By Jim Baker
Special to Page 2

According to an informal poll I conducted recently, the three most desirable jobs for men ages 18 to 54 are:

• Fried food taste tester
• Exotic dancer coach
• Sportscaster

If you are one of the lucky few who has one of these jobs, chances are you would do everything in your power to hold onto that position. If you were a fried food taste tester, you wouldn't blow your gig by showing up to work already too full to eat. If you were an exotic dancer coach, you wouldn't screw up a good thing by going all Alvin Ailey on the routines you're teaching your protégés. And, if you were a sportscaster, you wouldn't go jeopardizing your job by saying anything too controversial.

Keith Hernandez
Tom Gannam/AP Photo
At least Keith Hernandez keeps things interesting, right? And he was on "Seinfeld"!

But a few baseball announcers are bolder than that. People such as Keith Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley. The former does color commentary for the Mets, while the latter sometimes does the postgame studio show for Red Sox games on NESN.

Personally, I find them refreshing. If the price we pay for this different approach to commentary is the occasional misguided remark -- such as Hernandez's recent comment about women not belonging in the dugout -- then so be it. What good is living in First Amendment Land if everybody is going to watch everything they say as if their words are a nuclear stockpile located next to a playground? I'm not blaming announcers who protect their jobs. If I were blessed with such a position, I would do anything and everything to keep it, up to and including singing "Happy Birthday" to the owner on the air. What I am saying is this: Good for Keith Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley for seeming to not give a damn about all that.

I am not going to try to defend Hernandez on a qualitative level. Apart from his gloves-off approach, I think he's entertaining and informative in spite of his occasional forays into unscripted hell, but that's just me and that's probably beside the point. Long ago, I gave up trying to build consensus on baseball announcers. In fact, one of the last bastions of true controversy in sports is who is and who isn't a good broadcaster. It's much easier to convince somebody about the merits of players or managers than it is to do so for the men behind the microphone. Booth guys with ravenous followings invariably have legions of detractors, as well. Why is this? It's the subjectivity, of course, and the fact that personality plays such a large part in their appeal or lack thereof. Players can let their achievements speak for themselves, whereas mike men have so much riding on how listeners and viewers perceive them as people.

If only we had more baseball announcers like them…

Ten Things I'd Most Like to Hear An Announcer Say

• You know, you people can shut this off if you want to. Me? I have to sit here and watch this team night after night after night.

• No, I'm serious: They shouldn't feed him. With an ERA like that, you don't deserve food.

• Look at his terrible mechanics. I'm going to track down his Little League coach and take a monkey wrench to the soft part of his skull.

• From the sounds coming out of his hotel room last night, I'm amazed the guy can stand upright, let alone swing a bat.

• Oh crap, not this guy…

• Would you look at that? He's scratching so much it's making my crotch itch.

• He has a 7.81 ERA coming into tonight. He's not what you'd call focused. He thinks pitch selection is a setting on his amplifier.

• Let's face it, I got this job only because I hit .340 the year we lucked into the pennant. I never paid attention when I was playing, and I am barely paying attention now. You'd do better to turn the sound off.

• Some players are nice guys, and it's hard to criticize them because of that, but not so in this case. He sucks and he's a jerk…

• I just figured something out. I didn't survive that car crash five years ago. I actually died, and watching this team 162 times a year is my personal hell.

10 Things Announcers Say When They're Wishing They Could Say Something Else

They say: A lot of people criticize his fielding, but we see him every day and see how hard he works, and he really has gotten a lot better.
They wish they could say: The fat bastard couldn't get out of his own way, and if his OPS didn't drop by 200 points when he DHs, that's where he would be.

They say: It's only a matter of time before it all jells for this club.
They wish they could say: Under no scenario, up to and including getting relegated to the Texas League, could this team ever finish over .500.

They say: I really like the way he gave himself up on that play and hit one behind the runner. Sure, he made an out, but it was a productive one.
They wish they could say: A weak grounder to second is the best we could hope for from this banjo hitter. An RBI single would have been a lot nicer.

They say: The skipper gave him the day off yesterday.
They wish they could say: He was so hungover you could have spiked a sorority mixer punch bowl with his blood.

They say: Man, is he ever fast. You can't teach speed.
They wish they could say: Actually, you can't teach this guy anything. He has the IQ of a spit cup.

They say: Pretty good crowd for a weeknight in April.
They wish they could say: Each empty seat represents a person who was smart enough to stay away from this slice of baseball hell.

They say: He's a pretty good hitter for a pitcher.
They wish they could say: There are lepers who could out-rake this guy.

They say: No lead is safe in this ballpark.
They wish they could say: No lead is safe in any ballpark with our pitching staff.

They say: I'm surprised the skipper doesn't pull a double switch here.
They wish they could say: I'm not really surprised. He thinks double switch is something he and his wife do at the swingers club.

They say: He's a leader on and off the diamond.
They wish they could say: He started a cult. Seriously. They sacrifice goats and everything.




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