Mets booth threesome in fourth place?

The Mets' announcers finished fourth in a recent fan poll, which says less about the quality of Gary, Keith, and Ron than it does about what people feel about the Mets.

The folks at Awful Announcing recently published the results of their reader poll of MLB announcer rankings, which should have afforded a rare occasion for Mets fans to hold their heads high. Though the quality of the Mets' play has been suspect (at best) for many years, their broadcast booth has been above reproach, as Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez have been routinely mentioned in the Best In The Biz discussion since they began working together in 2006. Granted, a reader poll is not necessarily a reliable measure of anything, but we recently saw another decidedly unscientific metric used as a bludgeon in the unrelenting LOLMets assault. So a good showing in the Awful Announcing poll would have been a nice feather in the team's cap, for however much feather-caps are worth.

That's why it came as something of a shock to see the site ranked Gary, Keith, and Ron in fourth place. Fourth is a respectable showing, but a disappointing one given the pride Mets fans have in their TV crew. My own anecdotal evidence suggests that Mets fans not only believe the SNY broadcasters are great, but that everyone else familiar with them (regardless of fandom) thinks they're great, too. Mets fans have felt this way for quite a while, but received some corroborating evidence from a similar Fangraphs poll two years ago that ranked GKR second only to Vin Scully.

In a vacuum, finishing fourth is pretty good. But broadcasting is the one area where Mets fans feel justified puffing out their chests. To not even medal in that area means a bruise to the one unbruised part of those fans' collective ego.

If you look at Awful Announcing's results with the intent of angrying up your blood, you are bound to be disappointed. Unless you enjoy hair splitting, there's little point in quibbling about the top rankings. That VIn Scully finished second almost seems sacrilegious, but giving first place to the Giants' excellent broadcast team of Duane Kuiper and Jon Miller is justifiable. Third place went to the Orioles, who have their own top-notch PBP man in Gary Thorne. Throw in the Mets' crew and it's clear that any possible combination of the top four would be as fair as any other.

So I don't think an argument about how those rankings should have shaken out is very interesting. What I do find interesting are two different lines from Awful Announcing's write up of their results.The rankings were calculated by asking readers to assign letter grades (A-F) to different broadcast crews. These grades were given number values (4 points for A, 0 points for F), then tallied up and divided by the total number of votes to determine an overall score.

Gary, Keith, and Ron received a score of 2.99. Here's what Awful Announcing had to say about this result:

The Mets had the second-most first place votes in the rankings, but also had more last place votes than any team in the top ten.

Compare that to this note about third-place Baltimore, who finished at 3.14:

The Orioles were the only team to have straight distribution of grades from A to F.

What do these two statements tell us? That the announcer poll is also an incidental poll of levels of feeling about MLB teams.

The Mets don't engender much indifference. Outside their own partisans, baseball fans tend to not like them. There are many reasons for this (pause here to ponder your own assumptions as to why people don't like the Mets; it's fun!), but for the purposes of this discussion, the why's don't matter. That LOLMets-type posts remain easy link-bait for the sports blogosphere provides sufficient proof for widespread anti-Met feeling.

I wouldn't call it Met Hate, since hate is a very strong word, as your mom or schoolteacher surely taught you. It's more accurate to say the Mets inspire a large amount of trolling. Thus, Gary, Keith, and Ron received an astounding 170 "F" votes, which makes zero sense except that there are a number of people who will vote "F" for anything in orange and blue, just to be jerks.

This phenomenon could be blunted by the team's sizable fanbase, who would presumably do the exact opposite (a possible explanation for their second-most "A" votes, other than GKR being awesome). However, this effect is countered by Awful Announcing's scoring system, which rewards the middle at the expense of the extremes.

Say there's a team that inspires complementary levels of love and trolling, and they receive 500 "A" votes and 500 "F" votes. That averages to a score of 2, which would be a half-point lower than that of a team that split a thousand votes equally between "B" and "C." Gary Thorne's qualities notwithstanding, this means of accounting seems the biggest reason for the Orioles edging out the Mets in this poll. The Mets had their votes concentrated at the extremes, with relatively few in the middle, while Baltimore's votes were more evenly distributed.

One could surmise this is because the amount of Orioles trolling pales in comparison to the amount of Mets trolling. If your only agenda is internet chaos, you're going to get a lot more angry reactions from trolling Mets fans than trolling Orioles fans, simply because there are more of the former than the latter.

And though I have no hard data to support this contention, it seems to me that active dislike of the Orioles doesn't exist on any appreciable scale, and certainly not on a Mets-ian scale. I'm willing to concede my failure to see this is simply New York provincialism on my part; if anyone can point me to a rich vein of Orioles Trolling out there, I will concede the point.

The voting seems to reflect my thesis, however, because the O's received a paltry 48 "F" votes, the lowest total for any team. In contrast, the top two finishers each received 68 last-place votes, because the Giants and Dodgers both have their share of antagonists (each other's fans, namely). After Baltimore, the lowest "F" vote totals went to Oakland and Seattle, two more teams that seem unlikely troll target. (Again, if I am wrong about this, please enlighten me.)

All this being said, it doesn't quite explain why a Fangraphs poll that gathered its results in virtually the same way ranked the Mets' crew second. It may just have to do with differences between the sites' readerships, or it may be I'm just trying way too hard to explain something that doesn't deserve such scrutiny (wouldn't be the first time).

Ultimately, no matter where they are said to rank among their peers, it should be enough that Mets fans have Gary, Keith, and Ron on our side. We know they're great, and impartial observers know they're great, too. If someone wants to give them a patently undeserved "F" grade over what they think the trio represents, well, that's their effin problem.

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