Today’s game and Niehaus

DMZ · September 4, 2004 at 9:55 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I spent my day doing plumbing work on my house, so I listened to most of the game on the radio, and a couple things occurred to me as I installed a new toilet, and so forth:

Ichiro! could go hitless for the rest of the season and end up hitting ove .310. Estimating out the number of at-bats he could get the rest of the season (which is not helped by this offensively bad offense) he’s only going to have to hit about .275 to tie George Sisler’s hits record (of 257). To break .400, he needs to hit over .500 the rest of the season. While I’m all about regressing to the mean and all, he hit .432 in July and .463 in August, and anything can happen in a hundred or so at-bats. Heck, Willie F. Bloomquist hit .455 in 33 at-bats one September.

The real problem for Ichiro! is that we’re going to face some good pitching down the stretch from Oakland, and he’s going to see it a lot. I’m cheering for him.

Niehaus is making more and more strange comments. Not just player X when player Y is out there, but weird stuff. Like when I was watching the start: “There are a lot of Mariners fans out here in Chicago, and many of them made the trip to Seattle for this game.” No joke, I TiVo’d that. I worry about him.

When Dave rips into the team, you’re in serious trouble. And he tore into them a couple times today in a way you almost never hear from him. He talked about the crappy defense repeatedly, how it’s hurt the team all year… from a guy who once kept me interested in the horrific Mariner teams of the Argyros era (“…and with two outs, the tying run is in the dugout for the Mariners…”). I was shocked, honestly. On the criticism spectrum:

team can do nothing right — team can do nothing wrong

While Dave Henderson would anchor the right-hand side, Niehaus would be pretty far towards that side. He’ll look for a reason something might not have been a bad idea, and often will prefer not to say anything about a play or a managerial decision if he thinks it’s crazy. If he’s going to come out and say a bunt was a bad idea, it may have been the worst idea all year. And yet today it was like someone put the team on a firing range today at about 10 yards and Dave brought his own gun to work out some issues.

Franklin picked someone off. Expect this bit of positive reinforcement to lead to even more throws to first. This is why Franklin’s starts are best watched on radio.


20 Responses to “Today’s game and Niehaus”

  1. Steve on September 4th, 2004 10:05 pm

    repeated throws to first are only about fifth or sixth on the list of reasons why Franklin starts are best taken on the radio, whilst installing a toilet.

  2. Dan on September 4th, 2004 10:23 pm

    The majority of the schedule is texas, oakland, and anahiem. Ichiro’s average this season against those teams is around .330, with the low being against texas (something like .260). It’ll be fun to watch, and one of the few reasons to pay attention to the M’s.

    On Niehaus, i have heard him get frustrated a few times before, and let loose a bit. Apart from that, he is starting to slip a bit, and sometimes messes up pitch counts, players, teams, etc while doing the broadcast. He’s still the best announcer, but i wouldn’t be surprised if he calls it quits at some point, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a bit frustrated that the M’s haven’t been getting the job done.

    Everybody talks about how special it is for players to win championships, but in the case of Neihaus i think it’s safe to say that it would be a special thing for him; probably something that he has hoped for for a long time, and i wouldn’t be surprised if he’s frustrated that this team, which seemed so close to it the past few years, will have to rebuild.

  3. Matt on September 4th, 2004 10:33 pm

    What I’ve noticed about Niehaus is how badly he’s calling pitches. Fastballs are being called curveballs. Pitches that are a foot outside are being called high. This happens at least a few times every game, and it’s gotten worse over the last year or two. He rarely missed a pitch prior to the past couple years.

    As far as being homers or unwilling to criticize the team, I’m just thankful we don’t have the White Sox crew in Seattle. Those guys drive me nuts with the unabashed cheerleading they do.

  4. Eli on September 4th, 2004 10:54 pm

    I was struck by the part that went “Perez throws to third… but Ichiro is safe, and Randy Winn takes second on the throw. That’s not very smart baseball by Timo Perez, to give Winn the extra base, when he wasn’t getting Ichiro on that play,” and then fifteen seconds later after Edgar had seen a couple of pitches, “Wait, Winn’s not at second, he’s still at first. I just made that assumption… Well. Well, now of course we’ve got a possible double-play situation…”.

  5. LB on September 4th, 2004 11:10 pm

    I have to agree with Matt. With the MLB.TV package, I watch a lot of out of market games, and the White Sox announcers are absolutely abominable. Probably the next down on the list would the Yankees. And yet, I’d rather watch a game with them calling it than Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan.

