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Sunday, April 8, 2001

With so many choices available, you're probably wondering how I decide which baseball game to watch. With as many as eight or nine games on at one time, I don't get much out of it if I'm always flipping through the channels — although I do flip around a lot.

Obviously, if the Giants are playing I watch them, even if they're getting bombed by the hated Dodgers (as they did the last two nights). This is the only rule that's non-negotiable. My team has the best announcing crew in all baseball, and the last week of watching dozens of games from all over the country has affirmed that judgment in my mind.

If the Giants aren't playing, I'll sometimes seek out former members of the team who have moved on, or the other teams in the Giants' division who are fighting for the same spot in the playoffs.

The nature of the game itself is the second most important criterion. If it's close, especially in the late innings, I'll watch it. If there's something interesting going on — a possible no-hitter, for example — I'll stick around. Either a tightly-played low scoring pitchers' duel, or a wild home run fest will keep me from changing the channel.

If it's an intense rivalry that the crowd at the ballpark is lively and loud, I'm there. If there's the possibility of a brawl on the field, you couldn't pry me away with a 40-ounce corked bat. In general, I have to say I'd rather watch good teams than bad teams, National League games over American League games.

Sometimes the pitching matchup is all I need to know about a game. If Roger Clemens is going against Pedro Martinez, it's likely to be worth watching, since both are tightly wound pitchers who are among the best in the game. Of course, that matchup means the Yankees are playing their fiercest rivals, the Red Sox, so it's by definition an important game.

Another reason to watch is the park itself. I'd rather watch a game from a special venue than a drab old artificially-turfed field. Even with the new carpet, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia falls behind (just as an example) Pacific Bell Park, with its view of San Francisco Bay.

I was curious about the first game played at Miller Park in Milwaukee last Friday, because the stadium cost $399 million to build and took four years and a few lives. (Verdict: nice building, with major flaws, like the retractable roof that casts bizarre shadows on the field during day games.)

At times, all other things being equal, I'll watch the Oakland A's or the Montreal Expos, just because they're lower-payroll teams who have shown they know how to develop young players and compete against rivals loaded with superstars.

On the other hand, I've been watching a lot of Texas Ranger games, because they have so many high-profile players. (In that sense, the $252 million they're paying Alex Rodriguez is a good investment, although I doubt they're a championship-caliber team yet.)

One thing that'll keep me from watching a game (assuming I have an alternative, of course) is a bad announcing crew. With the group that does the Giants games, I have a high standard, and some of the local broadcasters I've heard for the first time this past week fall short. I do like the guys who do the Florida Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers games, even though I have no rooting interest in those teams.

But I stay away from the Cubs and White Sox broadcasts sometimes, just because the announcers for both teams seem to think they're playing the game themselves. Calling the team "we" might play in Chicago, but I can't stand it. My feeling is that a game broadcast, even if it's being paid for by the home team, should be impartial, at least to the extent that it's not an "us" against "them" atmosphere in the booth.

Obviously, someone who follows a team and airs their games all season is going to have an attachment, and they owe it to the viewers in their home cities to make them feel comfortable watching their team play. But I cringe when I hear Ken Harrelson tell the White Sox pitcher to "go get 'em," or Chip Caray inform us that "we need a hit." Ugh! Goodbye.

Somehow the broadcasters I respect are able to convey the same information without the embarrassing bias.

happy birthday to me

Okay, maybe you weren't wondering how I decide which games to watch. But I thought I'd tell you anyway, just because.

Any questions?

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