Thanks to their slow start and their mostly under-.500 existence, the White Sox have been absent from national broadcasts.
That changes today -- mostly because the Sox are closing out their series with the first-place New York Yankees, but they'll still be on today's MLB on TBS broadcast at 1 p.m. Central nevertheless, and it's available to viewers in the Chicago market.
In anticipation of the game, I talked to TBS MLB game analyst Ron Darling. Our conversation took place in the final hour before the trade deadline on Friday, and while we talked about the White Sox, I also used the opportunity to ask some things I'd been wondering about from way back.
On following trade rumors
"It's definitely a lot of noise. I think if you're a fan of the game, I think you definitely are hinging on every word or tweet or whatever that goes on because it changes so rapidly. What I try to do, because I'm a broadcaster, is that I wait until the dust has cleared and then I put some real thought into it.
"If I follow it so closely, I'm like, 'OK, [Aroldis] Chapman is going to Arizona -- no he's not going, he's going to someone else.' It just skews your thoughts. So I want to see the dust clear, where everyone has gone, then I go over all the depth charts of all these teams and see who's really gotten better."
"It is a fun thing, and today's GMs pull the trigger a little quicker than the conservative guys of my days, so it's nice to watch."
On Wilmer Flores crying on the field
"I was not in the booth, but I watched the entire game. It was some 24 hours for the New York Mets...
"It was so funereal. It was a very strange thing to watch in real time with a human being attached, as opposed to Twitter, which is nothing attached. All of a sudden, there is a human being on TV who was affected by it. As a former player, I felt very uneasy seeing such a young man go through that. Maybe because I'm older and I have children that are even older than Wilmer Flores is, I just really wanted to reach through the TV and give him a hug."
"I think the Mets fans showed much aplomb, didn't they? In rooting for him, and saying that this is going to be his last at-bat, let's make sure he knows that we really cared for his efforts. Anyone who knows Wilmer Flores, you know him as one of the sweetest kids. If you wanted a son, you'd want him like Wilmer Flores."
On keeping track of teams wholly unrelated to the Mets
"The only cramming I'll do is if they make some moves today or some late kind of things, but I honestly follow every team every single day in what I do.
"I tend to follow the White Sox more for two reasons. One, of all the teams this past season in the winter meetings, you could say that San Diego, Atlanta and the White Sox did more than any other team. I've always watched them because of that, because I like teams that make a lot of moves and seeing if they work or don't work.
And second, I'm a huge fan of Robin Ventura and I always want to see his teams do well. I know they got off to such a bad start ... and [after a 16-10 July] it's very indicative of where baseball is now. You kinda hover around that .500 mark, then you put down a big June or big July or big August and you'll be playing some meaningful September games."
"I'm happy for his team that they're back in the wild card race ... I'm happy for them, because they've got two top-line starters. Chris Sale I could watch pitch every day. I know he struggled (Thursday), but I could watch him pitch every day. He reminds me a lot of Randy Johnson. Every time they take the mound, you think it's going to be 10 or more K's and maybe a no-hitter. And then [Jeff] Samardzija, he's really come on.
"They're an interesting team. I think if they can get some parts [before the deadline], they're a team would scare you a little bit in the postseason. They've got a couple real good bats, they've got some scrappy players, and they have those two big guys at the top of the rotation."
(And after I pointed out Jose Quintana...)
"I shouldn't have left Quintana out. I've watched him pitch live I think two or three times, and every time he's not disappointing. He's a very accomplished pitcher, he knows exactly what he wants to do out there."
About the blackout game
(Context: Darling was an analyst for TBS during Game 163 between the White Sox and Twins in 2008.)
"That [atmosphere] was one of the best, up there with Pittsburgh. They did kind of a blackout there too in Pittsburgh, where Johnny Cueto dropped the ball on the mound and the next pitch, Russell Martin hit a two-run home run."
"I remember I did the game with Dick Stockton and Harold Reynolds. I remember the fans on the South Side with their all-black, it was one of the greatest atmospheres I've ever been in.
"This is a good story for your fans: We do two segments to open a postseason game. The first segment is about whatever, the second segment is about whatever. The first segment we did, we could barely get out loud-enough words because the fans were just delirious, going crazy.
"The second segment, we decided not to do -- which I've never done, before or after that game -- because the crowd noise was so good, and the shots of the fans in all black were too good, that our second segment, we just had the director take pictures of the fans.
"That's never happened before or after in any postseason game I've done, and that says a lot about Chicago White Sox fans. They were hungry and delirious that night, and I remember getting goosebumps, and I don't really get goosebumps that often anymore because I'm old and gray, but they gave me goosebumps that night."
On slo-motion cameras
(Context: Back in 2013, the White Sox played the Mets in a game Hector Santiago started. I wrote a post about Santiago's changeup using Darling's analysis and footage from SNY's slo-motion cameras, which made me really want them in White Sox broadcasts.)
"I'm lucky enough in my broadcasts here in New York, maybe it's because of the market, we have the slo-mo cameras so I get to do it all of the time.
"I think that it's impossible to really analyze pitchers unless you have that slo-motion camera because it shows a lot of things -- arm action, arm slot, grips. But it also shows in slo-motion what really happens to the baseball, the physics of the baseball, of how they get the rotation going in such a way that it's affected by natural gravity and by getting those seams going in a certain way. You can get a ball to go left, to go right, to go up, to go down.
"To me, that's what's great about watching pitching. At some point, these young men are so talented with their fingers and finger pressure and grips, that they can do things to a baseball that no one else can do, and at a level that is 85 to 95 miles per hour. That's what makes them great -- not only can they throw hard, but they can also make the ball move just with the simplest of things.
"Repeating it is what makes a minor league pitcher versus a major league pitcher. A major league pitcher can repeat that over and over. The great ones repeat it every single time."
On 'K Zones' during broadcasts
"This is probably not going to help me with my crew -- I honestly don't use them at all. I think that the K Zone is a really good thing for some fans, especially fans who don't watch a lot of baseball, so they can try to see how consistent an umpire is. But when you get to a certain level, I can tell a strike as soon as it leaves a pitcher's hand.
"I just try to concentrate on catcher, placement, framing, pitcher's release point, all of those things I can see. Sometimes I know it's a strike and our K Zone says it's not a strike, and I don't even want to look at that because I know it's a strike. I've seen it since I was 20 years old..."
"That being said, I totally understand why it's important to a lot of folks, but I -- this is my feeling, not TV's feeling -- my feeling is that it gets in the way of the beauty of the game. The game is the hitter, the pitcher, the grass, the dirt, the umpire. I like less stuff on the TV and just the hitter, pitcher and catcher, but those days may be gone."
"I'm really excited about [framing developments]. Watching catchers who are thinking defense first and helping their pitcher get strikes -- for a former pitcher, that's always great. I love those guys who can do it and do it at a high level.
"You have to remember, for most people, they wouldn't be able to catch these guys, that's how hard they throw. But their ability, with the 95-mph fastball, to turn their thumb a quarter of an inch to get them a strike is one of the most amazing qualities these great catchers have. The ones that are the best at it are so much fun to watch. It's one of the joys of the game, to watch catchers at this level not only block balls in the dirt, but save strikes for their pitchers. It's such a valuable quality and can be a game-changer."
"That's the great thing about baseball is that it's over 162 games. I always say, you want to really see a player and see how talented he is to his team? Watch him for a year. When you watch him for a year, you see all these little subtle, simple qualities that some players have that other players don't have, that over the course of 162 games means W's. If they mean W's, then that guy's going to play."