Thursday, July 15, 2010

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!


  1. Ive always liked reading the blurbs on Hagin over at UW, so its cool that there is a platform dedicated to this.
    At the same time its painful to know that some fools with their PJ pant(ie)s in a bunch were catered to.
    Comments are great for a blog, but at the same time the ones that brought about this adjustment are rather pointless. I think some readers fail to realize that the authoer is not paid to write the blog, nor has any acutal obligation to out put content. The author doesnt "owe" the writers anything. Be happy that there is content put forth for you to read.
    I see links and some blurbs all the time that dont really appeal to me at UW, I simply do not read them. Im not big into cycling, so if I see a link, I pass over it.
    It would seem asinine for me to post a comment requesting that be omitted from the post, because there are readers that do enjoy that content. Who is a reader to say what is and what isnt acceptable.
    Can I understand the gripes of these folks? Sure. Does that make them any less idiotic? Certainly not. Its just really pathetic that there were that many people who took issue with this that Paul had to take another course of action.

    Hopefully at least, because of this new blog those fellating Hagin will be kept too busy to venture over here.

  2. Don't sweat it. I wasn't just responding to those people's requests -- I thought it would be more effective to have a dedicated platform for this project, instead of having it lumped in with Uni Watch. Makes more sense this way.

  3. Imagine the excitement that after years your hometown was awarded a major league team. You anticipate great evenings of listening to games. A voice must be chosen to usher in the era...and its Wayner...

    Welcome to being a Colorado Rockies fan. We got Herb Carneal or Denny Matthews over the radio and night...that was the expectation! Then when we got our team, we got Wayne.

    I hear him on XM for two seconds now and I agree...Fire him already!

    I feel your pain Paul.

  4. I agree that Wayne Hagin is a poor announcer in the nation's largest media market for a group of what are probably the nation's most critical fans. He stinks. As a Mets fan who likes the game best on radio, I have gone from the best, Gary Cohen, to the worst. Wayne has no redeeming attributes. He has no particular knowledge or insight into the Mets or New York, doesn't do a good job of "painting the word picture," and doesn't offer any knowledge or perspective on baseball. I accept the description of him as a placeholder and I agree that we need to make our voices heard before he takes root. You go, Paul! I'm with you all the way! Fire Wayne Hagin!

  5. This blog is awesome. I'm not sure how the Wayner has announced for so many major league teams for so long in his own remarkable style... It was a bit before my time, but Hagin announced for both Bay Area teams, the Giants and the A's, at different points during the 1980s. My dad remembers this guy's tenures as dark days for the local broadcasting teams. A few days ago, the Giants radio station played a Hagin clip from the late 1980s where he called a milestone home run for the Giants (homer number 10,000 in team history). Hagin stated that this home run - an important trivia answer, but not an overly memorable homer from the same franchise as Bobby Thompson and Barry Bonds - would be "remembered forever." Or maybe until the local radio station runs the highlight once every twenty years. Yikes. Good luck with this guy. I like this blog, so hopefully he sticks around!!!

  6. God bless you. Hagin is horrible and needs to go. It is so bad that I would rather follow games on gametracker than listen on the radio when he is on. It's incredible -- but typical Mets -- that of all of the capable broadcasters out there they chose this guy.

  7. It has to be ethically dubious for an ESPN employee to be running a blog calling for a broadcaster to get canned. Did you clear this with your editors?

  8. By far the worst part is his inability to quickly call a play, if I have to hear one more description where a key play takes 2 seconds, yet I have to wait 10 seconds to find out if the runner is out or not I will lose my mind.:

    "The ball is smashed down the line at david wright, it sure takes a really nasty short-hop, hopping just at the edge of the infield grass. Wright gloves the ball and sets for the long throw against the speedy runner. The throw is caught by davis at first in time to catch the runner."

    I mean seriously, if I am listening on the radio, I have to start trying to listen to crowd reaction to tell if a ball is an out or not!

  9. Thank you so much for doing this. Listening to Mets games on the radio is one of life's great simple pleasures. Wayne Hagin is RUINING this for me. If he says "ruff" one more time when saying the word "roof" I might scream and drive myself into the east river!

  10. I've been a Mets fan since 73, I suffered for years through the Lorn Brown, Steve Albert and Steve Zabriske types the Mets foisted on their fans, not to mention the endless preening of Tim McCarver and the doltishness of Rusty Staub, to me Wayne is right behind the Holy Trinity with the Gary's, (Thorne & Cohen) and Howie Rose, a professional wordsmith with a nice, flat Murphyesque middle American accent, judging by the dearth of comments and followers on your blog (reminiscent of the crowd at Shea for the back end of a double header circa 1980)your opinion is not shared by many, nay any, real Met fans