Open Letter to 'Baseball Tonight'

I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago

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29 Responses to Open Letter to 'Baseball Tonight'

  1. Very well said. What’s sad is that these aren’t even the worst offendors ESPN brings on camera. Fernando Vina, Eric Young and others provide absolutely nothing, and spew out cliche after cliche in hopes that the audience is 10 years old.
    I’m not asking for VORP or stuff like that either, because I feel numbers usually don’t translate as well in speech and can lose the casual fan. But keeping the rhetoric focused on good and “healthy” debate about what really makes teams work doesn’t seem hard to ask.
    Then again, how can I take anything that Steve Phillips says seriously? Mo Vaughn. Roger Cedeno. Ehhh.

  2. What really bugs me is Kruk’s open admission that some of the opinions are pre-determined. Perhaps it’s me being naive. I knew this happened on Around the Horn but did not expect it from Baseball Tonight.
    How about this new revamped Baseball Tonight lineup?
    Host – Matt Winer/Trey Wingo
    Key Analysts – Jayson Stark, Rob Neyer, Peter Gammons
    Psychology Issues – Tony Robbins
    Health Issues – Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus
    For Fun – Charles Barkley

  3. Minda says:

    I agree, it’s pretty disconcerting that the “opinions” on the show are pre-determined. What greater good does that serve? Would it do harm to fans to have Kruk (or any analyst) give their own opinion? If the producers are going to decide the “opinions,” why not just hire pretty people to read them, like the weather bunnies of old?
    It’s somewhat degrading to baseball fans as a whole to have that kind of crap. I mean, they have a whole hour every night; that should be plenty of time to give enough information so that everyone can be smarter (and therefore a better fan) by the show’s end.
    I’m supposed to be writing a massive paper (due tomorrow, started tonight), so why am I here? Curse you, Mr. Seidman, for writing about stuff, and things.

  4. Shane says:

    The opinions on Around the Horn are predetermined? I didn’t know that, how so? While I don’t think the show is groundbreaking, I do like watching it and I’ve always assumed they meant what they’ve said.
    I’ve been less happy with Baseball Tonight the past year and a half so I don’t watch it regularly.

  5. Bravo, Eric. You did a great job of arguing a point that needs to be argued.
    In my opinion, Baseball Tonight has really gone downhill since Harold Reynolds was fired. I feel like Eric Young (for example) is too afraid to criticize players because he was playing with these guys a couple of years ago. Orel Hershiser does have some good, insightful things to say, but he does not do a good job of conveying those insights – if I had a dollar for every time he says “holy smokes!”…
    Of course, these offenses pale in comparison to the problems I have with Kruk and Phillips. Not only do both often say some really stupid things, they compound the stupidity by constantly fighting with one another (I remember in particular one argument they had last year when Fausto Carmona was sent down early in the year – they made Rosie and Elisabeth look like the best of friends).

  6. I feel like Orel Hershiser is a great baseball guy and needs to be a pitching coach or manager. He knows what he means but does not really know how to get it across sometimes, as you said Jessica, but he would definitely be a good pitching coach (again) or manager. I also like Hershiser as a Color Commentator but not necessarily an analyst for a quick 2-3 minute segment.
    Eric Young, that’s exactly right, and that’s the problem with having certain players serve as commentators: they don’t want former friends or teammates to get on them for critiques.
    Shane, a lot of the time Around the Horn has pre-determined opinions, especially in the showdown segment in order to present a dichotomy of views or force an argument. Seriously, buy Will Leitch’s book. There’s a story in there where he mentions a former Around the Horn panelist that would make fun of the show in his daily paper for making him say things and when he refused to stop talking non-positively about the experience ESPN made sure he was never on the channel again.

  7. William Hanigan says:

    Great points. I, like many of you reading this, am a baseball junkie. I follow some Sabermetrics and also truly like the human interest side of the game. Baseball Tonight can’t do either of them. That is sad.
    Three years ago I stopped watching the show on a regular basis because I just got angry. They are morons personified now. I can get good information elsewhere.

