Pitching has become so easy in MLB that relievers can carry a conversation with the booth while getting the last out of the eighth inning in a one-run All-Star Game. No longer content to interview guys in the dugout/not actively in the field, players talked with announcers during the showcase that ended in a 3-2 AL victory.
I understand wiring up an outfielder like Julio Rodriguez who’s kicking grass watching batters flail at filth, but White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks was able to yuck it up with Joe Davis and John Smoltz while getting Travis d’Arnaud to fly out to Rodriguez.
Small talk between pitches is easy enough and harmless. Same goes for the conversation with Rodriguez, which featured such hard-hitting questions as “Do you think the Mariners will make the playoffs?” and “Who were you looking forward to meeting at the All-Star break?”
Hendriks, a late addition to the AL roster, was in good spirits, joking with the announcers that Chicago doesn’t let him go an inning and a 1/3, so his one batter faced would be his entire appearance. It would’ve been hilarious if that fly ball had gone 30-40 more feet just for the awkward exchange.
This is the potion of the program where I rattle off stats about how anemic the offenses were — 13 hits and 22 K’s combined, with zero runs scored after the fourth inning — to illustrate the degree to which Rob Manfred and Mystery Inc. are fucked. What? Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Scooby (ruh-roh!) having trouble solving the case of the vanishing offense?
And it turns out, the special designations given to Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera didn’t incite any run production either. The legends only took one AB a piece, with the Cardinals Hall of Famer flying out in the bottom of the fourth, and the Tiger great grounding out in the top of the fifth.
If MLB wants to sell the midsummer classic as this insane collection of talent competing at the highest level, the game itself should be the focal point. It’s kind of difficult to feel the tension when viewers are subjected to a light-hearted interview with the guy on the mound.
Tuesday served as a reminder for baseball “fans” — wandering into the middle of a movie/season and asking “Where is Joe Buck?” — that the longtime voice of MLB’s premier events is now at ESPN.
The jury is out on Buck because he can’t shake the boring label that comes with his steady cadence. However, there were more than a few Twitter users longing for Buck on the call.
That’s an energy that I was kind of expecting because baseball fans are so accustomed to being soothed by Buck’s demeanor during baseball games. Those who accuse him of being too bland are the same people who want Gus Johnson to call every sporting event. It’s a good idea until he’s screaming for no reason other than to distract from not knowing the players or the rules.
I kept wondering what Buck thought while watching the parade of gimmicks play out from his couch. Was he delighted to see his replacement lob meatballs per the company’s directive? Or did he feel bad for his former color guy? Smoltz doesn’t strike me as the type of person who would talk to other humans on game day, let alone allow himself to be mic’d up during an outing.
My guess is Buck would’ve handled the new segments about as well as he does any other aspect of broadcasting — fake a laugh or two, make a couple of jokes, and mercifully end it before having to repeat his hard-hitting question over the organ. (There’s a reason why media availability comes before and/or after games.)
The league is rapidly adopting the attention span of Michael Bay, and soon there will be enough clocks, robots, and graphics to provoke a seizure. I might be among the group that’s going to miss Buck during October, but I’m partially glad he got out before they had him jogging next to Byron Buxton and interviewing him mid-home run trot.