Bob Raissman of the Daily News spoke with Curt Schilling, ESPN’s new Sunday Night Baseball color commentator. They talked about style and stuff, and Schilling, quite characteristically, does not lack confidence:
“I can watch a pitcher for an inning and have a deep and wide understanding of who and what they are and what they do . . . If I were to talk to you about a pitch sequence to a hitter in the seventh inning, literally every pitch has 50 to 60 thoughts, ideas and processes around it and behind it,” Schilling said. “Just getting some of that out there is going to be different, new and unique.”
I don’t know how unique that is. Tim McCarver, Schilling’s predecessor Orel Hershiser and many others talk about what the pitcher is thinking. Maybe Schilling can do it better because he’s a better pitcher than most analysts ever were and is certainly a smart guy. But hearing Schilling talk about being “different, new and unique” gives me pause. I’d love him to just give us an enjoyable broadcast, not try to make his mark. But I suppose we’ll see how it plays out.
The other big issue that comes up: criticism of players. Schilling says he’s going to criticize in a way that is not negative. I’m not sure what that means. In the context of broadcasting — and in the opinion of players — there appears to be very little distinction made between criticizing performance and being personally negative or attacking someone. Merely saying a guy didn’t have a good game plan at the plate is taken as out-of-bounds criticism at times and, as a result, there is a big tendency among ex-athletes to say almost nothing negative. It’s really a drag, because sometimes you have to say something negative.
If Schilling is able to make that distinction — to hate the player’s game, not the player — that truly would be revolutionary. I hope he does it. Because viewers will be just as much if not more enlightened to understand what led to a player’s failure in any given moment than merely to what led to his success.