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Radio on the Television

Aug 03, 2020

I find it really hard to watch baseball at this point given the number of cases of COVID-19 in comparison to the leagues conducting games in bubble environments. It feels socially irresponsible to be watching a league in which entire teams are having outbreaks and is being run by a commissioner who seems to be doing nothing but setting everything up to blame the players. After all Manfred’s response to the Marlins outbreak was “the players need to be better.” Maybe that true in some respects, but also what’s the evidence they haven’t been following policies? Why would players both sign up to play a season and risk getting the virus, then actively work to get the virus? The far more likely situation is you simply cannot expect to control a highly contagious virus in a situation where teams are actively traveling between states with high levels of outbreak.

I have watched some games, however, and I would echo Joe Posnanski on the state of commentating in baseball:

And, with a handful of exceptions, I find myself stupefied at how announcers are calling games. Where is the storytelling? Where is the humor? Where is the perspective? I know that announcers have been calling games more or less the same way for decades now, but in this strange and haunting environment, it feels entirely out of touch. I don’t mean to pick on Matt Vasgersian, who I like very much, and Alex Rodriguez, who … well, I like Matt very much.

This isn’t exactly a new thing, but the lack of crowds definitely makes it worse and the video of Judge’s at-bat is just painful to listen to. There’s an art to balancing the game and letting the natural sounds of the ballpark provide the soundtrack, which isn’t really possible when the ballpark is empty minus the teams and fake crowd noise. But even in the Before Times, television baseball commentators seemed too reliant on the television pictures to tell the story of the game and crutch has been decidedly weakened in 2020.

Baseball on the radio has always been a better experience. Baseball truly is the only sport that really works on the radio and there’s something about listening to a game that you can never achieve with a television broadcast. But in the event you want video, here’s a tip: subscribe to MLB.tv and use their audio overlay option which allows you to mix up the radio broadcast audio and the television picture. It’s not perfect but it’s a hell of a lot better most of the time than what you’d get from the TV talking heads.