Friday, August 29, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: Washington Nationals

Game: Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals
Date: August 16
Network: Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN)

Play-by-Play: Bob Carpenter
Color Commentator: Don Sutton
"She's a Handsome Woman": Debbi Taylor

The sad demise of the Montreal Expos and the despicable Washington DC stadium deal that hastened their relocation is one of the most surprisingly underreported stories in years. Major League Baseball's bloody hands have been wiped clean and blown dry with the windfall of funds that Commissioner Bud Selig and his cronies squeezed out of an area that sold its soul to be a part of a 30-team fraternity. Although I grew up in Southern California, I have a lot of fond memories of the Expos. There was the great NLCS against the Dodgers in 1981. All the 1989 card sets featuring a young Randy Johnson rocking that goofy, tri-color cap. OF Curtis Pride, who is 95% deaf, hitting a 7th inning game-tying double in late September 1993, with the 3rd base coach motioning for Pride to tip his hat to the standing ovation he couldn't hear. 1B Cliff Floyd's 3-run bomb off of the un-hittable 1994 version of Greg Maddux that signaled a new guard in the National League East. Les Expos sont là.

Chemistry: Carpenter is quick to agree with every point Sutton makes, challenging nothing, while Sutton leans hard on his "back in MY day" resume to add gravitas to his commentary. The highlight of the evening was listening to the two of them simply eviscerate unsigned Nationals first round draft pick Aaron Crow. Throughout the entire fifth inning, Sutton and Carpenter (even Debbi Taylor got in on the discussion) assured viewers that Crow had made a mistake as he would've "started at Double-A" and been "a probable September [2008] call-up". Someone must've got in their ears, because with 2 outs in the bottom of the fifth, everyone fell over themselves to take turns wishing Crow "well in his future endeavors". Grade: 7.5/10

Knowledge: Sutton admired Nats SP John Lannan's fewer hits-than-innings pitched totals, while ignoring the kid's mediocre 87 strikeouts to 50 walks ratio. A half-inning later, Sutton made a half-hearted attempt to blast Rockies SP Livan Hernandez's reputation as an "innings eater" (paraphrased, his point was "what good is that if his innings aren't any good?") but, seemed like he didn't want to offend Livan. Later in the game, Sutton actually took a stab at explaining the "play the game the right way" cliché. His rambling dissertation included: the importance of the name on the front of the jersey rather than the back; showing up between five minutes and one hour early for extra work and sacrificing ones home run swing to get the run in from third. Mystery solved, then. Grade: 5.5/10

Enthusiasm: Carpenter is an old pro and while his delivery is a bit stilted, he does an OK job of getting the disinterested fanbase invested in a game. Sutton, on the other hand, cribs from Tim McCarver's contrived approach to commentary. Sutton actually fixed his mouth to say, in a pretend deadpan delivery, "Ho hum. Another highlight reel play for Willie Harris." Later, as Lannan was getting torched by the Rockies' bats, Sutton combined Nats pitching coach Randy St. Claire with a biblical tale involving Job and "the patience of…St. Clare". Hard to believe he waited until August to drop that gem, no? Grade: 5/10

Bar Stool Q: Sutton saw a lot of good baseball during his years calling the Atlanta Braves on TBS. When my A's were suffering through their mid-90s malaise, I watched a lot of Braves games. I'd love to hear Sutton's tales on David Justice's conquest of Halle Berry and the early recording sessions of Deion Sanders' Must Be The Money CD. Carpenter would, of course, be invited to drink with us. After a season like this, he's probably got shots of rotgut aligned alongside his microphone. Grade: 6.5/10

Camera/Production: Thanks to a well-miked field and an absolutely deserted sea of seats behind home plate, umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's calls came through crystal clear. Did you know he even adds things like, "That was outside!" to his calls? Me, neither. Huzzah, empty seats! A replay of the double play that ended the bottom of the first inning wasn't shown until the bottom of the 2nd inning. When a right-handed hitter stepped to the plate, the low-angle camera would catch the Ben's Chili Bowl stand over the hitter's shoulder. Mrs. Bootleg tired of my "hey, I ate there!" line by the third inning. Grade: 5/10

Homerism: Sutton had some fun at the expense of Rockies OF Willy Taveras. He correctly shredded the kid's resume as a leadoff hitter, then openly mocked Taveras' "big boy swings" at the plate. Entertaining, yes, but there's no way he's that condescending to the home team. Carpenter and Sutton were pretty even-handed with Nats 2B Emilio Bonafacio. They got on him for a first inning error, but later Sutton said he had the best range of any second baseman in the league. Let's assume that Diamondbacks broadcasts come on too late for Sutton to watch. Grade: -6.5

Commerciality: So, what was the single greatest in-game promo I've heard all year? Well, listening to Carpenter read a spot hyping the move of WWE Smackdown to a new local channel is the current leader in the clubhouse. "Triple H, Edge, The Undertaker…" MASN sent Taylor to the ballpark's "Playstation Pavilion" to interview an 8-year-old playing Guitar, uh…Something. Yep, that was the whole segment. And, the MASN Fantasy Camp spots continued with this one being my personal favorite. Titmouse. Continuing this immature angle, your August 26 giveaway Ryan Zimmerman T-shirts are brought to you by Nick's Sausage. Yuck.

AFLAC Trivia Question: "Which two players have the most 30+ home run seasons with the Rockies?" (My answer: Todd Helton/Larry Walker; Correct answer: Todd Helton/Vinny Castilla) 12 for 24

Final Grade: 23


acctg.sean said...

Curtis Pride AND Cliff Floyd Les Expos references? Couldn't slip Rondell White in there? Oil Can Boyd?

How the hell do you remember this stuff?

That Bootleg Guy said...

In my defense, LaGirlfriend Bootleg wouldn't come into my life until a few years later, thus re-jiggering my priorities. But, the Pride thing was one of those highlights where, umm, "something was in my eye". The Floyd thing officially put me on the Expos bandwagon. Then, the strike hit.

The end.

Josh said...

also my dad's favorite Fantasy Camp commercial, Cam.

PS - where was the gratuitous JDC reference?

nickassausage said...

c'mon..cliches aside the Expos management, stadium (which has shortened Vlad's career), and their wretched non existent fanbase are more to blame. I don't disagree about selig and co. but Expos history? They had a slew of great players come through in the 90s and this decade who ALL fled the first chance they got. That should tell you something.

1994 was too late, strike or not.

That Bootleg Guy said...

I dunno. The Expos consistently drew more than 2 million during their first great run in the late '70s/early '80s. This was during a time when attendance had flatlined across much of the baseball landscape. The team's attendance *was* improving in '94 with that fantastic playoff-bound team, Nicka. But, after the strike, ownership *really* began the fire sale that would sadly become the Expos legacy.

The notion that the Expos fanbase was non existent is only true to the extent that ownership (thru trades of established talent for kids with "upside" to the neglect of Olympic Stadium to NO radio/TV deals at the very end) drove them away.

If that '94 team had made a deep run into October, I'm convinced that they'd still be in Montreal. This was not the '97 Marlins. They were a home-grown collection of talent that would've won for years.