More on Morgan

I took a shot at Joe Morgan in ATH this morning, and it has led to a lively discussion in the comments. Because I don’t want to simply be that guy who tees off on Joe Morgan simply because he’s Joe Morgan, however, I figured I should elbaorate a bit on what irked me.

I actually think that Morgan had a decent point in mind when he sorta criticized Jordan Schafer for the home run. Even Joe Morgan isn’t going to suggest that a home run is bad, obviously. What I think he was trying to say was that it’s bad for a young hitter without tremendous power to get to thinking that he’s a big slugger because it risks the formation of bad habits. Maybe a young, impressionable guy like Jordan Schafer is now going to go up hacking. Maybe that home run will work like that lucky-ass golf swing you once took and screw up your mechanics for weeks. These are valid concerns.

The problem, of course, is that Morgan didn’t actually make that point, and we shouldn’t give him the benefit for the point we can assume he was trying to make because it’s his job to be a clear communicator and he wasn’t communicating clearly. And that’s the problem with Joe Morgan. He’s not, contrary to all of the easy anti-Morgan commentary out there, a dumb guy. He’s really smart, actually. He just can’t, after 25 years in the booth, get those thoughts to his lips in anything approaching a direct manner. You and I are baseball freaks so we know that there’s a risk inherent in Punch and Judy guys swinging for the fences. A lot of kids or casual or potential fans may not know that, however, and on them Morgan’s quasi-point was lost.

All of that said, given how fat and lifeless Myers’ pitches were last night, there really isn’t a danger of Schafer fooling himself into thinking he’s Ralph Kiner. They were batting practice pitches, and how can any player not tee off on that kind of thing? And frankly, as a Braves’ fan, I’m much more worried about Jeff’s Francouer’s first pitch home run. How much you wanna bet that he is now inspired to abandon whatever new approach he’s alleged to have this spring and start hacking at anything near his eyes for the next month? In other words, how likely is he to be exactly like he’s been since 2006?

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Comments

  1. Seth said...

    Heh…love you Craig, but this made me chuckle:

    “it’s job to be a clear communicator”

    And I think Brad Lidge’s slider brought Shafer back to earth.

    The best part of this game was that my seven-year-old called me into the living room, saying, “Daddy, a rookie just hit a home run!”  He didn’t know what a rookie was, but evidently the booth guys used that word a bit yesterday.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Seth—in my defense, Morgan gets paid quite a bit more than me to communicate clearly.  And unlike him, I have an edit button.

  3. Grant said...

    I said the same thing about the Francoeur homerun. Well, actually what I said was “Who in their right mind would throw Jeff Francoeur a first-pitch fastball.” But obviously Myers didn’t have a clue last night.

  4. Mike said...

    I am one of the people from the other thread.

    Craig – here’s the key statements by you…

    “He’s really smart, actually. He just can’t, after 25 years in the booth, get those thoughts to his lips in anything approaching a direct manner.”

    And therein lies the problem – he can’t communicate a thought clearly. As the color commentator, he NEEDS to be able to do that.

    This is the flagship weekly baseball program on the largest sports network in the land. Everything must, not should, it must be the best. From the graphics, to camera angles to the booth, it must be the best. Miller is one of the best, but another color commentator is needed. Morgan isn’t one of the best, hasn’t been in that class for years, and it is time to move on.

    To their credit, ESPN identified that there was a problem with the broadcast. Regretfully, their solution to bring in Phillips was more asinine.

    The viewer shouldn’t have to think what the commentator is trying to say, as you stated in your post, but learn what just happened.

    And, just to bust balls, how do you know that Francouer swung on purpose. After a spring training where everyone reported he was being more selective, letting it rip isnt’ a bad idea.

  5. Chris H. said...

    “He’s not, contrary to all of the easy anti-Morgan commentary out there, a dumb guy. He’s really smart, actually.”

    Pics, or it didn’t happen.

    I mean, on what do you base this?  Maybe Joe is “really smart,” but I’m not having much luck finding evidence to support this.  I know it’s easy to pile on Morgan, but finding loads of dumb things that he’s said takes about 30 seconds on Google, even if you specifically exclude the FJM archives.  Heck, just pick up the paperback Moneyball and read about how Joe can’t even understand who wrote the book, or what it’s about.

    I just don’t see the smart.

  6. Craig Calcaterra said...

    I could be guilty of giving too much benefit of the doubt here or overpraising or something, but it takes a lot for me to actually call someone dumb.  I mean, I require applied stupidity is the most spectacular sense, combined with an absence of redeeming traits.

    With Morgan, I start with the idea that he was a player with an insanely high baseball IQ.  Specifically, the things for which he was most notable—his eye, his baserunning, and his defense—are traits that require brains as opposed to simply talent.  You gotta judge where the pitch is. You gotta position yourself and anticipate where a batted ball is coming. You gotta study both a pitchers’ moves and understand some basic human psychology in order to get a good jump and steal bases with such a high percentage of success.

