Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Most of us are missing the point on Vin Scully


Yesterday was Vin Scully’s last home opener as the Dodgers’ broadcaster and, befitting his legend, they included him in pregame ceremonies, paying him tribute and the like. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times has a piece up about it and him and everything today.

I watched the first four or five innings of the Dodgers-Dbacks game specifically to listen to Vin. Is he as sharp as he was 30 years ago? No. Age affects us all, and Vin is no different. Some names get garbled and a reference to ancient Greece becomes “ancient Rome” but everything you want from a Vin Scully broadcast is still there. Indeed, those little slips and the fact that that they don’t detract from the experience actually reveal what that is.

Baseball broadcasting has become so information and analysis intensive in recent years. It’s understandable in that baseball itself has become that, but there was no reason why the game, as a television production, had to follow the game as it is approached by clubs and analysts. While it’s nice that many broadcasters have kept up with advances in analytics and things, there is no reason why play-by-play guys need to provide us with so much information and to provide it as often as they do. There’s certainly no reason why we need ex-players to do deep-dive insight. When they do this to excess, they feel like they’re talking to insiders, not an audience watching television. The entertainment value of a broadcast has taken a back seat to minutiae and stats and the mindset of managers and players as opposed to the mindset of fans.

No one can replicate, let alone easily replicate, the flow and warmth of Vin Scully. No one could tell his stories like he tells them. But I’m not sure why more networks haven’t made a point to hire broadcasters who follow his general approach. His general approach which is not just relying on his voice, his warmth and his stories.

Get past his easy cadence, his turns of phrase, his legendary status and what are you getting from a Vin Scully broadcast? Or, what are you not getting? You’re not getting deep analysis usually. He’ll tell you how a guy is doing and he will drop in stat trends and things here and there, but that’s in service of a larger story, not the actual product he’s providing. He’s likewise not breaking down any one play in too great detail. He’ll say what’s happening, in casual baseball fan terms, as it happens and then he’ll talk about what just happened again if it was notable. But he will not analyze it to death. What’s going on is a ballgame, not a surgical procedure.

He’s just talking to people. People who are not in the baseball industry and thus don’t have much use for a lot of what gets beaten to death during baseball broadcasts these days. He doesn’t “stick to baseball,” as so many baseball people are told to do. Why should he? He’s broadcasting to thousands upon thousands of people every single night, all of whom have their own backgrounds and frames of reference. They have dads so he’ll tell a story about Jake Lamb‘s dad. They may have studied a bit of history, so he’ll riff on Socrates Brito’s name a bit. The game is a pastime and he approaches his role as one who helps viewers pass the time. They have the game right in front of them, after all. Why should he shove it down their throats?

People, especially in the past couple of years, say things like “there will never be another Vin Scully.” I understand that, but I don’t really believe it. Obviously he’s a multi-generational talent, but he’d be the first one to tell you, I imagine, that he wasn’t always VIN SCULLY. He is not a god or a superhero. He’s a guy who was allowed to hone his craft in his own way until he became great at it. But there is no reason why other broadcasters can’t provide the same type of game experience. Bob Uecker does the same sort of thing and he is likewise great at it. There are other guys out there, usually when games are out of hand, who show the ability to do this too, though it seems like they’re not allowed to do it all the time.

But I remain convinced that others who aren’t as great as Scully and Uecker could, over time, back up a bit on the deep dives and focus more on passing the time with viewers and listeners, refusing to stick to baseball as if it’s the only thing in the world that exists. They could talk about the game and talk to the audience while serving both quite well.

After 2016 we won’t have Vin Scully anymore. And it will likely be decades before we get someone as great as him, if we ever do. But I’d be pretty darn happy to have a whole bunch of broadcasters that are half as great as him and whose greatness comes from making watching baseball a relaxing and enjoyable experience which blends the action I’m seeing before me into the fabric of my evenings and weekend afternoons.


And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Associated Press

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 8, Pirates 2: Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, Upton in here, Upton in here. Justin with four hits on the day including a 451 foot homer to a deep, deep part of Comerica Park. Like shrubs deep, where it’s really hard to get a baseball to go.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 2: Kenta Maeda gave the Dodgers six shutout innings and the bullpen threw the game into the toilet for the Dodgers. The eighth inning homer given up to Paul Goldschmidt was excusable, as he’s one of the best hitters on the planet and just wears out Dodgers pitching lately. The rest of it was just bad work.

Nationals 2, Braves 1: Bryce Harper‘s two-run double in the eighth was all the Nats needed to win again and to put the Braves down to 0-7. We’re getting to the point where random people are sending me unsolicited 1988 Braves callbacks on Twitter:

Which is fine. Indeed, I welcome it. As I’ve written in the past, the 1988 Braves season still stands as my favorite season as a baseball fan. They lost 106 games, including the first 10 and the first 14 of 16 overall, and German Jimenez played a large, sad, symbolic role on the year, but it was still the best. It was the year that proved to me that the enjoyment of sports is not contingent on your team winning. It was a crash course in that philosophy, actually, but it was a lesson worth learning, for sure.

