In Praise of Pat Hughes, Ron Santo, and Fire Joe Morgan

I love it when the Cubs play on the West Coast– I always seem better able to follow the games later in the evening. Last night, I was captivated by an amazing performance by Greg Maddux while drafting a report. I kept the TV on mute for the most part– I find Bob Brenly unbearable. He tries too hard– he sounds like he is performing. I know he doesn't talk the same way when he's at home. Harry Schear made a similar observation when talking about Anderson Coper in an interview with Robert Siegel on Monday. "The goofy thing about TV," he said, "is that its not enough to be something, you have to play it as well it."

The late Cubs start gave me the chance to listen to the White Sox new radio team of Ed Farmer and Chris Singleton. I've never liked Farmer– he seems to have a permanent chip on his shoulder, a chip that John Rooney seemed to balance out. Singleton is a rookie, so he gets a time-limited pass for his inanity and forced patter with Farmer. (The schtick is that Farmer is old and doesn't know about the Internet or text messaging.)

All this is a prelude as to why I am so content to be sitting lying here tonight listeing to the Cubs radio team, Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. The two fit together hand in glove, perhpas because they've been in the same booth for awhile. As frustrated as I get with Santo's ignorance sometimes (he's a homer, he knows little about opposing player, he misses plays), he, and Hughes, are comfortable with themselves and their relationships to the game and their audience. Plus, Santo sounds so genuinely sad when the Cubs lose, I find it easy to moan along with him. (Tonight they're having fun with Dodgers rookie James Loney's name. Hughes gets points for his Roy Orbison reference–'Only the Loney.')

I can't hold a discussion of baseball broadcasters without pointing to one of my favorite media criticism sites, Fire Joe Morgan, which focusses on the silly things the Hall of Fame second baseman (and occassional other brothers in the booth) says on the air or his chats. I don't find Morgan an anathema– Rick Sutcliffe, Chris Berman and Harld Reynolds are more pedantic, or at least more annoying about their pedantry– but I appreciate any attempt to try to introduce sports broadcasters to the wonders of rational thinking. Here's an example from last night, penned by Junior, convalescing from Lasic eye surgery:

On the brilliantly titled GMC Diamond Cutters feature, Joe tried to explain the higher-than-expected home run frequency of the young 2006 season:

I think more guys swing for the fences now than they were, say four, five years ago. Now, I mean, guys realize, if I can get it, I can get it out of here.

More than say, four, five years ago? You mean like five years ago, as in 2001, when 5,458 home runs were hit in the major leagues, or the second highest total in history? The year Barry Bonds hit a mind-boggling 73, presumably by realizing, hey, if I can get it, I can get it out of here?

Another reason Joe gave is that "a lot of young pitchers are trying to find their way." So I guess there are no young hitters struggling this season. 2006: The Year All Hitters Are Cagey Veterans. Mark it down.

All right, time to put some drops in my eyes, slip on a satin mask, and listen to the sweet sounds of Christmas with the Kranks on Starz! Kids and Family.

Here's a taste from one of Joe's recent chats, with comments from Ken Tremendous:

Vik (Chicago): Do you think Andruw Jones 50 HR season was an aberrition, or can he repeat that performance this year?

Joe Morgan: I don't think it was an abberation.

KT: So you think he will consistently hit 50?

HR hitters hit in cycles and are streaky.

Oh…sorry. You don't think he will consistently hit 50. You think he will be streaky.

It seems to me he will have more hot streaks than before and that will add up close to 50.

Oh…sorry again. You think he will be streaky, but consistently streaky, and will again hit 50. Great.

Denver, CO: Hi Joe, Do you see any production from the big two (Woods and Prior) of the Cubs this year or will it be another bust like 2005?

Joe Morgan: I think they will get some production out of the two this year, but it should be icing on the cake and not the whole cake. I like the Cubs attitude of going forward without them.

Chicago, IL

Baker: Guys, bad news. We've lost Prior, and we've lost Wood.
Walker: What are we gonna do, skip?
Baker: What can we do? We are canceling the season.
(Players start packing up gear, making off-season plans, etc. Joe Morgan enters.)
Joe Morgan: Hey guys. Listen up. You don't have to give up. There's a different way.
Players (in unison; baffled): Huuuuhhhhhh?!
Joe Morgan: You can change your attitude to: "let's go forward without them."
(Players ponder this; several do old-timey actual scratchings of tops of heads; Baker chews toothpick; several minutes pass)
Baker: Let's give it a shot!
Players: tossing caps in the air Hurrrrah! Thank you Joe Morgan!
Flourish. Exeunt. Curtain.

Tim (Cincinnati, OH): Did you hear Pete Rose's interview on the Dan Patrick show the other day, Do you believe he should be able to get put on the voters card so he can have a chance to get voted in?

Joe Morgan: Someone told me he was on but I didn't hear it. What exactly did he say?

KT: Oh boy. Does Joe understand that computers and phones aren't the same? That this guy can't just answer him? I guess not, because he just continues with the chat.

d (st. louis): Did you see the piece on Darren Daulton? He has some inner demons from his playing days

Joe Morgan: I saw the piece. He was one of my favorite players. I read the story also until it bothered me and I stopped. I didn't like what I was reading. I guess I was disappointed about the jail time, etc. I didn't read the whole thing because it just bothered me.

KT: Joe in a nutshell. Stops doing something that would make him better informed because it "bothers him." This guy is an Emmy-winning journalist, remember.

Josh (Lakeland, FL): Joe now that they have new owenership whats your take on the Devil Rays? Do you think they are moving in the right direction?

Joe Morgan: Tough question. I don't know the new owners or what their gameplan is…

KT: Emmy. Winning. Journalist.

Finally, because I don't know when i will next blog about baseball, Hugo Chavez has reason to be proud today: Seven Venezuelan pitchers started games tonight.

Tony Armas Jr. and Gustavo Chacin got the ball for Washington and Toronto, respectively. Mets right-hander Victor Zambrano struggled in a loss to the Braves. The Angels-Twins game featured two Venezuelan pitchers: Minnesota right-hander Carlos Silva and Los Angeles right-hander Kelvim Escobar. Felix Hernandez of Seattle and Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs also started Tuesday.

The seven pitchers got a lot of attention in Venezuela, where the country's sports daily Meridiano said it showed the growth of the country's baseball talent. "Lucky seven," the paper said.


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