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Joe's MLB on TV Report - Nationals

Tenth in a series.

Broadcast: Washington Nationals on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), Los Angeles Angels at Nationals, 6/23/08; Announcers: Bob Carpenter (play-by-play), Don Sutton (analyst), Debbi Taylor (reporter, and the fifth woman I’ve encountered -- on these broadcasts, that is :wink: )

I don’t recall particularly liking Don Sutton in all the years he worked in the Braves’ broadcast booth. Perhaps it was my general dislike of the Braves for winning all those NL East titles (and choking in the playoffs just about every time). However, Sutton probably did the best job of all the color commentators I’ve seen so far. He was strong with his analysis of game situations and pitching and had interesting points throughout. He talked about how some high school players who may be drafted in the lower rounds and want to go to school for a year or two and improve their draft status, but aren’t too keen on the big four-year college programs, will go to junior college or community college programs instead. He mentioned one such school in Florida as having a strong baseball program.

His scouting report on Angels starter John Lackey was a little too cutesy, though. The on-screen graphic said Lackey was “A Ricky Nelson Pitcher” and listed three Nelson song titles: “Travelin’ Man” (because Lackey was 13-3 with a 1.95 ERA in his last 16 road starts, Sutton explained), “Believe What You Say” (because Lackey might believe you if you say that interleague play is supposed to be tough, but he’s 9-3, 2.81 against the NL) and “It’s Late” (because it’s late when Lackey leaves the game, averaging 6.2 innings per start in his career and over 7 innings per start this year). Any younger viewers had to be scratching their heads -- heck, I'm 46 and I'm only familiar with “Travelin’ Man.”

Bob Carpenter isn’t nearly as impressive. He sometimes was too busy talking about something to give much of a play call -- sometimes he simply said “how about that” as in “how about that Elijah Dukes getting a hit.” I think the Nats ought to pair someone else with Sutton, and I’ll even make a suggestion: Rob Reiner.

The actor-turned-director was a guest in the booth. Normally that’s a no-no for me, but I’m willing to make an exception for Reiner. He clearly loves baseball. He and his son were on their annual trip to some major league parks (Sunday night they were at Wrigley Field for the Cubs-White Sox; Tuesday night they were in Florida to see the Marlins-Rays). He spent an inning and a half in the booth, and unlike so many celebrities, he had nothing to plug. Asked if he had any upcoming projects, the best he could do was “’The Bucket List’ just came out on DVD.”

During the top of the 3rd inning he worked in a mention of the play going on in the middle of answering a question -- “…and there’s a ground ball for the out…” -- and went right on with his answer. Shortly after that, LA’s Erick Aybar drag-bunted to the right side. Nats second baseman Felipe Lopez scooped the ball over to first with his glove in one quick motion for the third out. Reiner was in the middle of another story but interrupted himself to exclaim, “Ooh -- geez, that’s a nice play!”

There was just one report from Debbi Taylor. It had nothing to do with this particular game, but it was interesting. She talked about the recent death of Bert Shepard, who had his right leg amputated after his plane was shot down during World War II but, with the use of an artificial leg, pitched in a major league game in 1945. Shepard went 5 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox for the Washington Nationals -- which, Taylor said, was their name, though they were also known as the Senators. I thought this might be a mistake but according to Wikipedia, “Nationals” was their official name at the time; the “Senators” nickname was widely used but didn’t become official until after the 1956 season.

The MASN graphics are fine, and also lacked many of the Fox-style sound effects. One very odd note: the camera that looks out upon the field from behind home plate, the one they usually cut to after the pitch to show where the batted ball is going, was very high. On every ground ball or fly ball, the camera shot was very distant, and then zoomed in on the fielder nearest the ball. I assume the camera is on the same level as the press box, which is at the very top of the new Nationals Park. Couldn’t they have built a closer stand somewhere for a camera? Grade: B. -- Joe Guckin