July 2, 2018

Watching MASN & NESN: "Strong. ... America." With Good Pop.

On Monday night, I split my time between MASN (the Nationals broadcast) and NESN.

The Nationals' broadcast team is Bob Carpenter (13th season with the Nats and 35th year of MLB play-by-play) and F.P. Santangelo (14-year career, 8th season with MASN).

Just before the first pitch, an on-screen graphic stated the Red Sox were 70-13 in interleague games since 2013 - and that record was the best in MLB. (Well, I should hope so.)

But that had to be wrong. There was no way the Red Sox had an .843 winning percentage against the NL. That's a 137-win pace. I made a note to check this factoid.

MASN's stats for the starting pitchers were given in two parts and they included opponents' average and on-base percentage, as well as groundball and flyball ratios. Then Carpenter mentioned Mookie Betts's on-base percentage after the second pitch of the game. This seemed like a promising start (that claim of a 70-13 record notwithstanding).

My partner Laura was ironing during the first inning, and was treating the TV audio as if it were a radio. "These guys are not calling the game." I said TV announcers rarely call every single pitch, but she said this was extreme. I paid closer attention to Carpenter when pitches were not put into play. She was right.

In the top of the second, Carpenter did not call any of the first 12 pitches that were fouled off, balls, or called or swinging strikes. None! It was like they had never happened. There was either dead air - sometimes for as long as 15 seconds* - or Carpenter just kept telling whatever story he was in the middle of. When he finally did note a pitch had been thrown, he conveyed no real information. "It goes off-speed" or "Cutter, a little faster" is not calling a pitch.

*: The booth is silent. ... A pitch is made. ... More silence. ... Absolutely nothing is said by either announcers until right before the pitcher delivers his next pitch! "2-2."

Saying "high one for strike two" was better, but he failed to mention that the batter had swung and missed. Carpenter did this for several innings. It's clearly his "style". I've never heard an announcer who regularly failed to acknowledge more than half the pitches in every half-inning.

In the third, they discussed the "new innovations" in baseball. Santangelo mentioned a roundtable discussion devoted to how the game is changing. He was either part of the discussion or just listened to it, I wasn't sure. Carpenter asked him: "Any ways to stop it?" (Okay, he thinks innovation is bad.) Santangelo did say that the idea of banning shifts was insane.

I heard a new foul verb: "bumped". ... My ears also perked up when Carpenter said Soto's fifth-inning single was "gashed through the shift".

While my listening history with Santangelo is only about five innings, he was lousy. He had nothing to say about either pitcher's performance to a specific batter or in a general sense. His comments about the hitters were likewise non-specific and bland. He mentions something about Bryce Harper rising up in his stance to swing at a high pitch, but acted like Harper was doing that on every swing, something for which no evidence was offered.

This series includes a game played on July 4, so both teams have stars and stripes on the lettering of their shirts and caps. (Joe Kelly sported some interesting socks late in the game.) The catchers wore bright blue chest protectors covered with white stars; they resembled pajamas. When Santangelo said he thought Nats catcher Pedro Severino's gear was "awesome", Carpenter said it looked like Scherrzer "is throwing to a flag".

As MASN showed Severino, Santangelo continued:
That's sweet. I love it. ... The sleeve. ... The chest protector. ... The shoulder guards. ... Strong ... America.
Seriously. That's what he said.

I got more annoyed as the innings went on. After Rendon homered in the fourth, both announcers acted like the Nationals had won the pennant, as opposed to being down by two runs. When Santangelo started talking about how the Nationals will be serious contenders in the NL East and that he can't wait until "we" turn this season around, I had had enough.

Yes, they drove me to NESN.

(Wait! That 70-13 interleague record! ... I checked the facts at Baseball Reference. Since 2013, the Red Sox are 70-35 against the NL. I have no idea where MASN came up with 13 losses.
2013: 14- 6
2014:  9-11
2015: 13- 7
2016: 14- 6
2017: 16- 4
2018:  4- 1 (now 5-1)
From the Red Sox's Game Notes for Monday (which seem to have an error, also; BRef has a 20-5 record since 2017, not 21-5):
NESN: I listened to Dave O'Brien mention home runs 382 times over the final four innings. I'm convinced that by the end of the season, he will have said that every team's lineup has "good pop" in it. And he will have praised upwards of 80% of all batters as having "good pop" or "surprising pop" in their bats.

In the eighth and ninth innings, O'Brien pressed the point that "nothing has been easy tonight" and that the Red Sox had "no easy innings" and the game has been "a grind". Yet at the same time (almost literally), he gushed about Porcello's "very strong start", which seemed like an obvious contradiction.

O'Brien also mentioned something that most viewers might not know about Bryce Harper. The Nationals' star may be a great hitter, but did you know he has never had 100 RBI in a season?

It is clear that O'Brien - in 40-50 years as a baseball fan and as an announcer who is paid to study and think about the game - has never considered that batters have absolutely no control over how many runners are on base when they come to the plate. My thought was interrupted when O'Brien added that Harper had driven in 99 runs in 2015. ... I stared at the TV screen. O'Brien is faulting this guy for not driving in one additional runner so he could hit this arbitrary magic counting number?

I'd think OB was trolling fans if I (and many others) didn't have the very strong impression that he fancies himself quite the knowledgeable baseball man. ... Meanwhile, he extolls Chris Sale's combined performance against AL East teams and praises Jackie Bradley because the team has an excellent record when JBJ hits a home run. (After all, he does have a bit of "pop" in his bat.)


bamatrout said...

To be fair, in your game summary you stated that the team was 71-13 in interleague play (prior to checking out the factoid).

I was hoping that you were able to catch the ESPN telecast because I wanted to hear what you'd say about Eduardo Perez. He was absolutely awful. For seven innings, he went on and on about how Dave Martinez cost the Nationals the game, because he opted to intentionally walk JBJ in order to pitch to Porcello. Going on, he stated that calling for the IW affected Scherzer's psyche and displayed the lack of confidence the manager had in his pitcher. Seriously.

allan said...

in your game summary you stated that the team was 71-13 in interleague play

Well, I am an idiot. And it was late. (Even when I found out it was bogus, I had no recollection of mentioning it maybe an hour earlier and needing to change/delete it. In fact, I was skeptical when I read that you said I stated it.)

I shall go remove it now. For the record, the paragraph originally read: "The Red Sox are 71-13 in interleague games since 2013. The Yankees lost leads of 1-0 and 2-1 and fell to Atlanta 5-3 in 11 innings. The Red Sox (57-29) are 1 GA."

Jere said...

I don't like the "Cy Young Awards" header. It implies they're showing you the players for each team who have won the Cy Young award. But David Price isn't included. And if the excuse is "oh we meant out of the starting pitchers in THIS game," well David Price could technically play in that day's game, pitching or otherwise. And the other stats aren't about today's teams, they go back to 2013, so why would we think they're only including two potential candidates under the "Cy Young Awards" umbrella?