October 08, 2008
Dennis Eckersley still has a closer's mentality. When you sit down and talk to him it's easy to see why TBS hired the Hall of Fame pitcher to be an analyst. Eck had no fear on the mound and now he has no fear when it comes to offering up an opinion — from the Rays to his long hair — as I found out last Friday during my behind-the-scenes look at TBS' Inside MLB studios in Atlanta.
This is the first interview in a set of Q & A's with the show's personalities.
Big League Stew: So what's the biggest difference between working for a regional station like NESN and being an analyst on a national level like you are now?
Eck: My experiences (with NESN) have really helped me to not feel a big difference. Baseball is every day so you get a lot of reps, so you catch on a lot quicker than if you were just doing something once a week. It has really helped.
BLS: So you felt comfortable in this situation with the bright lights of a national show.
Eck: Everything in life is being comfortable, don't you think?
Eck: TV is not necessarily what you say, it's how you say it — don't you think?
BLS: I was a broadcast major in college. No question.
Eck: You can say nothing, but if you act like you're saying something, (the producers) go: "That was good!" (Laughs)
BLS: You were a starter and a closer so when you're watching games do you feel any of the same emotions you had as a player?
Eck: I do — when I watch them close. Obviously, it's more exciting at the end of the game. I have a hard time paying attention to the beginning (laughs). The game has to find its way before I start getting into it, where finally this pitch means something ... I get into it late in the game, really when relievers come in.
BLS: It sounds like you find yourself focusing in more in the eighth and ninth.
Eck: There's not a jealousy factor like saying "I wish I could still do it." I wish I could still do it for the money ... but what's nice about TV is that it's the only thing that can really replace playing ball, live television, because there's nothing like it. You mess up and you can't get it back. It's like pitching, you make a mistake. AHH! You gotta live with it.
BLS: I'm assuming you've seen Inside the NBA?
BLS: Do you feel you were brought in to fill some sort of Barkleyesque role?
Eck: Oh no, I never even thought of it (that way). All I knew is that I loved that relaxed format they have on Inside the NBA. And then I got lucky and they called me.
BLS: About this season in general, what has been the most surprising thing in your mind?
BLS: Did you find it strange at all that they have held on all the way to the playoffs?
Eck: Yes. And I don't want anybody to hoot at me in Tampa, but like everybody else I was like, "There's no way they're gonna (stay in first) and then right before the All-Star Break they lost seven ... Finally (after they continued to play well) I told the guy I work with, "I guess I gotta give in now cause they did it." When they played up in Boston (in September) they won a couple games in Boston that to me said a lot about that team.
BLS: When you were a player did you listen to analysts?
Eck: I did at the end (of my career) because I was always in the clubhouse until the seventh inning ... I was thinking to myself back then, if I ever (become an analyst) I want to make sure that I remember how difficult it is to do this and how easy it is to say whatever you say up (on set). I have to catch myself sometimes of being too critical.
BLS: Did you think you would ever be an analyst?
Eck: Maybe. After I retired I didn't know what I wanted to do for about three years. Once I got into (broadcasting) I got lucky ... Did I think I was going to be doing pregames for the Red Sox? No.
I think a lot of times people force life, and say "I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that." Well you know what I've done? I've just sort of let it happen. Things have found their way to me. I've been lucky enough not to have to press the pedal too much.
BLS: On a completely unrelated and lighter note, I don't know whether you've heard it, but people have been criticizing your hair
Eck: Yeah, what's that? What am I supposed to do? Cut it off? This isn't even long.
BLS: So what's your response?
Eck: (laughs) What do you want me to do — cut my hair? This is who I am. I guess I can be critical, too, saying somebody dresses from the 70s, like "Come on when are you gonna change the style here?" I understand where they're coming from, but at the same time I'm sensitive to it.
BLS: That's one of the differences between the local and national spotlight, you weren't hearing about your hairstyle as much in Boston
Eck: Not at all because everyone knows who I am (in Boston). Nobody was thinking, "Who is that guy with the long hair?" I never realized what happens in this (national television) situation is that you're opening yourself up to scrutiny about everything ... and they care what you look like!
BLS: So you didn't expect that coming into this?
Eck: (Laughs) No, I didn't see it. But I can't give into it and go chop my hair off because somebody doesn't like my hair. Because I'm not doing it. It would be like cutting my 'stache off ... I'm not doing it, you may not like it, but I gotta have it.
BLS: People have said that your hairstyle, is in fact, a mullet.
Eck: I hate that when they say mullet. That's not good when they say mullet because that means that they don't like my act. (Smiles)
BLS: But your hair is you.
Eck: I know, what am I supposed to do?
Coming Thursday: Cal Ripken Jr.