August 22, 2005

Guten Morgan? ESPN's Baseball Joe Under Review

Perhaps I was paying extra attention because my hometown Braves were playing in ESPN's Sunday night game of the week, or maybe I was just feeling a wee bit salty about the weekend nearing an abrupt end. Whatever the reason, I was in the mood to scrutinize during Sunday evening’s national baseball telecast, and the subject of my unforgiving surveillance was Hall of Famer and Emmy award-winning analyst Joe Morgan.

I've been listening to Joe Morgan call games on ESPN for nearly as long as I can remember. To say I don’t like his style would be too harsh, but it has certainly struck me on frequent occasions that the man is well-versed in the practice of spouting complete nonsense. Tonight, I decided to listen closely and write some of it down. Here’s what I heard:

-In the bottom of the first inning, shortly after soft-tossing Padres’ righthander Brian Lawrence went to work, play-by-play man Jon Miller commented on the underwhelming speed of Lawrence’s fastball, which was hitting just 80 on the radar gun in the early going. The moment Miller made his comment, Morgan immediately – and somewhat indignantly – declared that the pitch was not a fastball. But to my eye – trained, I assure you, over hundreds of thousands of pitches seen on TV over the years – Miller appeared to be right. The pitches looked like fastballs, just very slow ones. Not that I think I know more than Joe Morgan about baseball, but I do think he was overanalyzing here just to have something to say. Throughout the early part of the game, most of Lawrence’s fastest pitches were in the low 80’s.

-After Lawrence retired the Braves 1-2-3 in the first, Morgan commented that the Padres pitcher was getting lots of easy outs. Great insight, just not exactly accurate. The three outs he recorded in that inning: a screaming line drive to second by Rafael Furcal, a hard grounder up the middle by Marcus Giles, and a liner to right by Chipper Jones.

-At another point early in the game, when Braves’ pitcher John Smoltz hit 94 mph on the gun with an outside fastball, Morgan commented that Smoltz had reached back for a little extra, and that the pitch was the best fastball he had thrown all night. Tough to know what Morgan was basing that comment on, considering that Smoltz had already hit 94 on several occasions prior to that pitch. And it’s not like the pitch drew a swing and a miss or anything; the batter took it for a ball outside.

-During Andruw Jones’ first at-bat, Morgan decided to share that he had been reading some interesting comments about Jones recently. But when it came time to say where he had read them, he could only utter, “In the Journal…the Constitution…” at which point Miller jumped in and bailed him out, completing the incoherent sentence by saying, “The Atlanta paper” (Atlanta’s newspaper is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Morgan replied, “Yeah.”

-When Braves’ rookie right fielder Jeff Francoeur – who somewhat famously had yet to draw a walk entering last night’s game – grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw, Morgan commented, “Well, he wasn’t gonna walk that at-bat.” Genius.

-In the top of the third, Padres’ center fielder Dave Roberts was called out on batter’s interference for failing to run inside the designated box because Smoltz made a play on Roberts’ bunt attempt and Roberts was in the way of the throw. Morgan explained, “Because Smoltz made a play and hit [Roberts], that’s why they called him out.” However, it was blatantly clear in real time, and on the slow-motion replay, that Smoltz had in fact not so much as grazed Roberts with the throw.

-With the game in the bottom of the fourth, and the clock next to the TV reading 8:59, I stepped away from the game to watch the series finale of “Six Feet Under,” during which my living room became inexplicably dusty on more than one occasion. Following that cheerful hour and 15 minutes, I got roped into “Entourage,” a necessary light-hearted follow-up to keep myself from attempting to leap headlong out the window after S.F.U. While I was away from the baseball game – during which time I undoubtedly missed a whole slew of Morgan gems – I started to think that perhaps I was being a bit too harsh on old Joe. There was a moment early in the game when Miller and Morgan were interviewing Braves’ GM John Schuerholz, and they all three appeared on camera. Morgan was looking so very serious, and scribbling some notes on a piece of paper. And he had on such a nice suit. At that moment, it struck me: This man takes his job incredibly seriously. He just happens to say dumb things sometimes (maybe because he's trying too hard to leave his mark on the game?) On some level, I can understand someone in his situation uttering complete garbage on occasion – I’m sure if you put me in front of a microphone for that long, I’d say some pretty ridiculous things. (Come to think of it, if you put me in front of a mike I’d probably only need about five minutes to cease making sense, but that's just how I roll.)

Now I digress. Following my small-but-meaningful revelation, I returned to the game at 10:42 – the Braves now leading 6-2 in the top of the ninth – thinking that maybe Joe Morgan wasn’t so bad.

The feeling didn't last. With one out left in the game and the Braves on the verge of finishing a dramatic victory spurred by a late-inning comeback, Morgan decided to heighten the excitement for the game’s penultimate pitches by reporting that he had been in San Antonio last night for the wedding of some friends. “I want to wish Jack and Alma Carroll a happy…marital bliss,” he said.

At that precise moment, bliss seemed woefully far away.


Blogger jimmyrad said...

I hate Joe Morgan. He's a moron, and you went easy on him.

11:52 AM, August 23, 2005  
Anonymous Jack said...

If you were in charge of ESPN for a day which announcer/commentator who would you fire first? Would it be Joe Morgan? I'm not a big Joe Morgan fan, but I'd send Dicky V packing first.

4:37 PM, August 23, 2005  
Blogger jimmyrad said...

Dicky V is annoying. But I actually think he knows quite a bit about the ins and outs of bball, outside of when he announces any ACC game, in which he just gets on his knees every chance he gets. (I love the ACC, too.) When they get him on sedatives and just have him on Outside the Lines or something, he can actually bring some interesting points to the table. However, sedatives was the key word in the sentence.

I'd fire all women announcers forced to do men's bball or football. I'm sorry. It's sexist. But they're awful, and it just ruins a game for me.

6:19 PM, August 23, 2005  
Blogger The OCC said...

I know some people who would give Skip Bayless a vote...

10:58 PM, August 23, 2005  
Blogger jdg said...

John Kruk
Jay Mariotti
Skip Payless
Woody Paige
Stat Boy
Larry Bowa

6:57 PM, August 25, 2005  
Blogger samsternjones said...

Joe Morgan used to be good, that's what is sad. He has lost his mind. However, no one is worse than Dicky V, his xenophobic rants against all foreign players, his idiotic belief that young black inner-city kids should get exploited by rich, lily-white institutions for 4 years, as they risk injury, don't get compensated for the money they bring these colleges and make a farce out of getting a college education deserves to be calling WNBA games.

9:20 PM, August 31, 2005  

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