With all due respect to Jerry Remy and the traumatic circumstances of his absence from the broadcast booth, Dennis Eckersley deserves some notice as a baseball color man. I’ve always liked the Eck as a pitcher, but even more for his insights into the play-by-play.
As ruthless as he was as a pitcher, Eckersley is brilliant and compassionate as a commentator. He particularly knows pitching and pitchers, but he observes and comments with restraint, letting his judgment fall lightly on the players.
Tuesday night he mentioned the laid-back performance of Felix Dubront, contrasting it with the intensity Jake Peavy had shown on Sunday. He commented almost with admiration of Dubront, but soon the lefty was falling behind hitters and faced a bases-loaded, no-outs predicament. “He looks almost too relaxed,” Eckersley suggested.
Fortunately Dubront summoned his powers and escaped with only two runs scored following a ground out and a fly out. He took control of the game and pitched masterfully.
Yet it wasn’t the first time Dubront had walked his way into trouble. The pattern of pitching from behind in the count has bedeviled him for most of the year. He seems to blunder into the doldrums during most of his outings.
Eckersley brings deep knowledge of the game with a light touch. Sometimes insight into the game can breed contempt or frustration, when players aren’t performing up to their abilities, but Eckersley has the patience, as well as the insight, of a manager. He asks questions and wonders if mistakes could have consequences later in the game. I appreciate this kind of commentary, which invites me to participate in the analysis, rather than racheting up anxiety about the game.
When you consider what a no-nonsense pitcher Dennis Eckersley was, it surprises you how restrained he can be in the broadcast booth. There’s something about that tension between what he was as a pitcher and what he is as a commentator that makes him a pleasure to listen to.
I appreciate the Eck coming out of the bullpen, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the starting rotation of broadcasting again.