In watching baseball at work, I have the privilege — or the chore — of listening to all of the various broadcasting teams around the country. The Dodgers’ Vin Scully remains the cream of the crop and the last of the legends. There will never be another like him. Ever. Scully continues to fly solo, calling the game as a one-way conversation with the fans, no partner necessary.
Others I am fond of for their alertness and knowledge (the Mets’ team of Gary Cohen and Ron Darling) or their wackiness and insanity, at least in blowouts (Boston’s Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy). WGN’s Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are solid, though not spectacular, and Arizona’s Daron Sutton and Mark Grace are just nuts.
But the ones I can’t stand are the extreme homers, the announcers who bleed the team’s colors and make no effort to be impartial. Actually, forget impartial, because these days, fans want their announcers to be favorable toward their teams, and it’s not all that bad if they skew a little toward the home team. Honesty would be nice, though. What I can’t stand are the broadcast teams that argue on the air that a close play that went against their team should have gone in favor of it, but then when replays clearly show the call to be correct, they make no effort to correct themselves and basically ignore the video evidence in front of them — and in front of the millions of fans watching.
Among those that are tough to listen to, in ascending order of pain are the Marlins’ Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton, the Nationals’ Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton and the White Sox duo of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Darrin Jackson.
Harrelson and Jackson clinched the title on Sunday.
Check out the video clip “Guillen gets ejected” at the top of the White Sox game story. It’s four minutes and 20 seconds long, but in the first 10 seconds or so, you can see the play develop and understand what is going to happen and what the call should be. Feel free to watch it yourself before reading further. See if you can spot what Harrelson and Jackson refused to see.
In the final four minutes of the clip, Harrelson and Jackson don’t even come close to grasping what has happened, don’t notice through their black-and-white rage that the umpires are correct, or make an effort to glance at their replay monitors which, if the guys in the truck were doing their jobs, would show them the play over again. Though Comcast SportsNet shows several replays during the clip, none of them show the runner rounding second. Had they done that, perhaps the announcers — OK, at least the fans — would’ve seen the play and understood why there was a reversal.
At the 8- or 9-second mark, you can see the Cubs runner rounding second, Angel Pagan, come in contact with the White Sox shortstop, Juan Uribe. The umpire in the foreground, the third-base ump, raises his arms and points toward second base. He’s calling obstruction on Uribe. Perhaps he should have been more forceful with his call, making more noise and stopping the play dead. Instead, the White Sox play it out, the Cubs get caught in several rundowns — “pickles” as Harrelson insists on calling them, like he’s watching a bunch of 8-year-olds in Lincoln Park — and two outs are made. Or seem to be made.
Immediately after the play is over, crew chief Joe West, the second-base umpire, calls the umpires together to discuss what happened. When they start putting Cubs back on the bases, Harrelson and Jackson begin to grow outraged. It’s hilarious, really. Harrelson calls it “B.S.” several times; Jackson tries to say the umpires didn’t adhere to their individual responsibilities and someone missed the call. The whole time, like in a movie, those of us who noticed the obstruction can only laugh at their homerism or frown at their stupidity.
The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein was on top of it, too. In fact, at the end of the column, Greenstein quotes Harrelson after he’d finally noticed a replay, a comment that came after the clip on MLB.com ended: “Anytime I’ve ever seen an obstruction play, they call a dead ball. A dead ball means that everything stops right there.” That may be true, Hawk, and that may be on the fault of the third-base umpire for not screaming the play dead immediately. And it may be in part because Pagan and Felix Pie, who was tagged out at home, are rookies and likely more prone to running the play out without a more forceful call from the men in blue.
At the 2:28 mark, Jackson says that if there was ever a case for instant replay in baseball, this play would be a good example of the need for it. Unfortunately for them and other White Sox fans, in this case, instant replay would’ve showed the umpires got it right in the end, which should be all that matters, no?
At the end of the clip, Jackson says, “I just don’t know what they could have been looking at. It was really a straightfoward, simple play.”
It certainly was — and you guys got it wrong.