From Bill Simmons’ column: 25 People to Watch in the AL Playoffs
16. Cal Ripken Jr.
Other than the Mets’ collapse, a 46-homer season from Carlos Pena and Toronto’s getting 357 ABs and a .917 OPS from Matt Stairs, the most shocking revelation of the season was Ripken’s yeoman’s work as TBS’s studio guy during Monday night’s Rockies-Padres game. This can’t be emphasized strongly enough: He was GREAT. I actually learned stuff from him. (I know, I know, a novel concept.) Now, there’s a chance you could stick a corpse with Ernie Johnson and the corpse would turn into a B-plus analyst. But did you ever think Ripken would be a good TV guy? I’m still shocked. Maybe it was all those years serving as the bodyguard on “The Jerry Springer Show.” Anyway, I’m excited for the first round on TBS now … although I maintain that Barkley should have been involved.
Ok, Bill, I’ll give you that Cal Ripken Jr. did a nice job in the studio. He kept it close, spoke only when necessary, and was succinct. Frank Thomas was much worse, but not reprehensible by any means. He gets some slack for having just finished PLAYING a 162-game season; therefore, I’m not going to nitpick about his tendency to bury his chin in his chest and come up lost for words. The guy probably had 6 hours to train, and got some decent “This is what they did to us in the regular season” reality quotes in there. He got off to an acceptable start and will only get better.
But Ernie Johnson Jr.! What a disaster! He has 17 years of telecast experience but looked like he entered the studio for the first time 10 mins. before they aired. I could only handle watching the one “Game Break” between the Sox-Angels and the Cubs-Diamondbacks. Here’s two examples of his buffoonery from those 15 minutes:
1) Cutting to Francona’s last sentence in the press conference and then showing highlights of the Sox game as a cover-up. Johnson was so startled by the quick cutaway to the highlights that he didn’t know what he was looking at. The result was a long pause followed by stutters about Beckett being on the Sox and having a nice game. Thanks for the update on what you just spent the past five minutes talking to F.T. and C.R. Jr. about.
2) Cutting away from THE MIDDLE of Josh Beckett’s press conference for a piece of trivia during which he gets out of his chair to imitate Luis Tiant’s windup. Who cares? This kind of dumb idiocy is only appropriate for game 98 of the Braves on a lazy Sunday afternoon in early August. This is the PLAYOFFS! Take it seriously for Christ’s sake.
A lot of the horribleness can be attributed to working with a new set of producers, but as an experienced anchor man, Johnson’s recovery time could’ve been a lot better. And it’s a damn shame that we have to watch TBS work out the kinks during THE PLAYOFFS! I vote that whenever Ernie Johnson tries to talk, they cut to highlights of ESPN’s Sunday Morning Conversations with Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn from the early ’90’s.
On a lighter note, here’s an awesome picture of Dice-K dancing at a bar in celebration of clinching the division. Let’s hope he’s this happy on Friday night at around 11:30pm EST.