Without the benefit of replay, the World of Joe Buck, after his first cup o’ Joe, sometime early PDT on Oct. 21, 2009

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Joe Buck should not be confused with Joe Buck Yourself (above, and linked here), a “hellbilly punk rocker”/musician who has named himself as such because he’s now a solo act and seems to want to just piss everyone off.

Unlike Joe Buck, Fox baseball broadcaster, who simply seemed to somehow upset viewers by appearing on their TV sets next to Tim McCarver every fall by escaping his NFL beat for a few weeks just to get this baseball thing out of the way.

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If the temperature’s 72 degrees in Southern California, and it’s October, we hold our wet finger to the air and check to see which way the mild breeze is blowing — today it’s in Joe Buck’s favor.

Especially when compared to anything occuring in the life of the third generation offspring of Harry Caray over there on the cable net covering the Dodgers and Phillies, someone who can’t seem to put two cliches together with a missed call without getting shredded.

Some have a bad game. Others a bad series. Chip Caray is having a Bartman-esque postseason.

What the Buck.

Neil Best at New York’s Newsday (linked here) writes in a Tuesday column:

“Has Fox’s Joe Buck suddenly become a beloved, Scully-like figure? Where are the missives about his too-cool-for-school vibe, or his alleged bias against one team or the other. … His scream-free, economy-of-words style turns off some on the NFL trail … It is a good fit for baseball, thought. … Buck has been in fine form during the ALCS, throwing in just enough humor to keep it fun, but not so much that it takes away from the seriousness.”

Will Leitch writes in New York Magazine’s website (linked here) that this ALCS is “The Salvation of Joe Buck.” Although, he didn’t write the headline. He just pointed out:

“Whatever your thoughts about Buck — we’ve always liked him, but we understand why tons of people were never able to get past the Randy Moss ‘despicable act’ incident — he knows how to call a baseball game. It’s not an easy job, as Chip Caray is showing every night. Reasonable competitence, at this point, is enough to make us stand and cheer.”

Damning, with more faint praise.

Buck isn’t going to faint over it. He didn’t know about the stories until I mentioned it to him this morning.

“I’m in a no-Google zone,” said Buck. “I tell my kids: Here are the rules about the Internet: Always know who you’re talking to, and don’t Google dad’s name.”

When I invaded the Fox broadcast booth hours before Tuesday’s first-pitch at Angel Stadium, the things I wanted to run past Buck were a lot different from what we put off to talk about on this morning.

Such as (and please, make the effort to link on the jump):

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AP/Jae C. Hong
Angels catcher Mike Napoli tags the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, left and Jorge Posada during the fifth inning Tuesday. Posada was called out and Cano remained on third as a fielder’s choice.

Q: After three questionable calls made by the umpires during last night’s ALCS Game 3, why isn’t there a way to help the umpires do their jobs with TV replay?

A: A month ago, I’d have never said that, but I’m starting to lean that way. For me, it’s chaning by the day. For all the obvious reasons. The technology now is so good. When the all the world can see a blatantly missed call .. sure happened before in baseball history, but we didn’t have the high-def looks we have now.

Baseball could really be on the cutting edge here. It could have someone in a booth at the game, watch a play (like last night), buzz an official, he looks at it, changes the call, we move on. As opposed to we gotta leave it with the guys on field, and now the crew chief has to go to a monitor to look at replays, and then make a call.
If you streamline it on boundary calls, no balls and strikes, go beyond the fair or foul calls, someone calls a time out. It’s not a grand proceedure. No one wants that.

But if you get the calls right, the umpires have to be for it as well. Tim McClelland doesn’t want to get it wrong. The last thing he wants is to watch replays all day of what he missed. If you can eliminate all that, everyone’s happier in the end.

The bottom line has to be the effort to get it right. The umpires are trying to get into the right positions and make the best call possible. If they can have someone check their work, especially this time of year, maybe it’ll make everyone more relaxed.

Q: Did you hear the fan reaction in the stadium after the replays were shown on the TV monitors in the concourse? It’s not as if they’re putting this up on the scoreboard video. Everyone in the park has access to the replays.

A: I’d never heard that reaction before. I’m watching it on the monitor, and I heard the groans, and I’m thinking, ‘Did they show it on the board?’ It was very odd.

Q: Do you buy the argument that if an official scorekeeper can check replay to determine a hit or error in the offical recordbooks, why can’t an ump check at TV monitor?

A: The difference is (the scorekeeper) can come back the next day and change a call if there’s enough pressure from the team or player, or he’s seen enough replays and the world says it’s a hit. In the course of a game, that call has to be made quickly. I know Bud Selig’s worry, and it’s valid — the game is long enough. But I don’t know why it has to take forever. It only took us eight seconds last night to show that replay in a double box that technically showed beyond a shadow of a touch that the wrong call was made.

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AP/Chris Carlson
Angels left fielder Juan Rivera pauses during a pitching change Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday.

Q: Does TV cross a line, or head on a slippery slope, by affecting a game’s outcome with its technology?

A: We’re already totally involved in the NFL. We have enough cameras on site. It’s not cost effective for MLB to have their own set of cameras. I mean we’re all pretty good at it — Fox, TBS, ESPN — in giving as many looks as we can. Timewise, it’s the quickest way to do it.

But I’m watching ESPN this morning, and they’re using all our (Fox) shots on the stories about the blown calls. If we can get a double box up on the screen from (producer) Bill Webb and (director) Pete Machesca within seconds that shows (Yankees runner) Nick Swisher did not leave third base too early on a tag-up, and we haven’t even gone to a commercial break, it proves we can get this turned around quickly.

Q: The technology, from where you’re sitting, is fast enough to make this work?

