Sunday, August 3, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: Detroit Tigers

Game: Detroit Tigers at Oakland A's
Date: June 3
Network: FSN-Detroit

Play-by-Play: Mario Impemba
Color Commentator: Rod Allen

Despite the Tigers rich baseball history, my memories of the team can be boiled down to three things: (1) the 1984 team that started 35-5 and won the World Series. (2) Lance Parrish, the catcher on that '84 team, appearing on Diff'rent Strokes to help Sam play better baseball. (And, yes, I'm in clear violation of the "no one acknowledges the Sam/Maggie years" of that show.) (3) Cecil Fielder's 51 home run season in 1990. This was a pretty big deal back then, kids, as evidenced by HUGE bump in Fielder's rookie cards.

Chemistry: Impemba used to broadcast Angels games on the radio and he's as bland as I remembered. Rod Allen is even more vanilla, which makes for a cliché-filled viewing experience. Still, it's not like their patter was painful on the ears or anything. In fact, one of my favorite moments of this feature occurred when Allen was lamenting the lack of Black pitchers in the big leagues thusly: "There's just not that many bruthas pitching today." Impemba incredulously responded, "Did you just say 'bruthas'?" Baseball broadcasts need more casual racial slang. Grade: 6.5/10

Knowledge: If you've watched as many A's games called by the other team's broadcasters as I have, you've come to learn the predictable checklist of talking points that must be covered. Sure enough, Impemba and Allen jumped right into the expansive foul territory in Oakland and the difficultly in hitting a ball out at night. Oh, and in case you didn't know, A's GM Billy Beane is working with a shoestring budget, which leads to a lot of roster turnover. Rod Allen had some nice insight on how hitters prepare against a pitcher they've never seen before, but a point he made about 3B Miguel Cabrera "quieting his hands" before he swings (a change since coming over from Florida) would've been more relevant with a "before" and "after" example onscreen. Grade: 5/10

Enthusiasm: Allen's uninspiring delivery sounds even flatter when aligned with Impemba's over-polished, paint-by-numbers vocal style. What little enthusiasm they generated over the air on this night was muted and almost mechanical. Once SP Dontrelle Willis left the game after four innings, the wind really seemed to be let out of their sails. This game was the eighth of a nine-game, three city West Coast road trip for Detroit, so maybe they were just really sleepy. Grade: 3/10

Bar Stool Q: Allen played in 31 games spread across three seasons over the course of his brief big league career. He logged time with two of the worst franchises of the 1980s ('83 Mariners, '88 Indians) and, arguably, the best team of the decade ('84 Tigers). I doubt he was in any of those places long enough to rack up some good stories, but who knows? Maybe he's got some dirt on Cory Snyder or Spike Owen. I'd buy him a beer to hear those (domestic, happy hour pricing only). Impemba's a bald, unassuming man who looks like the middle manager no one in the office invites to happy hour. Grade: 4.5/10

Camera/Production: As this was Dontrelle Willis' first start for the Tigers after coming off of the DL, most of the focus was on him…and his family. Willis' mother and grandmother (the whole family is from Oakland) were in the stands and I counted TEN reaction shots of the pair over the course of Willis' four innings pitched. Impemba and Allen would chime in with melodramatic quips after each one like, "I think she's praying for his health" and "Isn't [watching your child struggle] a helpless feeling?!" Outside of this, it was an unspectacular, but watchable evening for the camera crew. Still, the over-saturation of Willis women early on hurt the whole show. Grade: 3.5/10

Homerism: Allen gently chastised Miguel Cabrera for taking a 2-0 fastball right down the heart of the plate, while Impemba lamented the Tigers bullpen letting the A's back into a game that the Tigers should've won. Still, the treatment of Willis' return to the rotation as some sort of Prodigal Son nonsense was clearly meant to play the P.R. card with the fans back home. Grade: -6

Commerciality: I grew up on Little Caesar's Pizza (Pizza), but these days they don't do much of any advertising outside of the Midwest. Good to see the brand is still alive. The remains of Richard Petty pimp Marathon Gas and I'm reminded of that classic Larry David line: "Only two types of people wear sunglasses indoors: blind people and assh*les." Meijer Apple Juice had a terrific ad involving doctors in a delivery room, while the creepiest ad I've seen in awhile featured "Tire Man" for Belle Tires.

AFLAC Trivia Question: "Who were the last two African-American pitchers to win 20 games in a season?" (My answer: Dave Stewart, Dontrelle Willis; Correct answer: same) 2 for 3

Final Grade: 16.5

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