Steve Berthiaume: The Interview, Part Two

Continuing our chat from part one, I asked Steve about his style of broadcast, and how he sees the D-backs in 2013.

AZSP: I read another interview where you said you wanted to use more statistics, and it's something that seemed to crop up in the first telecast, of the Mexico game. Is that something you're keen to do?
Steve:
You can overdo the numbers - after a while, it's just a parade of numbers, and god forbid, you don't want that, because it'd dry, clinical and frankly a little bit boring. But this is where we are now, and I think that people need to realize that WHIP is important, that batting average on balls in play has a place in the broadcast booth. What I'm really hoping we do, is that we take a leadership position on this. I want us to use WHIP and BABIP, and I think it has to be every day. It can't be, "Okay, today we're going to do this special thing and talk about BABIP," and then it goes away for the rest of the year. It's got to be very small doses I think, just like ERA, RBI, home-runs, but consistently, every day, until it becomes part of the fabric of the broadcast.

People will learn very quickly, if you provide context, and I think that's really the key. People need to know that a BABIP beloe .300 is "good" and above .300 is "bad" for the pitcher. That's what we're shooting for, and we'll see how much progress we make. I hope we take a leadership position on it. I want us to do Twitter handles with guys, because that's the way fans relate to players these days. This is 2013 and if you're not ahead, you're behind. This is the reality. Some team, some broadcast booth somewhere is going to take a leadership position on this, and I would love for it to be us, and I think we can do.

AZSP: So in your role as a broadcaster, do you think the most important think is to educate, entertain or inform?
Steve:
Yes. All of them. You have to be very careful not to talk down to anybody, because nobody like to be talked down to. I'm not here to show how smart I am or how funny I am, that's annoying. You can, with Bob's help, shed a light on what's happening. "Instruct" is a little too hearty a word, but I think you can say, "Hey, look for this" or "This might happen here." The idea is to get the viewer so engaged in what's happening on the field, that he begins thinking that way. So if Bob says, they have a situation here where they might hit and run or, like we say in the game against Mexico, they've been very aggressive on the base-paths, I wouldn't be surprised to see an inside move, and Mexico could run into an out. Then, bang, it happened on the next pitch. That's the goal.

If we can pull that off once a game, we'd be fantastic. If you can get the fan engaged, with what's happening on the field or on the screen, then you're winning, you're doing it right. If you're doing your comedy routine, or jamming numbers down people's throats, you're doing it wrong. I hope to do the first, and I think we can.

AZSP: What if we get to September, the Diamondbacks are twenty games out...
Steve:
Oh, they won't be!

AZSP: How do you handle those kind of games?
Steve: The same way. You know why? That's the beauty of our game: there's always something fascinating happening on the field. I think that's where numbers can get in the way too. I had this conversation with Tim Kurkjian all the time, and Tim would say, "Too many people are not watching the games," and I really believe that's true. We're so focused on the numbers - and what the numbers mean, more importantly, because everyone has a different interpretation - that we're not watching the games any more. Watch the game. There's fascinating stories happening on the field, every inning of every game, there really are. It could be 20-0 on a Thursday in September and they're 25 games out. Something interesting will be happening on the field, and for me, that's priority #1 - and, in fact, the only priority. It's about the game. It's not about jokes, one-liners, catch-phrases or the numbers. It's about that, and if you're focused on anything other than what's happening there, you're doing it wrong.

AZSP: Sounds like you think the Diamondbacks will be contenders this year.
Steve
: Oh, without question. I see this as an 88-90 gane division, and this is a team that can win 88-90 games. I don't buy the Dodgers at all, not even a little bit - I don't think those pieces will go together. As we've seen so many times in baseball - Red Sox, Marlins - you can write all the checks you want, you can get all the pieces you want. But it's all about how those pieces go together, it's about the fit. If they don't fit, it doesn't matter who you have. You can put together an All-Star team, we've seen it a dozen times. Hanley Ramirez can't play shortstop - sorry, he just can't do it - so they're going to have to move him over to third. Then, what are you going to do with Cruz? Are you going to play Dee Gordon at short? There's a lot of holes in that line-up. Greinke's got an elbow now, Crawford's hurt againm and I see a big drop-off in their rotation after those top two guys.

"If you're doing your comedy routine, or jamming numbers down people's throats, you're doing it wrong."


There's not a drop-off in [the Diamondbacks'] rotation. There may not be a Kershaw or a Cain or a Sabathia here, but they can go 5-7 guys deep, and that's how many you need to win now, I think. They have a consistent rotation, and the bullpen here, to me, is a real weapon. They have four closers, and what team wouldn't want that? There's tremendous depth, they've added the lefties which was an issue last year. They have big-time experience on the bench: I think Eric Chavez was fantastic acquisition, a really good signing - and he's thrilled to be here, what a tremendous guy he is. If he can do even a little bit of what he did last season with the Tankees, it's going to make an enormous impact.

