Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 30th: Diamondbacks vs. Mets -- one more

Scroll down to the previous entry to see how Wayne hit the ground running in this game. My other favorite moment came when Chris Young led off the top of the 4th with a double, prompting Wayne give us the following:

"That Chris Young is a hard guy to get out right now, as he has now batted for the third time tonight, and he's on twice."

You have to have heard this to appreciate how much emphasis Wayne put on those italicized terms, and to understand how remarkable he made it sound. Yes, Wayner, it's very, very remarkable that Chris Young was -- drumroll, please -- 2-for-3.

What a clown. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Friday, July 30, 2010

July 30th: Off and Running!

Tonight's Mets/Dbacks game had just started when Wayne got off a beauty. First he mentioned that Mike Pelfrey had given up a run in the 1st inning of his last nine starts -- that's a good tidbit, solid info, no doubt in his game notes. Then, with his usual air of faux-profundity, he says this:

"So the beginning is really the start to the end for him, in many ways."

Now think about that: "the start to the end." Does he mean it's the beginning of the end? Does he mean it's a means to an end? And what are these "many ways" he's referring to?

This is absolutely classic Hagin -- the grandiose statement that (a) means absolutely nothing, and (b) actually confuses the issue. Even worse, you know Wayne had planned all along to mention Pelf's 1st inning problems, so this wasn't a spontaneous comment -- it was something he could have (and should have) scripted. He had plenty of time to prepare for how he was going to comment on this. And the best he could do was "So the beginning is really the start to the end for him, in many ways."

And it's only the top of the 1st. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29th: Cardinals vs. Mets

I've been remiss in my Wayne-watching lately -- been busy in the evenings and then I attended this afternoon's game in person. Fortunately, reader Brian Erni was listening to today's game on the radio. As I walked out of the ballpark toward my car, he sent me the following dispatch:

I must admit, I was slow to get on the Wayne Hagin crusade. But after today, my mind has changed, because Wayne was really on top of his game. Here's how he massacred the seventh inning.

On my way back to work from my lunch break, I was listening to the game in the car. Wayne had the seventh inning and Albert Pujols came to the plate. Wayne was excited to state that Albert had done something in the 2000s decade that had only been done three times before: "Pujols led the majors for the decade in batting average, home runs AND RBIs -- the CYCLE!"

Wayne corrected himself after putting major inflection on "cycle," realizing he had just boned it and stumbled around the correction. "Of course, I said the cycle, but I mean, of course, the triple crown, being batting average, home runs and RBIs..."

It was at this point that I ran into the post office to send out some letters. This took a solid 10 minutes. I come back out to the car and hear Wayne continuing, "...Pujols leading the league in the three offensive categories for the decade!" So this guy belabored this ridiculous point for the rest of the top of the seventh and then took it into the bottom of the seventh with one out. And it wasn't even that great of a tidbit! It's a MADE UP measuring stick that has happened four times in twelve decades, which by my count is 33% of the time -- not such a rarity. …

Later, it started to drizzle and Howie Rose said, "It's a good thing the Mets have handed out umbrellas today at the stadium, because the rain is starting to fall lightly..." Once Howie finished Wayne said, "Good thing it's Umbrella Day here at the stadium!" Gee, I'm so glad no one else had said that 6-1/2 seconds earlier!

Welcome aboard the Wayner wagon, Brian, and thanks for that report. (And if anyone else wants to submit some of Wayne's whoppers, send your choice bits of Haginicity here.)

Once I got to my car, I was able to hear a bit of Wayne on the postgame show. He mentioned that the key defensive plays of the game were a pair of double plays that the Mets turned, "which were very important, because a man was on first." Yes, Wayne, that's often the case when a double play takes place. Why does this man have a job? Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 22nd: Mets vs. Dodgers

I only caught a few innings of last night's game (this west coast trip, with its late-night game times, is not conducive to Wayner-watching), but that was enough for Wayne to come up with a beauty. It was in the bottom of the third, when he offered the following:

"The Mets at 19-30 on the road. I would've never figured that for this ballclub, simply because it was built for Citi Field, meaning that they didn't have to mash a lot of home runs -- they were supposed to be able to manufacture runs."

Now let's think about that for a second. In one breath he can't understand why the team is struggling on the road, and in the next he says they were built for their home ballpark. In other words, Wayne's answered his own question and doesn't even realize it. Brilliant!

Of course, the reality is that the Mets are not built for Citi Field. Most of the team's key elements are the same as they were during their last season at Shea. But if Wayne's going to rubber-stamp the marketing spin that this is now a small-ball team, he should at least reference that spin coherently.

The kicker came in his next sentence: "I really think the culprit for the Mets on the road for that bad record is lack of offense." Gee, ya think? Thank the lordy we have professional broadcasters offering astute insights like that one. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two Peas in a Podcast

Hey, this is pretty cool: Wayne being interviewed on a San Francisco radio station! It took place when the Mets were in SanFran last weekend. If you listen to it, you'll learn that Wayne:

• Is completely obsessed with the Giants, who were his favorite team when he was growing up and still have that status today.

