A sign of the (L.A.) Times: What Smoltz, what chokes
By Tom Hoffarth
Maybe you don’t get enough “how the sausage is made” explanation about a sports media column.
Let’s grind a few things out for you:
One: We have deadlines. We have opinions. We have story ideas. Sometimes, in that order. It needs to mesh. With experience, it works. Occasionally, we wish we had little bit of a do-over.
Not that this piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times, posting Monday night and appearing in the Tuesday print editions, leaves us with any major regrets.
It just proves that once you get an idea out there, a conversation starts. From that, new thoughts and revisions come out.
So, if the end of this column seems a little harsh — John Smoltz seems to be more on a “bitch count” than a pitch count — it started as a place-holder paragraph, was left in because the deadline happened, but there are a few more thoughts on this subject twe have tried to share on our Twitter thread.
(Note: Not an endorsement of Twitter as the place to hold drill-deep discussions. But a starting point as the Post-It-Note for cyberspace).
So what if …
* Fox put a second analyst/third broadcaster in the booth. A manager like Terry Francona. Or Mike Scioscia. Or Buck Showalter. Someone who can give first-hand strategy of what’s going on with the decisions about defensive shifts, non-bunting, perhaps-stealing bases, vaguely moving runners over, the bullpenning theory. All the stuff Smoltz never had to think through. Smoltz’s focus as a pitcher was how to out-think the hitter, and he gets to describe that scenario nearly flawlessly every time he goes at it.
If hitters are paid to make big swings, it plays into the pitcher’s ability to get him out. If the batter is trying to make contact, it changes so much, as does a runner on base forcing a pitcher to go into a stretch, worry about balls in the dirt, etc.
But when he starts a sentence, “I hate to bring this up again, but …” Stop right there. Or go to a second voice.
All else fails, bring Alex Rodriguez in. He proved his worth on ESPN during the Sunday night package.
* Fox gave another channel — FS2, for example — and made that a Statcast-driven program. Joe Davis might be the perfect guy on play-by-play for that. Rob Neyer could be an excellent resource. Because it teaches, rather than preaches.
Check out this Wednesday post by the great Joe Posnanski about the value he found in the Statcast broadcast that ESPN did on ESPN2 during its AL wild-card game. A perfect example of what we’re saying again. Again, a day later.
* That final paragraph, the one that seemed to draw far more attention than the points made in the previous dozen paragraphs, could be adjusted:
“Because when all is said and done, Smoltz might be better off relieved by someone else not just because of a pitch count. It’s really more about the perception that he’s all about a bitch count.”
Again, I’ve enjoyed Smoltz, especially during the regular season. But this is a different time of year. Smoltz can stay, but he needs some balance. We talked about that as well in our recent TheDrillLA.com Morning Briefing podcast here.
We’ve tried to listen to the Dodgers’ radio broadcast during these playoffs from time to time. We regret the exercise because it only leads us toward the temptation to do a piece that’s probably long overdue about the Charley Steiner-Rick Monday booth. More on the former. Expect to see more soon.
Onward and upward.