Sunday, October 04, 2015

I Really Wish He WERE a Carpenter

Now that the Nats season is over, I would like to unload on the most sickening aspect of the team – lead TV announcer Bob Carpenter. There is not a cliché he hasn’t overused, not  a poor play that he hasn’t made an excuse for, and not an unctuous word undelivered. As a game show host he would be mediocre. As a baseball announcer, he makes me glad I am losing my hearing.

I naively believed that to be a journalist, as I was, you had to have a pretty good command of spelling and grammar to get a job and then you could improve your writing. I believed that in broadcasting, you had to at least be able to speak correctly to get a job and then add whatever personality flourishes you wished. Local television news and the Internet have disabused me of both myths. And baseball color analysts, like F.P. “he should of went” Santangelo, seem to be hired BECAUSE they do not know grammar.

However, my point here – and I wish to ask any linguists reading this if I am wrong – is that Carpenter deviates so much from normal inflection as to make me even more insane. The articulation crime is the repeated emphasis on the wrong word in a multi-word phrase. For instance:

“The clean-UP hitter”
“A road TRIP”
“A home STAND”
“A home run to start the NIGHT”
“Seven base RUNNERS”
“A good rbi GUY”
“He had elbow PROBLEMS”
“A real crowd PLEASER”
“The on deck CIRCLE”
“The New York Police DEPARTMENT”
“A big power HITTER”
“From the Chicago AREA”
“The one major holdOVER”
“A pitch-OUT”
“The box OFFICE” … ad nauseam. 

This pox on broadcasting also has a peculiar and annoying tic, shared by Barack Obama, of hissing the final “s” on plurals or possessives ending with a “z” sound. As in “boyce and girlce” “runs the basessss,” “Alcatrassss Island.” 

Carpenter is from St. Louis, where I recognize that the “aw” sound is pronounced as “ah” as in the “shartstop” position. But does being from St. Louis mean you must emphasize the wrong word in a pair that everyone else knows how to articulate? It is as grating as in the Washington-Baltimore-redneck use of “ice CREAM,” “CEment” and “DE-troit.”

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Harper: Where's your ring, dude?

OK, I do believe Jonathan Papelbon was in the wrong for continuing to harangue Bryce Harper after making his point about not running out pop ups. But, God, am I enjoying viewing and re-viewing the video of someone  finally choking that little bitch. He obviously said something that provoked a barely sane Papelbon.

I can’t condone choking the franchise’s, if not the league’s, most valuable player, but at the time it was Papelbon’s game to save, win or lose, so he had a stake in the proceedings.  He is a throwback player, the kind I like, and I have no problem with decking a Harper-like punkass – Manny Machado – for admiring a home run.  And although he was not the one on the team to do it, someone should have gotten in Harper’s face for jaking it whenever he feels like it.

Harper’s goldbricking wasn’t because he was tired after a long season or the fact that he would have been safe anyway if the ball were dropped. He loafed because that is his personality. He went 0-4 and had a bad day at the plate the day before (except for his game winning double).  

Every time this prima donna makes an out that he doesn’t think he should make, he sulks on the way to first, sometimes flinging his bat like a chimpanzee flings feces.    

As I have said many times before, he plays the game as if he is the center of it and frequently shows no regard for the team – not by choking someone but by playing for his stats.   

I read a quotation from Joe DiMaggio once that is the basis for how I wanted the be known for my professional work. After a meaningless late September game after announcing his retirement, he laid out to make a spectacular catch. When asked why he risked injury in a game that didn’t have any significance, he replied, “Because someone might be watching me play for the first time.”  

Harper cannot conceive of that notion. He is the best offensive player in the league, but he is also the most offensive. 

 By the way Harp, where the IS that ring? You might ask Papelbon to show you his.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Officially Dead

The most overused phrase on broadcast news and on the Interwebs is “It’s official!” (More so than the single word "just.")

