Press Coverage: Just How Unlistenable Is Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, And Other Media Notes


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↵I'll admit it, I tried to sit through an entire game of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN and give Joe Morgan a fair critique of his performance on the air. The Sunday Night Baseball product has improved a great deal this year with the addition of Orel Hershiser, who is both a solid analyst and a storied-enough player in his own right to share anecdotes and historical perspective without sounding braggadocious about his career. ↵

↵Morgan, a Baseball Hall of Fame member, can't sound anything but. So my apologies to the reader, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't watch an entire game and transcribe all of Morgan's analysis and commentary. Basically, I got through three innings before I had enough. Here's what I could handle. ↵

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↵The Phillies were playing the Brewers in Milwaukee, and Morgan's opening – for which he had a chance to prepare his statements before the game - was about how the Phillies offense has led the team’s early-season success. Or how it's about something else, even though the numbers indicate that it’s indeed about the offense. Or it's about overcoming injuries. Or Shane Victorino and the offense. ↵

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↵⇥Well, Jon, it would be very easy to say that they're in first place simply because of their offense. They lead the league in average runs per game (5.6) they lead the league in slugging percentage. They also lead the league in batting average. ↵⇥

↵⇥But the reason that they are the best team in the National League, in my opinion, is because they compete each and every night. They play for nine innings every night. And if you look at the depth on this ball club, they've been able to play through injuries to Chase Utley last year ... they're playing through an injury to Jimmy Rollins right now ... and the main reason is because Shane Victorino has taken over for Jimmy Rollins. He has eight home runs and 32 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Only two hitters in the National League have more, Andre Ethier and Casey McGehee here with the Brewers. So that's the reason they are in first place. They have a lot of depth and they play the game hard. ↵⇥

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↵The Phillies do play the game hard, but that's one of those statements that analysts fall back on when they have nothing of substance to say. Don't most teams play hard? Do some teams really not try as hard as others at the plate or on the mound? ↵

↵Oh, and the Phillies success is completely about the offense and Roy Halladay, who was not mentioned at all as a reason why they are in first place. Neither was Jayson Werth, who has carried the offense for much of the season. Those facts not withstanding, it's not that Morgan is factually incorrect, he's just completely confusing. Again, this was his opening comment, and he had time to prepare. Let's break it down. ↵

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↵Morgan was right on with the Phillies leading the league in runs per game, slugging and batting average, but when he brings up the team’s depth, his first point is to mention the Phillies playing through injuries to Utley - a second baseman - last year. Besides, it was Utley, himself, who played through the injuries, logging 156 games in 2009, which speaks nothing at all to the depth of the Phillies. ↵

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↵Morgan brought up Rollins, who has been hurt most of the season, and finally gets to the his point of lauding Victorino, remarking that the centerfielder has eight homers and 32 RBI from the leadoff spot, when in fact - as an ESPN graphic shows when Hershiser cleans up the stat a few minutes later - Victorino has seven home runs and 27 RBI from the leadoff spot. Morgan continued the confusion by comparing Victorino's (incorrect) leadoff numbers to Casey McGehee and Andre Ethier, who bat fifth and third for their teams, respectively. Perhaps that was nothing more than a misplaced modifier but it had me scurrying to look up McGehee's leadoff numbers, so it likely confused others as well. ↵

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↵The last statement in his open is typical Morgan; using the un-measurable to prove a point as fact. "So that's the reason they are in first place. They have a lot of depth and they play the game hard." Or it's the offense, Joe. Or Roy Halladay. ↵

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↵In the bottom of the first, Morgan talked about the problems the Brewers have had this season: ↵

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↵⇥The Brewers have not had a lot of problems scoring runs, it's been their pitching staff that has not been able to hold them down. They actually had more runs scored than the Phillies, but they played more games, obviously, than the Phillies have, as the Phillies lead in average runs per game. ↵
↵It wasn't until the sixth inning that the crew cleaned up this completely imbalanced stat, as Hershiser came back with a little more depth to the Brewers scoring, leading to this exchange by the booth, including play-by-play man Jon Miller: ↵
↵⇥Hershiser: If you really go deeper into the Brewers offense, though, they really don't consistently produce runs. They either put a zero, one or two up or they put a 10 or 12 up. They average a lot of runs, but it's not a consistent attack like the Phillies. ↵⇥

