Such is the life of casual baseball viewing: On Thursday night I was reading a book at my desk, feet propped up, with the Red Sox in my peripheral vision and serving as background noise. They were in the early stages of a 19-3 beat down of the Yankees to start a four-game series that could determine whether the end of this summer has the team in the pennant race or another eight weeks of pleasant background noise. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, after four World Series wins in 14 years, either will be fine with me.
Anyway. As I was getting more and more engrossed in Ryan H. Walsh’s Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 and all the nooks and crannies of Boston as a city in transition, I was snapped 51 years back into the present thanks to some ambient mics:
“OH GODDAMN IT!”
And there goes Brock Holt, the victim of a demonstrative belief in the strike zone and probably the utterer of one of the words you can’t call an umpire. He got his piece in, though, and we got to hear it.
Holt wasn’t the first to openly complain about home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn. Edwin Encarnacion argued a strike on a checked swing outside earlier in the game, and J.D. Martinez had words on essentially the same pitch later. In all three cases, their points were loud enough that, even over the calls of Dave O’Brien, Dennis Eckersley and Jerry Remy, viewers at home could hear their side of the argument for themselves.
It also immediately called into mind Aaron Boone’s epic run-in a few days earlier, where he went full savage on Brennan Miller:
The common denominator in both cases, beyond the eager arrival of robot umpires? Listening to the game — and its side theatrics — mercifully free of intrusion. There are certain announcers that I truly enjoy, Eckersley and Remy included. But baseball is best at the park itself, preferably on a cool, clear night, with nothing but the game and all its ambient color as entertainment. The next best thing to that would be to be able to take in a game, either passively or with full investment, without any of the intrusion and pontifications of, say, Alex Rodriguez or Joe Buck.
FCC be damned, just give us more microphones strategically placed around the diamond and turn them off in the booths. Stop the in-game interviews and let’s hear what the runner and first basemen are chatting about. Let’s hear the batters and managers go bonkers on the umpires, those ever-decreasing-in-relevance shepherds of the game.
Basically, make the game feel as much as being like the park as it does at home. I can’t afford to make it to Fenway every night, but being able to enjoy as much of the game as possible without interruption would be gigantic. And I’d happily put my book down for it.