Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, Sept. 8. Before the games began last night, it was announced that two Tigers’ TV announcers had broadcast their last game of 2018 for an extraordinary reason. Later, the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, who I haven’t written kindly about in this forum made a loud statement, winning masterfully in a game the Yankees had to have.
Detroit has been known for generations for the great fighters to come from there. Joe Louis lived there starting at age 10. Sugar Ray Robinson, born Walker Smith JR. learned to box on the streets of late Depression-era Detroit. Fast forward a few decades to the early 1980’s when ESPN showed boxing first from Cobo Hall, then from the 20 Grand Nightclub, a truly horrific place with no air conditioning. An August night in there must have given announcers a vision of where sinners go who don’t repent. Thomas Hearns and Hilmer Kenty were just two great fighters from that era in the Motor City.
Fighting however needs to be kept in a boxing arena. Two TV broadcasters for the Detroit Tigers, Rod Allen and Mario Impemba saw their season come to a grinding halt after they got into what became a physical struggle that could have been over a chair in Chicago. Yes, a chair in the booth at the second Comiskey Park, not a girl in a bar on Rush Street. Squabbling over a woman could at least be understood, if not condoned considering the advanced ages of the pugilists. I can’t imagine them working as a team going forward.
Neither of these men are still young enough to be feeling their oats. I know Mario Impemba of old, as a minor league baseball radio broadcaster of high repute when I was a rookie shrieker at the microphone. That was in 1991. The man is 55, my age. Since Allen has restricted his work to TV in the Detroit area in recent years, I can’t speak about his broadcasting skills. The one substantive fact I know is, he’ll be 59 next month. I’m aghast at the idea of two men who are close to 60 years of age being at each other’s throats for any reason. At this age their lives are what they are and they shouldn’t have any kick coming. Their life decisions have been made and nothing can be done if said decisions didn’t work out quite as planned.
Just maybe, if they were 20 years younger I could see them feeling trapped in career hell broadcasting a garbage team like the Tigers, a team that could lose 100 games this season. I can imagine two men of roughly 40 summers slugging out as one or both has a midlife crisis. I could certainly see it happening in the minors, the land of brutally low pay and bus rides that seem to go on forever. Being trapped on a bus for as much as 15 hours with guys watching movies whose twin plots are sex and violence, staying in rotten motels and grabbing iffy food particularly in the lower minors could make announcers snap. Among major league broadcasters There’s no excuse for what happened Tuesday night in Chicago. Besides their ages, these broadcasters go first class all the way-travel, hotels with an H, single rooms, and on it goes. In spite of this luxurious life style, the situation in the Tigers’ booth on the south side of Chicago became so toxic that Allen and Impemba had to be shuttled to Detroit on separate airplanes after Tuesday night’s debacle.
This needs to be an episode of Judge Judy.
Over the years since the Yankees picked up Masahiro Tanaka, all too often I have written that he wasn’t a good investment. Just for starters, the Japanese league wouldn’t let him go until he had pitched for 7 long seasons over there. When the Yankees finally got him I thought it was throwing good money after bad. He had only been a Yankee for 3 months before doctors found a torn UCL in his elbow which normally means Tommy John surgery. He didn’t have it, and I wasn’t the only pundit who said he was walking around with a time bomb in his elbow. As the years have passed I noticed and wrote about certain “must win” games where he got the ball and the Yankees didn’t win. Last night he pitched the kind of game an ace should pitch at a time when the Yankees desperately needed an ace to step up and be recognized. If this were an old western I would say “I guess I have to eat crow.” The British call it “eating humble pie.” I don’t know if the Japanese have a term for it. In any language, sometimes you have to say “I booted that one.”
Last night’s game in Seattle was important for many reasons. For one thing, the Yankees have always had trouble winning there, even when the Mariners were truly dreadful. When the Mariners improved, the Yankees had even more trouble winning, first in the Kingdome, then at Safeco Field which replaced it. The Yankees in general have had trouble winning going back to the calamity in Boston from August 2–5. The truly dreadful teams-the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox have taken series from the Yankees. The Rays, who are nothing special, beat the Yankees like so many rented mules. Earlier this week the Bronx Bombers lost 2 out of 3 against Oakland, who they may well face next month in a winner-take-all wild card game. The key starting last night and going forward is for them to win enough not to just play in the wild card game but to host it at Yankee Stadium JR. While it will never give them the home field advantage they had at the House that Ruth Built, it’s still better than playing a game for all the marbles at Oakland, or worse yet Seattle.
Tanaka took the ball to start game 1 of the series in Seattle late last night. Given the struggles of Luis Severino and CC Sabathia, last night figured to be the first of open auditions for a starter for the wild card game. Tanaka made a strong case against a good offensive team. Meantime the Yankees were up against the Mariners’ best, James Paxton, AKA The Big Maple for his stature and the fact that he hails from Canada. Tanaka struck out 10 Mariners in 8 innings giving up just 3 hits. The Big Maple gave up a couple of the home runs for which the Yankees are known. After a two-out hit by Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres hit the 23rd home run of his rookie season. Andrew McCutchen hit the Yankees’ other big fly, his first since joining his new team.
Besides giving up only 3 hits, Tanaka didn’t walk a single Mariner. The closest thing he had to trouble was in the 6th inning. Mike Zunino doubled with nobody out. After Tanaka retired two men, Jean Segura beat out an infield hit sending Zunino to third. Tanaka struck out Robinson Cano to end the threat.