Phillies 3, Padres 0: Some of you will remember a few years ago when it was said that Charlie Morton was a poor-man’s Roy Halladay. It was around 2011, I believe, and Morton had changed his delivery to specifically emulate Halladay’s and, for a brief period, it was actually pretty effective. I seem to remember him ripping off a few Halladay-esque starts at the time and everyone talking about it. Since then he hasn’t been an ace, but he’s been solid here and there. “Mid-rotation guy for a not great team” is about where he should be right now and is exactly where he is. And last night he gave the Phillies six and two-thirds of shutout ball. The Padres have now been shut out in four of their eight games.

Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2: A Brian McCann homer in the sixth tied it and a Jacoby Ellsbury single in the seventh but the Bombers ahead for good. McCann ended up leaving the game with a bruised toe. Between that and what happened to James in Detroit, it’s been a bad week for catching McCann’s, health wise. Bad night for the Jays. Just look how disillusioned this man, who I am going to assume is the new mayor of Toronto, is:

Orioles 9, Red Sox 5: Another crap outing from a Boston starter, this one from Clay Buchholz, who got all fivey, allowing five runs on five hits in five innings. J.J. Hardy had two two-run home runs and Mark Trumbo hit another. The O’s are now 7-0, which is their best start since they were the St. Louis Browns back in 1944. That year they won the AL pennant! The year after that the Browns would play an outfielder with one arm for 77 games. Just saying, it could be an interesting couple of seasons for the Orioles here.

Marlins 2, Mets 1Noah Syndergaard struck out 12 and left with the score tied after seven. Then, in the eighth, Dee Gordon put on show of grit we haven’t seen for quite a while. Leading off against Mets reliever Jim Henderson, the two battled for 15 pitches. Then, on the 16th pitch, Gordon singled. Then he stole second base and eventually came in on a sac fly. That was the longest at bat in terms of pitches in two years. Gordon’s nickname should be Grit Show or something.

Rays 5, Indians 1: There were a lot of late rallies yesterday, and the Rays were no exception. Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria both hit two-run home runs in the eighth, one off of Corey Kluber, the other off of Cody Allen. Until the homer, Kluber was solid. Kevin Cash said this:

“We didn’t give in to a really good pitcher. He pretty much had his way with us for the better part of five, six, seven innings right there. Then we finally got something going.”

I think baseball needs to have a meeting for the purpose of firmly establishing the definition of what “give in” means. The term is used a lot, usually with reference to pitchers throwing to tough hitters. Often it’s meant to convey the idea that the pitcher did not go away from his game plan to give the hitter the kind of pitch he wanted simply to avoid a walk. Other times, however, I’ve heard it to mean the pitcher did not refuse to challenge the hitter. In the context Cash uses it here I’m not entirely sure what “we didn’t give in” meant. Maybe he meant “didn’t give up on” or something. Whatever the case, we need to take a stand here, lest the phrase lose all meaning. I mean, look what happened to the once-amazing word “nonplussed.” Misuse and use as its own opposite has rendered it a shell of its former self. Just look at it over there, slobbering in the corner. Sad, really.

Royals 3, Astros 2: Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer in the first, the Astros came back with two in the bottom of the innings and the score would never change. It got interesting in the ninth, however, when Wade Davis walked two batters before nailing down the save. I guess he’s just giving himself a difficulty level. My son does this by adding extra saw blades and things on Mario Maker.

Giants 7, Rockies 2: Trevor Brown hit two Trevor Bombs. What? You don’t like that? The Yankees pay John Sterling a lot of money to come up with that kind of stuff. That’s gold, man.

Angels 5, Athletics 4: Even more late heroics, this from Geovany Soto who hit a two-run homer in the ninth to complete the Angels’ comeback. This will surprise the people who think he got traded from the Indians to the Cubs the other day. On paper, the A’s eighth and ninth inning combo of Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle is one of the better 1-2 punches in the game. Sadly for them, they didn’t play the game on paper last night.

Rangers 8, Mariners 0: No late drama here besides that which people driving home from the ballpark may have faced due to construction zones or whatever. Adrian Beltre drove in five runs and Derek Holland pitched shutout ball into the eighth.

The Arizona Diamondbacks . . . don’t look so hot today


The Arizona Diamondbacks introduced their new uniforms over the winter and, the very next day, announced the signing of Zack Greinke. So, naturally, it was easy to forget every last possible combination of their current livery. There are a lot, though, Reds and teals and grays and everything in between. So many combinations that, at some point this season, they are certain to run into a snafu in which someone wears the wrong thing, right?

Today is not technically a snafu, as everyone is dressed alike. But boy howdy are they in the wrong thing. As in, a very bad looking uniform that looks like something the Jacksonville Jaguars saw and said “no, too swampy looking even for us.” Heck, the University of Oregon called and said “look, Arizona, you guys gotta have some limits on what you wear, OK?”

Either way, I agree with my colleague Mr. Silva here: