Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tim McCarver

It's no secret that Fox baseball analyst (and former all-star catcher) Tim McCarver is not hugely popular among fans of the San Francisco Giants.  Either that, or it's simply that my esteemed colleague Stan Bunger has complained so much about McCarver, for so many years, that I've concluded he speaks for the majority of his fellow Giants' season ticket holders.

I, on the other hand, have no particular axe to grind with Mr. McCarver.  He's not my favorite TV baseball analyst, by any means, but I don't wince in the slightest when I see that McCarver is in the broadcast booth for a network game I'm about to watch.

Having said that, McCarver made so many interesting observations--some actually true--particularly during the first few innings of game 2 of the National League Championship Series, that I decided to chronicle those observations, and perhaps come to some conclusion afterward.

Top of the first:  After Matt Holliday's controversial slide over second base (he actually started the slide beyond the bag), in a successful effort to take out the Giants' Marco Scutaro and prevent the double play, McCarver immediately said that Holliday's slide was an inappropriate slide, if not technically illegal.  McCarver said that breaking up the double-play is as old as baseball itself, but that one is supposed to begin one's slide before reaching the bag, not after.  Sounds obvious, I'm sure, but almost instantly after the bang-bang play, seeing Scutaro on the ground in obvious pain, it was reassuring to hear from McCarver that what I had just seen was not the way the game is supposed to be played.

Bottom of the first:  As Angel Pagan was rounding the bases, after belting a leadoff homer, he was congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery, after which he saluted his teammates in the Giants' dugout.  McCarver incorrectly observed that Pagan had just saluted the Cardinals' dugout, perhaps in response to the Holliday slide.  Oooops!  McCarver's play-by-play partner Joe Buck eventually corrected him, but not before leaving him out to dry for a minute or so.

Chris Carpenter gave up only the one run in the first, but labored to the point of throwing 26 pitches, during which McCarver noted that he was off three-to-four miles on his fastball.  Good piece of information, and a sign that this might not be Carpenter's night.

As the Giants were continuing to bat in the last of the first, putting runners at first and second, with two out, McCarver noticed Ryan Vogelsong pacing in the Giants' dugout, and said that Vogelsong was doing so because he was excited about the rally, and hoping that the Giants would keep the inning going as long as possible.  In fact, as anyone who is familiar with Vogelsong knows, the Giants' right-hander was thinking about only one thing, and that was how he was going to pitch to the Cardinals in the second inning.  Vogelsong has often said that he would prefer to take the mound as quickly as possible after each half inning in the dugout, that he has no control over how many runs the Giants score, and that the one and only thing he can control is shutting down the opposing team.  So that is the only thing he is focused on while he's still in the game.

Top of the third:  Before the inning began, three or four umpires were conversing in the outfield, including the crew chief Gary Darling.  McCarver immediately speculated that they might be discussing what their response should be in case the Giants retaliate against Holliday for the slide.  Good call.  I was wondering what they were discussing, and McCarver brought up a good possibility.

Top of the fourth:  As the discussion of the Holliday slide continued, McCarver suggested that the only way to firmly discourage such a slide would be to immediately eject the player from the game.  A more common reaction by umpires in such a situation would be declare the hitter out, completing the double play, which they did not do after the Holliday slide, much to my surprise.  But McCarver was saying that in addition to that, throwing the offending player out of the game would be much more effective in the long run.

Bottom of the eighth:  After Gregor Blanco was nearly doubled up trying to get back to first base when Brandon Crawford lined out to center, the Cardinal infielders were yelling at umpire Bill Miller that first baseman Allen Craig had tagged Blanco out on the shoulder.  It was obvious that is what they were saying because of their gestures.  And yet, McCarver said the Cardinals were arguing that Blanco should have been called out for running out of the imaginary base line.

Overall, McCarver made a few mistakes, but that's inevitable for anyone who spends three hours in a broadcast booth, announcing a baseball game.  I know, from experience.  Should he make fewer, given his many years of experience?  Perhaps.  But McCarver made enough cogent observations so that I was able to further appreciate and understand some of the nuances of this particular game that I might not have been able to otherwise.

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