March 31, 2019

WEEI Revolving Door Of Announcers: Josh Lewin: Ignorant And Unable To Get Facts Right

I listened to the Red Sox's radio broadcast on Saturday night. Joe Castiglione was paired with Josh Lewin, the first of his many broadcast partners this season.

Josh Lewin was horrible. He talked way too fast and made numerous factual errors. Several comments made him sound like someone who had never watched baseball before and did not understand the game. Part of this act seemed linked with a strong desire of making Red Sox fans crank up the gloom-&-doom meter before the third regular season game was even over.

Recapping the top of the first inning, Lewin said - only three batters (and fewer than 10 pitches) after it happened - that Eduardo Rodriguez "had wanted no part of Jay Bruce" and had walked the Mariners' cleanup hitter on four pitches. Lewin had clearly forgotten that Rodriguez's first pitch to Bruce was actually a strike, but plate umpire Dan Bellino did not call it.

In the top of the fourth, Dylan Moore had a long plate appearance against Rodriguez. After Moore fouled off Rodriguez's ninth pitch, Lewin said correctly that the at-bat would be going to a 10th pitch ... but then quickly checked himself and said (wrongly) that it would be going to an 11th pitch.
Lewin: 3-2 on its way. Swing, another ground ball foul. So this is going to be a 10 -- check that, an 11 pitch at-bat now. Dylan Moore. Who started last year in Biloxi, Mississippi. Double AA ball for the Brewers. And really working hard here against Eddie Rodriguez. Memorably, Alex Cora once had a 14-pitch at-bat, he homered on the 14th pitch.

Castiglione: Off Matt Clement.

Lewin: Yep. Back when he was with the Dodgers, was Alex. 3-2 pitch. Busted that, roller towards short, could be two. The flip to second, one, turned on to first, double play! It was worth the wait. 11 pitch AB and finally a splintered-bat roller
from the rookie Dylan Moore.
Alex Cora's "memorable" at-bat from 2004 lasted 18 pitches, not 14. It's a fairly well-known highlight. Castiglione knew the opposing pitcher and I'm assuming he did not want to blatantly point out Lewin's mistake on the air.

Lewin was also getting things that were happening in front of his face completely wrong. By saying again (wrongly) that the double play happened on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Lewin committed three errors in quick succession before Moore did the same thing on the field in the ninth inning. Two batters later, the inning ended when Mitch Haniger struck out swinging. Lewin said it was a called strike three.

At another point, Lewin was speaking at length about teenage pitcher David Clyde's debut for the Rangers back in 1973. His recollections were colourful (something about Clyde making his MLB debut only six days after his high school prom), but since he got the Cora story wrong, and said other strange things, I have no idea if anything he said about Clyde was truthful. He also rattled off the names of players who had never played in the minors before making the majors, including Dave Winfield, who played his first game more than 45 years ago. Everything Lewin said was delivered with the confidence of someone describing the clothes he is wearing.

Bruce hit a three-run homer in the next inning, giving Seattle a 6-2 lead. Lewin said it "was really hard to figure" how the Mariners were scoring so many runs, since they were not expected to be a high-scoring club. I guess the idea that any team could have a three-game stretch where they did not conform to a pre-season stereotype was utterly foreign to him.

The 2018 Red Sox led the AL in runs, hits, doubles, average, on-base, and slugging, but they also had a three-game stretch (April 21-24) in which they scored only four runs and a four-game stretch ((June 8-11) with only eight runs.

The 1927 Yankees scored only five runs over three games (June 1-3). ... And the 2018 Orioles went 47-115, but somehow managed to score 46 runs on 54 hits in five games (May 10-13), 37 runs on 45 hits in three games (July 27-29), and 29 runs on 41 hits in three games (August 27-29). ... This kind of stuff happens all the time. But Lewin acted like he had no idea.

Lewin also seemed mystified at how Seattle starter Mike Leake was getting batters out since he was not throwing 95+ mph. He expressed this confusion several times. Clearly, Lewin has never heard of Greg Maddux - or even Tim Wakefield.

Lewin was often way off in describing where pitches were thrown. He told listeners that a pitch up and away, which barely edged into the strike zone, had been thrown "right down the middle". (Castiglione does this, too, with alarming frequency. A good rule of thumb: If you are listening to the radio without a TV nearby, never trust the announced location of any pitch.)

NESN also had issues because ... NESN. In the top of the first, instead of showing the batted ball or third strike, the broadcast reversed back through the at-bat's pitches. That happened for both of the first two batters. For the third batter, the screen simply went black.

And check out the strike zone graphic in the top of the sixth:


Josh said...

Wow, tough room (!)
Hi Allan, I've been enjoying your blog these last couple months and wanted to reach out (after picking up the remains of my tattered ego...!) I have been respecting your deep dives into all things Red Sox, and was obviously disappointed that I apparently let you down so completely this past weekend.

