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In Praise of Rental Trucks and (Very Briefly) John Sterling

I listen to a lot of baseball radio. I subscribe to the radio package, and I almost never listen to the Yankees' duo because I find them excruciating (Their only rivals are the Indians' broadcasters; yes, I'd rather listen to Hawk Harrelson than John Sterling. Interestingly, I find Suzyn Waldman less annoying because she, at least, corrects Sterling's horrific play calling, for instance yesterday, when he declared Swisher's ground rule double "Caught! Oh what a play!").

Yesterday, while Duggan may mistakenly believe that I forgot the recap, I was driving a Uhaul out of New Jersey (this... is the happiest day... of my life) and down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Now the radio antenna on my car sucks. I bought the car when I was teaching in Catfish Hunter's home town in the desolation between the Outer Banks and Raleigh. There was no radio to pick up out there, and so I didn't notice the difference between my old and new car. But when I moved up to Jersey, I noticed. I could no longer pick up 880 most of the way to Syracuse on holiday trips through the old stomping grounds, and southbound, I'd lose the signal before I was off the turnpike.

So imagine my great joy yesterday, when I listened to 880 all the way down the turnpike, through Delaware, and only finally lost it as I turned toward the Chesapeake bay. Hooray rental trucks! Somebody check with SBN to see if Uhaul wants to buy some ad space.

And now, in praise of John Sterling.

I do not like Mr. Sterling. I don't appreciate the clownish way he calls a baseball game, reducing nuance to catch phrases and reducing the wondrously improbable to "well, you just can't predict baseball." I don't appreciate his cavernous silence when the organization or a player deserves criticism. I don't appreciate that an entire generation of Yankee fans may have grown up thinking his brand of "broadcasting" is acceptable (though, in fairness, the Sports Center hyper-excited fan-journalism is as much to blame as Mr. Sterling for the dearth of sports writing in the world.

But as I was driving yesterday, I noticed Sterling doing something: he cited hits per inning, as he's always done, but then he cited BB/9 and K:BB. He rounded them off, which is fine in conversation. But I can remember during 2009 listening to him talk to who ever the fifth inning guest was, and laughing off WHIP as a "new fangled stat that doesn't really tell you anything about the game." Yet, Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched, WHIP, or if you prefer baserunners per inning, was exactly what Mr. Sterling was doing.

It is not easy to embrace a new way of looking at things. It took multiple conversations to convince my father that WHIP was better than ERA, and that Pythag record (team Runs Scored in relation to Runs Allowed) is an effective way to gauge which team has been lucky. But he, like John Sterling, came around eventually.

So hooray for John Sterling, for growing. It may be less than I would hope for, but we can change only as much as we dare.