Tuesday, July 15, 2008

#101: McClouth Could be NL Hero

---A True Pirates All-Star---

It's been about 3 months since I wrote anything on this site about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I have been a guest of the roundtable at The Pittsburgh Lumber Co. since, but not too much else. And I've posted on my good blog buddy Pat's Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke where I mentioned that Nate might be an All-Star in so many words back in May.

Once again, he is the subject of a blog article relating to the professional baseball team in the Steel City.

Take a look at the list below of Pirate All-Stars since the first year of the now-infamous streak the franchise now owns.

2008 Nate McClouth (OF)

2007 Freddy Sanchez (2B)

2006 Jason Bay (OF), Freddy Sanchez (3B)

2005 Jason Bay (OF)

2004 Jack Wilson (SS)

2003 Mike Williams (P)

2002 Mike Williams (P)

2001 Brian Giles (OF)

2000 Jason Kendall (C), Brian Giles (OF)

1999 Ed Sprague (3B)

1998 Jason Kendall (C)

1997 Tony Womack (2B)

1996 Jason Kendall (C)

1995 Denny Neagle (P)

1994 Carlos Garcia (2B)

1993 Jay Bell (SS), Andy Van Slyke (OF)

Those are some pretty lean years, eh? A lot of these players didn't even play all that much. The only reason we saw Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez so much 2 years ago was because of the game being at PNC Park, and some contend the only reason Bay started and Sanchez made the game at all was because of profuse ballot box stuffing. But I remember one of the Jason Kendall years...he didn't get to play until there were two outs in the 9th with the American League cruising. Then he got to hit.

All I remember thinking was, "Pleeeease, don't let Kendall hit into the last out...our only representative..."

Kendall did get a hit. The next guy made the final out.

Then three years ago, we watched Jason Bay completely choke in the Home Run Derby at Comerica Park...then not even play in the actual game itself. Not sure if that would have been the case had Tony LaRussa not been managing the NL that year.

Mike Williams went TWO CONSECUTIVE YEARS! The first year (2002) he actually pitched one inning and struck out two. The other, he didn't even play.

To the game about to start...McClouth might be the real deal. He has delivered clutch home runs against closers like Takashi Saito of the Dodgers and Jason Isringhausen of the Cardinals this season, both in situations where it looks like the game is over.

We have watched this man work hard and play hard since training camp.

I don't think we'll have to worry about McClouth not getting into the game this year. Further, I don't think we'll have to worry about him embarrassing himself. He'll acquit himself well doing at least one of the following things:

1) Driving in a run or two while the game is still relevant.

2) Making a highlight-worthy diving catch or getting an outfield assist.

3) Battling a pitcher for 12+ pitches before drawing a walk.

I almost think he could be the Michael Young-type player from 2006...a player nobody really suspects who makes an impact at a critical time.

Pirate fans will have a reason to root tonight.

Going on a mini-vacation...not sure what will be relevant for post #102 at this time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

#100: Keep Mike Lange in Radio

---Lange on Radio > Lange on TV---

I may be the only person who believes this.

Seriously, if you can Google a result, besides something on this site, that indicates some blogger or some writer agrees with me, please post in in my comments section. I don't think there is one.

With particular respect to the well-designed (edit 6/13/09: and apparently now defunct) BringBackMike.com (ed. 6/13/09: which is now all in asian characters and seems to have nothing to do with hockey) but to all Mike Lange fans around, the outcry to return Mr. Lange to television is shortsighted and selfish.

It may very well be the case that he would prefer to be in television himself. However, he is built for radio.

It's taken me some time to get this post up, because I have been pondering whether my opinion is biased because I work at a Penguins Radio Network affiliate, and I prefer to hear Lange call a game over Paul Steigerwald (where I have no TV in studio).

That isn't a slight toward Steigy, either, who I believe has improved threefold over the last two or three seasons.

The running theory seems to be that if you are the superior broadcaster, you should be on TV; Radio is the podium for second place.

This is false.

With the understanding that nearly 100% of the Pittsburgh Penguin faithful would prefer to hear Lange over Steigy, I submit a list of reasons why the Penguin faithful would be better served by having Lange remain on the radio:

1) Larger potential audience.

Believe it or not, not everyone gets FSN Pittsburgh, but still enjoys Penguins hockey. Further, there are those who are visually disabled who enjoy Penguins hockey (and by extension, do not have a large quantity of television channels in their home).

Because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been flirting with disaster during his overlong tenure, you don't have to pay to get streaming audio of NHL games (currently), like you do for Major League Baseball, NFL, and other sports. You can go to the flagship's (or most affiliates's) website, no matter where you live, and listen to the game live.

And, don't forget there are a lot of transplanted Pittsburghers out there who still love the team. They are forced to watch the Penguins, when they have a chance, on NBC or Versus. With NETWORK guys calling the action. Again, internet feed can help them enjoy any game (not just the televised ones), if they have relatively fast internet.

2) Available when you're not at home or at a bar

Yinz busy the night of a Penguins game? You can, of course, record/TiVo the game (if you get FSN Pittsburgh), and watch it later. Or, while you're driving to wherever, you can tune into the radio and listen. And the past two seasons, there's been Mike Lange.

And I don't know how many people do the thing where they go to the arena to take in the game and bring a radio headset with them (like folks do at PNC Park)...heck, radio transmissions might not even really work inside the arena. But, in any case, if you want to hear the (delayed) broadcast, just to hear the broadcasters describe what's going on if play is stopped, etc, etc, or just to tell everyone around you the Mike Lange call on that Geno goal, well, there you have it.

3) The Almighty Mute button

This one's directed at the Pens fans who are fortunate enough to still live here and do have FSN Pittsburgh: If Steigy really gets under your skin, you presumably have a mute button on your remote...or at least a volume switch on your tube. And, presuming again, a functional stereo or boombox in the house.

I watched the Stanley Cup Final this way. The difference between TV and radio delays, whether intentional or not, was pretty much right on. When Lange said, "Zetterberg gets to it first!", Zetterberg was just getting to the puck on my screen.

Maybe it's not quite so smooth during the regular season, but, come on guys. You probably already know enough about hockey to fill in the immediate blanks if the call is 2 seconds behind.

4) Playoff time advantages

Some may not realize that FSN Pittsburgh's eligibility to carry playoff games extends only through the Conference Semifinals. Had Mr. Lange been on television, the last time you'd have heard him would have been Game 4 of the New York Rangers series (they didn't carry game 5 on FSN).

I can only imagine the outcry then that "Mike Lange should be calling the Conference/Cup Final! Raise a protest! Call the 'X'!"

You really can't have it both ways.

I understand that in 2001, when the Penguins made the Conference Finals against the Devils, they had Mike Lange switch between periods. I was living in Chicago at the time, so I don't know if Steigy was doing the regular radio broadcasts, or if it was someone else.

I'll wager there was still some discontentment in the ranks: "Why isn't Lange calling the whole game? Those morons!"

Simply put, with the legacy that Mike Lange already has on the radio, and with legions of fans (even out-of-towners enjoy listening to his game call) he has garnered, he is already in the place that gives more people an opportunity to enjoy him.

The stars of the respective Penguins broadcast venues are correctly aligned.

If TV viewers are "forced" to experience a little delay between what's happening on the screen and what's coming out of their radios, well...

It's for the greater good.

Coming in Post #101: Nate McClouth will be the one to try not to embarrass Pittsburgh in the All-Star Game next week.