  8. Bob R. says:

    I agree with your point. The only reason I ever watch Baseball Tonight anymore is to enjoy some of the film clips, and even those are often too brief or flit by too quickly for me truly to enjoy them.
    One quibble I have. While I agree that advanced statistical analysis is difficult to convey on TV or radio in a palatable manner, I do not think it is impossible. The challenge for anyone trying to convey information or insight in the media is to find a way to simplify the detailed analysis without misrepresenting it or making it overly simplistic. It is a similar problem that teachers of introductory courses have in communicating the essence of the research without losing the students or oversimplifying the studies to the point of error.
    If analysts have been able to discuss baseball using BA, RBIs, Home Runs, ERA, Ks, BBs and the like, they should be able to do so using OBP, ISO, ERA+ and even more sophisticated concepts. Casual fans may not be used to those numbers and may not yet know exactly how to interpret them, but it is possible to introduce them and develop the context within which they make sense.
    Aside from it being unexpected, how hard is it to replace an “analysis” of Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell as having a problem with low BAs and too many Ks with one that focuses instead on the benefits of their OBP and slugging? In fact, if any time is given to debate among the analysts, wouldn’t it be quite interesting for fans, even if only 2 minutes are allotted, to hear one person explain why he is so concerned about BA while another explains why s/he considers OBP more important?

  9. Bob, that’s exactly my point. I’m not expecting a complete overhaul and shift into sabermetrics analysis but give me something. Give me something I can take away from. Pat Burrell only had a .256 BA but, as I detail in my upcoming book, he had a .400 OBP, a .502 SLG, and his ISO of .246 was actually higher than Albert Pujols; and yet Joe Morgan/Dusty Baker and more of the likes will say Burrell had a bad year/average year because his batting average was low.
    If they introduce concepts it develops an open dialogue between viewers and these stats; viewers will look up some of these stats, OPS+, ISO, etc, and learn about them. Hopefully even develop interest.
    To ignore them and instead focus on health as the problem with everyone is absolutely ridiculous. Baseball Tonight tries to do too much and, in doing so, is not giving us enough. I would rather spend 10 minutes learning about a torn labrum than 1 minute learning a guy is unhealthy and that if he gets healthy his team will win.

  10. ummm…if we are talking about ESPN personalities that people can’t stand due to their considerable lack of valid analysis whilst making a point, I am getting my megaphone and screaming SKIP BAYLESS into it. I know your post was largely about Baseball Tonight- but seriously, can anyone explain to me why this guy is still on tv? When the show was Cold Pizza, at least I could watch it because Paige is funny…but First Take is seriously painful now…

  11. Matt says:

    You might not like John Kruk, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his idea during a BBT show from DisneyWorld to have Steve Phillips debate Donald Duck.
    Wherein Donald Duck said that Donald Duck would be the Cy Young winner and the MVP.
    So the show ain’t what it used to be, but it seems the problem runs deeper than Kruk-y.

  12. Kristy, I’m with you 100%. Matt, the point of this post is not entirely to berate John Kruk but rather the types of analysis being offered, in general.
    So wait, you don’t think Donald Duck should be the Cy Young Award winner?

  13. My favorite parts of the Japanese Megabowl were as follows -
    1) Gary Thorne mistaking Jose Canseco for Jason Giambi about twelve times in a two-minute span. Go to awfulannouncing.com to see the video.
    2) Steve Phillips forgetting the name of the Athletics owner and calling him Lou…… before realizing he forgot and trailed off into a different tangent, only to randomly say the guy’s full name upon remembering it.

  14. Matt- I actually am a huge Kruk fan- but my love for him stems from his playing days- not his analytical skills. It’s just something we as fans have to deal with-…the fact that I like John Kruk will never make him a good analyst- the way that my adoration of Mike Schmidt will never make him less of an ass (sorry for the profanity- but it’s true!)

