ESPN is a weird place. On the one hand they employ people who think some of the worst ideas are the best to share with the world. On the other hand, they have allowed no shortage of people to blaze trails and do cool things. Let’s focus less on the bad idea parts of that empire right now and focus on a good part, shall we?
Jessica Mendoza made history last night as she became the first female in-game analyst for an MLB game on ESPN. She did so as she joined ESPN’s Dave O’Brien and Dallas Braden for ESPN2’s broadcast of the Cardinals-D-backs game. I didn’t see the game — didn’t even realize it was going down until this morning — but if anyone did and has some thoughts about it, I’d love to hear them. The opinion on Twitter that I saw was positive. A moment of “oh, a woman” followed by “she did a good job.”
Which is exactly how it should be in that case, and with later cases involving that minus the “oh a woman” part. Which will happen if ESPN makes this a regular thing and not just a gimmick for a late game on their secondary network. Indeed, the most encouraging thing about this was not her mere appearance on a baseball broadcast but that, for once, a major network approached expanding its diversity in a way other than making a special show “just for women” or some such nonsense. Those sorts of initiatives tend to ghettoize unconventional programming or unconventional staffing. The real way to diversify is to simply put people with unconventional backgrounds or demographic profiles in the slots normally held by the conventional. This goes for women and minorities and for non-conventional approaches to the job such as SABR-oriented broadcasts and the like. Mainstream that stuff, folks. You’ll improve your broadcasts thanks to new voices and approaches AND you’ll make the weirdness of it all disappear more quickly.
Back to Mendoza. She has worked the booth before, of course, covering the College World Series and softball in the past. Her background bonafides are without question as well, as she was a member of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic softball team. She has done several turns on Baseball Tonight as well, so it’s not like someone green was thrown in. She’s qualified and, based on what others tell me, was good.
So, any reason, then, why ESPN insists on putting often-distracted buffoons on their flagship baseball broadcast? Or is that some super complicated subject that only true broadcast professionals can understand?
Phillies radio announcer Larry Andersen didn’t like the fact that there were a lot of Mets fans in Citizens Bank Park last night. Here’s what he said after they cheered David Wright’s homer and a double by Michael Cuddyer:
“I’ll take the Nationals fans over the Mets fans,” Andersen said on air.
“Why’s that?” Phils radio play-by-play man Scott Franzke asked.
“They’re just obnoxious,” Andersen said.
I assume he didn’t include Phillies fans in that given how strongly they’d skew the obnoxiousness analysis.
I’ll preface this by saying that I really and truly love Bruce Springsteen. I own all of his albums up through “Tunnel of Love” and one or two later ones. I’m not, like, The World’s Biggest Bruce Springsteen fan, but I really do dig him and think that he’s one of the best and most important artists of the 70s and 80s. Someone who teaches a class on that era of American history should have some of his records on the syllabus. When I’ve had a couple of drinks I have a little “you know, Springsteen has more in common with the punks than he has in common with the classic rock dinosaurs he gets lumped in with” lecture that no one wants to hear but is totally, totally true.
All of that said, my favorite thing about Springsteen in the past several years has been seeing just how utterly popular he is among baseball writers of a certain age. Which, yes, given baseball writer demographics this is no surprise. White guys over 50 are right in his wheelhouse. What tickles me so much about it though is how so many baseball writers I’ve talked to will tell you about Springsteen as if he were some little-known indie artist instead of one of the biggest rock stars in history. During his last tour ballwriters I follow would tweet about how “you really have to see Springsteen live; it’s a totally different experience,” as if the “The Boss puts on AMAZING shows” thing isn’t the ONE thing people who don’t even know much about Springsteen know. It’s like they’re hipping you to this cool, unknown vibe. I mean the ballwriters no malice whatsoever when I point this out, but I giggle every single time I see an example of it.
All of which serves as a long introduction to this story by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press about how Paul Molitor is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. It’s good because it gives you some nice backstory about Paul Molitor the person and what music he likes, which is stuff that you don’t often hear about managers. But it’s shocking to me that none of the legions of the Springsteen-loving ballwriters working today have previously managed to write such a thing. I mean, this is the holy grail, right? This is like me finding out that some manager is a gigantic “Night Court” fan. How was the opportunity not grabbed before this?!
Anyway, it’s not like I or the slightly younger baseball writers are any better. Our Bruce Springsteen is Jason Isbell, with all of the same nonsense surrounding it. And we’re worse in some ways about craft beer and other things that are not exactly unknown in culture yet, in our hands, is described as cool and revelatory and, man, you NEED TO CHECK THIS OUT.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to “Southeastern.” Did I tell you about how Isbell’s sobriety impacts his . . . [gets hit on head with anvil]