On August 24th, ESPN ushered in a new era of MLB broadcasts when Jessica Mendoza crashed the boys club of baseball analysts. Then last weekend worked Jake Arrieta's no-hitter, and starting this weekend, she’ll be a regular on Sunday Night Baseball. It took Curt Schilling doing something fantastically stupid, but ESPN has finally assigned a woman to the MLB broadcast booth and it’s about time. Especially since she’s better at her job than most men.
Unlike her fellow Sunday Night Baseball analyst John Kruk, and the man she’s replacing, Mendoza didn’t play in the majors, obviously. That’s not to say she doesn’t have expertise though. She played in two Olympics and, at her peak, was the most feared softball hitter in the world, at least according to her former coach. Mendoza brings knowledge into the booth without the fratty know-it-all swagger that so many former players exhibit.
But that really shouldn’t be a surprise. For Mendoza to get to where she is, she had to be good. No one would ever mistake Kruk or Schilling for a nuanced baseball analyst. They’re personalities who got to the booth as entertainers and then learned how to talk about the game. Or at least tried to. Mendoza is an analyst first who understands something rare among former players who end up behind the mic—it’s OK to not talk. That’s a welcome departure from Schilling, a fine pitched who seems a bit to self-involved for a broadcaster's chair.
ESPN takes a lot of flack for its missteps, and it should. But in this case, the Worldwide Leader deserves praise. Mendoza provides a new perspective in the broadcast booth and a new look. She’s not obnoxious and she doesn’t insist on making everything about herself (cough, Schilling, cough). Truthfully, ESPN would have had a hard time going wrong when it came to replacing Schilling. Anyone who can tell the difference between a bat and avocado would have sufficed. But the network defied expectations and brought in an analyst who’s not only good at what she does, but a barrier breaker too. We’re looking forward to Sunday night.
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