Game: Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates
Date: July 7
Network: Fox Sports Net-Pittsburgh
Play-by-Play: Greg Brown
Color Commentator: Steve Blass
If you’re ever amongst friends and the subject of “most underappreciated teams of the last 20 years” comes up, you could do a lot worse than referencing the 1990-92 Pittsburgh Pirates. They fell short in the NLCS in each year, but those Bonds-Van Slyke-Bonilla led lineups were at or near the top of the league in OBP and SLG in each year, while Doug Drabek anchored an outstanding, if ever-changing rotation. Now, in the 15th year of their rebuilding plan, it blows my mind that I’m one of those guys who’s old enough to remember when perennially bad teams used to be good. Now, I’m depressed. Not, “Pirates fan depressed”, but still…
Chemistry: Brown, who sounds an awful lot like former A’s play-by-play guy Greg Papa, is paired with Blass, 68, a former Pirates hurler and the most famous victim of Steve Blass Disease. Listening to Blass, I was reminded of Billy Crystal’s father-in-law in Forget Paris. It didn’t help that Blass seemed unable to pick up on any of the verbal cues from Brown unless they were placed on a tee. Blass repeatedly stepped all over Brown’s call of the game and seemed unsure of when and when not to talk. Grade: 3/10
Knowledge: I really don’t want this to sound like elder abuse, but here are a few examples of Blass’ “expert analysis”…regarding OF Nate McClouth’s All Star nod (“It’s absolutely condoned [sic].”); regarding a Carlos Lee home run (“Everyone knows that this one’s out of here.”); and, my favorite, on filling out an injury-depleted rotation (“When you’re in a desperate situation, you’re looking for pitchers who aren’t atrocious.”) Credit where it’s due, both Brown and Blass predicted the Pirates would hit Astros SP Runelvys Hernandez pretty hard. As of this writing, his career ERA is 5.50, so neither one is exactly Nostradamus. Grade: 3.5/10
Enthusiasm: Well, it’s not like they’ve had much to cheer about lately in the Steel City, but the most animated either man got was when they droned on and on about McClouth’s selection to the All Star Game. Y’know, guys, they DO take at least one player from each team. Blass also woke up for a rambling dissertation on players who don’t appreciate the All Star Game, while Brown got all up in arms over third basemen who bare-hand slow rollers up the line. Jesus, Pirates, hurry up and start winning. You’re driving the broadcasters cuckoo. Grade: 3.5/10
Bar Stool Q: Throughout a pretty fun slugfest, Brown and Blass amused themselves with a couple of “separated at births” (Mark Loretta and Davis Love III, Hunter Pence and Jim Furyk) and actually used the nickname “Doug E. Fresh” for 3B Doug Mientkiewicz. Put it this way: my BAC would have to be twice that of your average Pittsburgh resident (at this very moment) for me to want to be seen in public with these people. Grade: 1/10
Camera/Production: Nothing could top the pregame video montage of former Pirates selected to the All Star Game: Lloyd Waner, Vince DiMaggio, Matty Alou, Andy Van Slyke, Brian Giles…and Nate McClouth. Umm, I think you could’ve done a better job picking names, FSN-Pittsburgh producers and, again…someone from your team HAD to go, damn it! Grade: 5/10
Homerism: On one hand, neither Brown nor Blass are obviously pumping their pom-poms. On the other, Blass’ pandering, political caveats before any criticism (“Not to take anything away from…” or “I got nothing against…”) further blunted what was already a dull perspective. They did spend a minute or two criticizing the Pirates for hitting their pitcher eighth, but after SP Phil Dumatrait smoked an RBI single, they changed their tune. Grade: -3
Commerciality: A place called (wait for it)… The Baseball Card Castle bought FSN ad time! Baseball cards! In 2008! Oh, Pittsburgh…may your epidemic of blackened lungs and the depressed local economy never keep you from collecting. Something called Gus Groundhog hypes the Pennsylvania State Lottery, while The Rust Belt’s getting a ton of mileage out of the same anti-Obama spot that run during the Reds game I reviewed. FSN does have a pretty clever, self-deprecating series with some Pirates players.
AFLAC Trivia Question: “Which road park has Lance Berkman hit the most home runs?” (My answer: Wrigley Field; Correct answer: Great American Ballpark)
Final Grade: 13
Aaron Cameron blogs about baseball, music, movies, food, MFWNTAKs and the whole damn Bootleg Family over at That Bootleg Guy.