There was a lot of talk about how, even though the Red Sox and Yankees were facing off in the other series, Astros vs. Indians was the better of the two ALDS series happening right now.
While much of the pitching in that series has indeed been a marvel — from Justin Verlander to Carlos Carrasco to Gerrit Cole — and Alex Bregman is carrying over his 2017 postseason home run spree to this year — Boston-New York has been the more raucous of the two series through two games. More stress for both sides, more scoring, more tension overall. So while Houston-Cleveland isn’t boring — far from it! — the true star of that series so far and the main reason to tune in for neutral fans is the booth of Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley.
In particular, the star is Eck but Orsillo maintaining his always reliable play-by-play while still capably reigning in Eck from some of his more nonsensical tangents shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s the fun, endearing version of Joe Davis trying to wrangle the worst of John Smoltz’s opinions over in the Dodgers-Braves series. If you’re a Red Sox or Padres fan you’re more than familiar with both of their individual styles, and how Eck can go off the rails every other inning. Sometimes drastically so.
Some people don’t like this brand of commentary. The Bill Walton School of What In The World Happened In This Conversation While I Was Grabbing Another Beer, you could call it. Commentators who wander and lose focus constantly can be frustrating. Last year during the NLDS, Eck told a Kirk Gisbon-related anecdote that proved his self-referential sense of humor. He once brought up the time a teammate stole his wife — the current topic at the time was teammate rivalries — and articles have been written titled “What the Heck Is Eck Talking About?” This is his style and he’s sticking with it.
Even if you’re someone who can’t stand an unfocused, looping duo talking through your baseball game (in itself an unfocused, looping sport) of all the people you could have to sit through who does it, Eckersley is the best option. His tangents have a rhythm, a cadence that makes it possible to almost feel when the next one is coming. For a while, he is overenthusiastic about everything happening on the field.
He loves baseball so much and he just wants you to love baseball with him. He attaches to things you’d never think of getting excited or concerned about at the same level Eckersley does. Like during Game 1 of this series, when he was flabbergasted A.J. Hinch was taking Justin Verlander out with the bases loaded in the sixth, with 102 pitches on his arm for the night. Eckersley’s 80’s instincts kicked in and he blurted “they’re really coming to get him!” as if before it actually took place the idea of such a thing happening was unimaginable.
He even provides his own sound effects.
Dennis Eckersley comes from the Tony Romo school of broadcasting. “Ohhh!” pic.twitter.com/fCT6aJcv2m— Dan Harrington (@__hoss) October 5, 2018
Eck does things like pronounce certifiable star and 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve’s name “Altoovee” or ponder things in ways that can’t be interpreted and that have people asking what language he’s speaking. He was overly concerned with issuing a walk to Edwin Encarnacion even though it wasn’t a make or break free base. He commented on how incredible it is that Cleveland reliever Brad Hand can hold his wind up so long, because he “start[s] quivering” after a count of two.
In Game 2, he reached an Eckersley pinnacle of sorts when he said “How could you not throw another piece of cheese here?” in regards to a pitcher throwing another heater of a fastball or not. He and Orsillo then got into a conversation about what qualifies as cheese. And what is it called if it’s a pitch over 100mph? Eck came to the conclusion that it has to be at least 95mph to have hair. After a back and forth about cheese versus hair versus heat, the camera cut to Nolan Ryan sitting behind home plate at Minute Maid Park, and this exchange happened.
Eckersley: That’s Gas Masterson.
Orsillo: He used to have hair.
Eckersley: Now, he has no hair, but he’s Gas Masterson. That’s Gas Masterson right there!
Orsillo: [dies of laughter]
In the middle of all of that, Eck slid in to the conversation that he thinks the ball looks faster on the radar gun now than it did 30 years ago. Casual assertion that they never came back to during the rest of the game.
It was honestly broadcast perfection, and if you can’t stand that artful level of what-the-hell-is-happening-right-now-I-think-I-love-it-but-I-don’t-understand dialogue accompanying a sport that can be agonizingly slow and devoid of action in some games, I’m not sure what to tell you. Other than that you should give it another shot and let Eck and Don serenade you with a smoothie of analytics and nonsense.
After the cheese discussion, Eck got back to business with a baseball observation that was focused and correct. If also a little ... obvious.
"Miller's, like. missing badly!"— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) October 6, 2018
THANKS DENNIS DIDN'T NOTICE
Give the Eckersley and Orsillo experience a shot. They certainly make it more worth it to sit through three hours of the same four commercials playing on TBS. And right now they’re as much stars of the ALDS as the teams on the field.