A few thoughts on tonight's Pitch – but really on a few problems the show could very much stand to improve – coming up just as soon as I tell you that J-Lo was one of the Fly Girls on In Living Color…
For the most part, “Alfonzo Guzman-Chavez was a fun look at the trade deadline from the perspective of both management and the players. Even if the early reference to Moneyball spotlighted the fact that none of the trade discussion scenes was as entertaining as the sequence from the movie where the A's trade for Ricardo Rincon, the hour captured what a stressful time of the season this is for all involved – with Oscar getting added grief due to the arrival of a Silicon Valley bro (Kevin Connolly from Entourage, putting his inherent smarminess to good use for once) as the new head of baseball operations – and about the inherent unpredictability of having co-workers who can be traded or released at any minute.
But it also spotlighted a problem Pitch has been struggling with at this early stage: too often, Ginny comes across as a naive innocent who has to have fundamental facts about MLB culture explained to her by Mike, Blip, or even – in this episode's silliest scene – Eliot. Yes, she's a rookie, and there are certain nuances of being in the majors that she's going to be slow to learn. But her father also programmed her from an early age to become the perfect baseball-playing robot, and there's no way that Bill Baker's lessons to her would have stopped with teaching her the screwball. He would have drilled her on all of this stuff, and if there was somehow anything he missed, she likely would have picked it up during her years in the minors. She played with Blip when he was coming up, and probably with other promising young players; it's not just the major leaguers who have to deal with trade rumors swirling around them, but prospects who can be used to acquire the Andrew Millers and Aroldis Chapmans of the world. And Ginny spent the entire episode behaving as if all of this was entirely new to her, that she needed Eliot to essentially tell her how to Google trade rumors, etc.
Obviously, the show needs some kind of POV character to explain this stuff to the non-baseball-obsessed viewer, just as hospital and cop dramas use rookie doctors and detectives as audience proxies. And as both a rookie and the show's main character, Ginny's an obvious candidate for that. But with a few exceptions (like the beanball war episode), the show pushes it too far, flying in the face of what we know about her backstory and making her seem weak and foolish in the process.
Also, as with fellow Thursday night newbie The Good Place, the flashbacks are quickly losing their potency. They provide a basic structure for episodes, and illustrate how Ginny has gone through the same conflicts multiple times in her life, but they've already begun to feel obligatory – and, in this case, too melodramatic. A story of how Ginny previously had to say goodbye to a teammate who had become her best friend would have been fine, if unremarkable – and something that was taking time away from the present-day plots – but having the boy's alcoholic father be the drunk driver who killed Bill (and did it only because Bill called him to come watch Jordan's game) was gilding the lily. Not to mention, based on what we saw of the Ginny/Jordan/Bill dynamic in this episode, Jordan absolutely would have been in the car with them if his dad hadn't shown up to the game.
If there's a great idea for a new story about young Ginny, or one focusing on another character – say, Mike at the height of his baseball powers before his knees started to go, or Blip as a rookie – then go for it. But unlike Dan Fogelman's other freshman drama This Is Us, where the flashbacks are mainly about characters who don't really appear in the present, the ones here aren't necessary to the story being told. They're just there because they were in the pilot, and someone felt it would be a good idea to keep doing them, even if we already feel precariously close to “How Jack got his tattoos” territory.
What did everybody think of tonight's episode? And how are you feeling about Pitch so far?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com