Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hitting The Mute Button

Warning: Curmudgeon straight ahead.

With all the former baseball players, executives and hangers-on to choose from, how in the world did ESPN and *OX manage to come up with the announcers and color guys they did?

There’s Joe Buck and all his wooden sincerity. Gary Thorne tries hard, but he is a hockey guy at heart. Jon Miller’s humor is wearing thin though one suspects he needs a better straight man than Joe Morgan. The other announcers are so fungible I cannot even recall their names.

Color? Well, there’s the colorless Morgan for starters. Then, there is the ultimate insider Rick Suttcliffe, who one suspects wasn’t even an insider in the view of his former teammates. Worse, he sounds like he is whining not commenting. One can imagine why Steve Philips was fired as the Mets GM; he is all huckster, all the time. Always on; always grating. Tim McCarver is considered a baseball “intellectual”, not normally a compliment between the lines. If I want literary references I don’t normally turn on a baseball game to find them. Orel Hershiser makes Morgan sound like Bob Uecker. And then there is Boomer Berman. He is spreading himself very thin, and his act has worn accordingly.

I’ve been watching portions of the games and usually start with the sound on. That lasts for no more than five minutes, if that, and I finally throw up my hands and hit the mute button.

ESPN should stop auditioning studio announcers and find ones who can actually call a game.

Meanwhile, back at their studio, the current ballplayers ESPN has brought in to analyze the action have offered quite a contrast. There is Vernon Wells, soft-spoken, insightful and articulate, on one hand and Eric Byrnes, flamboyant, insightful and entertaining, on the other. Listening to Brynes one gets the impression he has played with virtually every active major league player. In fact, he is on his fourth team. No matter, he is fun. The question remains, however, could either one of these carry it off for an entire game as color analysts? Probably not.

Rocky Bridges once said There are three things the average man thinks he can do better than anyone else: build a fire, run a hotel and manage a baseball team. I don’t know about the hotel business, but you can probably add color analyst or announcer to that list. Nevertheless, ESPN and *OX are living proof that the even the experienced man isn’t any good in the broadcast booth.


ae said...

I was very impressed by Wells too, although I don't think his demeanor would translate well outside a studio environment. even if Byrnes wasn't as insightful, he was at least entertaining without being annoying, which is pretty much all you can ask out of a sports commentator these days.

Tom Goodman said...

Wells is one impressive guy and he can really play.

enrico said...

I thought some of the questions Ravich was asking Wells last night were just bad.. "say your in the body of Jason Verlander, it's 9 PM on a Wednesday, your in the Mecca of baseball that is Yankee Stadium, a cool rain is coming down, what are you thinking?"

Like, why not just ask "so what do you think verlander is thinking?

RickSchuBlues said...

All those guys you mentioned are going to sound like Red Barber as soon as Steve Lyons comes on the secne in the next round of the playoffs.

Tom Goodman said...

I plan to be watching indoor lacrosse by then.

Nat said...

Jack Buck to Joe Buck is emblematic of the decline in baseball announcing.

Of those you mentioned, I think Jon Miller suffers from being paired with Joe Morgan. I have enjoyed listening to him with Mike Krukow doing Giants' games where the two actually work together and play off each other. But Joe Morgan is only interested in what Joe Morgan has to say. Miller, I guess, is just too polite or deferential to say, "Joe, that doesn't make any sense" or "But Joe, just two innings ago you said..."

I'd be perfectly happy listening to Miller do the games if he was working with just about anybody else.