Monday, August 08, 2005

You Can't Be Serious

Believe it or not, I can. Please allow me to, on a couple of fronts.

Bob Raissman writes a column in Sunday's Daily News lobbying for Keith Hernandez to get more air time with the Mets network next season. Hernandez has only been slated to work 31 games this season with various Mets outlets.

In the article, Raissman points out the incident in 2002, where Hernandez went on the air and said that the Mets quit on Bobby Valentine. Then, after some chirping from the Mets on the subject, Hernandez apologized to the team (perhaps after some prodding from the organization). Raissman and myself agree with the fact that Keith shouldn't have apologized, that he should have stuck to statement which was drawn from his own experience as a major league player...after all, isn't that what former players are brought in to do?

As much as I agree with Raissman, if I were him, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Mets network to give Hernandez more work.

I do want to thank Mr. Raissman for creating a reference point for me to talk about I have been thinking about musing about this topic for a while. With all of the complaints that fans have about Fran Healy, it always gets me wondering how he still has a job as a baseball analyst. The answer is simple...he's not a baseball analyst. He's a homer. And homers are what baseball teams are hiring these days.

Those of you who have the baseball television package, and have watched many games on different coverages can attest to the fact that announcers are basically fans who have played the game. It started with Phil Rizzuto, a former Yankee who worked for WPIX for decades, and continued with the White Sox announce team of former players Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and Tom "Wimpy" Paciorek...unabashed White Sox rooters (Paciorek is now a Braves announcer, and yes he roots openly for the Braves now.) The Mets have had Healy since 1984, but stepped into the bias realm forever in 1999, firing long time play-by-play/analyst Tim McCarver (who played it as unbiased as any former player has), with homer Tom Seaver, who was brought in not only to create a link to the Mets past (and get him away from the Yankees broadcast team), but to make the announce team more biased after there were rumors that Met players, and manager Bobby Valentine, was critical of McCarver's criticism.

Now, you seemingly can't turn on local coverage a game without hearing a former player in the announce booth say something like "we need a hit here", or "come on, let's get out of this inning", things that I can get paid a fraction of what these announcers make to say. And these are announcers that are hired by FOX or Comcast; broadcast outlets that you would think could make their broadcasting hires independent of what the team wants. But there is an obvious influence by the team as to who gets hired. Why? For the very reason that Keith Hernandez was made to apologize to the 2002 Mets...


It was a little different back in the 50's, 60's, and even the 70's, when the broadcast media made salaries that were at least somewhat comparable to what athletes made. But now that an athlete's per season salary has spiraled way out of the stratosphere of what an announcer hopes to make while announcing in his entire media career, there is a lack of respect from player to broadcaster, even if the broadcaster is a former player. There has to's the same principle as to why players have less and less respect for their managers or coaches...managers' salaries have not exponentially risen as a player's salary has.

To that end, how do you think a sports franchise is going to make their hires? Are they going to hire the announcer with the most candor and insight? Or are they going to hire the announcer that isn't going to cheese off the athletes that they are sinking millions and millions of dollars on? More often than not, it has been, and will be, the latter. And that's why, when the Mets broadcast rights shift to a broadcast outlet owned by the club, it's certainly not a sure thing that Hernandez will be on board.


ESPN's Joe Morgan referred to an article he wrote on the sports network's website which equates the Rafael Palmeiro steroid controversy with the Pete Rose gambling scandal. Those of you who subscribe to ESPN insider can find the article here.

I haven't read the entire article. The headline basically makes the point of the article, that if steroid users make the hall of fame, then Morgan's former Red teammate Rose should too. I'm not going to agree or disagree with that. The world has enough opinions as to whether Palmeiro and Rose should be in the hall of doesn't need mine, nor am I even sure what my opinion should be. Let's just say that Palmeiro has made it hard to defend him.

I do want to respond though to the part of the article that Morgan referred to during tonight's game. He made the point that Rose's transgressions only hurt himself, whereas Palmeiro's transgressions hurt the entire game. On this, I have to say that I couldn't disagree more.

If Pete Rose put money on the team he was managing to win, who's to say that he wouldn't make decisions which he wouldn't necessarily make if there was no action on the game? Would there have been a game where, for example, Tom Browning was left in an inning too long during a seemingly innocuous game in June that Browning probably would have been lifted from if there was no action on the game? Or let's put it another way...if Pete Rose managed the 2005 Mets, and he had action on a game in which Pedro Martinez started...thinking it was a sure thing. Now let's say that the main cogs of the bullpen, Braden Looper and Roberto Hernandez, were gassed as they were during Thursday's game against Milwaukee. Now let's say Pedro has gone 8 innings and leaves the game during a 1-1 tie. Does Pete Rose put in a gassed Hernandez when the situation calls for a Danny Graves or a Dae Sung Koo? I'd say that hurts the integrity of the game. In a way, it fixes the game...just as the 1919 World Series was fixed, an event that nobody claimed only hurt the players involved.

Yes, usage of steroids hurts the game. But virtually all of the coverage by sports media has focused on bloated statistics and the integrity of the game. To me, not enough coverage has been on the fact that steroids can cause immense physical problems...which to me is more of a detriment to one's self than gambling, don't you think? Yes, you have to protect the game, but with steroids, you have to protect the players just as much, and do more to educate them on the harm they can do to their health. It bothers me that more focus isn't put on that aspect of the controversy.

And now that the light has been brightly illuminated on the dangers of steroids, wouldn't it behoove baseball organizations to more of the focus on health, and protect their multi-million dollar investments? You know, just as they would with their local announcers.


erik love said...

Hey Metstra, I Love Keith's work. He'll kick Jose Reyes in the ass one minute and pat him on the back next. He's an honest dude that i respect. I've heard him say "us" plenty of time's about the Mets, but never on the Air.

Rex Publius said...

Though I have fond memories of listening to McCarver on Mets broadcasts growing up, I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate his broadcasts now, with his parter Joe Buck, the premier example of shameless American nepotism.

Though McCarver brings a lot to the table, what with having called games for Bob Gibson and whatnot, he routinely (along with Buck) makes monstrous gaffes about play, often sticking to his assessment of a play long after replays contradict him.

And he's become a Yankee-lover ever since the Mets canned him.

I believe he and Buck called the first game of the Yanks-Mets doubleheader which had the Zeile/Knoblach interference call, and AGREED WITH THE UMPS on calling Zeile for interference. I'm sorry if my memory proves to be incorrect on this, but I think my recollection is right.

Anonymous said...

The Mets have been paranoid about comments for a long time, but I think it all changed on June 15, 1977. Before that, Mets broadcasts always panned on the fans after the Mets did something positive, but after The Trade, they never showed the stands, because they were mpty. Murphy, Kiner, and Nelson all took the company line. I was very disillusioned.

It didn't surprise me when Hernandez had to apologize for his comments. Nothing has changed in almost 30 years.

What about the Carays and the Alberts as examples of nepotism right up there with Buck's?

Metstradamus said...

rex, I don't remember what the announcers were saying during the interference play because I was too busy screaming my lungs out. So I trust your recollection on that more than I would trust my own. I agree with you on McCarver, although I do respect him and still enjoy his work.

And nepotism is a whole other animal that unfortunately isn't limited to sports broadcasting.