Tim McCarver displayed his trademark insight and honesty during a media conference call last week to preview Fox Sports’ telecast of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game from Citi Field in New York.
McCarver, who is 71 and working in his final season as a Fox baseball analyst, was asked about the question that consumed baseball fans for the past few weeks: Did Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig deserve a spot on the National League All-Star roster? Puig, of course, lost out in fan voting for the final roster spot to Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. But many observers make a strong case that Puig deserves to be in the game for the numbers he has put up in fewer than 40 games in the majors.
“I understand the emotion behind Yasiel Puig’s inclusion in this year’s All-Star Game, but five weeks does not a season make,” McCarver said. He and broadcast partner Joe Buck saw Puig play in a recent game against the Giants and McCarver said they witnessed “the impact and the electricity and the buzz that Yasiel Puig presents in a game and he’s a fascinating baseball player with as much talent at first glance as anybody in recent years. … But in my opinion, there are others that are more worthy because of strictly one reason, because they have the whole first half instead of just five weeks.”
Buck said he would defer to McCarver’s judgment on the Puig question, as McCarver is himself a former All-Star player. Having said that, Buck proceeded to gently disagree.
Puig is “an electrifying, ‘don’t get something to drink, don’t leave your seat’ type of player,” Buck said. “Baseball needs more of those.
“Here we are going to present this game on Tuesday night and, just as I did with” Stephen Strasburg “a couple of years ago, I think he would add a lot. I think there’s room for somebody that fans want to see.”
McCarver then added a sharp observation about the Puig controversy.
“I’m not sure Major League Baseball wants a solution to this problem,” he said. “A solution, for instance, would be if a player comes up after – pick a date – May 25, that he is ineligible for the All-Star Game if he comes up for the first time.
“But there’s so much buzz, there’s so much controversy surrounding a guy like Puig. Who would have thought he’d have 44 hits his first month? That’s an extraordinary accomplishment. So I believe from a business standpoint it’s smart of Major League Baseball to want the controversy ... there’s so much talk about it, it’s fun, it’s exciting.”
In an age of state-run media, when so many former sports broadcasters and sports writers have taken jobs with sports teams and leagues, it’s refreshing to hear a broadcaster for Fox Sports – which pays millions of dollars for the rights to Major League Baseball games – speak so candidly about a sports league that his network is in partnership with. Not that saying baseball enjoys the Puig controversy is exactly going to cause heads to roll at MLB headquarters on Park Avenue, but it is still nice to hear a broadcaster unafraid to speak his mind rather than following the corporate script.
That’s why McCarver’s voice will be missed when he calls it quits after the World Series in October. Tuesday night will be McCarver’s record 22nd All-Star Game as a TV analyst. Does Buck plan any special tribute to McCarver on Tuesday night, something he might sneak in to the broadcast?
“Tim would not be into that,” Buck said. “We won’t go there. I can’t emphasize enough how little time there is to do anything in this game besides your job. The side stuff that you get to do on a Saturday, you don’t have time for that.”
With the game being played at Citi Field, McCarver talked about his 16 years as a Mets broadcaster, from 1983 to ’98.
It’s easy to forget, he said, “how big the Mets were during the 1980s. I know New Yorkers and people around the country are familiar with how attached New Yorkers are to the New York Yankees now, but they were at least equally attached to the Mets back in the ’80s. The Mets owned the town, with those colorful ball clubs. … And some of their announcers thought, including me, that they should have won it all more than in just 1986. In 1988, I thought they had a better club than they did in 1986. They had better pitching with David Cone” that year.
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is expected to be the NL’s starter on Tuesday night in the Mid-Summer Classic. Mets manager Terry Collins skipped Harvey’s spot in the rotation on Saturday to keep his pitcher fresh for the All-Star Game, a very unconventional move. McCarver, as you might have guessed, had an opinion on that.
“I think it’s a real shot in the arm for that franchise to have a guy like Matt Harvey starting,” McCarver said. “Of course he has not been named yet, but everybody is speculating that he will be the pitcher. … Harvey is missing a start during the season, on Saturday, because he has blister problems, in order to be able to start on Tuesday night. I think that’s refreshing. I think it’s the right thing to do, because that franchise really needs a lift like the one Harvey has given them through the first half and could certainly give them in the All-Star Game.”
McCarver, a major league catcher, recalled his two All-Star Games as a player, in 1966 and ’67.
“The team in 1966 had Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron hitting one through three in the lineup and Sandy Koufax pitching in his last All-Star Game start.
“Tony Perez won the 15-inning game in 1967 and Tom Seaver finished it. I faced Tom Seaver for about 13 years after that game and I don’t think I ever saw him throw any harder. He was young, strong as a bull and my hand hurt for about two weeks after that. That’s a fact.”
If baseball is not your game, there is an interesting alternative Tuesday night on ESPN, when the network will air “Let Them Wear Towels,” a documentary film telling the story of female sports writers and their fight for equal access to men’s locker rooms.
The 8 p.m. broadcast is the third film in ESPN and espnW’s Nine for IX series.
There are many unpleasant parts of the story, including the treatment that Boston Herald writer Lisa Olson received in the New England Patriots’ locker room in the early ’90s.
One lighter side of the film is when some women sports writers describe how unpleasant most locker rooms are, due to the fact that they are close quarters filled with sweat-covered athletes.
“It’s still the least favorite part of my workday, to go into any clubhouse,” says Claire Smith, a former baseball writer in Philadelphia and New York who now works for ESPN. “But it’s part of the job; it’s where the stories are.”
“Let Them Wear Towels” is co-directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, whose award-winning productions include the Emmy-nominated “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work,” and a documentary about the careers of R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield titled “Knuckleball.”