Image result for it's official
Stupid, ignorant, thoughtless, uncreative drones who want to say something cannot say it without first inflating their importance by saying, “It’s official.” Aside from the fact that nothing except a law or judicial order can be said to be official, the phrase just delays a reader from getting to the point and tells dear reader the author fell out of the cliché tree and hit every branch on the way down.   

It is not official when a baseball trade is made, it is not official when  Jonathan Pollard is given parole days after it was leaked that he would. It is not official when Apple releases a new phone. It is not official when some “on-again-off-again” thing is declared by a puerile news writer to be “on again” (of “off again.”) Things just "are" -- officially or not.

There used to be a silly little game teenage boys would play with songs on the “Top 40,” consisting of placing the phrase “between the sheets” after the title of each song. (Try it!)  Now, scroll to the next blog or Facebook post, look at a piece of junk mail, or God forbid pick up a book and randomly  find a sentence and put “it’s official” in front of it.   

It is is even more infantile for an actual writer who actually gets paid to begin a narrative with “It’s official.” No. It. Isn’t.  

And even if it were, the phrase is officially the mark of a tedious dullard.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post became a great newspaper under Ben Bradlee, and he cut quite a dashing figure we all would like to have emulated, especially in his role defending freedom of the press when it was truly under attack. 

However, there was a great deal negative about his reign. Foremost among them, in my minority opinion, was the creation of the Style Section, which abandoned journalistic standards to invent celebrity journalism. There were colossal errors in the Post, the worst of which was the Janet Cooke creation of the 8-year-old heroin addict. I read that story in bed one Sunday morning, knew and said out loud, “This can’t be true” and never gave it another thought because it was the kind of crap I had come to expect from the Post, even only a few years after Watergate. It was the kind of "holy shit" story that Bob Woodward (who I believe also invents things) held up as the standard for Post journalism. 

The Style Section gave license to writers who could not report accurately or use the language correctly. It reported inaccurately that national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski unzipped his pants in a jokingly lewd manner inside the Oval Office. The author of that gigantic investigative piece was one Sally Quinn, who had not been a journalist before she rose at the Post, rising in the most old fashioned of ways. (The most loving of tributes to Bradlee contain anecdotes that portray him as a sexist pig with a preoccupation with the male anatomy.   

One Style profile I remember, of Lillian Gish, called her “pixilated.” Maybe the writer meant “pixiesh,” but in my book, “pixilated” means drunk. Another profile of a male movie star referred to him as a “bohunk,” which used to be an ethnic slur against Hungarians. After Bradlee’s departure, but in keeping with his view of what Style should be, the Post hired the single most obnoxious feature writer I have ever read: Hank Stuever, whose first piece was a stream-of-consciousness account of what was going through the minds of people attending George W. Bush’s first inauguration.   

My favorite definition of news is “what happened to the editor today.” The Post began to reflect what happened to Bradlee, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, a social climber who got all his jobs through old family connections, who made his name in journalism by sucking up to his Georgetown neighbor, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy. If news is what happened to the editor today, then the Post truly was writing for the “1 percent.” I will never forget a front-pager in the early ‘80s about the effects of an economic downturn on local residents, in which someone mourned that “we won’t be able to go to Europe this summer.” The Post wrote not the people of the D.C. area but for its advertisers.  

Yes, Bradlee made the Post great,  even though his personnel management was called “creative tension,” which resulted in two reporters being assigned to cover the same event and fight for space. I loved the news and sports sections, hated Style and the editorial pages (except for the cartoons). The fact that Henry Kissinger is allowed to publish op-eds at will is insane. I finally unsubscribed this summer because there was not enough volume of real news to drown out the fluff, because the sports writers had been hired out of bad-grammar-school, and because its new ownership promised nothing of value to me. 

