Anyone who has talked baseball with me knows I can be pretty obnoxious when it comes to one thing: defense. I feel like defense is the most overlooked aspect of the game. Defense is extremely important and I don’t understand why more people don’t see that. And when I am talking defense, I am NOT talking about the so-called “Web Gems”, the diving catches or going deep in the hole at short to throw out the slowest guy on the opposing team. Those things are great, but what I am a real stickler for is good old fashioned fundamentals. Get the lead runner. Throw to the right base. Don’t miss the cutoff man. Boring, maybe, but absolutely essential to being a winning team. Last weekend the Reds were in town to play the Cubs, and the lack of good defense and the failure to recognize it were on display big time.
I’m going to pick on the Reds here. Their announcers and their center fielder Billy Hamilton. I don’t like Billy Hamilton. Oh he’s never done anything to me or anything, but with his world class speed he should be so much better than he is. He refuses to adapt his game to his strengths. Just imagine if Bret Butler had his speed when he played.Hamilton should be at least showing bunt at least once a game. Part of my dislike for Hamilton isn’t his fault. The Reds announcers just build him up to be some sort of deity. I know, why are you listening to the Reds broadcast you ask? Well because that’s where my sports app on my cable took me that’s why. But I watch other Reds games at times. My family is generations of Reds fans. I managed to escape that and became the only Cubs fan in the family. So I have a bit of an interest. Plus they are on TV a lot where I live, so if the Cubs aren’t, I still want to watch baseball.
I have heard for several years now how poor Billy gets snubbed for the Gold Glove. They love to show his highlights. Diving catches, robbing home runs, etc. But Saturday in the middle of a Cubs comeback, Hamilton can be blamed for losing the game, and not a syllable mentioned on the Reds broadcast. Oh they were in awe of him going 3 for 4. But on a huge play that mattered the most, nothing.
Ben Zobrist singled with runners on first and second. The run scored from second of course, which should have left a first and third scenario with the double play still in order. Instead Zobrist ends up on second because Gold Glove Billy doesn’t hit the cutoff man and tries to throw out the runner going to third. Zobrist would eventually score the winning run. Crickets from the Reds broadcast booth. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, until, of course, it became a big deal.
Sunday the Cubs put on a display of poor defending themselves, with, you guessed it, Billy Boy in the middle of it. He steals second. He earned that. But the throw went into center, allowing him to go to third. Albert Almora, usually a solid fielder, takes a lackadaisical approach to the ball and bobbles it to boot. Hamilton heads to the plate. He should have been out by 30 feet, except that Willson Contrerras couldn’t handle the throw and Hamilton scores. Do we hear about the gift that the Cubs just gave to Cincinnati? Of course not. It was somehow all Billy all the time.
I will repeat myself. defense is maybe the most important aspect of the game that gets little to no attention. I’m talking fundamental solid defense. Catch the ball. Throw to the right base. don’t air mail the throw. Things that are often overlooked but decide ballgames. And I’m sorry, I can’t give you a Gold Glove just for not making errors. I’m not impressed by the spectacular play. I want to see you playing your position and not allowing extra bases, making mistakes that cost you runs. Even if you don’t allow a run, it still has a cumulative affect. The pitcher has to make more pitches than he would have had to. The more that happens, the less effective he becomes. The batting order rolls over faster. Ever notice how in the late innings in big spots the teams best hitters always seem to be up? Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if back in the 4th inning you hadn’t thrown a ball over the first baseman’s head and 2 extra guys got to bat that shouldn’t have.
As far as the Reds broadcasters, I get it. You work for the team. You’re homers. That’s fine. All home broadcasters are homers. But can you at least try to actually call the game? Instead of constantly campaigning for All Star votes and awards, can you maybe just be honest about what’s happening on the field? Total honesty, after the aforementioned game where Hamilton missed the cutoff man, I stuck around for the post game studio show, and former Reds bullpen pinata Sam LeCure did mention that play. He didn’t say it cost Cincinnati the game, and, I might be exaggerating to make my point, but I give him credit for being the only other person besides me that recognized it and pointed it out. I’m not saying Len and JD on the Cubs broadcast are perfect, but I have said before and I will repeat it, I think they do an outstanding job of being Cubs broadcasters without being big time homers.
The lesson to be learned here is to pay a little more attention to the fielding aspect of the game and for me to stop listening to Reds announcers.