• Still hasn't gotten over being sacked by the Giants early in his broadcasting career.

• Could "see fear in Atlee Hammaker's eyes" before a 1987 playoff game and therefore knew the Giants were doomed.

• Is still reliving in his mind the time he had six RBI in a high school game.

• Thinks New York is "a TV town, not a radio town" (a very odd thing to say when you work in New York radio).

• Babbles on endlessly and won't let the interviewer get a word in edgewise (not unlike the way he broadcasts a game).

My thanks to Paul Widerecht for bringing this one to my attention. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 20th: Mets vs. Diamondbacks

Only caught a smidge of this game, but it was enough to hear Hagin once again describe third base as "a reactionary position." Guess he isn't a regular reader at all. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 19th: Mets vs. Diamondbacks

First, let's give some credit where it's due. I didn't hear any of Friday's or Saturday's games, but I caught a few innings of Sunday's game in the car and all of last night's game at home, and it has to be said: The Wayner has been a bit better. No, he hasn't worked his way up to listenable status yet, but he's been a bit less annoyingly pompous, not quite as over-emphatic, a smidge more restrained. Perhaps he's been reading this site and taking its analysis to heart? Always nice to have a regular reader. Hi, Wayne!

Still, last night did feature a few whoppers, beginning with this one from the top of the 1st: "Let's face it, Angel Pagan has been this team's first-half MVP" -- an assessment that would no doubt come as a news flash to David Wright (or to anyone else with half a clue). And as he's done on other occasions, Hagin also referred to third base as "a reactionary position." Earth to Wayner: Reactionary refers to anti-progressive politics. The word you're looking for is reactive.

Later, Hagin indulged his odd obsession with an utterly meaningless phenomenon: a team hitting for the cycle in one inning. He always mentions this when a team is one hit away from achieving it, including last night during the bottom of the 6th, after the D-Backs had hit a single, double, and triple. Sure enough, Mark Reynolds promptly homered, leading Hagin to proclaim, with enormous satisfaction, "…and the Diamondbacks have hit for the cycle this inning against Fernando Nieve!" The tone in Hagin's voice always implies, "I'm the only one who ever thought of that!," and for once he was right.

But the best moment came during one of Rod Barajas's at-bats, when Hagin said, with characteristic faux-gravitas, "If [Ian] Kennedy makes a mistake here, Barajas could make him pay with a home run." Statements don't get much more pointless than this, since any hitter could (or could not) make any pitcher pay for a mistake. On the very next pitch, Barajas hit a long fly that was foul, leading Howie Rose to quip, "You keep saying that often enough and you might get lucky." Nicely put, Howie. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15th: Mets vs. Giants

Clearly refreshed after the all-star break, Hagin hits the ground running in the bottom of the 2nd. After Pablo Sandoval hits an RBI double, Wayne has this to say: "That's only the second hit for Sandoval against the Mets all season."

This statement -- delivered, like most of Hagin's commentary, with an air of grandeur, as if he were imparting a profound nugget of information -- would be meaningful if Sandoval played for, say, the Marlins, or the Nationals, or any other division opponent that had played a bunch of games against the Mets this year. But the Giants had played only three games against the Mets prior to this game. So Hagin's statement, like so much of what he says, meant nothing.

Other highlights:

• Top of the 8th, Chris Carter on first: "Standing at first base, just taking it in nonchalantly is -- well, that can't be an accurate des-- piction of Chris Cater taking it in leisurely at first. There's nothing leisurely about his way of life. That guy is intense. As intense as anybody I've ever seen."

So many great Hagin tropes all running together in that quote: the ridiculous over-emphasis, the brain writing the check that the mouth can't cash (started to say "description," changed it to "depiction" in mid-stream), the utter pointlessness of the entire statement. Just what is Carter's "way of life," Wayner? Classic.

• Bottom of the 8th, none out, two on for the Giants, Freddie Sanchez at the plate: "He does square, he bunts in the air, but it touches down. There's a play at third, Lincecum running there, and the throw goes to third, and the out recorded on a play by [pause] Elmer Dessens."

Nice of Hagin to tell us who fielded the ball and made the throw to third -- well after the play was over. Might be nice if he'd also said who took the throw at third. Presumably the third baseman, but it was a bunt play, so who knows?

• Top of the 9th, two outs, 1-1 count on Ike Davis: "Now he winds, turns his back to the hitter and delivers an outside pitch [slight pause] on the corner for a strike. He picked up a beautiful strike, as umpire Ted Barrett was able to ring him up."

Wayne obviously thought the pitch was outside, then scrambled to adjust when the pitch was called a strike. Note the use of "ring him up," which is usually used when an ump calls a third strike, not a second strike.

