June 24, 2012
Today's Tim McCarver Tracer
Tim McCarver is a baseball broadcaster. His job is to talk during the hours that a baseball game is in progress—usually about baseball, but sometimes about TV shows, if a FOX sitcom star happens to be in the booth. Once in a while, in the course of those hours, he says something that isn't entirely accurate. So I just got this brilliant idea: catch him saying one of those inaccurate things! For too long has Tim McCarver's reputation gone unbesmirched by baseball bloggers. For too long has the broadcast team of Buck and McCarver been universally beloved. Well, no more. I'm here to tell you something you won't want to hear: even Tim McCarver makes mistakes.
With one out in the eighth inning of Saturday's Yankees-Mets game, David Robertson walked Omar Quintanilla and Josh Thole back to back. That prompted McCarver to say this to broadcast partner Joe Buck:
"We've been following the Yankees, and baseball, for a long, long, time, Joe. I can't remember David Robertson ever walking two guys in a row."
To his credit, McCarver didn't claim that David Robertson had never walked two batters in a row. He claimed that he couldn't remember it happening. That's an important distinction to make: I don't remember the vast majority of things that have ever happened, but I know they happened nonetheless. Still, McCarver clearly thought Robertson walking batters back to back was a rare occurrence, if not an unprecedented one.
Even though McCarver couldn't remember consecutive Robertson walks happening, he probably should've assumed that they had at some point. Robertson's nickname, according to Baseball-Reference, is "Houdini," because he's so good at getting out of jams. In order to get out of jams, you have to get into them, and Robertson often does. One of the ways he gets into them is by walking batters. In fact, among AL pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched between 2008 and 2011, only Fernando Rodney walked batters at a higher rate than Robertson. Robertson isn't good because of his control, though he is walking fewer batters this season. He's good because he can strike his way out of trouble, as he did after walking Quintanilla and Thole.
Since Robertson has walked so many batters, it stands to reason that he would've walked a couple consecutively in one of his 213 games. And he has. Not in one of them, but in 12 of them. Ten, if you don't count batters he walked intentionally.
And because you might be wondering: as far as I can tell, no, none of those games was called by McCarver.
So no, that wasn't McCarver's finest moment. But here's the thing: it's really hard to talk for a few hours about anything without saying something stupid. However bad you think [Baseball Broadcaster X] is, he's actually in the 99th percentile of talking-about-baseball ability. If you or I spent an entire game in a broadcast booth, we would say many inaccurate and/or embarrassing things, most of them much worse than an iffy observation about a reliever.
Unless, of course, we just sat there and said nothing. In the unlikely event that I ever find myself in a broadcast booth, I'm going to give America the silent treatment. That's the only way to make sure no smart ass on the internet with access to stats blogs about something you say.
Thanks to Bradley Ankrom for research assistance.