April 13, 2019

Media Watch: He's Swinging The Sweater Today, He Really Is.

I listened to Saturday's game on both NESN and WEEI.

Dave O'Brien

T3: Jonathan Villar fouled off Rick Porcello's first pitch with one out and a man on second. OB said that Porcello "threw a handful of pitches last inning". That's a very unhelpful description. How many pitches are in a handful? Six? 10? 13? The correct answer, which was never broadcast, was eight. Every so often, NESN will give us a shot of O'Brien's or Jerry Remy's scorecard and I'm always amazed that neither broadcaster keeps track of individual pitches. I have scored every pitch for games since I was 12 years old. If I recall, OB uses a commercially-available scorebook. I have seen many of these in my life and have found them all to be woefully inadequate. I created my current scorecards back in 1986 by modifying a sheet of graph paper. The little boxes are great for keeping track of pitches. How can a play-by-play announcer not note every pitch in a game? Remy does seem to keep track of some types of pitches, however.

T3: Porcello's sixth pitch to Villar was Ball 3, prompting O'Brien to note it was "another full count". While Porcello had already thrown 68 pitches (and issued four walks) in only 3.1 innings, it was actually his first full count of the afternoon. (Which O'Brien likely would have known, if he kept track of pitches on his scorecard).

T3: He also said that Porcello had a 2.96 ERA in his last seven starts against the Orioles, so "he usually pitches well against them". And by "them", O'Brien meant Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Matt Weiters, Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith, Welington Castillo, Chance Sisco, and many others. Unfortunately, exactly none of those players were in Baltimore's lineup on Saturday - so Porcello did not pitch well.

T3: Because Joseph Abboud provides suits for the NESN announcers, his presence is acknowledged whenever possible. As Abboud is shown on-screen, O'Brien says he is "swinging the sweater" today. (Hoo-kay.) A little later, during a discussion of pocket squares, Remy says he thinks they make him look too dressed up. O'Brien admits that he does not "rock it" (the pocket-square look) very often. ... Man, there is nothing quite like hearing a guy in his mid-50s trying to sound hip.

B5: With Rafael Devers at the plate, O'Brien says you look at the young third baseman and you can envision him "hitting home runs in bunches". I want to know what O'Brien sees when he looks at Devers that would indicate Devers would hit home runs "in bunches" as opposed to hitting home runs on a more regular (or steady) basis? OB may have a future as a scout.

T3: O'Brien brings up last night's fantastic catch by Jackie Bradley and says Bradley does not talk a lot about his many amazing catches and is not the type of person to rank them in a Top 10. Last August, Bradley spoke with Chad Jennings of The Athletic and talked at length about his many amazing catches and ranked them in a Top 10. In fact, the idea of a Top 10 Catches was Bradley's idea! Which makes me wonder ... does O'Brien simply not keep up with coverage of the Red Sox? Is he extremely cheap and refuses to shell out the $48.00 for an annual subscription to The Athletic? Or does he think he already knows everything? The first option is the most likely, but I'm going to go with all of the above.

Jerry Remy

T5: Explains that Pedro Severino tried to put down a "safety squeeze" bunt rather than a "suicide squeeze", because Chris Davis, at third base, "did not take off until the batter squared around to bunt", as opposed to running as the pitcher goes into his motion. However, as Remy was saying this, the replay from the high home camera was shown and Davis did not move towards the plate at all, either before or after the batter revealed his intentions to bunt.

Also: My tolerance for Remy really drops when Dennis Eckersley is not in the booth. Anytime Remy is alone with O'Brien, he has far fewer interesting things to say.

Jerry Remy/Dennis Eckersley

The speech tic of the 2019 season (so far) is a short, repeated emphasis at the end of comments, e.g., "He hit that ball hard, he really did" or "He loves talking baseball, he really does" or "I was impressed by Eduardo Rodriguez last night, I really was". With Eckersley having the day off, Remy stepped up and said it often enough for the both of them, he really did.


When the Red Sox scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh, NESN added them to the Orioles' run total in the on-screen bug. For a few seconds, the score was 11-3 before being corrected to 9-5.

The count was 1-1 when Vazquez doubled. Note that the previous two pitches were thrown to the same spot, but plate umpire Jim Reynolds called the first one a strike and called the second one a ball. Robots!

Runners are still depicted on first and second (and the score remains 9-3) as Dwight Smith chases the carom off the wall.

Rafael Devers and Dustin Pedroia have crossed the plate and the Orioles are awarded two runs. 11-3.

