Voice of Harold

mlb_allstar_12Holy crap. I actually agreed with something Harold Reynolds said on “MLB Tonight.”

Harold used to be one of the people that made ESPN watchable, both on “Baseball Tonight” and elsewhere on baseball broadcasts. Then he was the face of Little League Baseball coverage, blowing up the kids’ performances to gargantuan size, then he got fired for sexual harrassment.

Reynolds resurfaced on MLB Network after ESPN settled his lawsuit, but seemed to have the opinion that any information that didn’t directly relate to having played the game meant nothing. He was paired with polar opposite and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny on a new afternoon show, MLB Now, with Kenny very much a fan of stats and analytics and Reynolds basically saying those things don’t help much at all.

Analytics has become something of a divisive issue, with some sharing Reynolds’ disdain for them and saying that they cause people to ignore what’s right in front of them in on-the-field actions and evaluation and off-the-field work. This is often argued by those who simply don’t understand what analytics can provide, and so instead of trying to learn more about them they simply make fun of them because that’s what people do with things they don’t understand.

Needless to say, I believe analytics can be a very useful tool and most of baseball seems to be agreeing as teams create departments dedicated to trying to utilize this additional tool for player evaluation that will hopefully help bring home titles and help create dynasties.

Analytics isn’t really what this post is supposed to be about, but it is part of the larger point. I don’t listen to a lot of what Reynolds says, in part because he refuses to listen when analytics arise in discussions of the sport. But he said something Monday night in studio that I agreed with, though I’ll rephrase it slightly: MLB is trying to have the All-Star Game both ways, and it’s hurting the game and the sport.

Baseball’s midseason classic is an exhibition game, meant to be a reward for top performances of the first half of the season voted on by fans with selections made by players and coaches as well. Every team gets a representative, and managers try to play as many players as they can to give them a chance to experience the potentially once-in-a-lifetime event.

But ratings were dropping and interest seemed to be waning, so in an effort to bring gravitas and interest back to the game they made it count for home field advantage in the World Series for whichever league wins. In theory every player deserves to be there and should be a solid choice to come up in a key situation late in the game if need be, but by the same token Kansas City fans are trying to vote Royals second baseman Omar Infante into the game despite him being possibly the worst player at the position in the American League this year.

In addition, MLB is promoting the game and online voting for it with the Twitter hashtag #ASGWorthy, which is being used after players have particularly good individual games. Monday’s MLB Network mention with the hashtag went to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton after he went 2-for-4 and stole four bases. But Hamilton has no other numbers that make him worthy of an All-Star Game slot except for his universe-topping 40 steals, so again a contradiction arises.

If it’s an exhibition, then let the vote and first-half performances determine the roster and it shouldn’t count for anything. Guys have bonus clauses for making the game, and that’s logically tied to them doing big things on the field to earn such a selection. The top stars in the game should be able to draw fans, and if not then you need to figure out how to better market these players. But if it is going to count for something, let managers have more say in the rosters, let them manage it like a playoff game and give them the opportunity to put a guy like Hamilton on the bench to use as a pinch-runner late in a close game, or a Nelson Cruz to pinch-hit in a key spot.

While I still probably won’t agree with a large amount of what Reynolds has to say, the voice of Harold won’t be quite so grating for awhile and I’ll be listening to him a little more closely for awhile.


Definition please

Peter Capaldi as The 12th Doctor. (doctorwhotv.co.uk)

Peter Capaldi as The 12th Doctor. (doctorwhotv.co.uk)

So we’re now six episodes — almost halfway — into the eighth series of the Doctor Who reboot, the first with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.

When Matt Smith replaced David Tennant we were very concerned that he wouldn’t be up to the task of filling the shoes of maybe the most popular Doctor in the entire five-decade history of the series. But by the time he announced his departure he had carved his own niche and become in some ways a modern Tom Baker to Tennant’s Jon Pertwee, the fun-loving kick-ass goof to a doctor who had enjoyed moments of great humor but had proven himself a serious badass who could turn cold and deadly at a moment’s notice when the situation called for it.

We had strong hopes that Capaldi would be a worthy successor. He of course had history with the show after his appearance as a Roman father in “The Fires of Pompeii” appearing alongside Tennant, and is a lifelong fan of the show.

My wife and I have been enjoying the series so far despite our general dislike of Jenna Coleman as the companion Clara. But there is something that we’ve noticed, and it’s something that I feel could be preventing Capaldi from securing his spot in the Doctor pantheon.

It seemed producers knew there was an opportunity with the reboot to introduce a whole new generation of fans to the series, in part through the parents and other relatives who’d fallen in love with the series and its repeats.

It didn’t take long for the show to set the tone with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose, with Eccleston grabbing Piper’s hand as she’s about to be killed by the mannequins and whispers, “Run!” A few minutes later, as he’s pushing her out the door, he introduces himself and says with a grin, “Run for your life!”

In those brief encounters, and then throughout the remainder of the episode, Eccleston establishes his doctor’s persona — he can be funny, but doesn’t suffer fools and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

When he regenerated into the 10th Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion,” David Tennant spent much of the episode unconscious. But when he finally awakens, it’s just in time to save the day in an iconic scene that displays those common Doctor traits while also showing his unique blend of humor and boyish charm.

Matt Smith had some pretty big shoes to fill by the time he became the 11th Doctor in “The Eleventh Hour,” as Tennant became many newer fans’ — and even some older fans’ — favorite actor in the role. But with an early scene learning about his new taste buds (fish fingers and custard!), his choice of wardrobe and a final showdown with the Atraxi, his character was quickly defined and became beloved by many.

Now if you’ve been watching this new season of Doctor Who, tell me what his defining moment has been so far. Can you pinpoint it? I can’t. A recent discussion prompted the idea that it was his final meeting with the Half-Face Man, but we still don’t exactly know what happened to conclude that meeting — did he jump onto Big Ben’s spire, or was he pushed? There have been other moments in the series to date that have given more glimpses into his personality, his back story, but nothing that’s felt like a singular event that summed up his entire character.

But the more I think of it, maybe that’s the point of this new Doctor. The previews and promos leading into the series hinted that this Doctor would be darker and more mysterious, and I’d say that while we know more about him than when we started there’s still a long way to go. While with Tennant, Smith and even Eccleston to a lesser extent their personas were relatively well established early on. There may have been individual surprises, but the fundamentals didn’t change.

With Capaldi, those fundamentals are still in flux and undefined. It hasn’t affected the quality of the episodes, as I’ve found them entertaining, but I find it brings a vague sense of unease that runs under each. That only heightens the tension, even during lighter moments like during “Robot of Sherwood” and “The Caretaker.” However, that suspense of waiting for the defining moment has also kept any of the episodes from being truly great.

But I’m not going to fault Capaldi for that, and I’m certainly going to continue watching … and waiting.