Friday, August 1, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: Tampa Bay Rays

Game: Oakland A's at Tampa Bay Rays
Date: July 21
Network: Fox Sports Net – Florida

Play-by-Play: Dewayne Staats
Color Commentator: Joe Magrane
Third Wheel in the Stands: Todd Kalas

Some of you might remember that I visited Central Florida last summer. Since I was actually working, I didn't get a chance to see tourist-gouging staples like Disneyworld, Universal Studios or one of Orlando's 700 Hooters. So, for those of you wondering what there is to see in the middle of "America's Wang", I encourage you to pack up the kids and convince the wife to visit Tampa, just for a glimpse of Rays' play-by-play man Dewayne Staats and his late '70s/early '80s perm-slash-'stache combo. He looks like the guy that Goldie Hawn's character would've married, before realizing she's in love with Charles Grodin's character.

Chemistry: I've heard Magrane's work before and generally enjoy his glib approach to broadcasting, but he seems to be holding himself back with Staats. The two traded dueling, dreadful puns ("Maybe Jack [Cust] did cussed!") early in the game and I couldn't help but think that Magrane would mesh infinitely better with someone who could keep up – such as Padres' PBP guy Matt Vasgersian. Later in the game, Staats read a promo for a post-game LL Cool J concert and Magrane refused to pounce. C'mon…middle-aged white guy hyping a rap concert? That's a lay-up, Joe. Grade: 4/10

Knowledge: Magrane might be the best broadcaster most of you have never heard. There was a busted pick-off move late in the game that he broke down step-by-step. Not surprisingly, as a former pitcher, his insight on the anatomy of a cut fastball was terrific, but I wish he'd expanded on his contention that LHPs are easier to steal on than RHPs. A few minor nits: Magrane mispronounced A's starter Dana Eveland's last name several times and both broadcasters used tired phrases like "blue collar", "grinder", "battler" and "similar to Mike Alstott" to describe the Rays' mediocre fourth outfielder Johnny Gomes. Staats is only good for parroting what's in front of him. Grade: 6.5/10

Enthusiasm: Staats has a measured, restrained passion in his voice that would sound fine for a big-market team that's accustomed to winning. The Rays could use a voice that better captures the excitement of this team and makes viewers want to watch them in person. Magrane is OK, as there are still trace elements of his puckish personality in there, somewhere. Unfortunately, he seems to be trying to hard to fit the cookie-cutter color commentary standard. Grade: 5/10

Bar Stool Q: Staats might like all the things I do: appetizer sampler platters, booths rather than tables and beers no darker than me, but his "bar stool quotient" is negated by his "porn star quotient". What if he double-dipped? Can you get VD from ranch dressing? Magrane used to be funny. Still not sure what happened there. Grade: 3/10

Camera/Production: Todd Kalas hosts the pre-game show and I'd be fine if that was the only time we saw him. But, his in-game interview with a couple of kooks looking to prepare Tampa/St. Petersburg for the 21st century (too late, fellas) was long and intrusive. Early on, the director repeatedly shot some of the scantily-clad groupies sitting near the dugouts. Does every woman in Florida look like Hulk Hogan's ex-wife? Finally, is the stadium music really as thunderous as it sounds while watching the game? I like Jay-Z as much as the next guy, but his concerts can't be this loud. Grade: 4/10

Homerism: After the game, I was almost hoping that Staats and Magrane were a little more biased. The Rays have had their lunch money stolen by the rest of the AL for 10 seasons and now, when they should be gloating, the broadcast team seems content to call it down the middle? Grade: -1

Commerciality: This game aired during the "free preview" week of MLB Extra Innings. Unfortunately, that means that most of the local spots were replaced with ads to purchase MLB E.I. for the rest of the season. A few gems still seeped through, though: Rays manager Joe Maddon's unintentionally hilarious "Smoke Free Florida" PSA (they'd light chewing tobacco in Tampa, if they could), the Blue Bell Ice Cream spot assuring viewers that the brand still sells half-gallon tubs (is there a shortage down there?) and an ad for Carrabba's Italian Grill that featured an "Italian" with a molasses-thick southern accent who pronounced "pollo" as "poh-low".

AFLAC Trivia Question: "Who holds the Princeton Devil Rays (Single-A) single season record for home runs in one season?" (My answer: Wes Bankston; Correct answer: same) Don't look at me like that. Bankston is with the A's now and in every game he's played, he's been referred to as "former Rays farmhand Wes Bankston". 1 for 1

Final Grade: 21.5


thatnicka said...

Staats is the voice you hear calling the annoying "He did it, He did it! A no-hitter by Jim Abbott!!!" back in the Yankees dark days.

Note; I found the awkward hip-hop songs played at the Nationals Stadium to be really loud yet brief.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Holy crap, I never knew that. That call was *everywhere* in So. California in honor of the former Angel Abbott.

As an aside, seeing a paunchy, balding, middle-aged Abbott in SI a few weeks ago really, REALLY made me feel old.

Tom said...

Oddly, I heard the exact same "easier to steal on lefties thing" this week from Keith Hernandez... first time I'd heard it also.

He said it's easier to read the pitcher's intention when his front is to you than when his back is to you. I have no idea if stats bear this out.

JPinAZ said...

RE: ice cream
Have you not purchased ice cream lately? The once mighty half gallon turned into 1.75 quarts for a while and is now down to 1.5 quarts. I felt like I was buying one of those little one serving cups the last time I got some.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Ummm...since turning 30, I've found that dairy is no longer "my friend". I'll sacrifice my insides for Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk or their Cinnamon Bun flavors, but those are only pints, right? Mrs. Bootleg has been buying those ridiculous single-serving B&J cups, which is the equivalent of one large spoonful.

thatnicka said...

As an aside, seeing a paunchy, balding, middle-aged Abbott in person pitching an inning at Old Timer's day to a fat Dave Winfield REALLY made me feel old.

Is it irony that a few days after writing the comment about Staats call of Abbott's no hitter, I saw him pitch in person while the video of that call played on the Jumbotron BEHIND HIM?

What are the chances of that?