    As for Dave Niehaus, I think if you change one word, his quote would make plenty of sense: “There are a lot of Mariners fans out here in Chicago, and many of them made the trip from Seattle for this game.” As if to say, not all the M’s fans in the park tonight are from Chicago, some are actually following the team. Although my guess is that they planned the trip well before the All-Star break, if that was really the intended meaning!

  6. bigcat on September 4th, 2004 11:15 pm

    Speaking of crazy annoucer sayings, at the start of the game I believe Ron Fairly said (paraphrase) “Buehrle likes to get the ball and throw, as does Franklin, so we have a chance to see a quick game here.” Watching Franklin pitch is like watching paint dry! He’s absolutely the slowest worker on the staff!

  7. Evan on September 4th, 2004 11:24 pm

    And yet, when Dave first mentioned that Buehrle worked quickly, Ron completely ignored his tendency ot make pitches within 12 second sof each other, and rambled on about throwing strikes.

    I recognise that Dave appears to be stumbling in recent months messing up all manner of facts, but we have to recognise that Ron Fairly has been doing it for years.

    So now we have two of them. And the weird thing is, I like Dave, so I don’t want to embarrass him by giving him a colour guy who’s actually paying attention. And I’ll still take Dave’s Abe Simpson style rambling over Rick Rizzs.

  8. The Cheat on September 4th, 2004 11:31 pm

    In Chicago (check that on the Northside of Chicago) the players don’t take to kindly to anouncers speaking kindly about the opposing team, or pointing out deficiencies of the team/players who play their home games in the “shrine.”

    Cubs vs. Broadcasters

    Incedently during the White Sox broadcast last night, Ichiro! recieved (deservedly so) a ton of praise from both Radio and TV booths. Ichiro! also recieved a very nice standing O on his 5th hit of the night from the white sox fans who bothered to show up.

  9. Dave O'neill on September 5th, 2004 12:19 am

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:
    Ichiro’s batting average (.379) is higher than the Mariners winning percentage (.378). I guess I won’t be suprised when the backlash begins and people start saying he’s a selfish player that doesn’t help the team win. Utter hogwash, that.

  10. tede on September 5th, 2004 12:24 am

    I think if Niehaus is criticizing you or asking about lineup changes, the handwriting is on the wall. My favorite is the pregame show two months ago when he asked Melvin if he had considered putting Ichiro in CF. Melvin said no and went on to praise Winn’s CF play. I kind of like the bitter Niehaus – you can actually tell by the tone of his voice when you enter the room how the team is doing. But when he calls you out (still rather gently) look out. (Tonight that means you Willie Bloomquist and Brett Boone.) He hates having to call sloppy games (walks, errors, baserunning blunders, room service gopher balls).

    Nieuhaus is probably technically right about many of the M’s fans in ChiTown. It’s labor day weekend and some probably planned ahead to visit Chicago way back when the team was still good. And he does mention on the radio from time to time that fans from the NW stop by to say hello.

  11. Paul Covert on September 5th, 2004 12:40 am

    Yeah, now that you mention it, I’ve heard the phrase “some sloppy defense by the Mariners” from Niehaus far more often this year than I can ever recall hearing it before (and I’ve been listening to Niehaus since he was on KVI).

    Thanks, Tede– I hadn’t heard that one about the CF question (I’ve been avoiding pre- and postgame shows for several years now, along with sports talk radio; no sense giving myself premature high blood pressure). It’s cool to see that, even if Niehaus is getting older and gets confused more often than he used to, at least he has his eyes open and knows some things that are going on. (And besides, the combination of his age and his civic-icon status gives him a certain immunity; the worst they can do is ask him to retire, which he almost might not mind doing anyway.)

  12. loomer on September 5th, 2004 1:21 am

    here’s a Niehaus quote from a game a month ago…
    “the sun is shining and the humidity is about 36 miles per hour.”

    some humidity!

  13. Gabriel on September 5th, 2004 7:42 am

    I was thinking the same thing as LB re Niehaus’s slip-up. He must’ve meant some Mariners fans from Chicago, as well as some who came from Seattle for the series.

  14. bigcat on September 5th, 2004 9:10 am

    Love the Abe Simpson reference, Evan! Dave really is the loveable, old grandpa who’s always there spouting something. He even has the stories from “ought-dickety-six”! Ron’s repetitious style has tired me out on him for years. Dave, I can live with…

  15. Jim Thomsen on September 5th, 2004 2:09 pm

    Yes, NIehaus will drive you crazy — his most consistent error is substituting one player’s first name for another who happens to have the same last name, as in “Mark Sweeney starts at first base today for Kansas City” or “Geronimo Berroa was recalled from double-A today by the Royals” — but even in his decline into doddering senility, he’s still great. And I don’t say that just for tradition’s sake.

