(posted by OMDQ)

(I’m late to the party on this whole, “Joe Morgan isn’t good at remembering stuff from his past” thing, but he’s announcing the game tonight, I haven’t posted much this weekend, and I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for two days, so this is what you’re getting. Enjoy.)

As a regular contributor to a blog that focuses heavily on all that is wrong with the world of broadcasting, it makes sense that much of my material deals with Joe Morgan, the ESPN analyst who is almost universally regarded as one of the two worst color analysts in baseball.

Is Joe awful much of the time? Absolutely. In addition to his disturbing tendency to select a topic at the start of a game and relentlessly beat it into the ground over the next nine innings, he loses points in my book due to his largely humorless approach to his craft, his unwillingness to lend any credence at all to the burgeoning field of statistical analysis, and his failure to accurately report even the simplest of facts (case in point: in the eighth inning of tonight’s Cubs-Mets game, he said fairly confidently that Bob Gibson once had 34 complete games in a season. Close, but no cigar: Gibson’s career high was 28 in 1968 and 1969).

That last point has caused Joe considerable consternation over the last few weeks, as he has twice misrepresented incidents from his own career on ESPN baseball broadcasts. In the first instance, he told a story about his first major league hit, a late-inning single that helped extend the Phillies infamous losing streak in 1964; in the second, he told a national audience that Sandy Koufax had dominated him in their first three meetings, striking him out three times on nine pitches before Joe managed a weak ground ball in the fourth at-bat.

(I apologize for not remembering the name of the blog that wrote about the second story last week. If they happen to read this, send me an email or leave a comment and I will link away.)

These stories are the reason that guys like Morgan have jobs as baseball analysts. Yes, they are hired for their expertise on the actual playing of the game, but the biggest reason that someone like Morgan is useful is the fact that he can contribute those insights into the heart of the game, little bits of information from their careers that make for interesting stories during blowouts and rain delays.

The problem with Morgan’s stories is that they contained information that was patently false. As seen on a number of blogs at the time, the first story was incorrect because while Joe’s first major league hit and RBI DID come against Philadelphia, the milestone actually took place in 1963, not 1964, and as such had nothing to do with Philadelphia’s epic collapse down the stretch. The second story was a lesser big deal, notable mostly because the precedent had been set, but still an example of Joe not looking up the facts: he actually struck out in his first two at-bats against Koufax, not three (although there is no way of knowing just how dominant Koufax was, if it was in fact six pitches that got the job done).

As strange as it feels to type these words, I’m going to have to take Joe’s side in situations such as these. The Koufax situation, for instance, is ridiculous to bring up as a point of criticism. The man says so much stuff that is just flat-out wrong – we’re going to give him a hard time about saying Koufax dominated him one more time than he initially thought? A commenter on that post I mentioned above made the point that this story made Joe look even worse than he actually did, so why would he lie about it?

The 1964 Phillies debacle was slightly more noteworthy, but still overblown (making him apologize on the air was pointless, especially since the powers-that-be should have known how resistant he would be and just decided it wasn’t worth fighting over). Some will call this a situation in which a former player/broadcaster attempted to make himself look better by flat-out making up and lying about details from his career. You know what I call it? Being old. Morgan turns 64 next month (side note: how are we already at the point that September is “next month”? This year is flying by), an age at which the mind starts to go on even the most memorable things. Doesn’t matter how important the thing you’re trying to remember is, you can forget it. My father, for example, has known me for almost 28 years, and still forgets MY NAME half the time (I don’t think he could remember my birthday if you held a gun to his head, either).

I know what you’re thinking: this stuff is recorded. It’s on the Internet. He can look it up, get his facts straight, tell the story the way it actually happened. And I agree. He could do all that. But this is Joe Morgan we’re talking about. He doesn’t look up facts about things that are actually important and relevant to his job – why should we expect any more when he’s sharing anecdotes about his playing days?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I need to be more outraged about things like this. But I think what I’ll probably do is save my criticisms of Joe for the times he actually screws up stuff that is relevant to the game at hand.

Comments are closed.