Monday, August 11, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: Oakland A's

Game: Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland A's
Date: July 13
Network: Comcast SportsNet

Play-by-Play: Glen Kuiper
Color Commentator: Ray Fosse
Token Hotness Near the Dugout: Jaymee Sire

As most of y'all know, in spite of my unabashed adoration for the A's, I've never lived in the Bay Area. As a result, I don't have any sepia-toned romantic attachments to their past broadcasters. Through old VHS season highlight tapes, I know that Lon Simmons' "Tell it goodbye!" home run calls were the standard for the late 80s/early 90s team. And, the late Bill King's "Holy Toledo!" catchphrase ruled the A's radio airwaves until his death in 2005. I say all this to demonstrate how I actually can be unbiased about a game that involves the goddamm Angels.

Chemistry: Kuiper and Fosse have been a full time duo since the start of last year. They play off of each other pretty well, but Kuiper doesn't do a good enough job of driving the broadcast. Kuiper defers to Fosse way too much, letting the former A's catcher prattle on with his uncomplicated analysis. In the 4th inning of this game, A's starter Justin Duchscherer put two runners on, slowing the pace of the game to a crawl, which was made worse by the amount of dead air in the booth. Say something, Glen! Grade: 6/10

Knowledge: Fosse's strength as a color commentator lies almost exclusively with his insights on catcher footwork, positioning and pitch recognition. He's surprisingly just OK in breaking down other aspects of the game, often stating the obvious or simply narrating a replay for the viewer. Kuiper seems almost reluctant to overstep his play-by-play boundaries which, to a point, is understandable, but a more frequent dialogue with Fosse doesn't necessarily have to be a debate. Grade: 5.5/10

Enthusiasm: A's LF Jack Cust hit one out and was serenaded with one of Kuiper's typically unpolished home run calls ("That baby's hit well aaaaaaaand GONE!"). Kuiper's voice lacks real urgency, though and he doesn't tailor his delivery to convey tension or drama. Fosse probably loves the A's a little too much, but the liveliest he got here was several seconds of howling laughter when he found out that Supercuts was sponsoring the Dick Williams bobblehead promotion later that month. Supercuts? But, the 1970s A's didn't GET haircuts! Get it?! Grade: 5.5/10

Bar Stool Q: I actually met Fosse on an elevator in Anaheim during the summer of '99. I've had my fill, thank you. It's not that he's not a nice guy (he is)…it's just that he's an old school ex-ballplayer who I'm sure still subscribes to the cone of silence policy outside the clubhouse. I mean, if I can't get the poop on those psychedelic '70s A's teams, what's the point in buying him a beer? Kuiper's clearly a company man, too, but since his company is my company, he can come along. Grade: 4.5/10

Camera/Production: The on-field microphone (pretty sure it's on the screen, behind home plate) didn't appear to be on for the first few innings. A's crowds aren't big, but they're loud and with all the dead air, it was like listening in on a morgue, at times. The number of crowd shots (mostly of fans wearing giveaway Dave Stewart jerseys) got tedious, quickly. Points though for the "flashback" segment that featured Mark McGwire's 1992 Home Run Derby eruption. Personally, a fun memory and made more enjoyable since the broadcasters raved about his strength and power without mentioning the elephant in the room. Grade: 4/10

Homerism: Fosse isn't as bad as the Angels' Rex Hudler, but, then again, the Wonder Dog is in a class by himself. In the fifth inning, Duchscherer was obviously getting squeezed by the home plate umpire, yet on one pitch that missed the corner by a good six inches, Fosse exasperatedly sighed, "I don't know where THAT was." Earlier in the game, the first few innings of Fosse and Kuiper were an extended oral resume of Duchscherer's All-Star credentials ("I don't know HOW he's lost five games!") Grade: -6.5

Commerciality: The A's "100% Baseball" ad campaign isn't as clever as in past seasons, but my son gets a kick out of it. The recruiting spots for the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department were…quite something. And, the new "Get Your Smokey On" commercials are another fine marketing example of African-American slang being manipulated…10 years after everyone stopped saying it.

AFLAC Trivia Question: "Which A's pitchers won 20+ games with Oakland in more than one season?" (My answer: Dave Stewart, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue; Correct answer: same) Pfft…challenge me, AFLAC...4 for 9

Final Grade: 19


NY Jon said...