As you know, the lack of a delete key on live radio/TV is always a challenge so yes, I'd love to have back the misrepresentation of Cora's lengthy at bat vs Clement...and as for your other criticisms, some are certainly fair. I will go to school on what you've suggested. On a couple of others I think you may have missed the point a bit (yes, I've heard of Wakefikeld and Maddux for example... have broadcast dozens of each of their starts over the years!) I hope you'd agree that a guy like Leake is rare in this day and age, and that's the simple point Joe and I were trying to make,

Anyway, I sure hope you may be inclined to be slightly more forgiving going forward; but meantime, I will contiue to try and get better every game -- like you, I'm a stickler for accuracy, and when I foul one off, it's a painful experience.. Keep up the great work, and hopefully both the broadcasts and on-field performances will improve post-haste :)

Josh Lewin

laura k said...

One thing to know, Josh: Allan feels this way about pretty much every announcer. You have a lot of company. Like, everyone. But no one else has had the guts and grace to respond to one of these posts. Good on you!

FWIW, I think you and Joe make a good team.

allan said...

But no one else has had the guts and grace to respond to one of these posts. Good on you!

I agree. Especially the grace, about which I'm impressed. (Speaking of other announcers who would never respond, there is no way Dave O'Brien went 32-0 with his basketball picks. I simply refuse to believe that.)

Anyway, I half-read your comment in moderation and was thinking "Wait a minu-- oh shit...". My sarcasm was probably unnecessary. A soft tosser may be more rare than usual these days, but I think control always trumps velocity. Big league hitters can get around on 100+ fastballs - Rafael Devers took Aroldis Chapman's 102 fastball deep in one of last year's highlights - so lighting up the gun with triple digits is no guarantee of success.

Also, I can't help but notice that the Orioles have beaten the Yankees on consecutive days, something that may be more bewildering than the Red Sox getting drubbed a few times by the Mariners. These things happen. Baseball can be quite strange. (The Red Sox are 1-3. Pardon the comparison, but the 1998 Yankees started off 0-3 and 1-4.)

It has been my experience that most Red Sox fans - since 2004 and certainly since 2007 - no longer think the sky is falling as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong. I certainly was that way, for decades, but 2004 rewired my brain - and I think I'm far from alone. So I hate it when the media tries to twist my arm into feeling something that I do not feel and is illogical and is also many years out-of-date.

I appreciate your striving for accuracy and I fully understand that over 3.5 hours, some poorly-worded or wrong statements will come out. The way the game was going may have coloured my reaction. While I cannot guarantee a more forgiving attitude in the future (Laura is right, I hate everyone, except maybe Vin Scully, but if I listened to him every night, who knows? I am (much to my dismay) unable to tune the announcers out or treat them like background noise like other people apparently can), I really appreciate your kind words about the blog. Thanks!

Josh said...

Keep up the great work, Allan. I'm a fan of what you do whether you feel the same about my work or not. Cheers :)

FenFan said...

Josh, I can confirm Laura's point that Allan hates every broadcaster. ;-)

All joking aside, the Red Sox fan base is passionate (you probably know this having grown up outside Boston) and the fans who listen to these radio are probably even more passionate because they enjoy hearing the spoken word and painting a picture in their mind of what's happening out their on the field. Listening to the radio since Joe was paired with Ken Coleman back in the early 80s, I'd like to believe I've become quite adept at this.

Like us, you're human, and you're probably a thousand times better at calling a ballgame then I'll ever be, but don't feel the need to fill the space between pitches with more than a story now and then, where the players are positioned, who's on deck... and let us paint our own picture.

In your defense, I heard a few of your games with Joe near the end of spring training, and you two do seem to have developed a nice camaraderie. Best of luck!

allan said...

I think Josh also said something about Castig loving something ... but not as much as he loves it when the Yankees lose. (I can't recall what or when he said it, though.) I think Joe would like the Schadenfreude posts!

Also, I met Joe and taped an interview before a game in 2014 when Don't Let Us Win came out. Joe might remember that. (He has also read some pro-Pedro emails of mine on the air.)

My Life Among Humans said...

Mets fan since 1968. Now live in Western Mass., but occasionally reeled in the WOR-NY broadcasts with Josh and Howie Rose. For my money -- granted the best things in life *can* be free -- Josh is a great listen. If he screws up a fact here and there, or yaps off topic, that's a small price the listener pays for getting a very engaged broadcaster who juggles an inquisitive mind with a warehouse of references both oblique and relevant.

Granted, if you're hoping to veg out while listening to a Sox game, his style will likely be grating. But if you appreciate an agile mind who checks all the necessary boxes for a baseball announcer on radio, you're in for a treat with Josh.

He and Howie to my ear had great chemistry doing the Mets games. They were like the proverbial married couple who could finish each other's sentences. I hope Joe is open to such repartee. Red Sox fans would be in for a special season -- at least in the booth.