Saturday, December 26, 2009

Revisiting Game 163

Fox Sports North on Friday night aired an edited version of the TBS broadcast of Game 163.

Since I was at the game, this was my first sizable exposure to the TBS version, which has gained a certain infamy for a widely panned play-by-play performance by Chip Caray (who has since been bounced from the TBS baseball crew).

Watching the game in person and watching it on the tube are different things. I was essentially stuck in one place, with one angle, during the game itself; on the other hand, my experience wasn't being filtered through the TBS production.

A few observations from Sunday's viewing:

1) Ron Darling seemed oddly impressed by the notion that Ron Gardenhire thinks his team has a lot of ballplayers. What did Darling expect, that Gardy thought he had a squad of supermodels? Anyway, Darling repeated this observation twice, both times during (excellent) at-bats by Nick Punto.

2) Caray's call of the Punto fliner that resulted in Alexi Casilla being thrown out at home plate was edited. Transcripts show Caray's call going thusly: “Line drive. Base hit. Caught out there. The runner tags. Throw to the plate. On target. And in time! A double play!”

The FSN version skipped the erroneous "base hit" part of the sequence. I wonder if FSN took at out as professional courtesy to Caray or if it was a TBS requirement to use the video at all.

3) Sunday's version left out pitches, at-bats, even entire innings, so I don't really know everything Caray and Darling said. But it certainly seemed that they were not paying sufficient attention to how long Fernando Rodney was pitching. At one point Darling was speculating about which starter Gardenhire would turn to to replace Bobby Keppel, but I never noticed the broadcasters wondering anything similar about Jim Leyland and his bullpen problems.

4) It had not stuck in my mind how many of the big at-bats for the Twins went to two strikes. Cuddyer had two strikes when he hit the 10th inning triple; Matt Tolbert had two strikes when he drove Cuddyer in; Punto's "base hit" double-play came with two strikes.

5) It may have been the magic of FSN editing, but the potentially crucial 12th inning non-call on Brandon Inge — bases loaded, one out, was he hit by the pitch or not? — did not have a truly definitive replay. I thought at the time, from my perch in upper deck right field, that he was; the ump, from his perch behind Joe Mauer, said no; the replays FSN showed weren't conclusive. If TBS showed a replay from the first base side — the best angle — it didn't make FSN's version.

6) I thought at the time that the two swinging strikes later that inning for Gerald Laird were on pitches out of the strike zone. They looked better to me on TV than they did at the game itself.

7) Caray and Darling — well, at least Caray — raved about a catch Denard Span made in left center. I've perhaps been spoiled by decades of watching Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter and Carlos Gomez play center, but that was a play I expect to see made.

8) Speaking of plays I expect to see made: Tolbert's game-tying single (referenced above) probably shouldn't have gone through. The Tigers were playing for the double play, after all, which means the second baseman and shortstop are squeezing the middle, and Placido Polanco (who wound up winning the Gold Glove) just didn't get to a ball grounded just to the right of of second base. I didn't have a good angle on that play during the game itself.

9) This is an observation I didn't need the rebroadcast for: The man who scored the winning run (Gomez) is gone; the man who drive him in (Casilla) and the winning pitcher (Keppel) are not particularly good bets to be on the opening day roster. It's a tough business.

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