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!