I’m going to admit it: I love Chinese Professional League Baseball.
Is it possible I’m just baseball starved and I’ll watch any live baseball? Yes. But it’s definitely more than that.
The quality of play is not MLB level, but it’s pretty good. My impression is that it’s about the equivalent of AA ball in the states, and oddly enough, I have a friend who’s lived in Taiwan and confirmed that my impression was accurate.
The environment and level of passion are phenomenal. Seriously, cheerleaders doing their thing in front of empty seats, signs, and mannequins? Mascots in the seats behind home plate trying to distract the pitcher? How awesome is that?
But the aspect of the CPBL that has me truly enjoying baseball again is the announcers. Generally speaking, CPBL announcers are far – FAR – better than their MLB counterparts. And my reinvigoration has confirmed another one of my theories about MLB:
MLB announcers who are bored with the game, angry with the game, and have pre-game talking points and agendas that supersede the on-field action, do far more damage to the game than most people realize.
The CPBL announcers I’ve heard all call the game well, analyze the action well, and clearly enjoy being at the park. But it’s not so much what they do, it’s what they don’t do.
CPBL announcers don’t complain about the length of games or the pace of play. None of them to refer to a completed game as “unmanageable” and none talk at length about where they’re going to dinner after the game while baseball is being played.
CPBL announcers don’t conduct extended talk show style interviews during baseball action. One of them calls the game, one of them analyzes the action and sometimes they discuss (wait for it) the action. Many MLB announcers act as if they’d rather be the next Oprah instead of the next Vin Scully. Hell, Joe Buck, and Michael Kay get downright angered when the game interrupts their deep questioning of whatever ex-jock is next to them.
CPBL announcers don’t yammer on for ten damn minutes about “what a great piece of hitting” it is when there’s a weakly batted ball to second base while yawning at the player who turned around a 97 mph fastball and sent to the second deck in left field.
CPBL announcers aren’t angered by on-field action that played out differently than it would have a few decades ago. On a pitch up and in, or after a slide into second base to break up a double play, at no point will a CPBL commentator start a sentence with “Durrr…back when I played Bob…durrr…”.
CPBL announcers won’t ignore poor strategical decisions and plays by the home team. If a particular bunt, for example, makes little sense mathematically, they’ll say so politely and explain why. As opposed today’s MLB announcers who are on Russian State TV levels of sycophancy – but only for the home team. Ever wonder why Aaron Boone seems so relaxed? It’s not because his team is good – it’s because he never gets questioned about anything.
CPBL announcers won’t stick to their pre-game agenda and talking points if they don’t jibe with the on-field action. If a team hits a three-run home run and a two-run home run and wins 5-4, the announcers will note that although there were other important plays, of course, the long ball was the difference. In MLB a team can win 10 nothing on a grand slam and two separate three-run jacks and John Smoltz would still be spilling drivel about “situational hitting” and “small ball”.
And as a general rule, CPBL announcers won’t get caught unprepared. I joked the other day, but it wasn’t really a joke: The CPBL announcer whose first language is English has an easier time pronouncing Asian names that Paul O’Neill does with pronouncing American names.
Heck, one of the CPBL announcers in today’s game explained the etymology of the phrase “Texas Leaguer”. I guarantee you if you asked Michael Kay, he wouldn’t know. He thinks a Texas Leaguer is a shortstop who came up through El Paso.
Some may argue these are trivial matters in the big scheme of MLB issues. I would disagree. There is a big chunk of baseball fans that are being influenced by the current crop of MLB announcers who are quite often some combination of bored, angry, or ignorant about the games they call. And for a game that purports to be so concerned about the pace of play, length of games and amount of on-field action, a very impactful and fixable aspect of the sport is being enabled.
That will have far more impact on future baseball fan generations than worrying about games that last 3:01. You know, “unmanageable” ones.
Other than not mentioning exceptions like Gary Cohen and David Cone, who are great at what they do – did I miss something? Let me know.
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