Those of you who watched the beginning of the All Star game last night will have noticed that, when President Obama threw the first pitch, the camera shot was a close-up that made it impossible to see whether his pitch was on target. I found this odd, and so did Andy McCarthy.
I’ll make an educated guess that this was done at the insistence of the White House to prevent embarrassment in case Obama’s pitch was a poor one. To be sure, the White House ultimately could not prevent everyone from seeing a bad pitch (YouTube and all of that), but using a bizarre camera angle in real time would minimize the number who saw a miscue.
Obama’s pitch failed to reach home plate. Albert Pujols, serving as Obama’s catcher, had stationed himself on the plate, rather than behind it, and still had to lurch forward in the hope of preventing a bounce. He almost succeeded.
There is nothing wrong with a politician throwing a bad pitch, of course. Although much was made by some of the strike President Bush threw at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series, there is no relationship between pitching prowess and being a good president.
The point, then, is not Obama’s poor pitch, but rather the media’s complicitly in preventing people from seeing it. Andy is probably right in saying that “the sports press is among the media’s leftiest precincts.”
As Andy explains, the weird camera angle was part of a series of choreographing decisions designed to spare Obama from embarrassment:
His entrance was shrewdly orchestrated. The cheers and boos started as soon as he came onto the field, but he was steered immediately over to shake hands with Stan Musial — the most beloved player in the history of the Cardinals. No true St. Louis fan would boo Satan if he was shaking hands with Stan the Man. The president then went straight to the mound, where today’s Stan the Man, the great Pujols, took good care of him — quickly embracing Obama right after making sure his heave looked borderline respectable … with a little help from the cameras. Finally, Obama moved was ushered quickly over to the third-base line, where Cardinal legends Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and Lou Brock (among others) were there to share warm-handshakes.
Finally, as Andy notes, the fact that Pujols was behind (or on top of) the plate for Obama’s pitch is itself telling. In these situations, it is almost always a catcher who catches the “first” pitch. Pujols, of course, is a first baseman. But he is venerated in St. Louis, so the White House chose to make him a prop for the president.
You can’t really blame the White House for attempting to stage Obama’s appearance this way; nor can major league baseball be expected to resist the White House on cosmetic matters. All I ask is that, if a president chooses to take the mound, we get to see what he delivers when he delivers it.