October 05, 2006

Who's Winning the Match?

A few things you might have learned yesterday during a 90-minute stint watching playoff baseball coverage on the Worldwide Leader in Sports:

Piece of Knowledge: The Mets beat the Dodgers by a score of 6-4 (courtesy of the sideline reporter – possibly Bob Holtzman, but not certain – who interviewed Carlos Delgado after the game).

Actual fact: The Mets beat the Dodgers 6-5.

Piece of Knowledge: The Mets beat the Dodgers 8-7 (courtesy of the entertaining if wildly inaccurate Eric Byrnes during his stint as an ESPN studio commentator).

Actual Fact: The Mets beat the Dodgers 6-5.

Piece of Knowledge: The Mets beat the Dodgers 7-6 (courtesy once again of Byrnes, who immediately realized his 8-7 score was wrong and decided to hedge his bets by throwing another one-run result out there, which, as it just so happens, was also wrong).

Actual Fact: The Mets beat the Dodgers 6-5.

[It should be noted at this point that all three of these mistakes involving the score of the Mets-Dodgers game took place within about a 30-minute time period. I have yet to check the obituaries in the Bristol newspaper, but if you gave me good odds I’d be willing to wager that right around that 30-minute window yesterday whoever was producing that coverage for ESPN most likely suffered a Scanners-style head combustion and died instantly.]

Piece of Knowledge: The Tigers’ scheduled Game 2 starting pitcher is named Jason Verlander (courtesy of Joe Morgan).

Actual Fact: His name is Justin Verlander.

Of all the gaffes that went down yesterday, this one is by far the hardest to excuse. If you saw Joe Morgan’s face when he was saying “Jason Verlander” (and Morgan was on camera at the time), he had this look of guilt, like a little kid who’s in the process of taking a dump in his pants right in front of you even though he knows he’s supposed to go do his business on the potty. Joe Morgan knew he was saying the name wrong – you could see it on his face and you could hear it in his voice as it wavered with uncertainty.

But that doesn’t make it okay. Some things in the world of sports broadcasting are unforgivable, and this mistake is one of those things. Flat-out – if you’re in Joe Morgan’s position as the lead analyst for ESPN’s playoff coverage, you have to know Justin Verlander’s name beyond any shred of doubt. Verlander won 17 games this year! He might be the AL Rookie of the Year. This is not like messing up John Maine (the relatively unknown rookie who started for the Mets yesterday). There’s a certain baseline level of knowledge you’ve got to have to maintain credibility, and all indications are that Joe Morgan has lost it. If he ever had it in the first place.

To quote Morgan’s ESPN colleague Stuart Scott, “Joe, you ain’t got to go home, but you got to get the heck up out of here.”


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