By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
10:06 AM EDT, September 29, 2011
I am numb, and the playoffs haven't even started. What a great night of TV baseball.
What a fine job ESPN did of offering the key games. And what a terrific performance in the booth by MASN's Jim Palmer and Gary Thorne in the Baltimore Orioles comeback victory over the Boston Red Sox.
From about 10:30 p.m. on, it felt like I was in a perfect TV and baseball lover's dream switching in and out of the Tampa and New York Yankees game during the O's rain delay. And then, checking out the National League contests that led to St. Louis making the playoffs. And then, back to Camden Yards. And everywhere in every game, every single pitch counted.
It would be hard to get a more exciting finish than the one the Orioloes provided -- just when it looked like the Red Sox were going to close it out and move into the playoffs.
There was simply playoff level baseball all over the place Wednesday night, and I will leave it to the beat reporters covering the games to describe that level of intensity and excellence where almost everyone is playing at the height of their concentration and the top of their games.
On my TV/media beat, the standout was far and away Jim Palmer, the analyst on the Orioles game. I remember Palmer from his days of doing baseball for ABC. He was very good then, but he is far better today -- sure and steady with his insights and anecdotes, and not an ounce of wasted talk or foolishness in the booth.
There is not an ounce of homer in him either -- and this market is filled with TV and radio homers, filled with them. When the Orioloes muffed a ground ball that put two runners on base instead of leading to a possible doubleplay, Palmer called the O's out for poor defensive play.
And when Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia drove a high inside pitch into the left field seats to put the Sox up 3 to 2, Palmer marveled at Pedroia's tenacity, focus and power.
And as cool and analytical as Palmer can be, he simply said "wow" several times expressing his admiration at pitches and plays made by both teams.
The bottom of the ninth was the big wow of the night with the Orioles' comeback, of course. It would be a mistake, though, for anyone to think this means the Orioles are fine going into the off-season. The problems that accounted for the team's wretched record are all still there despite the last couple of weeks when the team was playing with nothing to lose.
But, if nothing else, the Orioles did clearly show Wednesday night that this Red Sox team did not deserve to make the playoffs.
Tampa Bay had an even more dramatic finish than the one in Baltimore -- a finish that based on their play throughout the seaon took them into the playoffs rather than last-place like the O's.
I love watching baseball on TV, and it doesn't get much better than last night -- except in the playoffs. I cannot wait.
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