Shooting from the lip/May 28th edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
All season I haven't been sure how to feel about the Rays' postgame television show for road games. Postgame shows for home games come from Tropicana Field; road game shows originate from a studio in South Florida. The latter shows feel detached from everything and just, well, weird. I admit there is no difference whether the studio is in St. Petersburg, Tampa or South Florida, but for some reason it feels odd that the show is coming from neither the site of the game nor where the Rays call home.
Todd Kalas does a splendid job on the home games and running the interviews from road games. It's great to see replays and hear the postgame comments from manager Joe Maddon and the players, and the thoughts of announcers Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson. But many nights the analysis and work of road postgame hosts Barry LeBrock and Orestes Destrade is either scratch-the-surface stuff or way too "inside baseball.'' Overall, the road postgame shows have been, oh, about a B-minus.
But they definitely earned some extra credit Friday night for the work after the Rays-Red Sox game at Fenway Park and have bumped the grade up to a B-plus. The show was helped by the near-brawl stemming from a hit batsman late in the game and strong comments by Maddon. The show took full advantage of it all. Credit for that goes to LeBrock, who wasted no time diving into the dustup. Instead of talking about the details of the Rays' victory, LeBrock zeroed in on the controversy, and that was absolutely the right call. Destrade was strong in his opinions.
The momentum from that outstanding show carried into Sunday, and former Rays slugger Cliff Floyd joined the set and was very impressive.
So after two months of not being sure of the road postgame show, I now am ready to give it a thumbs up.
Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson spent Saturday working for Fox as an analyst on the Rays-Red Sox game and got to show a regional audience what the rest of us know: He's a heck of a broadcaster. Working with Dick Stockton, Anderson not only was his usual relaxed, funny and insightful self, he seemed especially at ease.
Anderson also maneuvered his way through Friday night's Rays-Red Sox bean-ball battle without coming off as a Rays homer, though he clearly sided with the Rays during the broadcast on Sun Sports. Anderson knew he was speaking to Rays and Red Sox fans, and did not want to alienate anyone -- in this case, Red Sox Nation.
The only nit is that Saturday, no one on the Fox game or pregame broadcast opined on who was right or wrong Friday. Fox recapped the bad-blood events by showing Boston's Dustin Pedroia getting hit and the Tampa Bay's Luke Scott getting hit. If you hadn't seen Friday's game, you would have assumed the Rays had it coming.
But if you watched the game and know anything about baseball, you knew the Rays didn't mean to hit Pedroia. It made no sense to hit Pedroia. It would have been nice if someone on Fox had addressed that. Because Anderson could not say that without looking biased, maybe Stockton should've said something.
There were several borderline pitches in Saturday's Rays-Red Sox game on Fox, but all the replays were from an angle that was offcenter of home plate. What's the point of showing a close pitch if it's from a camera angle that doesn't give viewers a straight-on angle?
The Devils absolutely deserve to be in the Stanley Cup final, but their elimination of the Rangers was bad for the NHL overall. Sorry, New Jersey, but the Devils are a boring story, especially after you get done talking about goalie Martin Brodeur.
With coach John Tortorella and stars Henrik Lundqvist and Brad Richards, the Rangers have more personalities and are just a better story. And it would have been fun to watch Stanley Cup final games in Madison Square Garden. Too bad the Rangers weren't as good as the Devils.
ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy was his usual top-shelf self calling Saturday night's Game 7 of the Celtics-Sixers series. I love it when Van Gundy watches the replay of an iffy foul call and blurts out things like, "Come on! Are you serious? That's not a foul.''
It's even better when he rips into the league. He really is like the guy next to you in a sports bar except he knows more basketball than you do.
His most interesting comments Saturday night were about Sixers coach Doug Collins, who is known for his no-nonsense approach and organization. In other words, Collins is a coach who is constantly coaching. Van Gundy, who was the same way, said that's what players ultimately want.
"Great players want to be coached,'' Van Gundy said. "In the playoffs especially, everyone is receptive.''
Best special guest
Did you happen to catch Rays pitcher James Shields wearing a headset and microphone for a half-inning during Saturday night's game with the Red Sox on Fox? The dude has a future in broadcasting if he wants it.
ABC's coverage of Sunday's Indianapolis 500 was highlighted by an emotional tribute to Dan Wheldon, who lived in St. Petersburg and was killed in a crash in October in IndyCar's season finale. Wheldon was last year's Indy 500 champ. As far as the race coverage, ABC always does a solid job with the Indy 500, and Sunday was no different. However, nothing in racing beats Fox's NASCAR coverage, and Sunday evening's Coca-Cola 600 was the best race broadcast of the day.
Let's make this clear: I don't like or dislike the Rays. I don't like or dislike the Red Sox. And I don't like or dislike the Yankees. Having said all that, I will say this: Doesn't Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine seem like a bit of a weasel? Seems as if he has to be the center of attention. Not only does he do a radio show in Boston, he does a radio show for a New York station. What the heck? If I was a Red Sox player or fan, that would really bug me.
Earlier this season he thrust himself into the spotlight by taking a shot at Boston's Kevin Youkilis, saying he didn't think Youkilis was "as physically or emotionally into the game'' as normal. Then Friday he turned a bean-ball showdown with the Rays into something all about him. Of course he ordered Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales to hit a Rays player, who turned out to be Luke Scott. Why do I think he did it? To get his players to rally around him, to get his players to believe in him, to get his players to side with him. In other words, get your players to start a fight and then come out backing your players, and voila, maybe all the guys will be on your side again.
It is so obvious. It's also kind of pathetic. The sad thing is, a guy like Valentine is putting a black mark on an organization full of classy players who play the game the right way, players such as Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. You'd never see Terry Francona pulling this stuff.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Sunday's Rays-Red Sox game confirmed something: Angel Hernandez is the worst umpire in baseball.
2. Lots of people watch it because it’s on TV every weekend, but for the life of me, I just don't see the appeal of senior golf.
3. Teams I want to see less of on national TV: Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox. Teams I want to see more of: Nationals, Orioles, Indians.