    I think Morgan the announcer’s greatest sins are his (a) stubborness; and (b) the fact that he’s not as well-spoken as some others.  He has a history of not admitting it when he’s wrong and is almost reactionary when it comes to new innovations. As for the latter point, unlike a lot of slick talkers (radio DJs, many studio hosts of any manner of show) who can spew smoothly about nothing, you can tell ideas are forming in Morgan’s brain, but simply aren’t coming out of his mouth in the best way possible.

    Those traits make being a color commentator tough (and make life for his listeners even tougher) but I’m not prepared to say that they’re a function of stupidity.

  7. Docwilly said...

    I hate it when the Yankees are on Sun. Night BB.
    I just dont like listening to Joe Morgan. His verbosity is only excelled by what he doesnt know, not what he does know

  8. Chris H. said...

    “I could be guilty of giving too much benefit of the doubt here or overpraising or something, but it takes a lot for me to actually call someone dumb.  I mean, I require applied stupidity is the most spectacular sense, combined with an absence of redeeming traits.”

    Ah, but you did more than that.  You called him “really smart.”

    “With Morgan, I start with the idea that he was a player with an insanely high baseball IQ.  Specifically, the things for which he was most notable—his eye, his baserunning, and his defense—are traits that require brains as opposed to simply talent.  You gotta judge where the pitch is. You gotta position yourself and anticipate where a batted ball is coming. You gotta study both a pitchers’ moves and understand some basic human psychology in order to get a good jump and steal bases with such a high percentage of success.”

    Maybe.  But even if those things do require brainpower, I submit it’s a very different kind of brainpower than that used for general learning/reasoning/etc.  Remember, this is the same Joe Morgan that once made a “clogging the bases” remark; how high can his baseball IQ really be if he doesn’t understand that more players on base = better?

  9. MooseinOhio said...

    Joe reminds me somewhat of Aaron ALtman, Albert Brooks character from Broadcast News, in that lots of interesting information is locked up in his head but he cannot articulate it quickly or concisely.  Fortunately Joe does not sweat the way Aaron did when the red light turned on.

    I suspect that I would enjoy sitting at a game with him hearing him go into detail on elements of the game or picking his brain about things that have always intrigued me with the game.  However I do find listening to him broadcast a game somewhat irratating as his commentary often feels like someone trying to push a round peg into a square hole.  His round peg is a knowledge of the complexity of the game and the square hole is the very short window of time available to provide coherent color commentary to that action that is being seen.

    What’s worse is that with Steve Phillips in the booth he has even less time to explain himself and another ego to have to compete with.  I suspect that Johnny Miller needs to get away from both of them as soon as possible after the game.  Hopefully he doesn’t go the route of Harry Carey to cope with the stress – though I think if anyone can survive it well it is JM.

  10. BillyBeaneismyHero said...

    After reading FJM for years (please come back guys), I can say that Joe Morgan is an idiot.  The guy was talking about X’s and O’s last night.  Yes, X’s and O’s.  For a second, I thought were talking about football…or basketball even.  Jon Miller regularly corrects Joe Morgan’s mistakes. As Chris H. says, he doesn’t know who wrote Moneyball, let alone what it’s actually about.  In his Joe Chats, he refuses to answer any of the questions that are posed to him.  For a guy that is supposedly the number one baseball analyst, he doesn’t analyze anything.

  11. Alireza said...

    It is amazing what a polarizing figure Morgan is, even within himself.  By that I mean that he seems to staunchly opposed to sabermetrics, yet was the sabermetrician’s dream as a player.  Also, the playing style he preaches is exactly the same thing stat heads believe in, he just does it in a different language.

  12. george said...

    Certainly you must have better things to do than to criticize Joe Morgan. But first, some perspective: I grew up watching him as a boy, observing his considerable contributions to the finest team of his era. A joy back then, even though I was not a Reds’ fan. Actually, a Dodger fan who has listened to Vin Scully since the middle 60s. I do have some basis to comment.

    Joe struck up a lasting team with Jon Miller on ESPN radio. (Emphasis on word team.) They’ve enjoyed one another’s company for nearly 20 years. They have fun with one another, while also offering a high level of description and insights. (Think John Madden ~ Joe, as Jon Miller ~ Al Michaels; they are not identical, but inevitably there will be spewage that can be criticized—it is spoken word, on the fly, and not before the court.)

    Whether Joe meets SABR’s standards of knowledge is fairly immaterial. Whether Joe clearly communicates every one of his thoughts is also immaterial. Whether Joe fits a demographic that is or was lacking, also unimportant. What IS important to television broadcasts, is ratings = money. And ESPN is simply the most successful media enterprise of all time, (about 40% of the value of the Walt Disney Corporation). The don’t make many mistakes, but those they do make, they fix.

    Joe Morgan isn’t broke(n). But it is true that everyone has (as well as certain parts of the anatomy) an opinion, also.

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