Even by ESPN’s destructive standards, this was disgusting. Perhaps what made it so ugly is that it wasn’t expected from any of the four.
In fact, I still don’t believe they actually believe what they said. I think it was another exercise in bad-is-good pandering.
Last season, the Nationals’ Jayson Werth, after hitting a game-ending single, stood on the field and, into a dual TV and field microphone, expressed his self-approval with a bunch of expletives.
The next day, ESPN was happy to play that video and audio, editing out the vulgarities yet airing what it could under the heading, “Making Baseball Fun Again.”
From an ESPN studio Molly Qerim gave it her full endorsement: “I love it! We need more interviews like that!”
Great. Perhaps she can arrange to have her family sit near someone similarly as fun at, say, a ballgame or on an airplane.
Sunday night during Cardinals-Yankees, much more: In the bottom of the third, the game was abandoned for a study of what play-by-player Dan Shulman described as “how Latino culture intersects the baseball experience” — in this case as told in Spanish with English subtitles in full and half-screen appearances by Cards catcher Yadier Molina.
Shulman referenced the “joy with which Molina played” for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic. That “joy” was shown as Molina’s excessive “Take that!” demonstration of immodesty after throwing out a Dominican Republic player who tried to steal second.
What Shulman described as Molina being “fired up” was video of Molina jumping around as if he never before had thrown out a runner.
And away we went. Field reporter Buster Olney blessed the addition of such “emotion” to the game, as if simply playing hard — now often an option — isn’t an emotion strong enough to win ballgames.
Shulman then said Molina’s was “a great celebration and there’s nothing wrong with that.” He said it unconvincingly, as if there might be plenty wrong with “that.” (He didn’t say why Molina never had similarly or naturally “celebrated” after succeeding for the Cards, including successes in any of his 89 postseason games.)
Olney agreed with Shulman, but he, too, sounded unconvincing. Olney would prefer baseball be played without grace, dignity and modesty?
Aaron Boone, who played without showboating, checked in, blessing — rationalizing? — such self-aggrandizing demonstrations as “playing with passion,” as if stretching a double into a triple isn’t an act of passion but showboating is.
Next, Jessica Mendoza, after referencing Jose Bautista’s excessive 2015 bat-flip in the playoffs against Texas, added, “People love to see that emotion.”
Shulman then said such demonstrations are good; they keep kids interested in baseball. “Kids love that stuff, this is the way it is, right now.”
No, kids have been forced — conditioned — to expect self-smitten displays. They’ve been taught to emulate the immodest, and no entity has done more to encourage them than ESPN.
Mendoza then said she showed that Molina clip to her two sons, with, “This is why you play baseball. … [I wanted] to show them that passion.”
Boone added that players such as the Cubs’ Javier Baez, a home plate-poser who last postseason twice put his team at risk because he didn’t bother to run to first, “plays with passion and energy.”
“Now with that,” said Mendoza, “comes the bad, too. I think you’re gonna get more fights.”
Fights? For playing with passion, emotion, energy and joy? Did she warn her sons that “this is the way you play baseball” might invite a smack to the head?
Latino culture? What insulting garbage. We can’t expect better from Latinos, thus it is best we embrace it? Latinos naturally lack class, dignity, modesty?
When Roberto Clemente was asked to appear in an episode of TV’s “The Odd Couple,” grounding into a triple play, Clemente refused on the grounds that such was beneath his dignity — he never would run so slowly that such would be possible.
Recently, the Mets’ Asdrubal Cabrera had a pitch thrown at his head by the Phillies’ Edubray Ramos, a response to Cabrera’s bat-flip homer late last season against the Phils. Ramos, as is Cabrera, is from Venezuela.
Bautista’s check-me-out bat-flip was answered last season by Rougned Odor, who punched Bautista in the head. They’re both Latinos. Odor didn’t understand his culture?
Not for a second would I believe Shulman, Boone, Mendoza or Olney would encourage the kids in their lives to demand extra attention by acting like a conceited fool. Despite their pandering, they know right from wrong.
But Sunday’s game and telecast were loaded with wrong-headed nonsense. After a gorgeous Easter day, it began at 8:05 p.m. on ESPN’s purchased authority, and ended at 11:25.
And it was played to thousands of conspicuously empty good seats, as per the combined greed that made it a late Sunday night game and the obscene cost of tickets since this Yankee Stadium opened in 2009.
Then ESPN vandalized another game by slapping its computerized strike zone box — the same strike zone for the tall and short — over live play.
Then MLB’s replay rule made a mess of what appeared to be an Aaron Judge home run, as it hit a fan’s raised glove then fell to the field. Despite a long replay delay — was it a home run or grounds-rule double? — it was ruled what it could not be: a ball’s-in-play triple. Running all the way, Judge apparently was raised to ignore ESPN’s prompts.
Where do we report to surrender?
6-on-6, just for kicks
During Game 3 of Rangers-Canadiens, MSG’s Joe Micheletti was eager to use an overhead freeze-frame shot to demonstrate that Montreal had scored with six skaters on the ice.
But what he failed to note, Sam Rosen did: “So both teams had six skaters on the ice.” Correct. The Rangers, clearly, were as guilty.
So how would “get it right” replay rules handle that? A team scores while both teams have too many men on the ice?
Letting Yoenis slide
Last week, Keith Hernandez three times in a half-inning ignored plays in which Yoenis Cespedes maximized his chances to be tagged out because he didn’t bother to slide, including a play at the plate.
This week, after Florida’s Justin Bour was thrown out at the plate due to a poor slide, Hernandez: “This is the big leagues, come on! … I don’t believe what I’m seeing! … Oh, man … Do they not teach them to slide in the minor leagues anymore?”