Baseball fans everywhere should keep Ernie Johnson and his family in their thoughts and prayers. It has been a very difficult time for the Johnson family, first losing their father in August. Now, their son’s battle with muscular dystrophy will keep the lead TBS broadcaster out of the booth during the 2011 National League Championship Series. While we miss his distinctive voice, it also reminds us that there are things far more important than baseball, and we should all wish the Johnson’s, especially Micheal, the best during this difficult time.
In Johnson’s absence, TBS turned to Brian Anderson to cover the NLCS between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, and that was one of the worst things they could have done. Some broadcasters, Bob Costas and Joe Buck for example, have been able to play the role of chameleon and change colors as the situation dictates. Anderson has tried on occasion, but has largely been unable to shake the label of Milwaukee Broadcaster and recognize that occasionally, the other team does something well.
One example was a glowing recounting of Randy Wolf’s career as he started Game Four. In went on through the first three Cardinals batters and seemed to be more fitting for Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson than a fourth or fifth starter. If the goal was to introduce a relatively unknown pitcher to a national audience, then that’s fine – but where was the discussion of Jaime Garcia coming off Tommy John surgery early and pitching his AAA team into the playoffs, and that he and Clayton Kershaw are the only 2 left handers in the NL with 13 or more wins over the last two seasons (which I learned on Twitter, so tip of the cap to the source of that information).
Another example of the failure of TBS, and this one is not Brian Anderson’s fault, is the continual showing of Brewers’ highlights to the point of absurdity, but when the situation is warranted from the Cardinals side, nothing. Need an example ? How about showing Prince Fielder hitting a home run off Jaime Garcia during the regular season in Milwaukee while broadcasting a game from Busch Stadium. At the same time, there was no such example of Garcia making Ryan Braun look ridiculous on three strikeouts at Busch back on May 6. Maybe I missed it, but Jaime Garcia came close to pitching a perfect game against Anderson’s Brewers in that game – just a bit more newsworthy than a Prince Fielder home run.
One more thing I can’t get past is the Braun, Braun, Braun, Braun ….. got the picture. Yes, Ryan Braun is one of the best players in the game, and yes, he turned in an MVP type of season. If I had a vote for the award, I would probably cast it for the Brewers left fielder. Braun is also having a nice post-season as well.
Did you know that there are three Cardinals who are hitting for a higher average, on base percentage and slugging than Braun ? If you were listening to the TBS broadcasts, you wouldn’t. But it is true. One of them might even surprise Cardinals fans.
And there are six more players on the leader board between Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, three from each team (Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Jerry Hairston Jr, Yuniesky Bettancourt and Jonathon Lucroy). The TBS narrative has been Braun and Fielder, Braun and Fielder, Braun and Fielder, how are the Cardinals pitchers going to contain Braun and Fielder. Interesting because the better story seems to be the Brewers pitchers failing to do so with Pujols, Berkman, Holliday, Freese and Molina – that’s HALF of the Cardinals lineup. Jon Jay leads both teams in runs scored and should be recognized as being a catalyst for the middle of the lineup, instead of the obligatory “he’s a good centerfielder”.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here for all baseball fans. The new working TBS theme seems to be that the Brewers bats have not shown up and that’s why the Cardinals are ahead in the series. If the Cardinals were trotting out a bunch of average arms, like you might see when facing a team that is 30 games under .500, that might be true. I know that Cardinals fans will say that when the Redbirds struggle against teams like Houston. But this is the NLCS and there are few weak links on either team. If one team is struggling, it is very likely that is because they are being beaten by their opposition. That is exactly what is happening here and TBS really needs to change their story. Instead of The Braun Station, maybe TBS should become The Bullpen, Stupid.
I’ll close with a quick poll. There is still a lot of baseball to be played – at least one game, maybe two, and Milwaukee is one of the best home teams in baseball, but ……