to bring out the best in Remy.

Jake of All Trades said...

I've always listened to games on the radio more than anything else, so I'm used to the old Joe C & Dave interplay. I agree with the comments that he seems to talk down at times, but I think it's more of a personality thing with his "radio voice" you get used to after awhile. The way he would give Joe C a ribbing over being the spokesperson for Shaws Supermarket always amused me as a fun little bit.

Random aside: I love the perfectly executed triple parenthetical at the end of the third paragraph!

Thor Swanson said...

Dave O'brien is annoying and condescending with no mlb experience,though he talks as though he has. NESN made a huge mistake.