Game: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds
Date: July 6
Network: Fox Sports Net-Ohio
Play-by-Play: George Grande
Color Commentator: Chris Welsh
In the third inning of this game, Grande and Welsh shared the microphone with 8-year-old Adam Bender. Bender is a truly inspirational story as he lost a leg to cancer, plays Little League baseball and threw out the ceremonial first pitch in this game. He was also extremely nervous and answered every question with either a one-word response or silence. It was the most awkward half inning you'll ever hear, which was prolonged into sheer audio agony as the Nats scored three. Even though there's really no place for this in my scoring system, let's hope it doesn't warp my opinion. Sorry, Adam. And, I'm sorry you live in Kentucky.
Chemistry: Grande is a former ESPN anchor, while Welsh, "the crafty left-hander", pitched for a handful of teams in the early 1980s. They've been together for 15 years and mesh well enough, I suppose. Neither one seemed able to set the other up during their game-long dialogue, but they didn't stumble over each other and both men knew their roles. Still, am I the only one who thinks that "just OK" is somewhat unacceptable after a decade and a half on the air? Grade: 6/10
Knowledge: Welsh often falls into that "tells me what's happening, instead of why it's happening" trap. He threw around words like "confidence" and "demeanor" and "some kind of grinder" to describe the early effectiveness of Nats' SP Collin Balester and not once did we hear HOW he was carving up the Reds through the first few innings. Grande screwed up a Reds runner's identity on the basepaths and lost track of the batting order immediately afterwards, but he (or his producer) caught himself pretty quickly. Grade: 3.5/10
Enthusiasm: Grande goes through the motions for the most part. His home run call on an Adam Dunn bomb was, "…that's a shot, yesiree, Dunn's done it again!" Really, that's what I'd expect a Reds fan to be screaming from the bleachers. Welsh reminds me of FOX broadcaster Kevin Kennedy – wooden and bland, but with a 60% smaller hat size. Grade: 4/10
Bar Stool Q: Grande is one of those guys whose been at this for so long that he's what you'd call "mechanically polished". He's probably the nicest guy in the world, but not someone I'd wanna enjoy a 3-way with. What's worse, I sincerely doubt he'd even get that play on words in the last sentence. Welsh seemed a little cranky at times (he got all prickly at some Reds fans who criticized the team's "backwards flag" on the team's holiday camouflage uniforms, telling them to "do their research"). I'll pass on him, too. Grade: 1/10
Camera/Production: The Nats' defense didn't get an on-screen graphic until the bottom of the 2nd. There was a typo on the screen that mixed up the possessive apostrophe "s" thingie…long a pet peeve of mine. Otherwise, what you see is what you get from the FSN family of affiliates. Grade: 4/10
Homerism: During the game, I wasn't always sure if Grande was showing overt bias for the Reds or if he was just missing some of the action on the field. With the bases loaded, Reds 2B Brandon Phillips scooped a groundball and cost his team a double play when he thought about throwing home – a clear brain cramp that Grande called as Phillips "having trouble getting the ball out of his glove". Welsh called former Reds OF Wily Mo Peña a "5 o'clock hitter" and I'm betting he was never that honest when Peña played in Cincinnati. Welsh did relay a story about former Reds RP Jeff Shaw and his falling out with the team, presenting only Shaw's side. Grade: -5
Commerciality: Lots of local flavor on the broadcast, including Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati staple. Out there, it's served on top of spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese. I can't think of a better way to make canned chili taste less delicious, Cincy. Way to go. There was also an anti-Obama ad, which was notable because it implied McCain would be better for our environment – a decades-old Republican concern. I couldn't find it online, so here's a reasonable facsimile. But, the BEST commercial of the day (and the early leader for this entire series) was a spot for FarmersOnly.com. Everyone must see this ad at least once in their lives.
AFLAC Trivia Question: Name the only two Reds pitchers to lead the team in ERA for five straight seasons. (My answer: Jose Rijo/Mario Soto, Correct answer: Jose Rijo/Noodles Hahn) They had to go to 1900 to stump me. Well played, FSN-Ohio, well played. 3 for 7
Final Grade: 13.5