Over the past few days, we saw Bert Blyleven take a leave of absence. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly took his place in the broadcast booth, and I have to join the many fans among me in saying that TK left a good impression on us. Now, this is a pipe dream, but I want Kelly to continue doing color commentary.
The duo of Dick Bremer and Bert can be interesting at times, but I can’t help but feel like we get the same commentary every single game. It’s gotten to the point where a friend of mine started a Dick ‘n’ Bert drinking game, which may or may not have the potential to kill you. Granted, TK had the same ability with his constant use of “diamond cutter” (a batted ball that went up the middle and into center field, thus “cutting the baseball diamond in half”) and calling everyone by their first names given to them at birth (Richard Bremer, Anthony Pierzynski), but at least these nuances happened less frequently than Bert telling a pitcher to keep the ball down, mentioning a pitcher throws a “slider, almost like a little cutter,” and a hitter’s hack “tommy-hawked” the ball into the outfield.
With Kelly, you can tell that he was a former manager in the big leagues. In the Twins’ victory on Sunday, White Sox center fielder Alex Rios airmailed a couple throws past the cutoff man. TK pointed out how Rios missed the cutoff man, and also explained how Rios’ throwing mechanics (throwing nearly sidearm) causes the throw to tail off to the 3rd base side of home plate. Kelly even took note that kids could be watching the game, and he specifically pointed out that kids should know to hit the cutoff man when playing in the outfield.
Could Bert have done the same thing? Well, sure. But I get the feeling that Bert would have simply talked about the overthrows, said they were bad throws, and leave it at that. At least with TK, he saw a moment to coach kids watching the game at home.
Another instance came on the very last play of Sunday’s game. A ball was hit to Alexi Casilla, who attempted to start a double play with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Casilla’s throw was a little off-line, so Nishioka had to do a pirouette around 2nd base while catching the ball, and then threw to 1st base to complete the double play. Dick was immediately praising Nishioka for his athletic play fielding Casilla’s throw, but TK’s reaction was the polar opposite. Almost as fast as Dick celebrated the play, Kelly was criticizing Nishioka for not getting to 2nd base fast enough, which forced him to do the pirouette while catching Casilla’s throw.
Don’t get me wrong, it can definitely be a buzz kill if one of the commentators doesn’t show the appropriate emotion during an important moment in the game. However, I thought it was nice to see TK point out that Nishioka’s spin could have been avoided had he been at the bag in time for Casilla’s throw. Sometimes, commentators forget to point out things like that, such as when an outfielder takes a poor route to the ball, makes a diving catch, but is only remembered for the catch instead of looping around to the landing spot. It reminds me when I was in 11th grade and had a line drive hit to me in the outfield, and I had to make a sprawling catch because I couldn’t tell if the ball was going over my head or landing in front of me. After the inning, a teammate told me that our coach felt I made the play tougher than it should have been, and he was right. Likewise, that’s what Nishioka did with the double play turn.
I think TK’s time in the booth was summarized well by a retweet I read on Twitter after Sunday’s game: “I feel like I learned more about baseball in 5 days from Tom Kelly than in 5 years with Bert.” Below I’m going to compile some pros and cons about our short encounter with TK.
- Teaches the viewer about the game more than Bert
- Focuses on more than just pitchers, unlike Bert
- Calling people by their first name is endearing
- Fewer cliches (excluding “diamond cutter”)
- Mumbles when he speaks
- Unemotional at times
- When talking about the Twins, he often said “we” instead of “them” or “they”
- Calling the players by their first names on TV can be considered unprofessional
Just some short comments on my lists above. First, it may seem contradictory when I list the same thing (“level-headed” and “unemotional”) as both a pro and con, but that’s because I believe people would disagree on this topic. In college, I took a class on humor in society and one of our classes was spent listing what makes a joke funny or unfunny. After 10 minutes of discussion, our respective lists were nearly identical. For example, my friend Dan loves nonsensical jokes, but John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise listed several nonsensical jokes under the title, “Jokes That Have Never Produced Laughter.” Here, I feel that TK’s willingness to criticize a player for a play that would normally get praise is refreshing, whereas some fans would prefer for him to just go along with the Web Gem and talk about the player’s athleticism in making the play.
Second is TK calling everyone by their first name. When it comes from someone like the White Sox’s Hawk Harrelson, it causes my neck to twitch before I Billy Beane my TV across the room. Some people don’t like seeing the commentators acting like they’re buddies with the players. However, in Kelly’s case, he actually managed the Twins for 16 seasons and managed A.J. (or “Anthony”, which I bet he called A.J. back then as well) Pierzynski. Similarly, since he is still employed by the Twins as a special assistant to general manager Bill Smith, I don’t find it to be as big of a deal when he says something along the lines of, “We played a good series against the White Sox” or he called A.J. “Anthony.” As for calling Dick “Richard,” well, that was just humorous.
I really believe that if given the chance, TK could be a good color commentator. Not one of the best, but definitely one that us fans could enjoy listening to. Unfortunately, my lobbying may become moot as Joe Schmit of KSTP shared this tidbit on Twitter.
Called Tom Kelly to be on Sports Wrap Sunday. TK said he’s retired from broadcasting, which is too bad. We need more TK..he was great.
Oh well. TK, we had a lot of fun with you.