ESPN Baseball Tonight is back in San Francisco. This time for the Giants vs Indians game this Sunday night, June 26, 2011. I had a chance to talk with Wendi Nix, who will be hosting this weekend along with Barry Larkin and John Kruk. The crew will be live at AT&T Park Sunday, starting from 9:30-10:00 (pacific time) with news and notes around the league and then for the full hour show from 4:00-5:00pm before the game kicks off. Fans are always outside AT&T Park pre-game and last time, there seemed to be a good crowd gathering by their stage for a chance to get on camera and show the nation how proud we are of the Giants. So if you have Sunday afternoon free, get out to the ballpark and keep showing them how great we Giants fans are.
A lot like her colleague Karl Ravech, Wendi was extremely nice and was generous enough to fit some baseball talk into her busy schedule on Thursday afternoon. She started off the conversation the right way by telling me that AT&T Park is one of her favorite parks and that the Opening Day game between the Giants and Dodgers was one of her favorite games of the season they have covered. While she dodged a question about her favorite Giants player, she gladly answered some other questions that I threw her way.
How is being on the road this season different?
It has given baseball an immediacy and presence with fans and at ballparks the way college football has. An obvious example of that is College Gameday. I think it’s been great. It’s been great for us, hopefullly it’s been great for the fans….We’re having a lot of fun. It’s been fun to compare the atmostpheres and fans from different ballparks. It’s been tremendous everywhere we’ve been. But it is funny, every park, every group, has its distinct personality, so that’s been fun to watch.
Favorite part of being on the road?
I think the favorite part is just connecting with the game and connecting with players. It’s one thing to sit behind a desk, and we’re in Connecticut and there’s teams across the country, but there is really no subtitute for talking to managers, being there, hearing what they have to say, getting their perspective on where their team is and what direction they’re headed. I like that. I really like that. I think it’s a great way to stay in touch with what you’re doing and to really stay present.
Who do you have for the World Series this year?
I think we’ll be re-shaping our predictions as we get to the All-Star break. I think the Phillies still look good with that pitching staff. They’re doing it with pitching. They need to score some runs but they are and if they stay healthy and get healthy, I think Philadephia has got as good a shot as anybody.
And of course the Red Sox. I say, of course because it seems so obvious to me because they’re having double digit games and annihilating teams right now. After such a dismal start, and you think, what in the world? This can’t be, and it turns out, it really can’t be. I only say them because it does seem so obvious, but they will be very, very difficult to beat.
What’s your biggest surprise or shock from the season?
I think we’re seeing a lot of parity. There are certain teams who would have a difficult time making up ground at this point, but we’re seeing a lot of divisions with three teams two and three games apart. You’re seeing a lot of teams hang around in divisions from one coast to the other so I think the fact that there are a lot of teams that seem to be within striking range, almost like your sort of see in football the way the NFL has managed to create parity. I think we’re seeing some of that this season and some would argue that’s because there’s no “great” teams, but with the emergence of the Red Sox, that’s kind of hard to argue. Regardless of why, you’re seeing some tight divisional races, which is certainly good for the game, especially as we get toward the latter part of the summer.
All-Star Game: AL or NL?
I’m going to say American League. They have a pretty good track record.
You’re a football person too, so football or baseball?
You know, I’m not trying to sit the fence but they’re different. They’re apples and oranges. I like different things about both sports. College football was kind of my first love. That’s what I grew up with since my dad was a football coach, so I have a different affinity for it. But I really love the tactical nature of baseball. I love what it stands for and the ballparks. I think the venues are fantastic and I really like going to these ballparks. That’s a lot of fun.
Do you have a favorite Giants player?
I’m definitely going to sit the fence on this one. I don’t. It’s so funny how I watch baseball differently and I can say that sincerely because I’m watching in a totally different way having to be responsible for keeping tabs on all 30 teams. It’s fun to see webgems or pitchers make outstanding defensive plays and I’m watching these overall highlights. I had to learn to watch the game in a different way than when I was covering one specific team where you get really connected with those players and know everyone’s tendencies. It’s sort of an immaculate picture, but it’s fun too.
Do you see any big moves coming from Sabean?
My understanding from talking to people is that the Giants have been active with phone calls, as many teams are right now. You will see over the next five weeks before the trade deadline of who is available, what are we looking for, and I think the Giants will do something. If it’s a decision about a huge, blockbuster move, I’m not so sure about that, but I certainly think they’ll try and get some help as we move closer to July 31st.
Any chance the Giants (or anyone else) can get Jose Reyes from the Mets?
That’s a big one. That is a blockbuster move and he is having a blockbuster season. I understand the financial contrainsts they (Mets) are up against and that they will have to cut payroll. I think holding on to Jose Reyes should be a priority for the Mets, whether it is or not. I think he’ll stay put…but you never know.
What are you expecting and looking forward to in this weekend’s series against the Indians?
I’m looking forward to seeing both teams. The Indians are being curious because they’re the reverse of the Red Sox. The had a tremendous start and a young team. You would think anyway, they’re on the upswing and we all wondered how long will this continue. They of course hit some rocky ground. But then they swept the Pirates and stablized a little bit, but I think this is a good test. It’s a good test for the Indians certainly, and for the Giants, at home, a chance to make some noise and pick up some ground in the division. Fausto Carmona is really struggling. My question is how he will perform and can the Giants bat find a way to hit this Indians pitching, and in this case, against a guy who’s really struggling of late. If they can, if they can find some kind of rhythm and use that momentum, certain will be powering experience.