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Expecting More From ESPN

August 8, 2010

Typically I enjoy the work that ESPN does on the various shows that the network produces on a daily basis. However, every once in awhile they do something that just simply annoys me because I can’t understand why they are doing it. Last night there was another one of these examples. And it’s such an idiotic mistake on their part that it’s borderline inexcusable.

Toronto Blue Jays rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia had a remarkable Major League debut. He went 4-5 with a pair of HRs. He became the first player since 1900 to have four hits and two homers in his debut. He is just the fifth player in ML history to hit two homers in his debut and the first since 1999. His mom was in attendance to see it all.

But ESPN scripted the highlights of his accomplishments in a manner that was incorrect. They essentially over-embellished Arencibia’s accomplishments. And it was blatantly obvious that they were doing so as I was watching the highlights considering I could see the count in the score/inning graphic in the corner of my screen. The line of the night was “he had four hits in his first four swings”. Linda Cohn even went through the at-bats one at a time with a graphic in the corner of the screen continuing to grow with the words “First Swing of MLB Career: HR, Second Swing of MLB Career: Double” and so on.

My problem with all of this: Arencibia did not hit the first pitch in each of his at-bats.

If you look at the play-by-play portion of the Baseball-Reference.com box score for last night’s game, there is a feature which shows the pitch and count of the at-bat when the final result (hit or out) is created. So let’s take a look at each of Arencibia’s at-bats.

  • In the bottom of the second inning, Arencibia came to the plate with one runner on and no outs. He did hit the first pitch of the at-bat over the left field wall for a 2-run home run.
  • In the bottom of the third inning, Arencibia came to the plate with nobody on and one out. He hit a 1-0 pitch (so the 2nd of the at-bat) down the right field line for a double.
  • In the bottom of the fifth inning, Arencibia came to the plate with nobody on and one out. He hit a 2-1 pitch (the 4th of the at-bat) into left field for a single.
  • In the bottom of the sixth inning, Arencibia came to the plate with nobody on and one out. He hit the first pitch of the at-bat over the right field wall for a sole home run.
  • In the bottom of the seventh inning, Arencibia came to the plate with one runner on and two outs. He hit the 6th pitch of the at-bat foul where it was caught by the opposing team’s right fielder for the final out of the inning.

So we can see that while yes, he did hit the pair of home runs on the first pitch of the at-bat, he certainly did not get all four hits on just four swings. So why does ESPN set things up on the 11:00 PM Sportscenter as though he did? Why does the midnight edition of Baseball Tonight follow the same path? Why does the Sunday 10:00 AM Sportscenter use the same script and same graphic?

I’m a huge advocate for ESPN and I think that in general the network does a remarkable job covering sports and the personalities within. Yet sometimes moments like this – that may seem completely trivial to most – will shock, annoy, and confuse me. Maybe my expectations are simply higher than most. Maybe it’s just my attention to detail that allows me to even notice something that most would not. But if something such as this can be missed by what seems to be multiple editors, then maybe it’s time I send ESPN my resume for the job.

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