No one who has heard Tim McCarver analyze a baseball game could dispute that he knows the game to a fare-thee-well. The former Phillies-Cardinals catcher, who is one of the few major-leaguers to play in parts of four different decades, has probably forgotten more baseball than most of us will ever know.
But McCarver can be tough for a viewer to take over the length of a series, because:
1.) He doesn't sense when to make a point and when to leave it alone.
2.) He can't help making really bad puns.
That said, McCarver has been impressive during Fox's American League Championship Series coverage, explaining at the right times, questioning strategy at others and keeping his attempts at forced humor to a blessed minimum.
Take last night, for instance. McCarver rightly rapped Roberto Alomar on the knuckles for attempting to take an extra base on Geronimo Berroa's two-run single in the third inning, explaining that with Brady Anderson's speed, the Indians had no shot at a play at the plate and would try to keep him off third.
In the fourth, McCarver said that pitchers hated to see the shortstop, second baseman and center fielder come together in a triangle, for it almost always meant that the hitter had a single, as Harold Baines dropped a single to center between Cleveland fielders.
In the bottom of the same inning, he said Brian Giles was able to take an extra base because Alomar can get to ground balls that most second basemen can't. Giles' grounder in the hole had ticked off Alomar's glove and away from him and Berroa.
Three innings later, McCarver saw that Indians starter Chad Ogea was getting his breaking balls up and said that the cause was likely tiredness in his lower legs, which made those pitches rise.
McCarver wasn't the only one who was on last night. In the first inning, Joe Buck observed that Bip Roberts' ground ball up the first base line just ticked foul. Two pitches later, Roberts doubled down the left-field line, and Buck used it as a metaphor for the lack of breaks the Orioles have received in the series.
Buck also cast a wary eye on Jimmy Key's sixth-inning entrance into the game and the fact that the left-hander would be facing two left-handed hitters right off the bat.
One niggling point: For some reason, Fox crews seem to have a problem presenting the timing play the Orioles use to try to pick off a runner on second base.
Two Saturdays ago in the Division Series, the production crew couldn't produce a good replay to back up analyst Bob Brenly's point about the play. Last night, in an identical situation, Brenly was discussing how the Orioles' catcher signals the pitcher and middle infielders for the pickoff throw. Yet the replays came from a camera in the press box and from third base at the bag, not from a center-field camera that would show Chris Hoiles dropping his glove, the actual signal itself.
The ratings game
Cleveland not only bested Baltimore over the weekend on the baseball field, but also did it in the Nielsen ratings.
Saturday's Game 3 delivered a 23.3 rating and 43 share of the audience for Channel 45, while Game 4 did a 27.8/38 Sunday night, meaning the game was seen in roughly 275,000 local homes. The Baltimore ratings for Washington's Channel 5 were not available yesterday.
In Cleveland, however, Saturday's game did a 36.5/66, only to be topped by Sunday's rating, which was a 51.1/68. The Sunday rating translates to more than 740,000 Cleveland homes.
In the game's final 15 minutes, the Cleveland rating jumped to an amazing 60.3/81, which means that eight of every 10 TV sets that were turned on in that area were tuned in to the game.
Here are the ratings for the 10 most-watched sports programs on Baltimore broadcast television last weekend:
Program, Ch., Rating
Orioles-Cle. (Sun.) 45 27.8/38
Orioles-Cle. (Sat.) 45 23.3/43
Atl.-Fla. (Fri.) 11 10.9/18
Atl.-Fla. (Sun.) 11 9.9/22
A LCS pre-game (Sun.) 45 8.6/15
NYG-Ariz. (Sun.) 45 5.0/11
Cin.-Hou. (Sun.) 11 4.2/11
G.B.-Chi. (Sun.) 45 4.1/11
Atl.-Fla. (Sun.) 45 4.0/7
.' Ravens Kickoff (Sun.) 2 3.5/10
Pub Date: 10/14/97