Bradlee did say one thing that I repeated all the time when I taught journalism, “We don’t print the truth; we report what people tell us.” That may sound like a cavalier copout, but it is all a reader should expect. The Post came close to the truth most of the time under Bradlee because the newspaper knew a lot of people who wanted to use its front page as a social and political bulletin board. And that isn't bad, at all.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It

There are three weeks left in the regular season, and here is why the Nationals, if they even make the playoffs, will self-destruct in the first round.
To quote the great Mike Royko, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”

The Nationals are simply not as good as giddy fans and broadcasters believe. Forget the won/loss record. When they win a string of walk-off victories, in each case it was because they blew a lead or an easy chance to win in nine innings. They have an excellent record against mediocre-to-bad teams, but struggle against good teams, like the ones they would face in October.

While their lineup has guys any other team would start, no one is even close to being a potential Hall of Famer, no one to carry the team, and no one the other teams are afraid of.

It is my belief that their talent is done in by a collective stupidity rarely matched since Toronto voters elected Rob Ford.

There are only three Nationals I am confident in to play the game the right way and come up big: Anthony Rendon, Asdrubel Cabrera and Craig Stammen. The vaunted starting pitching corps is suspect in big situations, able to dominate for four or five innings, but prone to giving up a crushing long ball or utterly collapsing in the middle to late innings. Stamina. They don’t have it. I think Steve McCatty is an atrocious pitching coach. I wish Doug Fister could start every post season game with Strasburg and Zimmermann in relief.

Adam LaRoche looks classy when he swings – and misses. For his entire career, he is a streak hitter. He has had his streak. I don’t see him producing against tough pitching in October.
Ian Desmond is overrated defensively and hitting badly because he has no sense of the strike zone or of a pitcher’s plan of attack.

Bryce Harper needs no introduction. He is a triple-threat “ me-first” idiot at bat, on the bases and in the field. He has carried the stench of arrogance, egotism and stupidity since he was 15. Don’t tell me “he is only 21.” So are American soldiers. All that might be excusable, but he doesn’t produce. In fact, Desmond and Harper are the two most likely Nats on whom post-season failure will be blamed – that is, they will perform at least one mind-blowing act of incompetence at bat, in the field or on the bases in a game that should have been won.

That brings up Denard Span, everyone’s favorite lately. Aside from overrunning tough line drives in centerfield (where almost any team will have a comparably good defensive players), Span has a habit of getting picked off first base.

Jayson Werth tries hard but he is no longer agile, fast or strong armed – if he ever was. He isn’t much of a rightfielder, even when the sun isn’t shining. Remember all the trouble he had in his first year in DC with fly balls hit into the twilight? Until last Thursday, I would have said would never lose you a game.

Wilson Ramos is a threat at bat, but can't run. I am astounded by his biggest failing as a catcher – the inability to actually catch a thrown ball, whether from a fielder or a pitcher. This is fatal in a close game.

Danny Espinosa. A reminder of Mike Rizzo’s fallibility. A totally useless waste of a uniform.

The bench – Hairston, Frandsen, Lobaton, Schierholtz, Moore. They are bench players for a reason and interchangeable with any other group of scrubs.

The bullpen is vastly overrated, and my evaluation is based on several years of watching Clippard walk the first batter he faces, Storen coming apart in tight situations,  and Soriano making one wonder why someone thought he was worth $11 million a year. I will waste no more words on this hunk of horsepucky. Storen will forever live in infamy for his Oct. 12, 2012 performance for the ages. The Dark Ages. Matt Thornton has real possibility as a real closer, which is what he used to be.

I have left Ryan Zimmerman out of this because I have no idea what his future is. Maybe player-manager soon.  

The point of all this is to say that the Nats cannot win against truly good teams.  As of this writing, they are 17-20 against their most likely opponents in the National League postseason and 4-9 against potential World Series opponents. The formula of comparing runs scored vs. runs yielded, which produces an expected win total that is usually accurate, shows the Nats should have won three more games than they have at this writing. That difference is attributable to managerial ineptitude or player stupidity. 
At least I can look forward to getting a healthy refund on post-season tickets.