    One, he’s still got that great, great voice. I occasionally hear tapes from his early days with the M’s, and I like his later-in-life voice better. More rich, rumbling and full of colorful character.

    Two, he’s still got the most exciting home run call I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard “SWUNG ON AND BELTED DEEP TO LEFT FIELD” a few thousand times in my life, and it never fails to jerk my head to attention, send a electric thrill skipping across the nerves of my stomach, and raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

    Three, virtially all broadcasters these days are company men, willing and enthusiastic indoctrinates of the ownership party line, and every time Niehaus lets loose one of his accurate and impolitic criticisms against on-field management (wish he’d delve more into off-field management, frankly), we as listeners and lovers of the M’s should be grateful that somebody in the employ of the team is not only cognizant of but standing up for fans’ concerns.

    Four, even with all the irritating errors, he still covers the fundamentals. With each pitch, you know a) the count; b) the type of pitch; c) the reaction to the pitch; d) the actions, if any, of baserunners; e) how many outs; f) who’s on deck; g) useful seasonal or situational stats of the pitcher and hitter; and h) frequent but not excessive reminders of the score and the inning. I think we take for granted Niehaus’ superior field awareness … listen to other broadcasters sometime. You can wait 10 minutes before knowing the score or the inning or who’s at bat or who’s pitching or who’s on base.

    Even as he drives me nuts, I appreciate Dave Niehaus more every day.

  16. Paul Weaver on September 5th, 2004 2:39 pm

    Niehaus is indeed a comforting voice to a long time Mariner fan.

    Fairly is so bad – my mom and I have been making fun of his analysis for years – ‘now, the pitcher is going to want to throw strikes here’ or ‘What X-player wants to do in this situation is get a hit’.

    I’ve heard Niehaus criticize on-field managing blunders before. I remember him bemoaning a move or two that Lefebvre made….but his memory is generally short and forgiving – a nice guy.

  17. G-Man on September 5th, 2004 3:58 pm

    I thought Niehaus hit his all-time low a few years ago, but maybe I haven’t been listening to him enough this season to judge his work. I don’t mind mistakes so much as mistakes that are not corrected, and those retractions are more frequent these days.

    I have long apreciated Dave for his criticisms. The guy who drives me crazy with his no-bad-talk is Rick Rizzs. Always Mr. Positive.

  18. Laurie on September 5th, 2004 5:50 pm

    As long as Dave continues to say things like “thwarted pilferage” intead of “caught stealing” he can make all the mistakes he wants. My favorite this year came a couple of months ago when the M’s won their 1st game out of 9 or something – and actually looked good doing it, he said: “Even a blind pig will find an acorn once in a while.”

    I hope he never retires.

  19. stan on September 5th, 2004 8:21 pm

    Despite his slippage, Dave is probably the best story teller of any announcer in the game today. I think he is at his best when he is on air alone on the radio. The other Mariner announcers are just plain awful. One of the best broadcast teams I have ever heard was Dave and Ken Wilson in the early days of the franchise. Dave and Ken Levine, the one year they were together in the 90’s, was one of the funniest broadcast teams ever. I hope that Dave stays in the booth at least until the team can find an adequate successor.

  20. jason in nj on September 6th, 2004 7:24 am

    Les Carpenter wrote a great article about Mr. Niehaus last year, titled A storyteller of the old school. I’ve posted this link below, but if it doesn’t work, just go to the Seattle Times web site and search their archives for the above title.

    First couple paragraphs:

    The place held such magic.

    It was a pool hall, like the kind you’d find in the center of any 1950s Midwestern town. For so many summer nights, a young Dave Niehaus stood inside, transfixed by a great black chalkboard that hung on a wall.

    Because back then in Princeton, Ind., the chalkboard at the Palace Pool Room was the only place to find baseball, the place where they wrote every score on the board, updating the numbers as they clattered in on a tickertape machine. As each result arrived, a man would record it, dipping his chalk into a cup of water to make the numbers clear and smooth.

    At first, the scores were faint. But as the chalk dried, it was as if they mysteriously appeared from the smoky mist, growing brighter and brighter until they glowed in brilliant white against the dark.

    All these years later, the recollection still stops the voice of Seattle baseball as he sits early one Sunday morning in his Safeco Field booth.