Thursday, July 19, 2007

Definition: The FOX Pitcher

Every few weekends throughout the Major League season, FOX picks up a few games, some nationally televised, some more regional. And they get the All-Star game, as well as the majority of the MLB playoffs, and the World Series.

Despite the fact that baseball is a sport that can really only be broadcast in one way, all local and national markets show the game with their own little twists. Some add wider camera angles, some shoot so that only the pitcher, and those in the batter's circle are visible, really zoomed in tightly.

ESPN films in a fashion that finds a compromised point where the pitcher and batter are roughly in a square, dead center on the screen. The viewer will hear the words "Nationwide K-zone" about every 40 seconds. Also, ESPN plagues the viewers with commercials that plug "The Bronx is Burning" or other repeated ads that often go on too long, often resulting in the game coming back with the first few pitches already being thrown, or whenever Matt Diaz is leading off the inning, with one out already.

Here in Atlanta, we have the luxury of being broadcast on three different networks throughout the season, not including the occasional ESPN and FOX nods. SportSouth, FSN South, and TBS - their styles are pretty much the same, as there is few twists to the otherwise "uniform" way of broadcasting baseball.

But the FOX Network, not only do they have the intense, emotional commentary of Joe Buck, they are also notorious for a camera habit that I like to call...

The FOX Pitcher.

For reasons unknown, FOX cameras, prior to every single pitch, make sure to zoom in as much as possible to the head of the pitcher. It does not matter if it is a star like John Smoltz, or a middle reliever like Joel PiƱero, if they're pitching, you learn what they look like, very quickly. And it's not always flattering... like when a guy like Kelvim Escobar is pitching, and you can tell that he really wants to blow his nose after the inning, or how he could make a few extra bucks endorsing Proactiv®.

Why they do this, I have no idea. I suspect that perhaps by showing the pitcher's face, people can try to read into their emotions and what they might thinking. It might actually add to the drama of the game, especially if it's tight, and the crowd is going apeshit. Who knows?

I'm bored at work, and no piece of writing is complete without some visual evidence. So without further ado, I'm going to talk about FOX Pitchers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good - it's not that they're really that good, or handsome or anything, they're just not... well, bad or hideously ugly.

Tom Glavine's steely stare, and seemingly concrete face. Watching this man pitch makes me wonder if he's got a mask on, because his facial expression doesn't change throughout an entire game. Jonathan Papelbon, and his super-high-energy-intensity stare while reading signs from Varitek. And JJ Putz, after seeing him in action during the All-Star Game, even though he was on the brink of a BS, watching his slow, methodical routine of bending over for the cameras and staring at the ground, before slowly drawing his head upward with a homicidal stare to read the signs from Johjima. Now that I think about it, it's normally closers who have this kind of need for gimmicks (Like Chad Cordero and his flat-bill cap, but FOX would never show the Nationals unless they were in contention), perhaps it helps them get some sort of mental advantage - when trying to get through a high-pressure situation, I imagine any sort of advantage is beneficial, whether it is physical or mental.

The Bad - they're not good, but they're not quite disgusting.

Greg Maddux is one of my all-time favorite pitchers of all time, and I will cheer for him no matter who he plays for. I would favor him over Roger Clemens any day of the week. But let's be honest here, he's not exactly the best looking guy in the world, and looks downright silly when photographed in the midst of a pitch. When FOX cameras zoom into his face, you see a droopy, almost jowly face of a legend who is more concerned about getting you to slap a come-backer to his glove than what he looks like in the mirror. K-Rod and his Steve Urkel-like looks, and his Reggie Jackson-like glasses. If not for the fact that he is a damn good closer, I don't know what this guy's got going for him outside of baseball. And we have Dan Haren, who like most of the Oakland A's, looks like a dirty stoner, or a caveman in a uniform.

The Ugly - watching these guys on your screen makes it harder to watch the game.

Watching Game 5 of last year's World Series was rough - not because of the tightness of the game, and my lack of confidence that Jeff Weaver would get out of another inning, but of the constant close-ups of his face in between EVERY. SINGLE. PITCH. His eyesight has obviously deteriorated with age (as has his skill, seeing his record with Seattle now), but his mangey hair, creepy, pedophile stubble... let me know when Fernando Rodney stops committing errors and the Cards are up to bat, because I'm getting sick of Weaver's face. Kenny Rogers makes the best face while pitching ever. It's not pretty, he gets the job done regardless, but I can't help but laughing whenever I see his face go from FOX injected intensity, to this face from the time his feet are on the rubber to throw. Last, and certainly least, we have 'Ol Boomer, David Wells. The man has never been pretty to look at, and watching his left arm have to go around his massive gut en route to a lollipop curve is never a pretty sight. But he has a Perfect Game on his resume, and none of these other jabronis on the list can say so.

I love playoff baseball, but FOX can do without the constant closeups of every single pitcher. And considering the probable playoff teams for this year, Kelvim Escobar can hopefully work something out with Proactiv®.

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