I understand the need to appeal to the mass audience. It's even somewhat expected that an announcing team from a nationally televised broadcast may not know all there is to know about the teams they're visiting.
But the shame of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcast of the Tampa Bay Rays-Boston Red Sox game crossed the border of embarrassing and went straight into laughable.
I don't normally criticize announcers—especially those with the pedigree of Joe Morgan and Jon Miller—but both men were pitiful last night, displaying not only their lack of knowledge of the Rays organization, but the area, and the type of team the Rays have in Tampa Bay.
You would think that an announcing team that has become a staple of summer baseball would be able to provide their audience something other than the unoriginal talking points of the Rays' attendance, Carl Crawford leaving, and whether Boston is still in the race.
Let me give you a few examples that gave me reason to facepalm.
Attendance: Yes, only 23,438 folks decided to show up at the Trop. We would have loved to seen a packed house for the national TV audience as there was the night before—but honestly, did Jon Miller need to harp on it throughout the contest? "I just don't understand it," Miller would say over and over.
Well, let me explain it to you, Jon. First, Tampa Bay has the second highest jobless rate in the state of Florida, which is fourth among states with the highest unemployment rates.
Second, 70 percent of the population in the area live nearly an hour away from the stadium. To expect parents to have their kids out until one in the morning (the time they'd get home thanks to the 8:30 pm first pitch) on a school night is asking a bit much.
Third, how is the Rays not selling out any different from Cincinnati, San Diego, or Texas—who also are first place teams with 62 percent or less in capacity this season? In fact, only 13 of 30 teams in the majors have gone over 2 million fans for the season.
There's this little thing called the poor economy that has hurt baseball attendance throughout the nation and Tampa Bay is one of the worst hit.
Jays/Rays: Mr. Miller, it's Rays, not Jays. I can understand a Freudian slip here or there but once you do it over seven times—you're just not prepared.
The Rays Free Agents: Morgan wondered allowed, "What will the Rays do without these players?" Any amount of research would have provided him the answer. The Rays have one of the best farm systems in the Major Leagues. They reload—it's what they do.
While losing Crawford will hurt, it will be lessened by the arrival of Desmond Jennings—one of the top prospects in the majors. Losing Soriano would hurt, but Benoit has shown that he has the stuff to close out games. Pena's departure would be a blow, but the Rays have young players in the minors ready to assume his role.
The Rays fantastic starting rotation will remain intact and maybe even improve with phenom Jeremy Hellickson joining the ranks. Evan Longoria and BJ Upton aren't going anywhere, either.
Not only that, this team has made a living finding players on the scrapheap. Pena was almost out of baseball when Tampa Bay rescued his career. Joaquin Benoit had rotator cuff surgery and only the Rays wanted him. Jason Bartlett was a thrown in player in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young deal.
Most of the Rays' bullpen, arguably one of the best in baseball, are players that pretty much washed out with other teams.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: So the Yankees are better than they were last season and may be one of the best Yankee teams in history, but the Rays, who have matched their record step-for-step have a myriad of flaws and are just a "pretty good ballclub?"
Boston Pitching: Morgan went on and on about how great the Boston starting pitching was, yet said nothing about the Rays starters, who have the second most victories in the major leagues (The Yankees are first with two more wins) and twice as many complete games as the Red Sox?
Jaso: Hey Morgan—it's pronounced JAY-SO, not JAAH-SO.
Rays Hitting: Morgan went on and on about the Rays hitting and how they lack power, while Carlos Pena belted his 25th of the season to give Tampa Bay an early lead and Carl Crawford launched a two-run shot to tie the game. Only after the Rays took the lead was it mentioned that they are fourth in the Major Leagues in runs scored and even that was viewed with scepticism. "They're so bad at hitting, yet they score a lot of runs, go figure."
Boston's still in this thing: Yeah, technically they are. But wishing and hoping for something to happen doesn't mean it will. By that logic, Oakland still has a shot in the AL West. The Dodgers, who just got rid of Manny Ramirez, are still in the NL wildcard chase.
Who knows? Maybe they are still alive...but even Red Sox fans understand their hopes are on life support.
It would take one heck of a stumble by Tampa Bay for the Rays to lose out on a playoffs spot. In fact, CoolStandings.com rates Tampa Bay a lock for the postseason, 97.5 percent chance of making it.
Yet, none of that stopped Morgan and Miller from repeatedly reminding their viewers that the Red Sox aren't finished, despite dropping two of three in series their manager Terry Francona felt they "had to have." Francona juggled his pitching staff to give the Red Sox their best chance to win and yet still came out two-time losers.
CoolStandings.com doesn't agree with the optimistic ESPN announcers, giving the Red Sox a 6.2 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Rays Highlights are buried on SportsCenter: Perhaps the network just wanted to try to hide the fact that their No. 1 announcing baseball team embarrassed themselves—or maybe the Rays taking two out of three and most of the hopes of Boston getting back into the race isn't as newsworthy as soccer highlights, preseason NFL football and the WNBA playoffs.
It's funny that the Red Sox win over the Rays in the first game of the series was one of the top stories on Sportscenter Friday night.
I'm embarrassed for Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, and the network. A little research can go a long way and not present the picture that ESPN only cares about Boston and New York.
Do better, ESPN.
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