adventures in broadcasting

The Salvation of Joe Buck

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

An amazing thing happened when we were watching Joe Girardi drive the Yankees into the Game 3 ditch yesterday: Someone at the bar actually said, “Man, it’s such a relief having Buck and McCarver doing these games.” And we agreed with them! Picking on Joe Buck and Tim McCarver has become an October tradition, a yearly collective gripe. But this year, fans have grown to appreciate them, or at least tolerate them. The reason for that, of course, is Chip Caray.

Caray, the head of the TBS broadcasting team (they did the Yankees-Twins ALDS and are now on the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS), has plunged the art of announcing a baseball game to previously unsuspected depths this season. Fans’ ears are being “fisted,” and his incompetence has been so total that even august keepers of civility like the New York Times are pummeling him. Richard Sandomir, the paper’s sports media critic, is having a field day with Caray, pointing out his ridiculous constructions — the way he calls relievers “pensmen” — and reveling in his repeated obvious mistakes. Here’s how Sandomir recounts Caray blowing the call at the end of last night’s thrilling Phillies win over the Dodgers:

In the pressure of postseason baseball, the play-by-play announcer must exude cool and avoid the temptation to lose control or describe the action inaccurately – particularly on a walk-off hit.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jimmy Rollins drove in two runs to win the game, 5-4, for the Phillies.

But as Carlos Ruiz was scoring the winning run, Chip Caray offered this overheated fiction: “Here’s the throw to the plate — not in time!” The problem with Caray’s call was that there was no throw to the plate. Right fielder Andre Ethier hit the cut-off man, Rafael Furcal, but Furcal knew it was too late to do anything.

Caray has been so wretched this postseason that it’s a wonder he calls baseball as his full-time job. (Dick Stockton, another TBS announcer, is better than Caray, and the Division Series games he calls are his only baseball games all year.) And he has made us feel so much better about Joe Buck. As Bill Simmons put it on Twitter: “Never enjoyed Joe Buck more than tonight. He should ask HBO to launch “The Chip Caray Show” and stick it right before his.”

Whatever your thoughts about Buck — we’ve always liked him, but we understand why tons of people were never able to get past the Randy Moss “despicable act” incident — he knows how to call a baseball game. It’s not an easy job, as Chip Caray is showing every night. Reasonable competence, at this point, is enough to make we fans stand and cheer. Or, as Caray might call us, “cheermen.”

The Salvation of Joe Buck