March 12, 2014

"Call The Count": A Horrible Idea

At the Red Sox spring training game yesterday, the public address man announced each pitch as either a ball or a strike, and then announced the updated count. After. Every. Pitch. Could the team have come up with a worse idea than "Call The Count"?

The Globe reported that team president Larry Lucchino first raised the idea more than a year ago.

Charles Steinberg, executive vice president of the Red Sox:
It's an idea that people have been debating about at Fenway Park for more than a year. We figured, instead of continuing to debate about it in the abstract, let's use our spring training testing ground to put it into practice. ... The premise of the idea is the count is so germane to the outcome of the at-bat, and there's a greater emphasis on that right now by fans than there used to be. The unintended benefit that we saw today is that in our iPhone world, where your eyes are focusing on e-mails and texts, hearing the pitch and the count keep you posted and maybe your eyes go back up to the game when you hear it's a full count. The worry we had going into it was whether an announcer would be intrusive into the ambiance that you like to have.
Anyone at the ball park who is curious about the count only has to look at one of several scoreboards around the park. Or, you know, simply pay attention to the game. Perhaps reading and sending emails and texts can wait until the half-inning is over. If not, then perhaps you don't really care all that deeply about the progress of the game.

John Lackey, who made his first appearance of the spring in the game, was not distracted by the additional noise, but added:
That's a bad idea.
John Farrell:
Certainly different in the atmosphere of the ballpark. Other than that, I really don't have any comment.
Torey Lovullo:
I'm very traditional and it was a little bit different from what we're used to.
Peter Abraham, Globe:
People can decide what they care about and if they care about the count, they can turn their heads an inch and look at the scoreboard. Games are too noisy as it is. We need fewer distractions at the ballpark, not more.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
It was fair to say that players, who did not want to speak publicly about it, did not consider the experiment a success.
The Red Sox should be cutting out distractions and unnecessary noise from games, not adding to the irritating cacophony. Stop the commercials between innings. Stop the excessive music (which, to cite only one example, has completely ruined the joy of watching batting practice). Pare the intrusions down to the absolutely essential. We come to the park to watch the game. Let us focus on the game.


allan said...

The poll at ESPNBoston is running at 92% as a "bad idea".

FenFan said...

I think it was Lackey who all cited the fact that it might frustrate a pitcher having a tough hearing "ball" repeated again and again.

Unknown said...

This is a stupid idea, but I kind of like that they're trying new things in spring training. If they do it once & learn, good on 'em.

allan said...

Some ideas you should know are dumb the second they first get voiced out loud. Let's hope this one dies a quiet death in Fort Myers.

laura k said...

I don't need this, and it's fine not to have it. However, you are saying that the count is a distraction??? I find this quite strange.

Distractions: advertising, games, loud music.

Not distractions: everything that is part of the game.

Therefore, the count is not a distraction.

laura k said...

And since when do you think that a poll at ESPN proves what's good for the game?

If you're wondering why I sound so negative, it's because I don't understand being so adamantly opposed to something that helps people focus on the game, and actually minimizes the time and space that's left for ads, music, and stupid games.

From the Vined Smithy said...

I don't like it either.

allan said...

Having every single pitch announced over the PA, with the revised count then announced after it. That's approximately 250-300 extra announcements made in a game. The electronic scoreboards have done a fine job of updating the count for decades and decades. Fans can look at it anytime they are curious.

Most polls are not so lop-sided. I thought it was interesting.

laura k said...

Yeah, I can see that. I agree it's not a good idea. I just can't put it in the same category as all the other hideous distractions. But maybe if I had to sit through a game with Call The Count, I'd agree with you completely.

FenFan said...

I don't understand being so adamantly opposed to something that helps people focus on the game

I agree that the count is more relative to the action on the field versus the advertising, the loud intro music, the dizzy bat races, etc.

I also believe that it would become a nuisance to spectators and to the players to hear the count announced every 20-30 seconds during the action.

I would equally be annoyed with announcements relative to what play just happened (single, double play, throw to first, infield fly, etc.).

I go to several games at Fenway Park every season, as most of you well know from my time on the boards, and there are so many people there who are oblivious to what is happening moment to moment. So much so that they would probably be oblivious to the pitch count being announced. If that is the target audience, then don't bother.

In theory, it sounds like a great idea but for the people who ARE paying attention, it would get old fast.

FenFan said...

if I had to sit through a game with Call The Count, I'd agree with you completely

As a fan, I certainly don't need someone to tell me what is happening right in front of me. So long as the scoreboard is updated real time, I'm golden.

... and I bet therein lies the reason that Allan likes watching the game on with only sounds of the ballpark (or whatever it is called) turned on. I wish that NESN provided the same option! :-)

laura k said...

FenFan, that makes total sense. Your comment also makes me realize why this idea doesn't seem overly stupid to me. My favourite way of watching a game (other than in person, of course) is with the TV on mute and the sound on the radio. That's what I used to do - back when Allan and I cheered for different teams - and what I still do when I watch a game without Allan.

I love baseball on the radio, and this Call The Count thing makes a game more like that.

9casey said...

Much Ado About Nothing. Spring training must be really boring. It amazes the stories that come out of there.

Iggy gone for most of the season.

johngoldfine said...

9casey says: "Spring training must be really boring."

It certainly was boring the WEEI announcers last night. They couldn't be bothered with pitch count, type pitch, infield/outfield positioning, players' springs, sidelights and commentary, etc. They talked about the Jimmy Fund, the Boston Marathon, their booth visitors, and a lot of other things, all fine things, but not why I was listening.

Following the game was impossible because the announcers weren't following or announcing it. If the announcers are bored, that is communicated to their listeners immediately and unmistakably.

hrstrat57 said...

Curious if any bloggers were at the 1903 replica game in Fenway recently with no PA and megaphone announcements?

Anyone witness that? Seemed pretty cool to me!

laura k said...

No PA!!! God I would have loved that.

FenFan said...

I attended the game at Fenway where the Sox simulated the "feel" of a early 20th century game for two or three innings. All electronics scoreboards went off and the PA announcements stopped. Batters and pitching changes were announced by men wearing period clothing yelling into oversized, non-electronic megaphones.

Unfortunately, the Sox did not employ enough of these people to where I could actually HEAR the announcements and my seats are in the grandstand on the third base side, relatively close to the dugout where the closest announcer stood.

Honestly, it wasn't that enjoyable and I welcomed the return of the modern conveniences.

I'm still of the opinion, like Laura, that sometimes it gets to be too much. Music is fine between innings at a reasonable level but once the action returns I just want to hear the batters announced and not much else.

laura k said...

I'm not of the opinion that it sometimes gets to be too much. I am of the opinion that it is always too much. There is no need for music between innings, at any volume, for any reason. And so on.

I'm not suggesting a return to megaphones. But I'd cut out everything that's not baseball.

laura k said...

I'm sure we've talked about this before here, but there was a broadcast some years back - I think it commemorated the first televised MLB game - where each inning showed the game as it was shown in a different decade. 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s.

Early on, there wasn't enough information, and the graphics were awful. Then it reached (for me) a good place where you had all the information you needed, but the game was still the most important part of the broadcast.

And as it continued from there, it got busier and more crowded and the game shrank in importance relative to the special effects and infographics.

There was one point where both Allan and I said, that's it, freeze it right there. I don't remember what year that represented, but it was several decades ago.

FenFan said...

That was a FOX broadcast about ten years ago or so, I believe that it was to commemorate an anniversary of the first television broadcast. I missed it but would have been interested to see the progression (and it would be interesting to compare where I "froze" the feel of the broadcast).