No announcer is perfect. A mistake now and then is expected. The best ones realize that they’ve made errors and often do their best to fix them quickly.
Then there is Chip Caray, TBS’s lead baseball announcer, who has been calling the Yankees-Indians division series and will work deeper into the postseason on the National League Championship Series. His play-by-play of the Yankees’ 8-4 win in Game 3 on Sunday night was packed with errors and silly strategy, enough to give me agita.
Caray’s skein of faux pas in Game 3, as well as during Game 2, befogged his announcing like the insects that swarmed Joba Chamberlain on Friday night.
He stated that Derek Jeter was playing in his 49th postseason game — “No. 1 of all time.” Truth: it was his 49th division series game, out of 122 postseason games.
He likened the “dynamic duo” of Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera to the Rivera-John Wetteland bullpen pairing in “those great early years of Joe Torre,” when they were dominating the World Series. Truth: Rivera and Wetteland were Yankee teammates for two seasons, and Torre managed them only in 1996.
He said the “Yankees led the world” in home runs this season with 201. He liked saying it so much he said it again. Truth: The Brewers led the majors with 231, followed by the Phillies with 213 and the Reds at 204. The Yankees and Marlins were tied at 201.
He extolled Alex Rodriguez’s “offensive heroics in the first two months of the season” for keeping the Yankees in the race. Truth: A-Rod had a sensational April, but he slumped in May to a .235 batting average with 5 home runs and 11 runs batted in.
He introduced Indians reliever Joe Borowski in Game 3 as having played for the Brewers and the Reds. Truth: He never played for Milwaukee, and while he once signed with the Reds, he never made it out of spring training. Caray also noted his hometown, Bayonne, N.J., but pronounced it as if it were part of the Louisiana bayou.
The error bug also hit the reporter Craig Sager, who reflected on the absence of Bob Sheppard, the Yankee Stadium public address announcer, and said that his first game in 1951 was between the Giants and the Yankees. Truth: The Red Sox were in town.
Caray does not distinguish a go-ahead run from a winning run. In Cleveland on Friday, he said the Indians had the winning run on second base in the bottom of the eighth, and he put the Yankees in the same position in the top of the ninth. Wrong. He also believes that a runner on second will automatically score on a single. Not always.
He also has an annoying air of certitude. With the bases loaded Sunday, and the Yankees leading, 5-3, thanks to Johnny Damon’s three-run homer, Caray said, “This is a spot where they have to score another run to win the game.” Does he also read palms?
That attitude led him on Sunday, after Rodriguez’s first hit of the series, to say, “And here come the Yankees!” A-Rod went back to the bench on Jorge Posada’s double play.
After Damon’s run-scoring single in the third, he said, “And here they come!”
No, they didn’t: Jeter promptly grounded into a double play.
I’m sure that Caray believed his own words when he said, about the Andy Pettitte-Fausto Carmona Game 2 matchup, that “you can’t get better postseason pitching than we’ve seen tonight.” But there had been better, like that perfect game at Yankee Stadium in 1956 when the 42-year-old Chip’s legendary grandfather, Harry, was only 42.
Had the frequently (and ridiculously) loud Caray stayed on mute throughout the series, the analysis of his partners, Tony Gwynn and, to a greater degree, Bob Brenly, would have been worth three or four hours of my time. But a stronger play-by-play voice, like TBS’s other division series announcers, Don Orsillo, Ted Robinson or Dick Stockton, would have made Brenly and Gwynn better. TBS knows how to fix what’s wrong. Yesterday it added SNY’s Ron Darling to its studio program, providing experience that neophytes like Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken lack.
Here are some questions to ponder through the rest of Caray’s work this postseason. Why isn’t he better prepared? If his producer, Jeff Gowen, is listening to what he is saying, why isn’t Caray improving? And why should I have to keep rushing to MLB.com to fact-check his facts?
Through Sunday’s games, TBS’s division series average viewership of 5.4 million is up impressively from 4.5 million last year on ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox. ...The NHL Network, with 50 live games and other programming, announced deals to be carried by Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, DirecTV and Dish. It will most likely be available largely on digital sports tiers.