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Chris Russo, Nats radio announcer get into war of words over call

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

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Late last week, Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth robbed Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy of a game-tying three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning. On a scale of 1-10, it was about a five as far as homer-robbing catches go.

Nationals radio play-by-play announcer Charlie Slowes more or less botched the call on Werth's catch. Maybe botched is a little too harsh, but he initially said it was a homer before correcting himself. You can hear the call at the 1:35 mark of the video above. Here's the text, courtesy of Chris Lingebach of CBS DC:

“Soriano delivers, and a swing and a long drive to right field,” Slowes announced. “Werth going back, warning track, at the fence, he leaps … and … it's gone … or did he catch it? He caught it! Werth has it! The game is over! A Curly W's in the books! He reacted like, no reaction, but the pitchers in the bullpen jumped up and down and Werth pulls it back in.

“A game-saving catch at the fence, and a Curly W's in the books. The Nationals have won the game by the score of 5-2. That one looked like it might get out of here. Werth, who stands pretty tall, needed all of that 6-foot-5-inch height, and reaches over the fence and pulls it back in. Bang! Zoom! A Curly W's in the books. The Nationals on the field to celebrate. The final score: The Washington Nationals, 5, the New York Mets, 2.”

Bad calls happen, especially on plays like that. However, earlier this week, MLB Network talking head Chris Russo tore into Slowes for the call during a segment that highlights calls from around the league. Here's the video, with the relevant part at the very beginning:

And the text, for those not inclined to watch the video:

“A Zero. A zero for Charlie,” Russo said. “Now, that's the John Sterling school. Is it gone? Gone? It was a fly ball to right! Gone. That's a zero for Charlie. I know he's your pal. He'll never call in again. That's a zero. That's a bad call.”

“Hey, you gotta get it right,” Akra placated Russo. “You gotta get it right. That's our first of that kind where we thought it was out, but it wasn't out.”

Needless to say, Slowes was not happy about being ripped on national television:

Slowes tore into Russo during an interview with 106.7 The Fan a few days ago. Here's the quote, again courtesy of Lingebach:

“I'm standing there listening to myself getting hammered at the tail end of his show, and so I'm thinking ‘that's great,'” Slowes explained. “He has no idea probably who I am, whether I'm the radio or the TV guy, whether I'm in a good broadcast location or nine stories high trying to see that play in the ninth inning at the end of the game.

“And I think everyone in the ballpark had a split decision as to whether Werth caught the ball or whether it went over the fence. And he kind of slumped as he caught it, which would be like the reaction of somebody who didn't catch and it went over the wall – he didn't show any motion, he didn't show the ball, and I was right on the play, as opposed to maybe a split second behind, and thought for a split second it was gone. And so that was the call.

“So he does this show, and I guess they can't fill an hour with his great content, and it's five minutes less of his hysterical illiterate screaming – which is his thing, which is unlistenable for me – and now they're simulcasting his show on XM Radio, which makes it even more painful, because that's an hour less of [Mike] Ferrin and [Jim] Duquette. Can you believe that?

Anyway, I just think, that's the way he's gonna fill his show. And I thought, ‘You know, okay, he's like anybody else.' For one second, could he do what we do every day, and better still, if he was doing it, would anyone comprehend a single word of what he's saying? I just thought, you know, that's unnecessary. And a lot of the guys that he's critiquing are waiting to go on and do reports on ‘The Rundown' on the same network. It's kind of like if I was waiting to go on “Lavar and Dukes” and you guys were trashing me on your show.

“So, really, there's no thing between me and the Mad Dog, because he's going to rip everybody, because that's what he does, but maybe there was thing between me and him. Because it's not just me; he's going to do it all play-by-play guys. And nobody's 100 percent perfect in what they're doing all the time, but I think that's kind of an unnecessary segment, from my view.”

Calling it an unnecessary segment is an understatement, even by sports television standards.

Russo, naturally, responded to Slowes during his SiriusXM/Mad Dog Sports Radio show on Tuesday afternoon. Here's the quote, courtesy of Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post:

“It's not my idea to do the segment. We call it Curtain Calls — I have nothing to do with it — in which we build segments on that. That's an hour baseball show. They want to get as much of my personality as they possibly can. I have no problem doing the segment, I love to do the segment, but it's not like I say let's get this announcer, that announcer, this announcer, that announcer, and we'll kill ‘em. I don't do that at all. I get the Curtain Calls. I have no idea what announcing home run calls they're gonna give me or game walk-off calls or anything like that.”

...

“Well, that is an atrocious call, all right? Atrocious call. You can't tell me — a game-winning [sic] home run — it's gone, and then come back and tell me it's caught. Now, we kill John Sterling for that every single time he makes those mistakes. So I mean, we have a rating system of five is great and zero is bad. So top of my head, I got to give a rating, so I gave Charlie — deservedly so for this situation, which the game was presented, ninth inning, two out, 5-3 [sic], the whole bit — a zero, because he had the Mets being up 6-5 [sic] and game's over [sic]. That is unacceptable, in my eyes, as a broadcaster. I did it in funny ways. I didn't say, ‘Jeez, what a disgrace, get him off the air.' I did it in a funny way.”

...

“Let me tell you something, Charlie: I'll say it one more time, nice and clear. Now you've got me mad. That was a garbage [call]. I don't care how good an announcer you are, because I don't listen to you. I just don't. I don't listen to Nationals radio games. And that's not to say that you're a bad announcer. But that call was a lousy, lousy call. All right? There's no way around it. You told me it was a home run and then you took it back. I don't care if you're calling the game from the upper deck down the left field line. All right? You get the call right. You wait, you pause.”

With any luck, this will be the last we heard of the Russp-Slowes feud. I suspect it won't be, however.

 
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