• One pitch later: "A swing and a ground ball the right side. A diving stop by Freddie Sanchez, he throws to first to get the out. [Crowd goes wild, because the Giants have just won the game.] A great defensive effort on the part of Freddie Sanchez and a ball that looked like it was ticketed to right field, and would have breng [yes, "breng"] the tying run to the plate, but it didn't happen. A diving stop on the ball, and the slow-running Ike Davis is out, and Tim Lincecum has thrown a complete-game shutout."

Um, perhaps it might have been appropriate to say, "… and the ballgame is over" or "…for the final out of the game" or something along those lines when the out was recorded, instead of jibber-jabbering for 20 seconds, no?

• There was also a priceless bit when Wayne mispronounced "halitosis" as "halihouses." (Why was he talking about halitosis, you ask? Don't ask.) And at one point he started to say the word "observation" and then caught himself and changed it to "observing," but he had already committed to putting the emphasis on the third syllable of the word, so it came out as "obserVING." You can't make this stuff up. Fire Wayne Hagin already!

Starting Lineup

Do I hate Wayne Hagin? Of course not. I don't even know him, so how could I hate him?

But I do hate listening to him, which I'm forced to do if I want to follow my favorite baseball team on the radio. He's a lightweight who's badly out of his depth, a guy who never says five words when he can say 15 instead, a guy who over-emphasizes everything, who thinks he's painting the word picture but is actually finger-painting it. He couples this with a suburban-lite sensibility that's particularly ill-suited to covering a New York team, all underscored by a righteous tone of "Nothing's so until I say it's so" that's unearned at best, laughably inappropriate at worst.

Hagin occupies the less important seat in the less important broadcast booth of New York's less important baseball team, so his work has largely escaped the notice of New York sports media scribes like Richard Sandomir and Neil Best. But Hagin is plenty important if you have to listen to him every night. It's no exaggeration to say he makes my life worse on a daily basis. This site will be dedicated to documenting his on-air miscues, in the hopes of raising awareness and, eventually, having him replaced by a more competent broadcaster.

When I posted some critiques of Hagin's work on another blog that I publish, I kept hearing the same three reactions:

1) "If you think Hagin's bad, you should listen to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman." Frankly, I don't care about Sterling and Waldman -- they're Yankees fans' problem, not mine. Also, their shortcomings have been widely chronicled and documented, while Hagin's work has flown under the radar. And for better or worse, Sterling and Waldman are institutions who aren't going anywhere. By contrast, Hagin is just the latest placeholder announcer keeping the second seat warm in the Mets' radio booth. It's important to get him out of that seat before he takes root.

2) "Anyone talking on the air for three hours will make some mistakes." True enough. Hagin's partner, Howie Rose, whose work I admire, makes mistakes too. Every announcer does. But Hagin's mistakes aren't simple misstatements or garden-variety goofs. They usually have to do with him meandering down verbal blind alleys, realizing too late that he's taken a wrong turn, and then taking the most awkward escape route, all the while maintaining an emphatically overheated tone that just throws the awkwardness into higher relief. (For an example of what I'm talking about, look here.)

3) "Oh, I suppose you could do better?" No, I couldn't. I'd be a lousy announcer, for sure. But I don't need to know how to make a movie to know that Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is a stinker. I don't need to know how to play guitar to know Loverboy was a lousy band. I don't need to know how to cook a really good burger in order to know when I'm eating a crummy one. (As it happens, I do know how to make a really good burger, but that's another story.) In short, I know an overmatched broadcaster when I hear one, and Hagin fits the bill.

Hagin also flunks some of the most basic tests of baseball broadcasting. When the Mets are batting and a ball is put into play, listen to how often he'll say something like, "A great relay from the left fielder to the shortstop," instead of actually naming the players, because he can't follow the play and remember who the opposing team's players are at the same time. That's minor league stuff.

Anther example: See the headline of this entry, "Starting Lineup"? Now, when a radio announcer reads the starting lineups just prior to the start of a game, he always -- always -- mentions each player's spot in the batting order. A TV announcer can get away with saying, "For the Dodgers, it'll be Jones, Smith, and Baker...," because the lineup is posted on the screen -- the viewers can see it. But on the radio, it's important to say, "Jones, the shortstop, will bat leadoff. Then it'll be Smith batting second and playing left field..." and on on. Every radio announcer knows this.

Every one except Hagin, that is. Listen to him do the lineups before a game. If you're not sure whether Jeff Francoeur is batting sixth or seventh, that's because Hagin didn't tell you. He usually mentions the batting-order slots for the first couple of hitters but then stops bothering in the middle of the order, just running the names together. This is not rocket science -- this is broadcasting 101.

So no, I don't hate Hagin. I wish him no ill will, no personal injury, no tragic mishap. I just want him out of my team's radio booth. Fire Wayne Hagin already!