After a pilot episode that ended on the big reveal that Ginny Baker’s father/coach/diabolical mentor Bill Baker had actually died six years before she made her major-league debut with the Padres, the second episode, “The Interim,” seemed poised to provide a peek into whether “Pitch” was going to reset its format or find non-father/daughter dynamics to plumb for its narrative.
FOX once again deploys its arsenal of sports-shouters to provide context at the episode’s outset, with Colin Cowherd reprising his role, this time playing the part of sentient Twitter egg: “My grandmother threw harder than that,” he shouts about Baker’s fastball. “That’s not sexist, it’s factual — and Grandma threw heat.”
You know you’re on to something sagacious when you begin a sentence “That’s not sexist/racist/homophobic, it’s factual” — always a promising start. I guess at least Cowherd deserves credit for simply focusing on Ginny’s gender and not discussing her race? I guess?
First off, it’s the return of Willie! After a childhood of sobbing while attempting to answer “What did the five fingers say to the face?!” Willie has grown up and has turned out pretty well, all things considered.
Adult Willie’s first screen time comes courtesy of a flashback, this one to just two years earlier, when Ginny was pitching for the San Antonio Missions, San Diego’s Double-A affiliate.
In San Antonio, Willie is helping Ginny again — but this time not through getting smacked, but by serving as her agent. He’s done alright for himself, it would seem.
The flashback sets up the second episode’s (gentle) tension between Willie — who’s doing a fine-but-not-spectacular job managing Ginny’s career — and Amelia, who is high-powered and no-nonsense and all those other traits agents in popular culture possess.
Bill’s surprise death left a narrative crater that required some of Ginny’s supporting cast step up and fill it, and “The Interim” calls on the show’s deep bench to to do just that — with Ali Larter grabbing much of the playing time in Episode 2.
The flashbacks also serve to underline just how little Amelia knows about baseball and how little that matters to her, vis a vis representing Ginny.
Take this delicious clip, which occurs during Amelia’s first meeting with Ginny and Willie, in San Antonio two years prior. Amelia is trying to convince Ginny that she can be a global brand.
The intensity with which Amelia delivers her “I don’t even know what that means,” followed by Ginny’s complete disgust at not Amelia not understanding the concept of miles per hour is so, so delicious — we’re talking Action Bronson-eating-baklava delicious.
Ultimately, of course, Ginny chooses Amelia as her agent because of the “global brand-building” potential, which I found a little specious. You don’t need to be a marketing guru to get attention for the first woman to pitch in Double-A or to reach the major leagues; Ginny just needs to exist. But Willie decides that he can’t handle the whole marketing business like Amelia can, so here we are.
When we jump back to present day, we’re (or maybe just I am?) delighted to find Mark-Paul Gosselaar drinking beer in an ice bath.
This photo brings me so much joy! After the one and only marathon I’ve ran (humblebrag!), I proceeded to fill a bath tub with ice, water and an 18-pack of Rainier. Surrounding myself with ice-cold brewskies was the only way I could imagine enduring an ice bath. And it worked! I drank all 18 and passed out. (Just kidding. I drank like three before deciding that ice baths were worse than any potential next-day soreness.)
As Gosselaar’s Mike Lawson is enjoying his cold beer I found myself nodding in recognition of another pitch-perfect baseball moment in “Pitch.” Skip asks Lawson how he’s feeling, and despite the large giveaway of the ice bath and beer, Lawson lies through his teeth and tells his manager he feels great. This rang true for me: I’d say 90% of ballplayers have literally never been honest about their health with their coach or manager.
SKIP: Hey, champ. How you feeling?
BALLPLAYER: Good, Skip. Just need a couple beers and an ice bath.
SKIP: Great. Hey, the clubbie has a few of your Phiten bracelets that exploded and scattered around the mound when you snapped all those ligaments in your pitching arm. I’ll have him bring ’em by.
