Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: New York Mets

Game: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Date: July 23
Network: SportsNet New York (SNY)

Play-by-Play: Gary Cohen
Color Commentator: Ron Darling
Color Commentator: Keith Hernandez
Completely Unnecessary Fourth Guy in the Stands: Kevin Burkhardt

Hey, it's Ron Darling! Mets fans surely remember him for his wonderful career in Queens – most notably starting games 1, 4 and 7 of the 1986 World Series and recording a 1.53 ERA in the process. He also pitched in Oakland with my A's from 1991-95. I'll remember him for winning his first three decisions…then losing his next seven and hastening the team's '91 collapse. He won 15 in 1992 thanks to good run support and took no-hitters late into games against the Blue Jays over two starts in July. Candy Maldonado broke 'em both up. How do I remember this stuff?

Chemistry: Among the many problems inherent with the three-man booth is that the play-by-play guy is forced into the role of traffic cop. Hernandez and Darling have completely different approaches to commentary (the latter is insanely long-winded, the former more curt and cantankerous) so Cohen is left to feed his broadcast colleagues the proper set-ups without stepping on two sets of toes. The Cohen/Darling rapport flows more freely than any combination with Hernandez, who sounds content to cash a paycheck solely off of his reputation as a former Mets player. Now I know what his 1990 season in Cleveland was like. Grade: 5/10

Knowledge: Hernandez used the word "hustle" three different times to describe Phillies OF Shane Victorino and that was only in his first two at-bats. He also dredged up tired clich├ęs like "gamer" and "winning player". Meanwhile, Darling had LOTS to say on how a pitcher makes adjustments when he's wild high. Oddly, though, when I wanted Darling to talk (he made repeated references to "pitching inside/outside of the ball") he offered no explanation. This happened a lot, as Darling would do well to balance his points, instead of isolating his soliloquies on certain subjects. Cohen, for the most part, kept his mouth shut when he wasn't telling me what I was already watching. Grade: 5.5/10

Enthusiasm: The night before this game, Mets SP Johan Santana was controversially removed from a start after eight innings. The Mets went on to lose and, literally, nearly half of this game was spent passionately discussing whether it was a good move. I guess this type of extended second guessing appeals to the locals, but it often got in the way of the broadcast. Burkhardt was even chiming in from the stands on the subject. Come on. As for the game, Mets SS Jose Reyes went deep in the sixth and Cohen properly captured the drama of the moment (even if it was still July). Hernandez really sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else, though. Grade: 6.5/10

Bar Stool Q: Darling actually dropped in references to an isosceles triangle and the Pythagorean Theorem, so I'm sold…even if he's just Tim McCarver sans stroke. Here are a few things Hernandez bitched about during the broadcast: the "quality start" stat, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, Phillies SP Brett Myers' stubbornness and "people who've never played the game". Does he even like baseball, anymore? Cohen hilariously voiced over a pre-game shot of the Empire State Building with "don't jump!" after the tough loss the night before and, I think, could really be entertaining without Hernandez dragging everyone down. Grade: 6.5/10

Camera/Production: Former Mets manager Willie Randolph famously blasted the SNY production team, but this Black manager liked what he saw: timely replays, multiple angles and some GREAT reaction shots of Reyes as he pimped around the bases. Unfortunately, someone thought it would fun to send Burkhardt out to interview "the Geico Caveman". It was truly the most excruciating 60 seconds in the history of broadcast television. And, yes, I've seen African-American bystanders interviewed on the local news. Grade: 7/10

Homerism: Keith Hernandez is, not surprisingly, the worst of the lot. He all but accused the home plate umpire of intentionally showing up the home team. Darling and Cohen aren't exactly calling it down the middle, but both seemed open to criticizing the Mets on points such as their recent baserunning blunders. Honestly, I can't say I've heard too many games where the home team is almost the sole topic of discussion. It seemed everything out of the broadcasters' mouths was related to what the Mets are doing or what they did the night before. Grade: -6

Commerciality: Loved the Derek Jeter "Jeter's got an Edge" Ford spot. Outside of baseball, do you think Jeter even knows that many Black people? On the other end of the spectrum, the promos for Loudmouths (a PTI rip-off with two crusty old New Yorkers) and Daily News Live (a less evolved version of "Around the Horn") make me glad I live on the West Coast.

AFLAC Trivia Question: "What two Mets starting pitchers have thrown the most complete games this decade?" (My answer: Tom Glavine, John Maine (sorry, Daniels, I drew a complete blank); Correct answer: Al Leiter, Steve Trachsel) 3 for 6

Final Grade: 24.5


Jeff Hansen said...

Good to see you changed your Candy Maldanado-bashing policy. :)

That Bootleg Guy said...

Oh, yeah, I've seen the light.

Besides, if I'm going to hate anyone from those championship Blue Jays teams, it's going to be Manny Lee.

He knows what he did.

Tom said...

Mostly agree on everything here. You can pretty much base a drinking game around Keith (once each time he says "in my day." Twice when he tells the kids out there to pay attention. Three times when he complains about strike zones). Ron was brutal for a while but he's gotten much, much better in the last few years (and covers the TBS games on Sunday now).

And, pretty much ALL the non-game programming on SNY is brutal. They're the last regional sports TV network to come in to a market that includes MSG TV, MSG2 TV, YES TV, FSN TV, and WFAN radio. On top of that, with ESPN HQ about an hour outside the city, all the regional networks compete with the Worldwide Leader for talent.

However, if you want a sample of just Gary and Ron (a better booth) they are covering the series against your Hometown Heroes.

NY Jon said...

I'm with Tom, this was a pretty spot on take on the SNY broadcasters. Nicely done.

I do wish you could've found a link to the Jeter commercial, though. The article you linked to does a good job of showing the way he's marketed to different ethnic groups, but just the fact that all "all white" or "all black" advertising still exists in 2008 is pretty sad.

Can I assume you're going to milk the marquee teams, a little bit at a time for the rest of the month?


Tom said...

That article kind of had a point until it suggested a white cab driver.

Come on now. Let's not get crazy.

That Bootleg Guy said...

"Milk the marquee teams"? Jon, I'm offended. Meanwhile, enjoy Thursday's posting. Without giving anything away, it's team that's won just as many championships as the Mets in the last 25 years!

that jeter lovin nicka said...

Note the Jeter "got an Edge" vs. Jeter "Clark Kent Ford Salesman" ads really shows that he has such mass appeal.

He markets shitty cars to everyone.

How about some honesty? "I fucked a coked up and drunk Jessica Biel in this car once."

THEN maybe he'd have an edge.

Anonymous said...

As a New Yorker and Mets fan, this 3-man booth is widely praised as the best in the industry...

Darling's knowledge, Hernandez's bluntness and Cohen's baseball sense make for a quality listen every night

That Bootleg Guy said...

Hey, now, don't be fooled by the score...the Mets crew comes in towards the top half of all other crews. If someone were to send Hernandez out to pasture, I think they'd be even better.