There’s No Shame in Passing the Torch

Yesterday, on a sunny afternoon in Baltimore, Maryland,  Alexi Amarista stepped to the plate. It was the top of the 7th inning and the Padres held a 5-2 lead.

After reaching on an error, Kyle Blanks stood at first base while the Orioles’ Tommy Hunter waited for the signals from his catcher. Hunter quickly got ahead of Amarista 0-1 and then delivered his second pitch of the at-bat. The little utility player opened up his hips and absolutely crushed a ball to deep left-center field.

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones scaled the fence, but to no avail, that ball was gone.

Picture 3

Or was it? Was this hit by Amarista a HR?

Alexi Amarista rounded the bases and to everyone watching at home the ball was clearly a home run but no official call came from the Padres booth. According to Fox Sports San Diego’s Dick Enberg the ball was not a home run until the umpire signaled it so.

Mr. Enberg claimed that the third base umpire still hadn’t given the signal that the ball was gone. I don’t know the veracity of Mr. Enberg’s claim, as Fox’s cameras were not fixed on the umpire, but instead on the little Amarista progressing through his home run trot.

Picture 6

Do you see that? Yes, it’s Alexi Amarista. Well done.

Do you know which base Alexi Amarista is approaching? Yes, third base. You know your geometry. Very well done.

At the moment pictured above, Dick Enberg finally told the viewers at home that this was a HR and that the Padres had extended their lead to 7-2 against the home team.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Every person at home knew this was a home run but the call was not made until the batter closed-in on third base. Third base.

Dick Enberg didn’t trust his eyes to make the call and that’s a huge problem for a man who is calling the play-by-play for a major league franchise.

People who excel in their area of expertise eventually regress. It is what we refer to simply as life and there’s no avoiding it. What I wouldn’t give to see Tony Gwynn perform his craft one more time but it’s an impossibility, as the physical tools are no longer there. This is the sad story for all of us involved in competition or who enjoy watching others compete at the highest of levels.

For those who would call a game on television or the radio father-time is much more kind. The abilities of a play-by-play man to process a game, to analyze it at the highest levels and describe it for the viewer or listener do not diminish at quite the same rate as the ball player. As the ball player enters the twilight of his career the play-by-play man is entering his prime and it is a prime that is sustainable as long as the senses remain sharp. But even the announcer’s time will come. We human beings, unfortunately, can’t remain as sharp as we once were.

Dick Enberg is 78 years old. With a career spanning decades, across an array of professional sports, Mr. Enberg is a wealth of knowledge, which he regularly imparts on his viewers. But sometimes that is not enough. A baseball park is a vast piece of real-estate and Dick Enberg’s senses are not as keen as they once were. The Amarista home run call is but one example in a long line of visual missteps by the hall of fame broadcaster. This (non) call was not an anomaly and this needs to be recognized by those at Fox Sports San Diego and the San Diego Padres.

Is there a place for Dick Enberg at FSSD? Perhaps. As Tom Krasovic pointed out last year, Enberg’s won plenty of awards for writing and producing so it is not inconceivable to think that Enberg remains employed by FSSD in another capacity. But it shouldn’t be in the booth. The time has come to pass the torch to someone younger, sharper, and in tune with today’s game. Resources like Andy Masur, who are underutilized by the Mighty 1090, should be scooped up and given a chance to take the FSSD telecast in a new direction. Whether the choice is someone like Masur, who knows the team well from his 7 years in San Diego, or it is a selection from outside of San Diego, it is a choice that must be made.

Dick Enberg has had an amazing career and there’s no shame in passing the torch to someone else so their career can begin.

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I discuss the merits of wearing a scarf, 7 days a week.

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  • http://twitter.com/kevintheoman Kevin Harris

    I believe Enberg is a Padres employee, not a FSSD employee. Anyways, my faults with Enberg are his actively rooting for the other team (which is immensely better than his first season, but still creeps up time to time) and his mispronunciation of player names (typically Spanish surnames). A great example is his love affair with Pablo Sandoval, who he praises non-stop, but can’t even properly say his last name.

    • http://twitter.com/WonkoSD Sean D

      Was about to say the same thing with regards to Enberg’s employment. He’s under contract by the Padres, not FSSD.

      • http://twitter.com/AvengingJM Avenging Jack Murphy

        What I gathered is that, while under contract with the Padres, FSSD does have a say in the matter. Ultimately, who is paying Dick Enberg doesn’t have any bearing on his skills in the booth.

  • http://twitter.com/HuttHuttnDaButt Pure charger

    Enberg makes Padres broadcasts unwatchable. He’s ancient and needs to retire.

  • http://twitter.com/Shamu35 Shamu35

    I think Enberg is fantastic and is working great with Mudcat, if imperfect, bringing a good demeanor and baseball focus to the telecasts. Love the voice and the sensibility. Lose the ‘hubba hubba’, but I for one hope we can keep the Professor around for another year or so.

    • shaynes41

      I agree, and have come around from the anti-Enberg side of things. Baseball has a tradition of radio and TV announcers getting a little off in their old age (see Jerry Coleman and Harry Caray). Part of the reason why Enberg doesn’t get the slack those other guys do is that he hasn’t been with the team as long, but that doesn’t bother me as much anymore.
      Besides, I’m sure part of the reason why Enberg was brought on board initially was to lend the broadcast some legitimacy so that we could get a nice new TV deal. It seems a little in-gratuitous to dump him after we did get it…

      • http://twitter.com/matthewverygood Matt A.