↵⇥Miller: The Brewers have had 10 games this year where they've scored eight runs or more and averaged almost 12 runs per game in those 10 games. In all their other games they've averaged exactly three runs per game, so really profound feast or famine offense so far. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Morgan: That's why I don't put as much value to run differential as some people do, because how many games did you actually win when you put up those big numbers and how many did you loose when you put up the smaller numbers. ↵⇥

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↵So to be clear, Morgan doesn't put stake in run differential because it doesn't give a fair indication of the disparity between a team's offense and it's pitching staff - namely, 10-run games can throw off the averages early in the season - but five innings earlier he can look at the total number of runs rounding near 200 so far this season and use that to indicate that the Brewers “have not had a lot of problems scoring runs, it's been their pitching staff that has not been able to hold them down." ↵

↵Again, he's exactly not wrong, but it just doesn't feel right. ↵

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↵Morgan managed to get Albert Pujols into the show, offering that, "part of getting RBI is having chances to get RBI," which was in response to the fact that Victorino has so many RBI and has hit primarily in the leadoff spot: ↵

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↵⇥Morgan: I remember we were talking about that oddity in the meeting. I remember last year that David Eckstein had the same number of runners in scoring position at bats as Albert Pujols did, which was 119, which I thought was unusual because Eckstein batted second most of the time. ↵⇥

↵⇥Miller: Now Albert Pujols came to the plate more often, last year, than did Eckstein, but he got a lot more walks than Eckstein too. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Morgan: At bats. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Miller: But the actual at bats themselves were identical. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Morgan: Yeah, Right. ↵⇥

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↵Part of getting RBI is having chances, which led to a stat about Pujols and Eckstein having the same number of at-bats (119) but no mention of the fact that Pujols had 189 plate appearances with runners in scoring position in 2009 to Eckstein's 150. Eckstein had 12 sacrifice bunts and four sac flies, with 11 walks and 47 RBI. Pujols had zero sacrifice bunts and eight sac flies, with 57 walks and, oh yeah, 83 RBI. So part of getting RBI is having chances, sure, but the better hitters will always drive in more runs. Again, Morgan is using half the stat to prove his point, but using the entire stat would prove the exact opposite point. ↵

↵Facts and numbers aside, the thing that made me turn down the sound on the TV was actually Morgan's incessant and seemingly never-ending conversations about himself. When the crew discussed Jody Gerut hitting for the cycle last week, Miller asked Morgan if he had ever done it. After commenting that had he done it in "The Show," he'd likely remember, it was confirmed that he had never hit for the cycle. So, in response to that, Morgan offered this: ↵

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↵⇥Jon by the way, you asked if I had ever hit for the cycle. Well, they said I didn't, but I prefer to say that here in Milwaukee, in County Stadium, my rookie year, I had two home runs, two doubles and two singles. That's better than the cycle. Same game. Six hits. Six-for-six. No triples. ↵
↵Jon, by the way, you asked me a question, so I'll answer that by telling you that I prefer to tell you about something I did that was great. Because I was great. Better than a cycle great, Jon. I was six-for-six great. As a rookie. Jon. ↵

↵And if that's not enough, how about one more! Morgan was set to tell a story about Ryan Howard before the Phillies first baseman grounded out on the first pitch. Seemingly upset at Howard, Morgan started by saying, "Well, Jon, I was going to tell my Barry Bonds story," then proceeded to tell the story during the entire next at-bat by Jayson Werth. The story? Oh, here's the story: ↵

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↵⇥Morgan: I saw Barry Bonds at a charity golf outing this week -- Ronnie Lott's charity golf tournament at Pebble Beach -- and he was talking to me about him working with Ryan Howard, and I followed up with Ryan today. One of the things they did was hitting off a batting tee in the cage, they put a chair out there to have Ryan hit the ball and have it, you know, hit the chair. Ryan hit balls everywhere but the chair. Barry got upset, he said - this is Ryan telling me this - he got upset and said "give me the bat," and it took Barry about three swings to hit the chair. ↵⇥

↵⇥Miller: Well, what's the point? (Ed Note: We're all thinking this, Jon.) ↵⇥

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↵⇥Morgan: Well, because it keeps you on the ball. He was trying to stay on the ball. It was a drill they were using. Because he didn't want him to pull the ball. The chair was actually, probably, down the third base line ... on that side. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Miller: Did Howard think that was a good move? Did he benefit from that particular drill? ↵⇥