After Vazquez called time at second base, the score had been corrected to 9-5.

(Thanks to zenslinger for the head's up. Also, last night, Jere noted Tom Caron's explanation of the word "chillax".) Many pitches in the strike zone graphic were labelled the "0"th pitch of a particular plate appearance. That has been a problem since the season began.

Joe Castiglione

T7: I was disappointed to hear Joe says he "really likes" the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers (unless he is hurt or the inning ends), a rule that will be introduced next season. As Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated wrote (in an article I linked to yesterday), the benefits of this rule will be "negligible, at best, and very likely non-existent". MLB is, naturally, selling it to the public as a positive move that will speed up games, and Castiglione seems to have bought into this propaganda.

Sean McDonough

I liked him when he was calling Red Sox games on NESN before Don Orsillo took over the full-time job - and I like him now. (He might even make it worthwhile to suffer through Lou Merloni. Maybe.) McDonough has a great voice, is often sarcastic, and does not appear to clog the airwaves with irrelevant statistical factoids. He also possesses a well-honed sense of humour that is both verbally clever and as dry as a desert.

T7 (I could not catch (or find online) the name of the guy doing the scoreboard updates):
Red Sox Update Guy: And the poll up on @soxbooth on Twitter. I notice, Sean, that you are not on Twitter.

McDonough: No.

RSUG: But this is a captivating Twitter question. What's more shocking - the Red Sox's 3-9 start or Rob Bradford in the Marathon? Very tight voting right now, the Red Sox's 3-9 start, 55%, leading the way.

McDonough: Hmm. (interested)

Joe Castiglione: So is that an endorsement of Rob?

RSUG: I think so, not as shocking as you might expect.

McDonough: And Rob - I was saying he didn't look like he was in good shape, but he just had a very baggy shirt on. But when he got up to leave, you could tell - he's lost 50 pounds.

RSUG: He's generally unkempt, I would say.

McDonough: Wow. I thought I was the only bomb-tosser in the booth. ... Bunt try - and a foul ball by Villar back toward the screen.

Castiglione: You could get him an iron, Sean.

McDonough: Is that done, are you finished - because I like the fact you are also much more concise than Flemmball, the former Red Sox update guy.

RSUG: I'll make a note of that. I aim to be, yes. All finished. Take it away.

McDonough: Do you think - you're supposed to read this tag, are you not? ... Oh. No, you're not. You have no tag. You're not sponsored. And that's unfortunate, because that update was worthy of some income-generation (SUG laughing) for the network. One strike on Villar, their leadoff hitter, 1-for-3, an infield hit and a walk, he started the inning last inning with that leadoff walk and he scored. He takes a ball high, 1 and 1. Of course, Will Flemming, the day off. And he tried to make me feel guilty when we chided him for not being here by sending me a picture of his 10-month-old son Bailey. So I said if you're really taking a day off to spend time with your family, right, why are you listening to the game? And he just texted me and said Mrs. Flemmball says to your point -- throw to first, and it gets away, and the runner will go to second base. An errant throw by Marcus Walden, so they don't have to bunt Cedric Mullins over now -- Mrs. Flemming, Mrs. Flemmball, he calls her, says to your point about me not listening, 'Thank you, Sean', so apparently, Jennifer Flemming would like Will's attention on the family and not on this award-winning radio broadcast. ... Which he used to be a part of.
Admittedly, McDonough's deadpan humour may not translate when transcribed. I'm going to listen to the radio feed every time he calls a game. ... Could he be the one announcer I can tolerate?

I still vividly remember a moment during a game from (maybe) 2005, in which a field reporter was interviewing the wife of a Red Sox player about an upcoming food drive, and she was saying fans could bring cans of food to Fenway Park (she was standing in front of a table with some items) and get an autographed photo (or something). The segment ended, there was a brief pause, and McDonough said matter-of-factly: "Nice cans."

I swear I could hear the expression change on Remy's face.


Dr. Jeff said...

I wish I could find the video of the newscaster talking to an on site reporter who was at a supermarket, telling her "Nice melons!"

Jim said...

Glad you posted this. Yes, I've been lovin' the Sean McD. joy in the booth. The Brits have an expression for sarcasm--"taking the piss" and McD. owns it. Nobody is safe, including insufferable gasbag Bradford. As a bonus, he also knows his baseball. Heard he'd be around for the Yankee series next week-- I hope so. Taking some of the sting out of the pathetic performance of the Sox on the field.