- The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, the top two teams in the American League East, met at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. ESPN carried it with Karl Ravech (l), Eduardo Perez and Tim Kurkjian behind the microphones. The three voices were geographically apart, neither was at Yankee Stadium. Play-by-player Ravech was at ESPN’s studio and analysts Kurkjian and Perez were in their own homes. Ravech was adjusting to calling games away from the ballpark, doing so off a monitor that didn’t always cooperate. At times, it didn’t giving him a full view of what was required to produce a fluid and detailed call.
In the top of the second for instance, it disrupted Karl’s rhythm on a fly out, throw him out double-play. The Rays’ Joey Wendle was on second base and Willy Adames hit a ball to center field that was caught by Aaron Hicks. Wendle, thinking perhaps that the ball wouldn’t be caught, took off for third base. Bu, ESPN mistakenly put a graphic on the screen as the ball was thrown by Hicks to second base. Ravech, flying blindly, did the best he could. He said that he thinks it was a double-play. We then see the replay of the review and Wendle was indeed doubled up at second. Don’t tag the abandoned Ravech with an error. It certainly wasn’t his fault. It was a production blunder that happens. Unfortunately, not being at the ballpark left Ravech in a lurch.
- There were other technical issues along the way including one when viewers got a skewed view of Tim Kurkjian (l). Apparently his home camera malfunctioned. The broadcasters made light of it. Tim employed some self-derisive humor admitting that he is lost when it comes to technology. Tim even admitted that he struggles using an iPad. On another occasion, communication was lost between the scattered broadcaster and the producer. So it is. Life during the pandemic. Let’s be thankful for the roofs over our heads and the food on our tables.
- This broadcast trio flowed nicely. Each voice brings his own strength. Kurkjian loves to focus on stories from his vast experience covering the game and loves talking about personalities. Joviality is Kurkjian’s hallmark and why viewers will hear lots of chuckling on games he covers. The one time and longtime writer is a walking baseball encyclopedia, bringing with him,vast knowledge, anecdotes and random facts. But he’s not a former player so he doesn’t delve much into situational matters, what players should do when.
- Perez (l) though is a former player and he loves to address the strategical and tactical, sharing with the audience what he believes players, usually hitters, should do under particular conditions. In the bottom of the 8th when Aaron Hicks was facing Nick Anderson, who is known for throwing high fastballs, Perez said that Hicks should block out the bottom and middle of the zone and look only for the fastball that’s up. He shouldn’t even bother swinging at anything in the middle of the plate. Perez also said that Luke Voit should look for Blake Snell’s devastating curveball if he gets into a two-strike count anytime in the game. The two-color commentators play off each other well, with Perez focusing on the game at hand and Kurkjian bringing humor and personal profiles to the broadcast.
- Legendary Hall of Fame Catcher Johnny Bench joined the broadcast in the top of the 4th. Kurkjian believes Bench is the best catcher of all-time, especially defensively. It was sometimes hard to hear Bench from his location on a sofa in his house, which prompted Ravech to say Bench is the most comfortable looking broadcaster he’s ever seen. The announcers spent the entire top of the 4th dissecting the thoughts of the Hall of Famer asking him what his opinions are of this unusual season and the state of baseball. Bench loves all the new rules introduced this season including starting extra innings with a runner at 2nd and only 7 inning games when doubleheaders are played. Kurkjian says he likes these rules as well but only for this abbreviated season.
- Ravech asked Bench for his thoughts on the previous night’s game when Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count in the 8th with his team up seven runs on the Rangers. There has been a lot of talk around baseball recently about this and the unwritten rules of the game overall. Old school players don’t like what Tatis did. But Bench being an old school player, didn’t understand why the Rangers are so upset, asking whether Tatis is supposed to go to the plate half pregnant because his team is leading. Bench says the only unwritten rule in baseball that needs to be observed is never bunt to break up a no-hitter, which Bench admits he did himself! The Hall of Famer knows teams can come back from large deficits and thinks players should play hard until the game is over and not give up whether they are up seven or down seven.
- A couple interesting points were brought up by Tim Kurkjian in this game. He said, “Base running is the worst it has ever been in my 40 years of covering baseball.” He was referring to Joey Wendle’s base running blunder in the second that led to a double play and Mike Tauchman’s base running mistake, which Perez called base running #101. Perez explains that when a ball is hit to the left side of the infield with fewer than two outs and there’s a runner on first, the runner’s first step should be toward the first base bag because if the ball is caught, he would have time to get back to first base. Perez didn’t explain the opposite rule. When there’s a runner at first base and the ball is hit behind him he has to run to second because he can’t go back to first where he would be doubled up.
- At the end of the broadcast, Ravech shared a story about Aaron Boone, who is a big 76ers fan and usually watches their NBA playoff games. Ravech said he asked Boone how he felt the 76ers did in their playoff game the night before and Boone responded by saying he has no idea. Managers are so busy they don’t have time for anything else. Ravech said the managers aren’t having fun this season and Kurkjian backed it up by saying Rays’ manager Kevin Cash expressed the same thing to him. It was an interesting observational sidebar.
- Overall, the crew brought palpable chemistry to the broadcast and did a superb job calling the game. The threesome deserve an A for their efforts.