Open Letter to ‘Baseball Tonight’
March 25, 2008 29 Comments
I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago almost made me vomit, in a metaphorical sense, of course. The idea behind the show is phenomenal; who wouldn’t want to watch 30-60 minutes of baseball highlights and analysis? Despite this, what I saw the other day was almost as bad as those mock Steve Phillips press conferences and the “Who’s Now?” competition. Below is a video of what disgusted me. Before watching, understand that I think Tim Kurkjian is a tremendous orator, analyst, and writer. This is more directed at John Kruk, though it seems Krucky ended up wearing off a bit on Kurkjian.
In the clip you will see Karl Ravech (who really needs to learn that his opinions are irrelevant and his job is merely to direct traffic between analysts) read questions that viewers sent in via e-mail to Kruk and Kurkjian for insight with regards to the chances of certain teams. Five or six teams are discussed and, with the exception of the Cubs, John Kruk’s key analysis for every other team is some variation of: “…if (insert player/team) stays healthy…”
If Randy Johnson stays healthy the Diamondbacks will have a shot.
If the Mets pitching/lineup stays healthy they have a good shot.
If Brad Lidge stays healthy for the Phillies they’ll have a good shot.
If Ben Sheets stays healthy the Brewers could win the Central.
Now, granted, Kruk is not a Harvard graduate but my grandmother (insert funny line about how little she knows about baseball) could tell me that a team’s success will increase if everyone stays healthy. He does end up offering little tidbits of solid analysis but it seems that the biggest weapon in his arsenal is health. Can we please stop talking about health? Seriously… why is this a staple of every analysis? People DON’T stay healthy. That is one of the reasons baseball is so hard to predict; if you cannot make educated predictions or provide valid analysis without mentioning health, do not half-ass it, pardon my English “profanity.” Or, at least explain the injuries; tell me that a torn labrum severely hinders the ability to move the shoulder freely; or why the pitching wind-up of Shawn Hill or Kerry Wood will lead to an injury due to poor mechanics. But, more importantly, give actual analysis.
How about discussing how the Diamondbacks played so many close games last year and are now trying out another closer? Can Tony Pena repeat the success as a setup man? Will Chris B. Young regress and enter the sophomore slump? Can Micah Owings pitch? What do the Mets do if El Duque/Pelfrey are ineffective? How will Kyle Kendrick fare in his sophomore season? How will the combination of Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth fare in relation to replacing Aaron Rowand? Can Chris Capuano rebound from a dreadful 2007? How about Gagne and Turnbow?
These are all valid questions that viewers could actually benefit from and yet they are ignored so that we can learn a team will be better if their key components stay healthy.
I don’t expect analysts to provide insight from a sabermetrics point of view, but why can’t we have Rob Neyer or Jayson Stark on for five minutes discussing more than health or “psychology”? Or, as Pizza Cutter could attest to, if they are going to explore the psychology, really explore it. Don’t just mention something and brush it off. We want analysis, not blue-balls.
The entire point of a sports analyst is to provide insight into a certain topic that a casual fan–or even a huge fan–can benefit from. They are supposed to provide us with information we potentially could not get elsewhere. Mentioning health or a team’s chances if players stay healthy, without diving deep into the specific injury and how it could really hurt a team, does not fall into either of these categories.
Later in this particular show Peter Gammons discusses how great John Maine looks in spring training and how many heads he is turning; he goes very in-depth and it is a fantastic analysis. I had no idea Maine was doing so well. When I turned the channel to watch
Rock of Love Flavor of Love manly sports I felt as though I actually learned something. All I learned from the video above is that Karl Ravech thinks Fukudome sounds like a stadium (Thanks, Karl!).
I do not know if anybody from ESPN reads this or if they would even care what one of their biggest viewers thinks but this really needs to change. There are so many pre-season questions to explore OTHER than health and few, if any, are acknowledged. Mentioning health as an issue would work as perhaps the 3rd, 4th, or 5th point in an analysis, not the major/only point.
Can we get Harold Reynolds back? Or lock Mel Kiper, Jr in a room with every video of baseball (high school, collegiate, and professional) ever made and then unleash him?
Will Leitch’s (Deadspin.com) book God Save the Fan touches on issues like this and it really resonated with me. In it, he discusses how Kruk admitted on a radio station that some of the opinions are fake and pre-determined. I mean, that says it right there. This is a show designed to benefit viewers and we are left with pre-determined opinions that analysts do not truly agree with and analysis that features health as its key proponent.
The point of having someone like Kruk is that he was a player and so he “understands” what it is like to play the game. And this is all we get? I was an All-Star first-baseman on my high school team and served as the Color Commentator for a Trenton Thunder game (a TV training operation) and I got rave reviews for my analysis. I never played major or minor league baseball but people from the crew actually took things away from what I discussed. If I–a 20-yr old in 2005 when I announced–can do it for a TV training operation these “analysts” better be able to do much better than that on a show like Baseball Tonight. That is, unless they are unhealthy, which would be the key reason their analysis suffers.