Two weeks ago, I said that I had watched Monday Night Football via the “Peyton and Eli” game presentation on ESPN 2 and that I liked it a lot. Evidently, the audience for the first version of that program liked what it saw and took the opportunity to tell their friends and family about it because the estimated audience for Week 2 was double what it was in Week 1. Last night was Week 3; and while I cannot find any ratings numbers for last night, I thought the show continued to get better week by week.
I guess the ESPN execs and/or the Manning Bros figured that this format for game telecasts might need to come on gently for the public because after three great opening weeks, ESPN will have them off the air for the next 3 weeks. Obviously, I will return to their commentary once the hiatus is over and I want to suggest that you give it a try once they are back. It is different; it is refreshing; it is serious and light-hearted at the same time; it is entertaining in and of itself without taking anything away from the excitement or entertainment of the game.
If you choose to follow my suggestion when Peyton and Eli return to ESPN, it is a risk-free option for you. I understand that the appreciation for broadcast teams is completely a personal reaction, and if you tune in you may dislike what you see and hear. However, if that is the case, all you need to do is flip the channel from ESPN 2 over to ESPN and there you will find the standard presentation of the Monday night game. No cost and no obligation…
The finish line for the MLB regular season is clearly in sight and the only real uncertainty left involves the wildcard teams for the AL playoffs. Yes, I know the Braves and Phillies have not settled on which team will win the NL East, but the odds against the Phillies overtaking the Braves are long odds. Chelsea Janes covers the Nats and MLB for the Washington Post. Back in late March and before the season began, the Post had a special Baseball Section and Janes had the responsibility to produce a paragraph on each of the 30 MLB teams regarding the upcoming season. She chose to select a player for each team “who could make or break” the season for their team. Here is a sampling of her hits and misses:
LA Dodgers … Trevor Bauer: “It may seem counterintuitive that the lone addition to the defending World Series champions; already loaded rotation could somehow make or break their hopes of repeating. But exactly how Bauer and his knack for controversy fit into the no-nonsense Dodgers’ clubhouse culture could be determinative for better or worse. If he thrives, the Dodgers may be well on their way to a repeat.”
Milwaukee Brewers … Josh Hader: “The Brewers stocked up on defenders and bring back a promising rotation in 2021. But their fortunes may pivot around fireballer Hader who was only somewhat dominant in a small sample last season but was nearly untouchable in 2018 and 2019. If he returns to form, he and emerging star Devin Williams could give the Brewers an unhittable one-two punch in the back end of the bullpen.”
LA Angels … Shohei Ohtani: “The Angels have never been short on star power, but they have never exactly put it all together. A full season of Ohtani on the mound and in the box would amount to the addition of an elite power starter to the rotation and hitter to the lineup, both units Manager Joe Madden and the Angels think are close to turning a corner. With a healthy Ohtani, the Angels finally could have enough firepower to contend.”
Last week, Bob Molinaro had this cogent observation about MLB coverage in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Out West: It’s too easy poking fun at the triple-digit-losing Orioles. Save some derision for what’s truly the most disappointing, underachieving team — the talent-laden San Diego Padres.”
The Padres are indeed “talent-laden”; they spent lots of money in the offseason on free agents increasing the Opening Day salary commitment for 2021 to $174.1M – significantly greater than the Opening Day salary commitment for 2020 which was only $67.4M. Nevertheless, as of this morning the Padres’ record is a pedestrian 78-78; they are 24 games out of first place in the NL West and they are eliminated from the wildcard slots in the NL.
The Orioles and the Diamondbacks have each lost 106 games as of this morning; the Pirates will probably lose 100 games by the end of the season; no one in the fanbase for any of those 3 teams is feeling elated today. However, back in March, only delusional folks in those 3 fanbases would have held out any hope that those teams would be in contention for the playoffs in September. There were no great expectations for any of those teams. But for the Padres…? That is why the Padres deserve the label “most disappointing, underachieving team.”
If anyone is to take the fall for the Padres’ underachievement, it will likely be manager, Jayce Tingler. I think there are 3 MLB managers whose seats are fiery hot right about now. Tingler leads that list and the other two are both in NYC:
- Aaron Boone: If the Yankees do not make the playoffs, I think he will not be back with the team next year. His contract is up and the fact that the Yankees are 8 full games behind the Rays and have been eliminated from the AL East race for the final week and a half of the regular season will have the Yankees’’ brass “going in a different direction” if the Yankees do not take part in the post-season.
- Luis Rojas: The Mets have a new owner who gives me the impression that he would like to be seen as the latter-day version of George Steinbrenner in New York. The Mets seem poised to clean house in the Front Office and if that happens along with the Mets’ late season collapse, I think Rojas is on the unemployment line.
Finally, with all the sturm und drang surrounding which NBA players have been vaccinated and which have not, I believe this observation by Oscar Wilde is relevant:
“Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………