  15. Kristy are you from Philadelphia? I am. I loved Kruk as the Phillies color commentator a few years ago before ESPN snatched him up because he was fun to listen to during a broadcast of a game; for pure analysis on how teams will fare or what they need to do, not so much.
    My dad produced Mike Schmidt as an announcer and suffice it to say Schmidt was not well-liked by most of the TV crew.

  16. dan says:

    Hershiser was, as you said, the pitching coach for the Rangers. He quit because he didn’t want to have that type of job, and wanted to be an adviser for the team or an analyst on TV.

  17. Alex says:

    Before you can make any comment, you have to remember the source, ESPN (The All-Red Sox and All- Yankees network). If you look at the before season national television braodcast dates for teams you will see that the Red Sox (world series champs) have 18 dates 9 Fox and 9 ESPN. The Yankees have 17 dates, 9 Fox and 8 ESPN. I will give you the Red Sox because of last years results (though they had a similar pre season line up when their 2006 results were not so hot). Why do the Yankees keep getting extra TV time? Cleveland had a better record than the Yankees but they only have 12 dates. The Rockies were in the World Series, but they only have 4 dates. LA Dodgers (barely winning record) and Angels (same record as the Yankees) have a similarly sized market but the Dodgers only have 12 dates and Angels have 13 dates. The Mets come from the same city but have 15 dates.
    And how come there are 5 teams with no national TV dates and 8 other teams with 5 or less dates?
    I think the reason is the location of ESPN, Connecticut. It is a town between Boston and NY, so are in the middle of the rivalry between these two teams. This is the only excuse I can give for why there was so much coverage of the Yankees last year when they were doing so lousy. A small market team would have beenwritten off for the season and been relegated to their 30 second highlight package and moved on. Instead the rest of the country who teams with better records than the Yankees had to sit through hours of ESPN commentary about the sorry state of the Yankees and how this affects the Red Sox when most of us (especially in the National League) don’t care!!!
    Like the political reporters out there, ESPN has gotten lazy in its reporting. They only want to talk about the Yankees and Red Sox so that’s most of what they do. They end up looking like idiots when they have to talk intelligently about anyone else in baseball. Like most baseball fans out there, they only know the ins and outs of their teams and their biggest rival and act like Dancing with the Stars professionals when they have to talk about anyone else. They don’t have the knowledge or the interest to talk about anyone but the Yankees or red Sox so they give us the mailed-in response of “if so-and-so doesn’t get injured” comment which any soccer mom can say to sound intelligent. Until ESPN starts watching the other 28 teams in MLB they will continue to sound like a bunch of idiots who have to pull things out of one orafice or another to sound like they might know something about baseball.

  18. I think the NFL just adopted the scheduling policy of being able to alter the Sunday Night game based on how the teams are performing. If not I know it is something they plan on instituting. That would be great for baseball and basketball.
    I mean, my Sixers are arguably the hottest team in the NBA right now and yet all ESPN ever shows is Suns-Spurs, Suns-Cavs, Cavs-Spurs, Cavs-Pistons, Pistons-Spurs, Pistons-Suns, and TNT even throws in Heat games. I mean, Heat? Does anybody care what Chris Quinn does? Pat Riley doesn’t even go to the games anymore.
    Baseball should definitely have that leverage with ESPN and we should see more of certain teams. Each team should have at least one or two nationally televised games. I mean a team like the Nationals won’t be very good but if you televise Nationals-Mets or Nationals-Phillies that would be a good thing to see.

  19. Also, go to firejoemorgan.com and read some of the archived Joe Morgan chats. In there you will see that Joe Morgan answers half of his questions with “well, I don’t know much about the (insert non-Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Reds, Yanks, Red Sox team)” or “I don’t see a lot of their games.” And ESPN considers him their #1 analyst.

  20. Barkley would be great anywhere. I love Barkley. Did you happen to see him at the All-Star Game?
    Jessica, let’s do it. Every Sunday or if they have Wednesday night baseball we can record cliche sayings or instances of ignorance with regards to a team.
    Awfulannouncing.com is a great site for this sort of thing. I’ll do a bi-weekly or monthly post recapping everything.