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↵⇥Morgan: Well, I think it's showed he's benefited. His batting average is a lot higher this year than it was at this time last year. He's not striking out as often without fouling some balls, et cetera. Over the long haul, I think it'll pay a lot of dividends for him. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Miller: Came into the game tonight hitting .284. Most often, in his career, around this time he's hitting .210, .200, .190. ↵⇥

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↵Ryan Howard's batting average in March and April of 2009 was .288 to start the season, while it dipped to .250 for the entire month of May. In 2008, he was terrible, right in line with Miller's suggested numbers. In 2007, he was hitting in the .225 range at this time of the season, which is terrible, but still 15 points higher than Miller suggested. In 2006 -- his first full season in the majors -- Howard hit .306 in March and April and .284 in May. Bonds may help, but that story had nothing to do with Bonds helping Howard and everything to do with Morgan playing in Lott's charity golf outing at Pebble Beach with the likes of Bonds. That's most evidenced by the fact that Morgan never asked where the chair was and just assumed it was down the third base line. What if they moved the chair around? What if it was right back up the middle? That would be something maybe worth asking if you're going to tell that story. ↵

↵But hey, Pebble Beach. Must have been some event. ↵

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↵Sports Guy Staying at ESPN, Per Reports ↵
↵Bill Simmons will be staying with the Worldwide Leader, if you believe (and I do) a report on Deadspin this weekend. ↵

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↵⇥An announcement could come as early as next week (maybe in time for television's upfronts). Simmons declined comment; in a prepared statement, ESPN said that "we aim to keep Bill on board with us for a long time." ↵⇥

↵⇥ESPN, we're told, was always confident in its ability to keep Simmons in the fold, and no hard push ever materialized from other suitors. ↵⇥

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↵This is a smart move for both Simmons and ESPN. The Sports Guy has become an institution online, and with his involvement in the 30 for 30 film series, Simmons has proven he can develop good content for TV as well, without necessarily being in front of the camera. The most important thing for Simmons may be that he's still protected by the ESPN net. There's long been speculation about whether Simmons could thrive outside of the ESPN world, with many opinions on both sides of that discussion. But lucky for us, and fortunately for Simmons, we can quell that debate for a few more years. ↵

↵One debate that is far more topical about Simmons is the creation of the CelticsChants Twitter feed. Look, it's nothing more than Simmons trying to stay a part of the Boston sports scene, and the puppets in Beantown that follow his every word just fuel his hometown ego. But some are upset that people aren't making more out of a member of the media trying to change the outcome of a game. So, should that be an issue? No. Simmons has never been impartial. This is more about Simmons being a puppet master than trying to get under LeBron's or Dwight Howard's skin. Oh, it's incredibly lame, but it does lead to egomaniacal tweets like this: ↵

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↵⇥2 sports media guys who have GROVELED for BS Report invites hung me out to dry on the whole Knicks chant/Twitter thing today. Funny. ↵
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↵Speaking of Egomaniacal. ↵
↵You all should really be following Buzz Bissinger on Twitter (much NSFW language). Even our own Andy Hutchins couldn't avoid his wrath late last week, and that's not even close to the worst of what he's been saying. Forget about sports bloggers, you should see what he thinks about Philly hipster site Philebrity. That makes him and Will Leitch look like bosom buddies. ↵

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↵Uecker Coming Back Soon ↵
↵Bob Uecker had major heart surgery just two weeks ago and was already back at Miller Park this weekend. He wasn't working, but plans to be back by June: ↵

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↵⇥Uecker underwent a six-hour procedure on April 30 to replace his aortic valve, aortic root and part of his ascending aorta, along with a coronary bypass of one vessel. His next checkup with Kleczka is in early June, and Kleczka doesn't expect Uecker to resume working home games until at least six weeks postsurgery, which would be approximately June 11. That's right in the middle of a weeklong homestand against the Cubs and Rangers. ↵
↵For an out-of-market baseball fan, it sure is fun to listen to Brewers games when Uecker is on the call. Baseball can't have him back soon enough, as long as he's healthy. It's okay to take some time, Ueck. Get back well before you get back soon.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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