Game: San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves
Date: August 18
Play-by-Play: Jon Sciambi
Color Commentator: Joe Simpson
In last month's introduction to this silly little feature, I mentioned the handful of ways I enjoyed A's baseball – during my dateless youth – before the advent of the 24/7 sports cycle. Of course, there was other baseball to watch back then and most of it came from Superstation (W)TBS. Skip Caray's nasal hysteria served as the soundtrack for Sid Bream's 16.6-second 60-yard dash from 2nd base in 1992 and the Braves eventual World Championship clincher in 1995, but I'll remember him most for all those seasons when the Braves were at their most execrable. I'd love to hear the bespectacled curmudgeon – just one more time – utter the words "Boever the Saver" or hype the hell out of hot prospect Brad Komminsk or call the game-tying home run from reliever Rick Camp in the bottom of the 18th in a July 4th (by then, July 5th) game. Godspeed, yo.
Chemistry: This was a sparsely-attended Monday day game (official attendance: 18,113…actual: about half that) between two also-rans and I couldn't turn away. Sciambi's got a strong mic presence with just enough snark to keep things interesting, while Simpson is quick with analysis and able to keep up with his more flamboyant partner. Giants SP Barry Zito had his stirrups on backwards, so Sciambi (awesomely mocking a few condescending broadcasters I've heard) lectured the kids in the audience on how to wear them. Sciambi chided Simpson for briefly confusing Giants 3B coach Tim Flannery with a Giants runner trying to score. Later, while knee-deep in a cesspool of insincerity, the two derisively celebrated Shea Stadium's final season. Grade: 9.5/10
Knowledge: Has Simpson always been this good? My earlier memories of him are lost in that overcrowded TBS broadcast rotation of Caray, Don Sutton and Pete van Wieren. His breakdown of Giants OF Fred Lewis properly positioning himself to throw to third base after a catch was terrific. Earlier, Braves OF Omar Infante forgot the number of outs after a sacrifice fly, but Simpson correctly pointed out that Infante had no chance to nail the runner at home. Surprisingly, both Simpson and Sciambi had insight into slowing the hitters' approach vs. hard-throwers, while Sciambi – in a discussion of Zito – mentioned the A's series of first round playoff failures this decade without once using the words "bunt" or "Moneyball". I'm shocked, too. Grade: 9/10
Enthusiasm: In a 5-0 Braves loss, Sciambi and Simpson had to find ways to entertain themselves. Normally, I'm sickened by broadcasters who attempt to answer their own trivia question, but these two were so endearingly over-the-top in their "celebration" when they got it right (including an on-camera "facial" hand-taunt from Simpson) that I'll let it slide. Later in the game, Simpson verbally accosted a Turner Field security guard for "clotheslining" a fan who fell over the rail while reaching for a foul ball. But, I thought the (pretend) police were our friends? Oh, why didn't the world listen to N.W.A. twenty years ago? Grade: 7/10
Bar Stool Q: During the sixth inning, Sciambi and Simpson spent several minutes discussing who would win in a fight between umpires Tim McClelland and Ted Barrett. The conversation included a tale of the tape and some insightful commentary ("If McClelland is as slow to throw a punch as he is to call a strike, Barrett will knock him out in three punches"…paraphrased, but you get the idea). This all ended with an acknowledgement that they'd inadvertently left Fat Joe West out of the discussion. I'm buyin', guys. Grade: 10/10
Camera/Production: Two moments stand out for me… (1) SS Yunel Escobar managed to break his bat while pounding dirt out of his spikes. Although the cameras missed it the first time, a replay was instantly queued up followed by a close-up of Escobar reacting to some merciless razzing from the Braves' bench. (2) Coming back from a commercial, a shot of an infant being placed on its back in advance of a diaper change was shown, leading to the line of the day from Sciambi: "Boy, I'm glad we didn't stay with that." Grade: 6/10
Homerism: And, things were going so well. Braves' SP Jorge Campillo has had a pretty good season. Sciambi and Simpson, however, made him sound like a Mexican Juan Marichal before the game (then, in the first inning, Campillo gave up three singles, a triple and a hit batter). Later in the game, Simpson
Commerciality: SportSouth ran a truncated version of this music video about a half dozen times during the game. The short version included clips from the Braves' pre-game show featuring analysts (and former Braves) Ron Gant and Brian Jordan. Mrs. Bootleg's panties still moisten at the mere mention of their names. Throughout the month of September, SportSouth is running In My Own Words: Bobby Cox. How many of those words will be about this? Checkers has a 2 for $3 Buffalo Chicken Sandwich deal…then, they ruin it all by topping them with ranch instead of blue cheese dressing. That's why we have no respect for the South. Well, these guys don't help, either. Also, this airtran.com spot = all kinds of awesome.
AFLAC Trivia Question: "Mark Kotsay is one of five Golden Spikes winners to play for the Braves. Name the other four." (My answer: Mike Kelly and…nothing; Correct answer: Kelly, J.D. Drew, Oddibe McDowell and Bob Horner) I'm awarding myself TWO full points since I named the single most obscure player of the lot. C'mon…have you guys ever heard of Kelly OR the Golden Spikes award? Exactly. 12 for 23
Final Grade: 33