  21. While I generally agree with the idea of being able to flip the Sunday night game based on who is doing well/which games have more impact on playoff races, I remember a Sunday night game late in September last year between the Cardinals and Astros, two sub-.500 teams who were basically playing out the string. Before the game started, I was upset that it had not been switched to a game involving at least one playoff contender, but I watched anyway and enjoyed a good start by Roy Oswalt and lots of 9th inning dramatics (Carlos Lee home run to give the Astros the lead, Pujols vs Lidge revisited, Rick Ankiel winning it for the Cardinals). Even games between bad teams can be compelling and fun to watch.
    Even as a fan of a big-market team that gets a lot of nationally televised games, I often find myself disappointed by how little the broadcasters know about my team, and this leads me to not trust what they are saying about the opposing team – after all, if I know they got one team wrong, why should I think they got the other team right?

  22. Jessica, for the very reason mentioned in your last paragraph is why Kenny Smith is my favorite analyst. He watches a ton of tape, a ton of games, and researches the teams. Granted that is for Inside the NBA and not baseball-related, but he does his job very effectively. I always feel I learn from what he discusses and that his opinions are credible because of how well-researched they are.
    I would love to propose a project wherein we keep track of cliche things and wrong information uttered by ESPN announcers on national baseball games.
    Oh, and what I meant by bad teams playing on ESPN isn’t necessarily Cards/Astros, where you’ve got Pujols, Oswalt, the Ankiel story, but rather the equivalent of a Knicks-Heat matchup right now.

  23. Eric, I would definitely volunteer to participate in that project. I could sit in front of my TV and take notes during the Sunday night games.

  24. joshtothemaxx says:

    I think if the current BBTonight lineup were left the same, a simple addition of Barkley would clear everything up. Just pray for a contained Chaos Dunk.

  25. Alex says:

    Thank you for looking into the idiocracy of ESPN and other “analysts” on TV. I tend not to watch many of the nationally televised games because they either show the same teams or they don’t know who they are talking about.
    I looked briefly at Awfulannouncing.com and I don’t see what you mean when you say they are a good source for looking for bad commmentary. I’d like to contribute once in a while, but I want to make sure I’m keeping track of the same thing, and that we are not contradicting each other because we have different views on what is “bad” or overly cliche (It’s hard for commentators to say anything without using cliches).
    Do any of you know what can be done to encourage MLB in their next contract with cable/major network channels to ensure that every team gets at least one nationally televised game, and any other selections are based on W/L record or playoff contention?

  26. Alex, awfulannouncing.com is more of a humorous look at the idiocracies (BTW, please go see “Idiocracy” if you haven’t – tremendous movie) that broadcasters seemingly demonstrate, IE – Gary Thorne’s blunders in Japan.
    My e-mail address is on here so if you want to send me an e-mail with ideas for this “project” please do. By team ignorance I am referring to announcers that give opinions that are either clearly wrong or factually incorrect. Cliche responses or broadcasting is along the lines of analysis mentioning only health and like situations.

  27. Kristy Fasano says:

    Eric- I am about an hour outside of Philly. I usually head to CBP a dozen or so times a year for games(It’s hands down one of my favorite stadiums!). I’m headed there for Opening Night on Wed and cannot wait(I wanted to go to Opening Day but I couldn’t take any more time off work since I just took off a week for Spring Training). Anyway- I went to Brighthouse a few times during Spring Training and got to see Schmidty coach first base- and as much of a thrill as it was for me- he was/is terribly unfriendly.

  28. Karl Ravech just said that “Nick Punto is a reason why the Twins won’t be as bad as you think.” No, really.

  29. Ravech: “They’re all gamers.”
    Yes Karl, it’s actually a sabermetrics formula.
    Gamer-quality + low-talent = 1 win per 5 games

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