It was something of a coincidence the other day when, not long after I’d heard for the first time in years a refrain from Terry Cashman’s sentimental “(Play-by-Play) I Saw It on the Radio,” a friend asked me what I think of Aaron Goldsmith so far.
Goldsmith, as many Seattle Mariners followers know, is this season’s key add-on to the team’s broadcast corps. The new guy is putting in his initial time as a Major League behind-the-mike man having, in the vernacular, been brought up from Triple-A after calling the action for fans of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Much has been said since the Goldsmith hire about his being a mere 29 when the announcement was made in January. Lost in the discussion was that his partner in the radio booth, Rick Rizzs, was precisely the same age when he started in Seattle in 1983.
What struck me almost immediately upon hearing Goldsmith narrate some preseason games is that he obviously believes in the advantage of telling listeners precisely what the field action and other visual details look like. In this way, he seems to believe in the romantic impossibility of the Cashman lyric. Listeners definitely benefit from his deliberate effort to let them “see it on the radio.”
Beyond that, there’s little reason so far to suppose that there weren’t hundreds of other available sports announcers who could’ve done as well or better than Goldsmith (five of his recent PawSox broadcasting predecessors ascended to big-league booth jobs). The work, possibly too monotonous for many, requires knowing the flow of a game and being aware at all times what’s going on and what may happen next. It also means trying to find new ways to say a guy just popped one up to left field or avoid braying about a .180 “hitter” breaking out of an 0-for-18 skein.
Unfortunately, that’s about all it requires. What is absent from a lot of local-sports broadcasting is more scrutiny of team officials and players. This is made difficult given that broadcasters are beholden to the sports organizations for which they perform. Even those hired for their analytical expertise (Mike Blowers, Bill Krueger, eg.) are reluctant to come down on local players and other team personnel.
Fans are only too aware of this. Consequently, many are savvy about the understanding that announcing-booth boosters — those in Seattle, anyway — would never be so bold as to suggest that, for example, Dustin Ackley may have been a bad ack-quisition or that you don’t fix a significant nickname on a player until he proves that he’s earned it.
To the latter point: Anybody but me wondering what TV-side M’s guy Dave Sims is saying to himself in light of the demotion to Tacoma of Tom Wilhelmsen? The latter is now the former as closer. He’s a pitcher Sims prematurely (and annoyingly) anointed as “The Bartender,” arriving to serve at “last-call” time.
As for Goldsmith, his affable manner, perhaps fashioned (as many have done) from that of the mythic Vin Scully, ought to have a fine career. What some of us would like even more than a pleasant bedside-radio manner would be a willingness to criticize a team that has amassed just two winning seasons since 2003.
Would that any in this market ever live to “see” such scrutiny on the radio or, for that matter, hear it on TV.
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