Brenly showing first-string talent on Fox's team

Media Watch

October 13, 1997|By Milton Kent

For most of Fox's baseball broadcast season, Bob Brenly works on the network's second team, but gets the equivalent of a September call-up when he's added to the first team for the October playoffs.

It's a tricky situation, as Brenly, who had about four years of broadcast experience when he joined the network last year, must find a place between Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, the usual No. 1 team.

Brenly has been on the mark throughout the American League Championship Series, blending some fine observations with a good sense of humor. Unlike his NBC third-man-in counterpart, Bob Uecker, Brenly has something to contribute besides a chuckle.

For instance, Brenly observed that Arthur Rhodes was limited to only two pitches, a fastball and changeup, and said Davey Johnson was "playing with fire" by leaving Rhodes in to face Jim Thome in the Cleveland sixth, also noting that because Rhodes' arm injury limited his ability to throw a slider, the Orioles were at risk of losing Rhodes for the rest of the series.

An inning before, Brenly, a former catcher, let the viewer in on the secret of the "art to buying time" for a struggling pitcher as Scott Erickson was getting into trouble, noting that first the catcher goes to the mound until the plate umpire comes out to move things along, then the pitching coach comes just as the batter is settled into the box and stays for as long as possible to let a reliever get warmed.

Cued in by Buck, Brenly spotted the difference between Erickson's masterful Game 1 performance and last night's effort, saying, "He's making the occasional great pitch, but he's also leaving pitches occasionally out over the heart of the plate."

McCarver and Brenly have done well in playing off each other. McCarver, for example, took note of the "loose spin" on the breaking pitch that Rafael Palmeiro smacked out in the fifth inning, saying, "Catchers rarely catch those. Usually a fan catches those." Brenly finished the point by adding that, generally the tighter the spin on a breaking pitch, the tougher it is for the hitter.

The analyst tandem has also shown the willingness to be sharply critical. They both attacked Brady Anderson for overaggressiveness in the Cleveland fourth for attempting to charge a Marquis Grissom single to make a play at the plate on Brian Giles, turning a routine base hit into an error that moved Grissom to third.

The next hitter, Bip Roberts, went into first with a headfirst slide on a grounder to second that Roberto Alomar made a sparkling play on. Brenly chastised Roberts on the slide, calling it "unwise," and saying "I've never seen a sprinter in the Olympics dive for the finish line."

Then McCarver lapsed into the regrettable tendency he has to try to punctuate points with silly sayings or bad puns. Rather than just letting Brenly's criticism stand on its own, McCarver said, "Advice to youngsters: You don't swim standing up and you don't slide on your belly." It was a groaner that created silence in the booth and head-scratching at home.

Of course, the telecast took a goodly amount of time putting the finishing touches on Saturday's masterpiece and the controversial play that ended it, with a replay shot from a camera positioned low on the first base side.

The view from that angle was more definitive than the replay from a center-field camera that ended Saturday's telecast and almost conclusively showed that Omar Vizquel's bunt attempt did not make contact with Randy Myers' pitch.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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