        TV deal would have happened regardless of any prestige brought by an announcer. People tune in for the team.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewverygood Matt A.

    Several things have always bugged me about this:

    1. Enberg was already regressing before the Padres hired him. On NFL broadcasts he was routinely making the same mistakes, calling players by their wrong names and not knowing if a play was a first down or not. He even referred to the Gaslamp District as the Gaslight District.

    2. He openly lobbied for the Padres job when somebody already had that gig: Marc Neely. He obviously knew his CBS NFL contract wouldn’t be renewed and wanted to spend his days in San Diego calling baseball games. No shame in that, just don’t publicly make those feelings known and force out a younger talent who has the position you want.

    3. He has not nearly been criticized enough for this by the local media. I had a short twitter convo with Jay Posner about it yesterday and he said the reasons for that are complicated. Possibly some pressure by the team? Who knows.

    • MAKEthatSQUISHYsound

      i was one of many, who actually liked Marc Neely. But once “DICK”, opened his smarmy hole, to say to the UT, how much he’d ‘love’ to be the play by play guy for the Padres, I knew Marc’s goose was cooked, when that shithead, Garfinkel pulled Enberg off the proverbial cross, to hire him..

      Enberg knew EXACTLY what he was doing…he knew Neely would be promptly fired…he knew Garfinkel would hire him, despite his “visual regressions”…and he knew he’d get the gig, bcuz he knew the Padres were desperate for ANY kind of positive publicity.

      to say Dick Enberg is shrewd, is like saying Stevie Wonder know a thing or two, about a lyric.

      i cant stand Enberg….there, i said it. i think he’s “nasty nice”, smarmy, shady, slow, unprofessional and goes wayyyyyyy overboard, with the whole “what makes a good patriot, if he isnt like Ted Williams?” shtick.

      if i had my druthers, we’d have Matty Vasgersian in the booth with Grant…Enberg would be fired…and Loretta would take over for Sweeney, bcuz Sweeney does a LOT of “talking, just to be talking”..which is to say, he’s NOT well spoken…he repeats himself to much…if Pomeranz asks him a question, Sweeney may or may not answer it, bcuz he cant clear his mind of the stuff that makes him sound childish and uninformed.

      AND IF HE SAYS, “….AND UNDERSTAND, TOO”, ONE MORE TIME, IM GOING DOWN TO PETCO PARK, TO CALL HIM OUT!!!!!!

      him, and Enberg, are hacks….

  • SingingFriar

    What’s amazing is that Enberg has actually gotten TONS better since when he first came on, so I don’t think his problems are entirely age/vision related. That said, he is not a good play by play guy. The problem is, aside from maybe Masur, there is no one currently in the FSSD fold that I would want to hear in the booth.

    On another note, it may be time for Mark Grant to go. I like him, he’s personable and has some good knowledge, but it’s worn out. I feel like I hear the same observances and clichés from him every single game.

  • http://twitter.com/lonndoggie Lonnie Brownell

    While there have been several terrible mis-calls that Enberg has made, some quite frustratingly so (“It’s a home run! No, he’s out”), I found this to be interesting given recent events: Umps who mess up HR calls. He might have been waiting to see (hoping, even?) that yet another case of Mad Umpire Disease had cropped up in the very game he was calling. It was easy to see it was gone, even for an old guy, if he’s got a monitor (which Dick had), but the umps, of course, didn’t.

    Oh my and hubba hubba!

    A better role for Enberg in the booth would be the color guy, not play-by-play.

    [Paid for by the Apologists for Enberg committee]

    • Axion

      he’s supposed to call the baseball game, not the ump show.

      • http://twitter.com/lonndoggie Lonnie Brownell

        Ump show is part of the game, of course. Lately, too much of the game. And Dick is not constrained by the conventions of calling merely “the game”.

  • SDPads1

    I just keep thinking of Zombie Dick in Spring Training where he was bleeding profusely from his head and an usher came over to ask if he was OK.

    Overheard: “There’s this new pitcher called Yu Danish. He’s supposed to be really good!”

  • VM David

    You’re too old to rock! No more rockin’ for you!

  • http://www.padrespublic.com/padres-trail PadresTrail

    The Andy Masur shout-out is well deserved. He is a good guy and a great announcer. It’s a shame the Padres have chosen to limit him to radio periodically.

  • GoldenBoy

    I’m a fan of Dick and Mud in the booth, and I especially don’t ever want Mark Grant to leave. We should be careful what we wish for. I don’t trust Fox Sports’ decision making when it comes to choosing announcers (see: Mike Pomeranz’ recent snnoze-fest in the booth). I’ve found many of the other FS announcers around the league to be monotonous, sleep-inducing and not very well researched.

  • FreakSammy

    Hiring Enberg, near the end of what used to be a brilliant career, is like bringing in an aging former superstar to your team. It’s kind of nice to see him in your uniform, but the reality is far less forgiving.

  • Axion

    I’m just tired. So, so tired. http://i.imgur.com/97qPa.jpg

  • ballybunion

    The Padres should have picked up one of Vin Scully’s pubic hairs from the stadium urinal 30 years ago and cloned him.