Have I ever told you about the time I slept through a Shaquille O’Neal college game I was supposed to cover? I’m pretty sure I’ve told that story before. But I’ll go ahead and tell it again briefly to get the point across. When I was a columnist in Augusta, Ga. — this had to be 1992, I suppose — LSU came to play at South Carolina, and I was going to Columbia to write about Shaq. Well, early that morning I went fishing with the Chronicle’s outdoors writer Bill Babb. I did this for a column. I don’t fish. I’m not opposed to fishing, but I just don’t do it. To my best recollection, I’ve been fishing three times in my life, all for columns.
So I was up at some absurd hour, 3:30 in the morning or something, so I could go fishing and write about how I didn’t catch anything. I made it back to my apartment by late morning and thought, “OK, I’ll take a little nap here, be up by 2, head over to Columbia, it will be great.” I set the alarm for 2. I did not realize that I had set it for 2 AM rather than 2 PM.
I did not realize it until 8:30 or so that evening when I actually woke up.
That was one horrendous feeling. I bring this up because last week, I did the Poscast with CBS’ Jim Nantz. I’ve known Jim for a long time, going back to those days in Augusta. He’s a great guy, and I also think he’s a terrific broadcaster. It’s hard for sports broadcasters to be loved these days the way Jim McKay was loved. We just live in a different time. I think Jim tries to broadcast games like the heroes of his childhood. I think that comes across.
In any case, Jim was great on all sorts of topics. He did the thing on his cell phone, and so I told my producer/wife* that before I gave her the recording.
*Or wife/producer … not sure, which title gets first billing in such references.
And then we have this conversation:
Margo: “Um, there’s a problem with the Poscast.”
Me: “What happened?”
Margo: “Jim’s voice is not picking up.”
Me: “Yeah, I was worried about that. He was on a cell phone. But he sounded OK to me …”
Margo: “No, I mean, his voice is not picking up at all. You didn’t record him.”
Ah. I didn’t record him. Well, that’s a horse of a different color!* And then I did one of those ridiculous Hollywood double takes and said, “Wait, WHAT?” And it’s true. I’m a technological idiot, of course. I had completely messed up the wiring on the Poscast. I mean there was no other way to say it. And I felt like I had overslept for Shaq** all over again.
*I tweeted this the other day: “I’m so confused by all this Paul Revere stuff going around. I thought Paul Revere was the horse who can do if the weather’s clear.” I would say my favorite part of the new media is that it gives you an opportunity to make obscure Guys and Dolls jokes.
**Oversleeping For Shaq — that could work as a band name. Kind of in the Death Cab For Cutie mold.
Two wonderful things came out of my moment of horror. The first is that Jim Nantz, being the great guy that he is, agreed to do the Poscast again. In fact, we just finished recording that. It will be up later in the week, and I have to say that I like this version even better. In it we get a bit into Jim’s family, what drives him as a broadcaster and a brilliant sportsmanship scenario that he came up with and talked to NFL coaches about. More on that a bit later on.
The second great thing is that my dear friend Michael Schur — though he is now gearing up for Season 4 of the wonderful Parks and Recreation — swooped in for an emergency Poscast. We had our third EMD (“Entirely Meaningless Draft,”), an event we will have to patent. This one might be my favorite of the three. In the first, we drafted baseball books. In the second, we drafted athletes we would want to have over for dinner (Mike went off the board for Luke Scott, sending Mel Kiper Jr. into a flying rage).
Our third draft is: “Obsolete Things We Miss.” I don’t want to give anything away, but we do get into talk about baseball cards. And bullpen cars.
We also talk about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are now one game out of first place but were in first place at recording time. Here’s the one thing you can say about the Diamondbacks: If you ever find yourself wondering about any semi-recognizable baseball player you have not thought about in at least a year, go to the Diamondbacks page at Baseball Reference.
Melvin Mora? Yep, there he is.
Xavier Nady? Hey, lookie there.
Sean Burroughs? What happened to that guy? Oh, he’s on the Diamondbacks too.
Willie Bloomquist? Check.
Armando Galarraga? Wow, he’s on this team too?
Zach Duke? Aaron Heilman? Russell Branyan? Yes … Yes … Yes well, no, not anymore.
And then there’s the amazing J.J. Putz. He is one of my favorite players, and not only because of his name. He didn’t get to the big leagues until he was 26, and he didn’t win his first game until he was 28. Then at 29, he was suddenly great, unhittable even. He had never been a strikeout pitcher — not in the minors, not in his early big league years — and all of a sudden he struck out 104 in 78 innings. Apparently, Eddie Guardado had taught him the splitter. In 2007, at age 30, the guy had an absurd season. He had a .698 WHIP.
I’m going to repeat that because WHIP numbers might not register easily the way a .400 on-base percentage or .600 slugging percentage does. He had a .698 WHIP. That is absurd. It’s historic. For pitchers who have thrown at least 70 innings, it’s the fourth lowest WHIP of all time behind only Dennis Eckersley in 1990, Mariano Rivera in 2008 and Eric Gagne in 2003. It’s an obscenely great year.
The very next year? His WHIP was 1.597. He was traded to the Mets, he was let go and signed by the White Sox, where he had a good year. And now he’s in Arizona, and he’s dominant again at 34. Love the Putz.
In any case, we discuss the Diamondbacks — if you consider Mike and I trying to name as many Diamondbacks as we can without looking a “discussion.” We also ask if Albert Pujols is back, discuss the intimidation of Rafa Nadal and I try to get him to say “A tradition unlike any other,” so that he can truly fill in for Jim Nantz.