TBS has offered baseball fans a mixed bag in its first stab at postseason coverage, and the series between the Cubs and Diamondbacks has been a perfect illustration.
While ex-pitcher Ron Darling has provided generally decent color commentary, especially on pitch sequences, he has been teamed with the crusty, dusty, halting Dick Stockton, who had the Cubs trading Michael Barrett for Jason Kendall (two completely different deals) and hasn't even bothered to check the proper pronunciation of Carlos Marmol's last name.
As Chicago fans well know, it's MAR-mohl, not Mar-MOHL. For this they slighted Skip Caray?
Right away, in the bottom of the first inning of Game 2 on Thursday, Stockton had the runners going on the pitch with a full count and two out -- except that there were only runners at the corners. Arizona's Chris Young wasn't going anywhere on third base until somebody hit something.
In the second, Stockton confused Ted Lilly with Derrek Lee on an Arizona bunt.
At that point, with WGN 720-AM delaying its feed to get in sync with TBS, I made the decision to go to the Cubs' partisan call with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo.
By contrast, listening to Steve Stone describe Josh Beckett's shutout Wednesday sent a baseball aficionado into raptures. It was the best doing the best, and Stone even drew attention to Boston catcher Jason Varitek as he sized up the batters and kept them honest from behind the plate.
As for play-by-play man Ted Robinson, he simply read the score, kept track of the count and otherwise got out of the way.
Yet that came after TBS had butchered Monday's wild-card playoff game in Colorado as badly as the Padres' outfielders did. The coverage was drab and routine, and not just in the bland play-by-play of Don Orsillo and Joe Simpson.
In what became a persistent technical problem over the week, the TBS camera crews had trouble framing the action, so that even replays -- such as the near home run and the final play at the plate that night -- failed to reveal just what exactly had happened.
And with its relentless promos, TBS put Frank Caliendo's 15 minutes of fame on fast-forward. For this Major League Baseball ditched ESPN? It was almost enough to wish for a return of Chris Berman and Joe Morgan. (Again, I said almost.) But it certainly left Cub fans pining for Len Kasper, Bob Brenly and the reliable WGN Channel 9 and Comcast SportsNet crews.
Yet Brenly was doing the New York-Cleveland series for TBS alongside Chip Caray. Too bad.