A: It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than what it was. The whole world can see things, and so much is riding in on it. And we live in a world where everything’s gotta be perfect now. I’m watching the YES network the other day, Game 6 of the 1977 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees, and there’s a close play at third. They (ABC, the network covering it) shows an ambiguous replay of it, the announcers say, ‘Yes, it’s close,’ and they move on.

They didn’t have nine replays from all different angles. The way we look at a game has changed so much. And the way we critique it has changed. It’s intense from top to bottom, no matter how pressure packed. It’s really evolved in a short time.

Q: Is evolved really the best word to describe it? Some say the “human factor” is what makes baseball so different from other sports, in that it doesn’t use replay but relies on human error, in many instances, to determine a winner.

A: I believe that’s true as well, but as for the human factor, we can’t get away with that anymore. With the technology the way it is now compared to 1978, where it was one dark replay, one look, inconclusive, let’s move on. I’m a fan now in 2009, waiting for another angle. But that wasn’t even thought of. It was just, let’s move on …

Now, the umpires are a story today. In years past, it’s not even talked about. But it’s its own block of dominos that fall. That’s not good for baseball. This is really an opportunity — and I never thought about until now — for baseball to leapfrog football and do something quickly. Have someone there so see a play, no different than an umpire on the field, who can overturn a call and they go forward. You can’t just ignore it. We shouldn’t be talking about this. We should be talking about two league championship series where teams have a 3-1 lead.

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV

A moment from Fox’s Game 4 broadcast:

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Top of the fifth, Alex Rodriguez is facing new Angels reliever Jason Bulger.
Buck: “You can get in trouble as an announcer, a fan, or even a teammate, reading body language. …”

Bulger is in his stretch …

“But if you read the body language of Alex Rodriguez … that is an extremely confident hitter who seems …”

Bulger delivers the pitch …

“to be picking up the ball really well….”

Rodriguez swings …

“as he hits one to left … Rodriguez goes deep… And it’s 5-0 New York. … And a playoff renaissance continues for Alex Rodriguez.”

Compare that to the call made on the Yankees’ radio broadcast (thanks to a replay on today’s Dan Patrick Show):

John Sterling: “Here’s the 0-1 … swung on there it goes to deep left … that ball is HIGH and it’s FAR and its GONE! Heeess done it AGAIN! Alexander Emanual Rodriguez rips a bullet into deep left … An A-Bomb, from A-Rod! A two-run blast and the Yankees take a 5-0 lead… ”
Susie Waldman: “That was the easiest swing you’ve avva seen…”

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV

Q: Now, for the recent praising of your work. If you’re not checking reviews for criticism, do you check for reviews today about something like what happened in the fifth inning last night — talking about how to read Alex Rodriguez’s relaxed body language, as he’s delivering a home-run swing?

A: Today’s no different than other days. I won’t go online today. I’m sure I’ll find a line in someone’s story that says, ‘As opposed to the past where he ….’, then I’ll fixate on that.

I mean, we’re all fragile, and anyone who says criticism doesn’t bother them is lying. I saw it with my dad (Hall of Famer Jack Buck). No one is immune to it. I know this: As opposed to my dad’s career, it’s a different world with instant response and blogs and Twitter and all that goes on. You can let that eat you up.

I avoid most of it if I can. That moment (with A-Rod on Tuesday) is pure luck. My dad would always say when there were two on and no one out, ‘The Cardinals need a triple play.’ And three times in 40 years, he looks like a genius.

Q: Where do you go to get immediate feedback that’s useful to you?

A: It’s a group. First, Tim (McCarver) and I talk about things during a commercial, whether something was fair or ‘How can I clean that up.’ I do, if I come across a complaint or crticusm, it does sink in. I have learned things over the years and bettered myself by listening to critics.

I don’t know what’s always fair. Really, some of it is in the category of opinion more than facts. But some things are said, whether it’s, ‘Hey, back down the humor…’ I don’t think I felt I crammed it in, but I’m more reverant to what I’m doing now than earlier. Maybe I was trying to set myself apart by trying to be as entertaining as informative. There’s time for all that. We’re live five hours a game. There’s time to deviate and change it up. Then there are guys like (the New York Post’s Phil) Mushnick, where sometimes I’m scared to see what he wrote. But whoever it is, you read it and it bugs you, and it’s no different than criticism from your mom or wife.

At first you fight it, then you go, ‘OK, I can kinda see that.’ What I do isn’t always perfect. But it’s live TV, a gut reaction and as raw as it gets. I’ll be a big boy and learn from it. But as for things on the Internet, that can just get nasty and it doesn’t have much weight.”

Q: And how do you move on from criticism that eats at you?

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A: You plow on. I’ve been there. There’s no one I respected more than my father. And in 1991 (for a call he made in the Braves-Twins Game 4 of the World Series for CBS, calling Mark Lemke out, then safe, on the game-winning run) he was piled on and it was tough being his son then.

It’s hard to put your head down and start measuring all your words and do things you don’t typically do. Baseball is a game that’s relaxed and that takes all the relaxation out of it. We’ve all been there and when you’re doing a game on national TV every night you’ll have a faction where someone is sharpening their knives, and that’s the way it goes. I’ve lived it. It’s the nature of the beast.

There’ll always be that friend of yours, too, who’ll say, ‘I don’t know if you saw this, but this guy hammered you (in the media).’ I go, ‘OK, what’s the real motive?’ That stuff comes and goes and evaporates if you don’t come across it. But the hardest thing about criticism — and I swear to this is the case — it’s not so much my opinion of being criticized, but the embarrassment you feel around your friends and co-workers who feel bad for you. They’re all wondering if you’re upset.

It was like the whole Artie Lang thing (with Buck’s HBO show a few months ago). Everyone weighed in on that. Then he’s got his friends talking about it. It’s a weird cyclone.

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