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Center stage for Cameron

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 15, 2010 03:41 PM

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Thumbnail image for cameronfinn.jpgToday's media column can be found right here. It's one of those occasional one-topic deals. Yup. Favre. Who else? I suppose Kiper might have been a decent guess this week, too. But it's all Favre, tastefully done. The column is all text, no third-party audio or camera-phone pics. Promise.

So it was a notes-free edition, which was sort of a bummer since I wanted to write about Sox center fielder Mike Cameron;s thoughts as he prepares for his debut tonight as an in-studio guest on the MLB Network's "MLB Tonight" program following Game 1 of the ALCS. (He'll also appear on the program tomorrow night.)

Fortunately, I have this swell little blog here where I can use any worthwhile deleted scenes, and checking in with Cameron, who came across in a 20-minute interview as a tremendous fan of the game he plays for a living, is certainly worthwhile.

Here are a few of Cameron's thoughts on the playoffs, his future, making his television debut, and playing in Boston:

* * *

Cameron, who has 269 homers in 14-plus big league seasons, said he began giving the idea of doing some baseball analysis on TV serious consideration a couple of years ago after he noticed that TBS was using current players such as John Smoltz during its postseason broadcasts.

He mentioned to his agent that it was something that he would like to try, and when the opportunity was presented by the MLB Network, during the season, he figured it was time to take a swing.

"MLB is giving me a great opportunity, and one of the best things about it is that I get to be around players I played with and played against," Cameron said, noting that he'll be alongside former Reds teammate Sean Casey tonight. "The comfort level should be pretty easy. Plus, coming here to [the network's state-of-the-art Studio 42, which includes a scaled-down field for demonstrations] is sort of like going to a baseball facility or like a big kid's playground for baseball players. I couldn't wait to check it all out. So that was sort of the deal-maker."

Cameron, easygoing and articulate, looks younger than his 37 years, and he's decent bet to be a television natural. He'll begin the process tonight of finding out if it's the path he wants to follow once his career is over.

"It's something I've thought about, but it's more along the lines of, 'It wouldn't hurt to try, and then I'll have a better idea,' he said. "I'd like to stay in uniform after I'm done playing, but you know, I'm not sure about the traveling. I've been doing that since I was like 21 years old, and that's a lot of time on the road in hotels. Hopefully it's not something I have to make a decision on for a few more years."

* * *

Cameron agreed with the notion that his personal season -- he played just 48 games because of an abdominal injury and sports hernia -- in a sense symbolized how 2010 went for the Red Sox. Like Cameron himself, they gamely tried to play through injuries and stayed tough as long as they could, but ultimately, it was all too much to overcome.

"Yeah, that's a fair way of looking at it," he said. "It was frustrating in some ways, especially with this being my first year here and wanting to make a good impression. But, you know, I don't know how everybody else feels, but my attitude is that every time I take the field, it's a blessing and I'm lucky to be out there after what happened to me in '05 [a frightening head-first outfield collision with Carlos Beltran while they were playing for the Mets]. Every game is a bonus.

"This year, with our team, and Boston fans can be harsh sometimes, but they're also very knowledgeable, and I think they recognized that we continued to fight despite losing some very, very good players. It was frustrating personally to be injured, and it was frustrating to see my teammates get injured. It was one thing after another. It's kind of too bad we can't come back with the same team next year and see what we might be able to accomplish, but because of free agency and so on that can't happen. Change always happens."

* * *

While Cameron said he's intrigued by all four of the teams remaining, the conversation inevitably turns back to what he believes lefthanders Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson are capable of achieving at the front of the Texas Rangers rotation.

"It's a really interesting four teams that are left," he said. "Really interesting. The difference might be experience. If you're a Yankees fan or the Phillies, you have to feel good about the fact that they've been in this situation before.

"The Giants and Rangers, they are little bit new to it with the groups of players they have now, but they're both excellent in their own right. The Giants have the great pitching with [Tim] Lincecum at the front while the Rangers have Cliff Lee and [C.J.] Wilson, and Texas can win in the same way the Yankees can, with a bunch of mashers in the lineup. They can hit the ball, as we found out when we played them near the All-Star break. They ran right though us. They're good, and they hit Tampa Bay's good pitching in this last series.I expect two great series. In a short series, anything can happen. I don't care who you are, if you have to face Lee and Wilson, you can go home pretty quick."

So does that constitute a prediction? He's reminded that picking against the Yankees certainly couldn't hurt his standing with Red Sox fans.

"I don't know, man. I'm still thinking, honestly," Cameron said with a laugh. "Looking through the notes, doing my homework. How is it going to go? I don't know. I do know that Texas has home field, and if it comes down to Cliff Lee in Game 7, the Rangers would have to feel pretty good.

"In the NL, I'd say the Giants can't play against the Phillies the way they did against the Braves, they need to be even better. That's an AL lineup . . . and imagine if they had kept Cliff Lee! Man. Though (Cole) Hamels has pitched like him lately . . . "

Yep, Cameron's enthusiasm about Lee's ability is palpable. (in case you were wondering, Cameron is 2 for 6 in his career against Lee, with a home run.) The same can be said about his passion for the game he plays for a living.

He hopeful that it will translate to his TV doubleheader tonight and tomorrow.

"It's cool," he said. "It's going to be fun. The nerves are like opening day in a new place, but I'm looking forward to it. But it's the same game, the game I know, and I'm just talking about it rather than playing it."

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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