San Francisco Giants fans should know that ESPN’s Baseball Tonight will be in town for Sunday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. Host Karl Ravech will be joined by John Kruk, Barry Larkin, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser. They’ll be outside the ballpark by the Willie Mays statue for their 12:30pm show (9:30am Pacific Time), 7:00pm show (4:00pm Pacific Time) as well as after the game. So Giants fans…get out to the ballpark, be seen live in ESPN, cheer on the Giants, talk with hosts of Baseball Tonight, and show them why San Francisco has the best baseball fans on the planet.
I had an opportunity this week to talk with Karl Ravech and I have to say, he was an incredibly nice guy. It’s not that I expected otherwise by any means, but he’s definitely the kind of guy you could sit down with, have a beer and talk baseball for hours. Of course, given that he’s been the host of Baseball Tonight for 17 years, many of us probably already feel like we’ve done just that—except probably not in person.
We chatted on the phone while he was driving to New York on his day off for a Yankees vs. Red Sox match up. Even if your job is full-time baseball, I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day. Unfortunately, if you watched Thursday’s game, you know there was a couple hour rain delay. Fortunately for him though, the Red Sox eventually won and swept the Yankees.
He was gracious enough to let me throw a few questions his way about baseball, the Giants and the match up with the Reds.
This is the first season you all have been on the road regularly, is that correct?
That is absolutely, 100% correct….It’s been an interesting, eye-opening, exciting, challenging, tiring, wonderful experience.
What’s been different about this season from other seasons?
I think the fact that when you’re there you get to sense the enthusiasm. The people here can yell at you, they get to encourage you, discourage you, voice their own opinions. I feel like being in the studio is kind of like being in a hospital room. You really don’t understand what’s going on because you can’t hear anything. Once you get out there with all the fans it’s a phenomenal environment where everyone is fired up. I think the biggest take away I’ve noticed is that the crowd going in is very different from the crowd coming out. You give baseball fans 3 hours to sit, watch a game, eat and drink, and they’re very different 3 hours later.
How has technology changed the game of baseball and your job?
Clearly my job has been affected by technology, this year more than ever, through social networking, Twitter, and Facebook. 17 years ago those things weren’t a thought. The idea that you have access to fans’ immediate response to things that you do or say, they have a pipeline to you. It’s sort of an extension of being at the ballpark. If they don’t agree with something you said, or I throw a question out there…they respond right away. It’s just another way to measure just what it is they’re thinking about or how smart or stupid we might be at any given moment.
From a standpoint of baseball games, clearly camera angles, instant replay, audio and access are all things that make the experience better. Personally, I think that people who watch baseball games don’t really watch them the way they used to. I don’t think people sit still for 3 hours at home anymore (watching the game).
Have there been any big surprises for you this season?
I think we were all kind of surprised by the way the Red Sox started and by the way the Indians started, but rather than walk the plank, or if you’re a Red Sox fan, jump in the ocean, or celebrate an Indian World Series, you realize this is a long season. All of a sudden here we are in middle of the season and for the most part, teams that we all thought were going to be good, are good, and the teams we thought would struggle, are struggling a little bit. I imagine they’ll (Red Sox) win their division by 8-10 games. I think the fact that the Giants are in 1st place isn’t a huge surprise. I think the Rockies are going to be there with them. I don’t want to say it’s all predictable, because it’s not. I don’t think anybody predicted San Francisco’s World Series last year.
What are your thought about Buster Posey’s injury?
My thoughts are that it’s terrible he got hurt. Everyone acknowledges that it’s part of the game and I think if it were done again and he didn’t get hurt, or made the out and walked away, I don’t think anyone would say, “well, that was a cheap play by Cousins,” it’s just part of the game. The fact that he got hurt raises everybody’s antenna a little bit higher….I think there is a tendency to overreact to it all. I understand what Brian (Sabean) was doing with his reaction. He’s sticking up for his kid. I understand that passionate reaction. In the end, I don’t anticipate much being done. I think that’s really a personal thing and if managers or general managers want to instruct their catchers not to block the plate, and they kind of publicly let the team know, “we’re not going to have our catcher block home plate because we don’t want to lose them for the rest of the year and get them hurt,” that’s fine. If everybody does the same thing, then it won’t be a problem.
What do you think about Ryan Vogelsong?
My impression of Ryan and other people like him is that he’s a tremendous story. His ability to pitch again in the majors and succeed is outstanding, but I think we tend to discredit major leaguers way too quickly. There is a reason that Ryan, and everyone else is at this level is here. They were once good enough to pitch here and perform here, and he certainly has that. So while many people are like, “this is kind of a surprise,” Ryan Vogelsong is a good pitcher. Anyone who can play in the majors is a really good player. I think they need it. These are the types of things that help when you’re trying to get into the playoffs. You need players who have some of those next step seasons and I hope for Ryan this is one of them.
Do you foresee any big moves by Brian Sabean before the trade deadline?
At lot of people thought at some point that they were going to be able to finagle (Jose) Reyes, but the way Jose has been playing it would be almost impossible for the Mets to allow that to happen.
Sabean is not one of those huge player type people. The fact that he’s lost Posey for the rest of the year may force the issue…. With Posey, the Giants are a World Series team. Now without him, they can keep playing…and maybe continue to be a World Series team, but it will be harder. That’s why it will be hard for Brian to sit back and do nothing. But if he’s not going to make that huge, big financial splash, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
What are you expecting from the Giants vs. Reds match up and looking forward to?
I think we have two playoff caliber teams. I don’t think there is any doubt about it. Cincinnati is finding themselves in a bit of a quandary because Milwaukee is playing so much better now and St. Louis, you know when you asked about a surprise, the fact that they’ve been able to win as many games as they have, that’s about as big as surprise as there is in baseball. I think for Cincinnati they’re realizing that every game is going to count here. In San Francisco’s case, you always look forward to being in that city and seeing those players. I wish that Lincecum were pitching Sunday. I think he’s Must-See-TV on the mound. These are two really good teams. It gets us out of the Northeast and takes us away from the Red Sox and Yankees. For anyone who says we never travel to the West Coast, I’m just as excited about the Reds/Giants as any other games we have.
Remember Giants fans, Karl and the rest of the crew of Baseball Tonight will be out in front of AT&T Park Sunday at 9:30am, 4:00pm and after the game, so head out to the park and show some SF Giants love live on ESPN for the final game of the Giants/Reds series. I’ll be around too, in section 121, Row 36. Come say hello!