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RandBall Q&A: ESPN broadcaster and baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball Updated: September 30, 2010 - 12:23 PM

We had the good fortune to chat earlier today with Joe Morgan, who broadcasts baseball games for ESPN and has a consulting role with the Cincinnati Reds -- the team for which he spent the best seasons of a Hall of Fame career. Some of the questions and answers will be held back for a piece in the paper next week, but plenty will be left on the cutting room floor. Here, then are a couple of Internet-only outtakes that are perhaps of interest to this specific audience:

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RandBall: Anyone in the broadcast spotlight has his or her share of detractors. I know there was even a web site, for a while, called FireJoeMorgan.com. Do you pay attention to such things, and how do you handle criticism?

Joe Morgan: You make a great point. Nobody is perfect for every listener. You’re going to have people who like you and who don’t like you. I think, as the whole thing goes along, that I’m true to what I believe. I broadcast the game the way I see it. There are going to be some people who like me and those who don’t. I did a Yankees-Boston series a few years ago, and the Yankees fans said I was pulling for Boston and the Boston fans said I was pulling for the Yankees. To me, that meant I was doing my job. … I don’t think anybody who has been in this business as long as I have doesn’t have critics, but I don’t think anybody in this business this long doesn’t have any support. I’m very open to constructive criticism in a broadcast booth or any other situation I’m in. Nobody is right 100 percent of the time. I would rather have constructive criticism, obviously. But I don’t really read a lot (of the criticism), if that’s what you’re saying. I think I’ve always been a guy who wanted to get better. I won two Emmy Awards, but that doesn’t make me perfect. I won two MVP awards, but it didn’t make me perfect.

RB: Speaking of those MVP awards, I was looking back at your career. Your walk-to-strikeout ration and your on base percentage stuck out. Listening to your broadcasts, I know you don’t care a lot for some of the modern statistical measures we have now. But you were a player the sabermetric people might have loved. Do you find any irony in that?

JM: First of all, the things I’ve always felt were important are still important. Some of the esoteric stuff is not. On base percentage has always been important. You know, guys getting on base. The thing that bothered me, the Billy Beane thing [Moneyball], was like he invented on base percentage. They said don’t steal bases because if you get thrown out you take an out away from your team. But it’s OK to stay at first base and have a hitter hit into a double play. They said that’s part of the game. That bothered me about that kind of statistic. And for someone to act like they invented on base percentage when I’d been talking about it on TV for 20 years, yeah that bothered me. One guy tried to act like I don’t care about numbers, which is false. I just care about certain numbers more than others.

We’re having a big discussion about Cy Young Award now. People are saying (Felix) Hernandez should win. I’m not saying he shouldn’t. But how are you going to judge what he would have done if he was on the Yankees. It’s tougher to pitch for the Yankees and win or the Twins than it is Seattle. All individual awards are team awards. My MVP awards were won because my team helped me. … I think the problem I have, though, with some statistics is we start to individualize the players. I don’t want that. It’s still a team game. ... When you start to individualize things like that, it takes away the team concept from the game. It’s like a pitcher who goes out and pitches five innings every game and doesn’t give up anything. Is he better than the guy who pitches nine innings and loses one every once in a while? The guy who pitches nine innings helps the bullpen. The guy who pitches nine innings makes it easier on the manager for the next few games. There are so many things that are involved other than just throwing a number on something. If people think I’m not for that, then they’re right. Because I still think it’s a team game.
 

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