10/24/11 11:53 PM ET
Network analysts take turn being 'Legends'
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Well, that's how Sam Houston, Jim Bowie and Nolan Ryan saw it, anyway.
It was the final "Legends" mascot race of 2011 at a Rangers home game, continuing a tradition in the middle of the sixth inning. MLB Network studio analysts and former Major Leaguers did the honors this time, with Kevin Millar (as Crockett) winning, followed by Harold Reynolds (Houston), Sean Casey (Bowie) and Mitch Williams (Ryan).
Millar, star of the weekday afternoon Network show "Intentional Talk," does not equate this with winning the World Series in 2004. But that team billed itself as "Idiots," and he kind of felt the same way here.
Williams said to Millar: "When the Commissioner calls and said you stepped on the foul line ..."
Reynolds: "Kevin cheated, man. That's what it came down to. He takes off running, you can't catch him when he gets that big a lead."
Casey: "It was fun, but he broke all the rules. Walked on the chalk line, and cheated, like 30 yards ahead. We're trying to have a good race ..."
Williams: "Me and Case decided early that we were going to knock him and Harold down, and we decided to go ahead and play it fair. And he cheats."
Casey: "Right. We should have knocked him down. We should have clotheslined him."
But Millar was having none of the controversy. He, with the help of an assistant, shook off his towering Crockett garb, reveling in the glory of copping the final honor.
"The bottom line is, you've got to understand, you play the game to win. If they thought they couldn't see, I couldn't see, either. So I had no idea when we were starting. It wasn't like from starting line to finish. We just went out of the gates, we were waving, and next thing you know, 'He gone!'"
Marc Caiafa, a coordinating producer of remote production at Network, coordinated the race with Chuck Morgan, senior vice president of ballpark entertainment for the Rangers.
At first the former players thought it was a great idea: Show up in the holding room next to the Cardinals' clubhouse in the fourth inning. Get suited up by Rangers employees while watching Game 5 on a monitor. Lumber through the tunnel to the big gate in the left-field corner, penned in like rodeo bulls until the Rangers get the last out in the top of the sixth.
Then all they had to do was race down foul ground in their wobbly giant costumes -- not stepping on the all-important foul lines that could decide whether an umpire sees a key World Series fair or foul ball -- and then turn left behind home plate and head for the finish line at first base.
"I have newfound respect for all these people we've been doggin'," Reynolds said, who'd commented as he suited up, "I am never nervous. And I'm nervous about this. I ain't lyin', my heart is racing."
"All those All-Star Games and home runs, and this is the pinnacle," Casey joked. "This is what my career has come to. Trying to win the Legends race with Jim Bowie."
The funniest moment may have been when Casey was helping Williams get strapped into his Ryan suit, tightly pulling a cord, which snapped.
"We broke Nolan Ryan!" Casey yelled.
Casey then added, "It's like getting ready for a wedding."
These mascot races have become increasingly popular around the Majors, with such events also held in Milwaukee, Washington and Arizona. The last one of the year featured some very well-known faces to baseball fans, who revealed their identities on the giant scoreboard to after Millar cheated and won.
It should make for plenty of lively conversation back on the MLB Network set.
"You know what, Millar?" Casey said. "You're a cheater."
Fans have been watching more live programming than ever by MLB Network this postseason, as "MLB Tonight" has become a staple of the baseball experience.
The race also was the culmination of a day in which MLB Network announced additions to its offseason programming. The weekday lineup features the premiere of the first analytics-based studio show, "Clubhouse Confidential," hosted by Brian Kenny, on Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. ET, following the return of Hot Stove and Intentional Talk on Oct. 31.
With sabermetrics continually at the forefront of baseball conversations, "Clubhouse Confidential" will serve as an open forum for the discussion and debate of the day's news and moves using modern statistical research and value projection. Such segments as "High Heat," "The Showdown" and "It's Not What You Think" will welcome differing opinions by asking pointed questions, going against conventional wisdom and reaching conclusions in the new age of baseball analytics.
Working off the news of the day, "Clubhouse Confidential" will regularly feature contributors from the sabermetrics community as well as MLB Network's own hosts, analysts and insiders. Viewers will be able to interact with Kenny through the show's Twitter feed, @CHConfidential, and on MLB Network's Facebook page. "Clubhouse Confidential" will be based out of MLB Network's Studio 3.
"Given the increasing use of sabermetrics throughout baseball, we knew we wanted to develop a studio show with Brian Kenny that approaches baseball from this school of thought," MLB Network CEO Tony Petitti said. "There is no other program on the air that is dedicated to covering baseball this way, and we're excited to present fans with a platform for this perspective."