BALLPLAYER: Sure, sure. All those aqua-metals — that, in part, break down specific metals into nanoscopic particles dispersed in water, essentially creating a hydro-colloidal metal — will be important for my next outing. Gotta take that hill in five days. Because I feel terrific, remember.
SKIP: Say, Ballplayer, I was just reading the online account of the game and I have a vocab question for you, seeing as you attended university and whatnot.
BALLPLAYER: Yes, of course, Manager. This interaction feels incredibly natural, no? Ask away!
SKIP: What does “viscera” mean?
After the ice bath, Mike continues drinking beers, this time in the company of Ginny and some of the boys. They’re all throwing back some domestic pilsners when they become distracted by the bar’s televisions blaring, you guessed it, more FS1!
Ginny bribes the bartender to change the channel, and she does, and she must have switched it to FS2 because it’s another FOX talking head chirping about Ginny. Again, Ginny throws money at the bartender to change it and this crazy bar apparently boasts a cable package featuring what must be like FS3. The FS3 show’s host — who later turns out to be Mike Lawson’s ex-wife in a really formulaic, obvious, tedious side plot that I don’t wanna even get into — is talking about a heinous sexual assault charge that happened in a track-and-field locker room, which gives them a way to shoehorn Ginny into the conversation, of course. After the third shitty cable sports show, Ginny’s trusty catcher Mike Lawson intervenes, yanking the cord out of the wall.
Here’s the thing: if you’re frequenting bars that regularly show talking-heads sports shows — especially FS1 — with the volume on, you need to be drinking in other places, friendo. At least air-travelers are patted down and sent through a metal detector before being subjected to obnoxiously loud CNN anchors shouting at them. This is simply unsafe, Fictional Tavern.
The episode’s major tension comes from the aforementioned “ongoing track-and-field incident” and some two-year-old comments from Padres manager Al Luongo. Turns out, Luongo had this to say when Ginny was working her way through the minors: “She’s easy on the eyes. A lot of the guys would love having her in the locker room.”
I’m no expert, but I would say this qualifies as “bad PR.”
To his credit, Luongo enters Ginny’s portion of said locker room to apologize to his new pitcher. Before entering, he asks, “Are you decent, Baker?” Despite her answer in the affirmative, this is how Skip conducts his chat with Ginny.
It’s kind of adorable, especially when he stumbles into this explanation for his sexism and generally backward views: “I’m probably missing something here. The world kind of passed me by when they made the internet.”
Ha! It’s really the “they” that slays me here. It’s “he,” Kevin Arnold’s dad; Al Gore uses “he/him” pronouns — says so in his Twitter bio.
Basically, the episode devolves into one of those “this actual failure of humanity is a ‘distraction’ in the clubhouse” issues — a la Michael Sam, say — that allow sports reporters to anonymously quote front-office execs and give them a platform to say hateful shit under the guise of “team morale” or whatever.
Cue one of the various FS1 hosts on one of the ubiquitous noise televisions: “You’ve got to wonder now if Ginnsanity has become a bigger distraction than their team can handle.”
Because, see, the Padres are playing rather poorly. Check out Exhibit A: the snowball fight.
(Also, the pitcher should’ve been backing that shit up, not diving at throws to the catcher a few feet in front of the mound. YOU’RE GIVING THE REST OF US A BAD NAME, BRUH.)
Ginny’s anxious to release a statement in support of Luongo, which Amelia surreptitiously shelves because she doesn’t think it’s in her client’s best interests. Instead, Amelia sends Ginny to do Jimmy Kimmel and talk about dugout decorating tips.
Amelia also uses the show as an opportunity to deploy one of the oldest plays in the basic white woman playbook: getting to say “girllllllll” the way you’ve wanted to for years because you’re finally in the presence of a black woman.
To Ginny’s credit, she eschews the fluffy “dugout decorating” bit to actually say something meaningful about women in the locker room and dealing with her potential “distraction.” “We don’t need to make sure every single girl goes in the right room,” Ginny tells Kimmel. “We need to make sure every single boy knows it’s wrong to rape.” Bravo to that.