I know I sound like I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, but I see a team that's going to score runs in different ways, it's going to pitch very well, it's going to have key, big-league at-bats late in games, and key guys who can get you big outs late in games. I see a team that can win 88-90 games and, for me, that's enough to win the NL West.

AZSP: Seens you're a fan of the team, so how much of that do you bring into the broadcast? Obviously, you're talking to fans, but is there a threat of becoming too "homerish"?
Steve
: You have to watch for it. I mean,. I personally love Hawk Harrelson, I just get a kick out of him, he's the guy you either love or you hate. It's not going to be a situation where the opposing team hits a home-run, and there's dead air for 20 seconds, which happens with the Hawk! But that's okay, that's his thing - I like it as a fan, I get a kick out of it, but I understand why some people don't like it at all. I take the position that we're all in this together. I am a fan, doing a game, and I'm broadcasting to fans. We're all Diamondback fans, we all want to see the team do well. I'm not supposed to be Edward R. Murrow, those days are dead: It's silly, it's passé, that whole notion that you have to be objective. I'm an employee of the Arizona Diamondbacks, so let's put that away for good right there. But I'm a fan, broadcasting to other fans: we all want to see the same thing happen.

I have to watch it, and keep it in check, but that's what we are right now, as a model for baseball broadcasting, with all these RSN's [regional sports networks]. That's the way things work, and I think that's okay. Every team, every broadcaster will pump up the volume, some a little more than others, on the fandom, and we'll see where mine is. I don't know where it is right now, I can't tell you. I'll try to keep it in check, but if Paul Goldschmidt hits 40 home-runs, I'm going to be pretty enthusiastic about it! And I think that's okay.

AZSP: Going back to the Diamondbacks, it seems a lot of the acquisitions this winter were based, to some extent, on 'character'. You were talking about getting the pieces to fit.
Steve
: The "grit" narrative! Which I just hate. I think it's so senseless and lazy and poorly-researched.

AZSP: There has been criticism of that from the sabermetric community.
Steve
: Why? Since when does the sabermetric community value potential so much? Look at the numbers. I did it. The last three years, the last four years, Prado and Upton they're neck and neck. I'll give you the extra 15-20 homers, and I'll take the 100+ fewer strikeouts. Other than that, the numbers are almost identical to me. I looked at it - they're very close. That, I didn't get. Justin Upton is a really good player. I think he'll do better in Atlanta than he did here because of - and again, it goes back to this, it's critical - the fit. He's going to do well, he's going to have a good year. But he's not Willie Mays, calm down.

Yes, he has the potential to be a great player, but you can also subscribe to the theory that he has already had his best year. I don't know if that's true or not, but I can see that as a possibility, and it's a reasonable point of discussion. So, do you want to sit and wait for Justin Upton's potential to come through, or not come through, or do you want Martin Prado, whom you absolutely know what you're going to get? You're not getting three years of Martin Prado and giving up ten years of Justin Upton. It's basically three for three. For me, I'll take Martin Prado's next three or four years versus Upton's next three years.

AZSP: How would you characterize the current Diamondbacks clubhouse?
Steve
: They're pro's pros. The way that they go about their business, the way they're engaged in their process - and that, for me, is key. Because whether you're working in an accounting office or a football team or wherever, you're engaged in your day-to-day process, or you're not, you're going through the motions. I'm here just about every day, and two weeks before pitchers and catchers were even due to report, Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt are working in the cage at eight in the morning, hitting off a tee, every morning. That's what I see. I see Martin Prado: he has a presence about him, the way he commands respect in the clubhouse, and that stuff matters. It matters a tremendous amount.

Javier Lopez and Brandon McCarthy said the exact same thing when I moderated a player panel at the SABR conference. That matters. We're constantly told by sabermetricians and analytics people, if you can't measure it, you can't value it. That I just don't get. How can people who are so smart, be so clueless about something like that. It's so important, and I see that here, wall-to-wall: the way that they're engaged in their process, the professionalism. Everybody knows, "I don't have to worry about that guy, because he's solid, he's going to do his work, he's going to be prepared and when you need him to do his job, he's going to be ready." Now, I wasn't here last year, so I don't know if you could say that...

[To be continied, on Sunday, when we ask Steve gives us his picks for the teams he thinks will see playoff action this year, and we also address The Most Important Question Of All...]


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