I refuse to believe that you met Ray Fosse. As most of your readers know: anytime anything like this happens to you, it's pounded into the ground until the end of time. Exhibit A: The time Scott Baio had you and your friends thrown out of a restaurant.

I know that story better than you do now.

Jeremiah said...

Hey. Great blog. Found it through Scott Keith's blog (a regular stop on my daily visits to various blogs to kill time while between work projects).
As an avid baseball fan who grew up loving the 80s/early 90s Cardinals, then quit because of La Russa (who you may or may not like because of his history with the A's. I personally can't stand him and his overinflated, I'm-smarter-than-everyone-else-by-throwing-six-relievers-in-two-innings ego crap.) Then, started rooting for the D-Rays when they started in 1998 so that I can root for a team I can actually go see on a regular basis (I live two hours away from Tampa/St Pete).
Anyway, this magic carpet ride they are on this year is almost unfathomable and is almost making me forget the absolute horror of Hal McRae, Jose Canseco, that brainless nitwit Chuck LeMar, those hideous purple and black uniforms, and pretty much everything else about the Devil Rays up until this year.
As somebody who make my wife suffer through watching or listening to almost every game, I found your opinions on Magrane and Staats to be spot-on. Magrane is really good, but almost seems forced to play it straight. Staats makes for a great extra on Boogie Nights, but only makes for a mediocre PBP man. I'd kill for somebody with more enthusiasm to call the action, especially since the Rays have won so many games dramatically this year. Their radio guy, Dave Wills, is actually much better, so on a lot of ocassions, I choose the listen to the radio broadcast instead.
The drinking game du jour for a Rays telecast or radio broadcast is to do a shot every time they say something negative/sarcastic about the Yankees and Red Sox. They do a good job of translating the fans' feelings for those teams by taking frequent jabs at them. If the Rays pull this off and win the division, the most gratifying part might be the fact that we'll be stoning one of the conglomorates out of the playoffs. Then, what will they do?? Who else can they trade for?? Oh, yeah...anyone they damn well please.
Sorry for the long post, but I enjoyed your sounds of summer series a lot today, and I'll make sure to check back regularly and read your other posts.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Jonny New York: Good point. On an unrelated note, you'll wanna check out tomorrow's marquee team review the New York, Boston Red Sox.

Jeremiah: Welcome! Long comments are always appreciated as I reserve the right to plagarize them for my own content on days when I've got nothing to write.

I'm rooting for your Rays, too. Lord knows I have no vested interest in any other AL team this year. Thanks, A's!

Hard to believe the Rays have evolved this much in 10 years. Even harder to comprehend how those purple n' black "Devil Rays" unis have aged so horribly in just a decade. Hell, even the rainbow Astros ones from the '70s/'80s could be explained away as a fashion designer's acid trip.

Anonymous said...

I typically turn the TV sound off and listen to the radio for A's games. I'm sure Glen Kuiper is a good guy but he seems to do the minimum amount of preparation to get through the games. The few games the Vince Contronio did on TV in 2008 were far superior to the regular broadcast.

That Bootleg Guy said...

I didn't realize that VC had done TV for the A's. It took awhile, but I've gotten used to his style on the radio.

Either way, Kupier and Controneo are a zillion times better than Hank Greenwald in '04, '05. Yikes.

Marty said...

Vince did one or two games when Kuip was back in Wisconsin for a graduation, or wedding, or something. Night and day difference, with Vince far outshining Kuip.

Sure, Kuip is better than Hank Greenmummblemumble, but that is not saying much. Kuip was better in previous years. Now it doesn't seem like he makes an effort to prep for a game, or even watch it and report on it. There are times when he drifts off and when he does talk it is like he is talking to someone else at a table in a bar and you have to pick out what he is saying over the background noise and the fact that he is not talking _to_ you, but _away_ from you.

You can tell by his higher level of enthusiasm that Fosse prefers the banter on the radio side. Fosse and Vince/Ken seem to interact much better and in a more entertaining way. If I could figure out how to record the radio feed on the alternate audio feed on my TiVo, I'd do it in a heartbeat. The ability to hear the better announcers _and_ pause, or commercial skip, is a win/win for me.

Steve Carr said...

The A's now synchronize all the away broadcasts so you can listen to the radio while watching without a delay. The KICU home games do not have the delay but the Comcast home games have a 5 second delay. The A's management was nice enough to make that change last year.