As Ginny is delivering her statement — which also defended her skipper while acknowledging his shitty sexist comment, in defiance of Amelia — Mike Lawson is making a statement of his own to the bickering, slumping Padres.
“I gave my life to this game,” TV Jake Taylor tells his troops. “We’re gonna shock the world — with a pretty girl in the dugout.”
So the Padres take the field again, and this time they play well, coming together at just the right time. Ginny is excited as hell for her team’s strong play, and her drumroll-on-the-railing reaction — coming just as baseball fans were beginning to dry their tears after Jose Fernandez’s death — felt like an accidental, touching tribute.
Rest in power, Jose.
Unfortunately, the Padres’ improved play wasn’t good enough for the front office, and this fashionable gentleman will be taking over as the interim manager.
You know how you can tell he’ll connect with his millennial players and, unlike his predecessor, know about internet stuff?
Because dude has a faux-hawk!
Well played, sir.
After setting up that both Amelia and Mike Lawson are super-single, the episode ends with Mike saddling up to the bar next to Amelia, who’s drinking a glass of red wine alone. The power agent closes her computer, which means shit’s on. They’re probably gonna bone, is what the show’s trying to tell us. It’s predictable and not a terribly promising sign for Episode 3.
What kind of “Pitch” was this?
This “Pitch” was a 0-1 curveball that betrayed a growing confidence in one’s deep repertoire but also a potentially predictable approach.
There wasn’t a whole lot of baseball in “The Interim,” which is likely because of the enormous cost of shooting scenes in a place like Petco Park, as showrunner Kevin Falls mentioned on his appearance on the Ringer Baseball Podcast.
But there were some baseball-adjacent scenes that rang false. Again, as always, these are ridiculously small nits to pick, but that’s the format, hombre. Deal with it.
Early on in the episode, Mike and Ginny sit down on the bus to go over her second start, which we saw at the end of the pilot episode.
“You waved me off 17 times last night,” Mike tells his battery mate. “That’s 16 times more than anyone else has this season.”
I’ve been playing non-coach-pitch baseball for roughly 21 years and I’ve never heard the phrase “waved off.” You don’t “wave off” a catcher, you shake them off. Because, you know, you’re literally shaking your head. Not waving your arms like a referee after a missed field goal.
I see this scene and wave it off, because it is stupid.
One of the bigger side stories of Episode 2 features Padres centerfielder Blip Sanders, who is in the middle of a horrific slump and in need of some help from the lucky Grandmaster Flash T-shirt he picked up at a concert in the ’80s.
Turns out it got washed and the thing basically disintegrated! Oh no! It can’t be washed! It’s old as shit! T-Shirt Care 101, people.
Well, Blip’s wife Evelyn tries to make it up to him by building him up with some dirty talk and sexy time.
Ha! This is nonsense for two reasons: first off, this is what Mike Trout looks like:
I’m not saying he’s ugly, exactly. But I would not say he’s the most handsome man in the big leagues. That’s Brian Dozier’s hair, obviously.
Secondly, and more to the “Reality Check,” point: Blip does not blanche at her calling him the most well-rounded centerfielder in the big leagues — he scoffs at hearing his wife finds Mike Trout more attractive. Dear “Pitch” writers: Blip obviously should have known she was just making shit up when she said he was a better player than Mike Trout, not that he was less attractive than the Millville Meteorologist. If you’re going to have Evelyn have a big-league crush, don’t make it on the one player who literally is a more well-rounded centerfielder than Blip Sanders!
If I was writing this episode, I’d have Evelyn call Blip the second-most well-rounded centerfielder in the majors, and the second best-looking man in the National League behind the obvious No. 1 choice:
White dreads for the win!Next post: Evaluating the 2016 Season Preview Predictions
Previous post: The 2016 MLB Awards