If you can navigate your way through the obligatory (and clunky) references to VCRs and record players at the beginning of this column from Jayson Stark, you’ll get a great insight into the way that technology is changing the game of baseball. Most specifically with reference to just how easy it is for players to review video and research tendencies of opposing batters and pitchers via iPads and stuff.
And a fun provocative bit: the notion Stark sets forth about how the pitchers may be ahead of the hitters in using this stuff so far, which leads to this observation:
We’d bet that if we polled all American baseball fans on why runs per game and batting average have dropped five seasons in a row, 99 percent of them would answer “steroids” — or the lack thereof. And you know what? They wouldn’t be wrong. But there’s another force at work that we now believe may have been nearly as powerful: information.
There are actually many forces at work, I believe, and I think that fans would be wrong if they cited steroids testing as the overwhelmingly biggest reason why offense is down rather than just one of many factors. This article strongly suggests that small adjustments matter. And that there are all manner of small adjustments available to baseball players now. Stuff we rarely think about.
Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.
This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.
Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.
Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.