Postseason baseball has it all, including, unfortunately, ESPN's Berman

ON MEDIA

October 08, 2004|By RAY FRAGER

YOU JUST have to love the intensity of postseason baseball.

Yankee Stadium rocking. Close-ups of Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Rudolph Giuliani. Fenway Park rolling. Close-ups of Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Ben Affleck. Angel Stadium of Anaheim reeling. Close-ups of David Eckstein, Garret Anderson and, uh, Mickey Mouse.

Actually, what we want to see is the Angels pull off a comeback victory, followed by manager Mike Scioscia taking the post-game microphone to declare, "That's how we do it in the O.C.!"

OK, wrong network.

ESPN had all three Division Series on Wednesday, which included two tautly played night games in the American League. Game 2 of the New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins series was a fabulous back-and-forth affair only enhanced by the presence of baseball's best voice, Jon "We Miss You Still" Miller.

The nightcap was an equally gripping Game 2 between the Angels and Boston Red Sox. That game featured the play-by-play of Chris Berman. Maybe we'd miss him, too. If only he'd go away.

Berman's Sunday bombast on ESPN's NFL programming is one thing, but his presence during baseball's playoffs, especially when contrasted with Miller, is something else.

Miller lets the excitement build, setting up partner Joe Morgan, filling in rather than painting over.

Berman describes Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez by saying, "With Manny in left field, he makes some of the best catches of the year and then eeeeehhhhhuhhhhhhh." (That's an approximate spelling.)

With Pedro Martinez putting the final touches on his strong seven-inning effort, Berman opines on Martinez's "bellbottom" uniform pants.

Where's that mute button?

Playoff observatory

The Miller-Morgan team certainly isn't perfect. When Yankees-Twins Game 2 ended with a line-drive sacrifice fly to right field, neither questioned why Minnesota right fielder Jacque Jones didn't make a strong throw directly home instead of to the cutoff man in the infield.

In the decisive 12th, Morgan noted that Minnesota closer Joe Nathan was throwing sliders because he'd lost confidence in his fastball.

On Baseball Tonight, Harold Reynolds raised the idea that the Twins could have success against New York uber closer Mariano Rivera because they would take chances on the bases and their hitters were willing to choke up on the bat.

This is no scoop, but the K Zone graphic - showing where the ball is in relation to the strike zone - is a keeper.

Another reason to love baseball: How can you (OK, me) feel bad about eating that bowl of ice cream when one of ESPN's analysts is Tony Gwynn and Anaheim's starting pitcher is Bartolo Colon?

Mike back at the mike

Sunday night's ESPN telecast of the Ravens vs. the Redskins features the return of play-by-play man Mike Patrick. He has been off the air for about two months after heart surgery.

"This is the deal I made with the surgeons, that I would stay off for eight weeks," Patrick, a nearly lifelong smoker who has quit the habit, said in a telephone news conference yesterday.

Pat Summerall sat in for Patrick, who said, before his surgery, he hadn't missed a game in 38 years of broadcasting. And what did Patrick miss most?

"Being able to stir the pot between [Joe] Theismann and [Paul] Maguire," he said.

Five seconds too late

It won't help Dale Earnhardt Jr., but NBC is instituting a five-second delay for its NASCAR telecasts starting with Sunday's Nextel Cup race. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating Sunday's incident in which Earnhardt's profanity aired live as a possible decency violation, Bloomberg reports. ... ESPN2's Cold Pizza airs an hour later, at 8 a.m., beginning Monday. Don't know about you, but that just threw my whole morning off. ... A note on the top 10 ratings that accompanies this column. Not included are pro wrestling shows, which are "sports entertainment," or portions of coverage that are less than 30 minutes long.

Contact Ray Frager at ray.frager@baltsun.com.

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Sept. 29-Oct. 5 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Day Ch. Rtg.

Ravens-K.C. 10/4 2 23.4

Jets-Mia. 10/3 13 10.7

Wash.-Cle. 10/3 45 9.1

Cin.-Pitt. 10/3 13 7.7

O's-Bos. 10/1 54 5.2

NASCAR 10/3 11 4.7

Min.-Yanks 10/5 45 4.6

O's-Tor. 9/30 54 3.9

Rams-49ers 10/3 ESPN 3.5

NFL Today 10/3 13 3.3

Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV.

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