Number thirty-one in a series.
Broadcast: Pittsburgh Pirates on FSN Pittsburgh, Chicago Cubs at Pirates, 8/26/08; Announcers: Lanny Frattare (play-by-play), Steve Blass (analyst)
A confession: I actually watched a Pirates-Mets game about ten days earlier, with Lanny Frattare and Bob Walk. Days later, when I looked at my notes, I found that I had written almost nothing down and hardly remembered the game, other than the fact that Johan Santana pitched a complete game shutout. Was it that boring? Was I lulled to sleep by Santana’s so easily handling the Pirates hitters?
So I decided to watch another game. This time Frattare was teamed with Steve Blass, the former pitcher whose sudden loss of control not only ended his career but led to the term “Steve Blass Disease” being given to any pitcher whose ability to throw strikes suddenly disappears (see Ankiel, Rick). This game, in which the Cubs took a minute shy of four hours to pull out a 14-9 win, gave me more to work with.
Frattare and Blass had their moments of cheerleading. Frattare referred to “our” Pirates twice; Blass rooted for a pop fly by a Pittsburgh hitter to “get down” and later said during a Nate McLouth at bat, “Now would be a good time, Nate.” A good time for what, specifically? I don’t know. He also had advice for Pirates starter Ian Snell, after Snell (coming off three strong starts) was removed after struggling for 4 innings, “Don’t lose track of those three previous outings, Ian, as unhappy as you can be about this one.” I’ll never figure out why so many broadcasters directly address someone in the dugout, where their remarks can’t be heard.
Frattare is an old-school play-by-play guy, though, and only really annoyed me when he read a promo for a local auto sales company in which he twice pronounced “Jaguar” as “Jagwire.” Blass had good moments as well. He called an 0-2 pitch from Snell that was ripped for a 3-run double by Geovany Soto “a flat-out mistake” and when Soto scored without a throw on a single by Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, Blass said that Pirates left fielder Nyjer Morgan should have thrown home because Soto is slow, and Zambrano was unlikely to try to go to second on a throw to the plate.
Zambrano, Snell and Pirates reliever Craig Hansen were all caught on camera throwing tantrums in the dugout after poor performances. Snell fired his glove away, and Zambrano and Hansen both attacked Gatorade coolers. Unfortunately, something that wasn’t caught live on camera was an errant pickoff attempt by Zambrano that allowed runners to advance. They were too busy showing a replay of Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano’s odd hop while catching a fly ball.
In the 6th Blass commented that “this videotape is not going to Cooperstown.” But my favorite Blass moments came near the end, after the Cubs’ 7-run eighth turned a tight game into a blowout. He mentioned that, thanks to the Cubs’ 13-2 blowout the previous day, that he was “out of material.” Not that it mattered because “they’ve heard all my stories the last 15 years” -- 15 years being the number of consecutive seasons with losing records the Pirates have had. Zing! (And since then the Bucs clinched losing season in a row number 16.) Following up on that, in the bottom of the 9th he suddenly blurted out, “What in God’s name are we gonna tell the people on the post-game show?”
Steve, if I may address you directly even though I doubt you'll ever read this: after 31 of these, I know how you feel. One to go... Grade: B-minus.