Cubs fans presumably have grown accustomed to ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” what with their team playing on it on all but two of the last seven weekends.
The bad news or good — depending on how one feels about the prime-time showcase or the Cubs, for that matter — is that after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Dodgers their next star turn may not come until Aug. 18.
ESPN presumably could pluck them before then, but the Cubs’ next scheduled “SNB” appearance isn’t until they take on the Pirates in Williamsport, Pa.
There were, of course, plenty of other things on TV this past weekend, such as golf’s U.S. Open, World Cup soccer and an engaging Yankees-White Sox series.
So, you know the routine. Let’s take a look at some of winners and losers …
Loser: ESPN’s “Wired” features
Ever since NFL Films struck audio gold with a microphone on Chiefs coach Hank Stram in Super Bowl IV, a “heard” mentality has given us all manner of banalities from sports figures.
The latest was the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger in ESPN’s “Wired” segments Sunday. The eavesdropping yielded banter with a kid — also named Cody — who brought a ball to sign before the game, an inquiry to umpire C.B. Bucknor about postgame travel plans and a reminder to manager Dave Roberts about the microphone.
The high point? It was either Bellinger’s grunt before homering off Jose Quintana in the sixth or when he praised bacon-ranch-flavored sunflower seeds. So yeah. Useless.
Winner: ESPN field reporter Buster Olney
Olney noted the Dodgers’ Max Muncy moved after asking the bench where he should play when Willson Contreras batted in the sixth just before Contreras’ analytics-defying RBI single went where Muncy had been.
Then, after the Cubs’ Javier Baez made a great play on a Justin Turner grounder in the seventh, Olney reminded everyone that Baez might not have been in the game if not for the tolerance of home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.
Baez slammed his bat and helmet in disgust after striking out looking in the Cubs’ half of the inning. But only after Olney said Reyburn “handled the situation the last half-inning really well” did analysts Jessica Mendoza and Alex Rodriguez chime in to echo him.
Loser: ESPN’s parent trap
Any more screen time for Clay and Jennifer Bellinger, parents of Cody, and they’d qualify to be paid at least SAG-AFTRA scale.
Winner: Apple iPads
When Ross Stripling replaced Hyun-Jin Ryu in the eighth, ESPN showed the Cubs on the bench looking at iPads. “The boys are looking at the iPads to get the refresher in on Ross Stripling,” play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian said. “That’s baseball 2019, America. They’re not playing Candy Crush. They’re learning everything they can about Ross Stripling before they take (an at-) bat up against him.”
Loser: Speaking of iPads
“Speaking of iPads,” Rodriguez then said, “Stripling has not allowed a home run in 2019.” Not only was this a bizarre transition, he had to correct it. Turns out Stripling surrendered four homers at the start of the season, but none since April 19. Bet the Cubs’ iPad scouting reports said this.
Winner: Jason Benetti and Steve Stone
This duo was always strong, but Benetti and Stone have gotten better working together and made all the more engaging by an increasingly entertaining Sox team that can erupt for runs at any moment. This weekend’s split with the Yankees in front of nice crowds at Guaranteed Rate Field offer promise.
Loser: Tyson Fury
Yes, Fury won his Saturday bout against Tom Schwartz by TKO on ESPN+. But the British boxer was rightly pummeled for his homophobic views the day before by Israel Gutierrez on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.”
Winner: Prime-time golf
The more major golf tournaments played on the West Coast, the better. Playing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach meant prime-time action and a surge in viewership. It meant, for example, a golf fan could spend Father’s Day out and about with the family and still catch the final round with Gary Woodland taking the title well after dinner for Chicagoans at around 8:30 p.m.
Winner: Joe Buck
Hello, friends. Not only did Fox’s U.S. Open coverage include an interview with former NBC analyst Johnny Miller, CBS’s Jim Nantz accepted Buck’s on-air invitation to visit during Saturday’s coverage.
Sitting with Nantz, who lives nearby, Buck was beyond gracious with high praise for his peer: “I’ll just say it right now on camera, looking into that lens, he is the best to ever call golf on television.”
This was even better than TNT’s Charles Barkley popping up on NBC’s Stanley Cup Final coverage.
Loser: U.S. national women’s soccer team critics
Whatever your view of Team USA’s rout over Thailand or the way they celebrated every goal over that hapless opponent, the 13-0 opening victory fueled conversation and interest for Sunday’s United States-Chile match.
Carli Lloyd fired back at the idea the U.S. celebrations were unsportsmanlike with a little golf clap after her goal put the United States up 1-0 en route to a 3-0 victory. Chile’s goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, put on a remarkable show, holding the Americans scoreless in the second half, which was important in showing it can indeed be done.