Tom McCarthy is back in the figurative middle, but not in the literal middle because he likely can’t fit there. If I had to describe his current, post-winter physique, it would be: “blob.” There’s a shapable mass of skin and cartilage that makes it seem like he has the muscle integrity of the Pillsbury Doughboy after a muffin bender. And speaking of muffins: That belt line, Tom. Christ!
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Mostairs. Stoyer.
There’s not much broadcasting experience between the two of them. Stairs did some work for NESN and the Red Sox a few years ago, and Moyer spent the latter part of his career talking J.A. Happ’s ear off in the dugout. Fittingly, Happ was the starter today. Poor guy must feel like he just can’t get away from Papa Jamie, who likes to talk about pitching, pitching mechanics, pitching grips, pitching stew, pitching salad, pitching kabob, pitching creole, pineapple pitching, lemon pitching…
Inexperience aside, there’s some promise here. Moyer is the old man baseball sage. Stairs is the guy who just took a shot and now wants to buy you, random guy at the bar, a beer because youuuuuu looookkkk liiihhke yoouuu neeeeweddd somting to driinnnnk. McCarthy is your geeky uncle who can steer the ship and make awkward transitions. FUN.
Moyer sounds like Rick Sutcliffe. Stairs sounds like he’s just finishing a belch every time he starts a thought. Eeeeellllch ayyyaafuckin strike out there. Shoulda swung harder. I think I prefer Stairs’ sound, even though he has a nasty habit of skipping over words in sentences. He wants to get to the important ones and has no time for prepositions and stuff. Just grazes right over them. [Dave does this during our podcast, but he leaves out the verbs, which is worse.] I imagine this habit will subside for Stairs – I assume it was the nerves today – but he’ll definitely have to fix this before the season gets underway. At times it’s just too difficult to understand him. He’s never going to have a great broadcasting voice, and that’s OK— he’s the everyman in the booth. But unlike Chris Wheeler, he’s the everyman who played the game and, as he said today, “knows how hard it is.” He is also very knowledgable, and that knowledge couched in lay speak will be good for the broadcast.
We’re going to hear a lot of stories, especially during the 30 or so games that there’s a three-man booth. Moyer likes to talk about how much he prepared. Stairs likes to talk about how he only wanted to work for about five minutes a day and hit home runs. This dichotomy was most evident as the game went into a rain delay. Moyer mentioned how, as a player, he would look for a snack and write some things in his notebook. Stairs countered by saying he would eat food, play cards and absolutely, under no circumstances watch video. “It was our time off,” he explained.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Comcast overlords instructed them to play up these caricatures— the beer guzzler and the professor. It’s formulaic, but makes for enjoyable discussion, which is something that was sorely lacking whenever Wheeler was near a microphone. It helps, too, that Stairs and Moyer both played during the 1990s and 2000s— it means that their references will be relatable to younger viewers in their 20s and 30s who grew up watching the players mentioned in their illustrations. And, of course, hearing Moyer explain the advice he gave to Cole Hamels during the 2008 World Series is the sort of insight you can’t get from a guy who didn’t play the game or who played it a long time ago.
There may be some awkward tension. McCarthy is a Phillies employee, but Stairs and Moyer work for Comcast. I can’t wait for the first David Montgomery pays my paycheck so don’t say anything mean Brian Roberts pays my paycheck so I can say whatever the fuck I damn well please exchange between T-Mac and Stairs-Moyer. I can’t imagine Tom does well with conflict. He probably just giggles.
I listened to part of the game on MLB.tv while I took the dog for a walk. I found the conversation to be enjoyable (never mind the odd feeling of listening to a baseball game while it’s FUCKING FREEZING and there’s snow on the ground). I almost felt like I was listening to a baseball podcast rather than an actual game broadcast. Part of that is because it’s spring training and because these guys have many stories I’m sure they’re eager to tell, but this is the sort of thing that was missing with Wheeler in particular. There’s a game every night, roughly three hours long. Baseball is very much a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t need every pitch, every decision to be dissected. We want color. We want an interesting and lively conversation to get us through the very many slow moments. I really like this aspect of the three-man booth and I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast eventually makes the decision to have more than 30 three-man games.
Still, there’s a lot of rawness here. Lots of “you knows.” Lots of rudimentary analysis where nothing particularly insightful is on a tongue but something comes out anyway because THERE CAN’T BE DEAD AIR (hint: there can be).
Moyer’s obsession with pitching mechanics has the potential to make you hate him. I always imagined that young pitchers wanted to kill him in the dugout… and now I know their pain. You want a fun drinking game? Take a sip – for real, just a sip – every time Moyer talks about pitching mechanics, grips or philosophies. You’ll blow out your fucking liver. There’s some serious knowledge in his soliloquies, but I felt like it was too much by the third inning today. If I’m trying to watch the 8th inning of a tight game in 96 degree weather in late July and Moyer starts breaking down Antonio Bastardo’s flat fastball, there’s a reasonable chance I’m going to mail him human fingers as a symbolic gesture that NOT ALL OF US CARE ABOUT THE SEVEN DIFFERENT TYPES OF TWO-SEAM FASTBALL GRIPS. I want to hear this stuff, just not all the time.
Waiting for Stairs to say something he shouldn’t will be fun. In just a few innings today he said “crap,” talked about a technique in taking pitches known as the “pimp take,” and nearly mentioned SportsCenter. A swear word may be forgiven, but, as a Comcast employee, mentioning a program that’s not on the NBC family of networks, NBC Sports or its regional properties is a big no-no and I would imagine means a $500 fine that must be mailed directly to Brian Roberts with a handwritten apology note and selfie in front of the Comcast Center to show your allegiance to the cause.
Stairs has the potential to be a quote machine. He already had one earlier this week. More today:
On Ryan Howard saying he wanted to face lefties
“My comment when I was playing was, my God don’t let it be a left-handed pitcher.”
On the thought process that goes into a long career
“I didn’t really have a thought process when I played.”
And he might not have a thought process when he announces. But that’s OK— Moyer clearly will. When teamed together, it seems like there will be a nice dichotomy… after some much-needed polish is applied.
Other thoughts from the game:
OH MY GOD BOBBY ABREU SWING. He struck out, nonchalantly, and now I hate him again. I also hate Ruben Amaro.
It’s nice hearing “when I did this” statements… as opposed to anecdotes from Wheels, who played tee ball. Also nice to see Jose Reyes bat without hearing Wheels slurp his semen.
Moyer may not be very self-aware: “I’ll take location over velocity every day.” Sage advice from a guy who threw 79 mph.
GREGG MURPHY WITH AN EXTRA G. HEY GREGG! “We are St. Joseph’s dominated in this booth,” T-Mac notes. God dammit.
Chase Utley looks like he’s 42.