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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Well done, Wilson!

Fox Sports generally flubbed its broadcast of Tuesday's MLB All-Star game, but one bright spot was that they had the cajones to hand the microphone over to Brian Wilson.

The Giants' closer was brilliant as a pitchman for the game, from the "well-played" five-finger salute in a slow-mo tip of his cap in player introductions to his lineup commentary:

"Carlos Beltran, the guy's a phenomenal hitter, a switch hitter. There's talks of him coming over to the Giants. More than welcome," he said in a refreshingly hilarious case of tampering. "Come on over, pal."

He went on to urge the Atlanta Braves to lock up their catcher Brian McCann.

"The guy's an absolute beast. Atlanta, I think you need to sign him to a long-term deal. Just sayin.' "

And on the N.L.'s starter, Roy Halladay: "This guy's a Cyborg. Location like a robot. He's filthy. Our chances of winning have just gone up seven-fold because that guy's toeing the rubber."

After the game, he engaged reporters on his Beltran comments: "I just don't want to be the guy that's traded (for him), though. Okay? Let's make sure that doesn't happen."

In his post-game interview with Eric Karros, Wilson playfully described how he would have screwed up a sliding entrance that his bullpen mate, San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell executed.

"He nailed it ... If I were to do that, I don't know it I'd make it. I think I'd slip, ankle flip, next thing you know I can't pitch, and just a debacle. But he nailed it."

He then said to the well-coifed Karros, "I must say. You have immaculate hair right now. Let's get a shot of that."

Fox didn't pick up on it, but Wilson was wearing a pair of shoes that were a great extension from last year's controversy. Instead of the garish red cleats of yesteryear, he wore a pair of cleats that had a 50-50 mix of black and red, but with photos of him in action superimposed on the instep of both shoes.

Oh, and he finished the game nicely, too. Having entered the ninth inning with runners at second and third, the tying run in the on-deck circle -- which is why he qualified for the save -- Wilson got a one-pitch fly out from Michael Cuddyer, who must have convinced himself to swing early so he didn't have to deal with Wilson's variety of moving fastballs* (see below); and then, pushing things just a bit, went to a full count on Paul Konerko before inducing a ground out on a cut fastball to end the game.

Well done, Maestro.


It was a bit disappointing that Boss Bochy allowed default starting third baseman Scott Rolen stay in the game for six innings -- long enough to strike out twice. Which meant that the Giants' Pablo Sandoval would only get two and a half innings in the Mid-Season Classic.

No matter. Pablo exploited his moment in the glare, blasting a fastball low and away into the left field bullpen on a bounce for a ground rule double, driving in the N.L.'s fifth and final run. It was nice to see a Giants hitter showcased on the national stage.

I thought it was a bit indulgent for Tim McCarver to, after the fact, pounce on the hit as an example of Sandoval getting as many bad ball hits as hits on pitches in the strike zone. I think that's old conventional wisdom. Didn't McCarver notice how Pablo had laid off two straight bad pitches -- pitches he would have gone after last year -- to get the count into a hitter's 3-1 count?

And I kept waiting for Joe Buck, Fox's quickly diminishing on-air talent, to make mention of Sandoval's 21-game hitting streak. He never did. Strangely, he said that Sandoval had hit in 25 of the 26 games he'd been in since returning from his injury, but no kudos on the N.L.'s longest current hitting streak.

If Sandoval's streak gets to 55 -- the doorstep of Joe DiMaggio's record -- we will all know that it's actually 56, counting the All-Star game.


You have to wonder how long Buck will continue on as the voice of America for major league baseball. His voice has weakened considerably -- it sounds like Fox is even using some kind of vocal enhancer to camouflage the chalkboard-scratching quality.

It's almost as if his biology is overtaking him. His father, Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck's voice was unbearable: a deep baritone that had no inflection, and thus flat during what should have been emotional, exciting moments.

Whatever the case is, the strain in Joe Buck's voice is affecting his ability to call a good game. It limits what he can say and how much. But the monotone drone is deadly, making a lackluster All-Star game that much less bearable to watch.


Even worse than Buck's performance was the shameless and utterly vacant plug of Justin Timberlake's new Fox show, whatever it is. They sent poor ex-major leaguer Mark Grace out to the pool beyond the right field fence to do an excruciating "interview" with Timberlake about something I had no interest in, so I muted the sound after enduring a few moments of blather.

I believe it had to be part of Grace's plea bargain with the overly zealous Arizona prosecutors for his DUI earlier this year.


*Checking Cuddyer's history against Wilson: just a few weeks ago in the three game series between the Giants and Twins, Cuddyer, in his only at bat against Wilson, had an RBI double in the ninth inning of the series finale. It narrowed the Giants' lead to 2-1 before Wilson was able to get the final out for the save.

But Cuddyer's approach on that at bat was to take a strike on the first pitch before attacking the second pitch for a drive into left center field. I imagine Cuddyer's thinking may have been that he thought that Wilson might go for a quick strike thinking that Cuddyer would take that first pitch again. So Cuddyer would ambush the first pitch.

Only problem was that it was a cutter, it moved just a bit more than Cuddyer was expecting and he hit a lazy pop fly to right.

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