Wells Drug February

TIMEOUT by Joe Flanagan

“Some good ol’ things still fun”

Mauer digs in for the 2-2 pitch as Span dances off second base … the pitch, just misses low and away, that will run the count full with two outs here in the bottom of the sixth … Mauer steps out of the box … gorgeous day here in Seattle, the clouds have drifted away and its clear blue all the way to the heavens … big pitch coming up for Washburn, facing the AL’s leading hitter, a runner in scoring position and a 2-2 tie … Mauer back in, Washburn shakes off the sign, shakes off another, Span sneaks another half step, Washburn into the stretch … here’s the pitch …
Many of you “older” fans are probably familiar with the good ol’ baseball radio broadcast. The younger generation? Not so much.
I have to admit – I love to listen to baseball games on the radio. In fact, I enjoy them more than I do watching a baseball game on television.
With a televised game, I find myself distracted, often reading a book or magazine or browsing the internet while keeping half an eye and ear on the ballgame.
However, with a radio broadcast – and, this is the key, a good announcing team – I seem to pay attention, aborbing the descriptions and banter while the action comes alive in my head.
A good baseball announcer can bring the game to life while filling all the game’s “dead” time with wonderful anecdotes and stories you can only learn from insiders. You get vivid description, but you also get to use your imagination.
I’m sure my affection for radio broadcasts stems, at least somewhat, from growing up pre-cable and satellite. There was only a “Game of the Week” on TV when I was young and my beloved Royals were not often involved. It seemed every week, we’d see the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers – the “major market” teams.
So, to follow the Royals, I often turned to the radio and splendid announcers such as Hall of Famer Denny Matthews and Fred White. These gentlemen were responsible for bringing to life my powder-blue heroes – Amos Otis, Dennis Leonard, Freddie Patek and Paul Splittorf.
Later, when I was old enough for the occasional summer trip to K.C., I could store memories of George Brett, Big John Mayberry, Willie Wilson, et al, and later, through the eyes and voice of Matthews, actually picture Brett looping an opposite field single with that one-hand follow-through, Mayberry twirling his bat, baton-like, before each pitch and Wilson flying into the outfield gaps to steal another base hit from bewildered opponents.
Of course, times have changed. I can watch baseball games every night of the week on television. With satellite, I actually have access to 150 of Kansas City’s 162 games. Every potential milestone – a 500th home run, a 300th victory – is instantly beamed to our homes by ESPN.
But, you know what, I miss those good ol’ radio broadcasts.
Along with the changes in televsion, the radio landscape has been drastically altered through the years, as well. Once, I could find a Royals game on 3-4 of the AM station giants. Now, it seems difficult to tune in any baseball broadcasts in our rural neck of the woods.
That’s why last week was an unexpected treat for me.
Beginning a long trip to Sioux Falls on a Sunday afternoon, I remembered that WNAX in Yankton usually carries Minnesota Twins games. Sure enough,  as I headed north, I found the signal and a Twins-Mariners game in the first inning. Three hours of the trip flew by while I enjoyed “old-fashioned” baseball entertainment.
Now, I don’t root for, or even pay much attention to, the Twins or Mariners. I really didn’t care who won the game. The Twins announcers weren’t exactly Matthews or Vin Scully, although I’d rate them above-average.
It was just a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon drive. Simple pleasure.
And, the broadcast team of John Gordon and Dan Gladden also did a good job provoking thought with their musings and opinions on various baseball nuances.
One item, in particular, got my attention.
With Kevin Slowey on the mound for Minnesota that day – at the time, 8-1, but with an ERA near 5.00 – the pair pondered what statistic better judges good pitchers, wins or a low earned run average. Likely influenced by Slowey’s stat line, they proferred wins as the best measure of a pitcher.
Now, while agreeing that wins are certainly the bottom line in any sport, I couldn’t disagree more with their assessment here.
I’ve always felt pitching wins were the most subjective statistic in baseball. The pitcher may, indeed, be the most important player in a team’s line-up any given day with the highest influence of success or failure, but, even the best need aid from teammates’ fielding, hitting, basepath execution and, ultimately, scoring to be winners.
In my mind, a pitcher with an ERA around 3.00 will need a lot less “assistance” than one at 5.00 to garner you a victory, game in and game out.
The great thing was, no matter who’s right or wrong, Gordon and Gladden filled another half-hour of my long drive, even after the game had concluded, as I shaped arguments pro and con and thought of examples to compare.
They did their job and gave me something to think about. Now, maybe, I’ve given you something to think about too.
Nothing crucial. Not really important. Just simple sports pleasure.
Mauer’s swing … it’s a high drive, deep to right … Ichiro chases into the gap … he leaps – and makes the catch! … Oh My! … what a catch by Ichiro Suzuki! … he had to have wings to get to that ball! … Ichiro just stole extra bases and the lead from Joe Mauer and the Twins … Man oh man, what a play!