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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Broadcasting Bumbles (2009)

A few weeks ago I ranked my top broadcasting teams for the '09 season. Here is the opposite end of the spectrum, featuring, sadly, three teams with national syndication:

3. WGN/CSN Chicago - Len Kasper & Bob Brenly

Would somebody please, pretty, pretty please, hire Bob Brenly as your manager? Look at his record. It's pretty good. He's never had a losing season (he was fired before he got to the end of his worst year, in '04). In only four seasons in Arizona he brought home a pair of division titles and a championship. Players loved him. Fans loved him. He's affable, good-natured, and unflinchingly optimistic. He's got that "good ol' boy" charm.

Whatever you do, don't watch him broadcast a game! You're liable to get the impression he hasn't got the strategic capability to play Connect Four, let alone manage a ballclub. But I'm sure that's misleading. He's probably just playing possum.

2. ESPN - Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, & Steve Phillips

I have a lot of fond memories of watching Sunday Night Baseball over the last two decades. My dad and I made a habit of it all summer long through most of the nineties. He loved Joe Morgan, both as a player and a broadcaster, and thus, so did I. For several years I've been trying to figure out whether my affection for him was merely nostalgic, or whether it had been based on some element of charisma or perceptiveness which Joe has since lost. Whatever the case, Jon and Joe have not been on top of their game for several years now, something which ESPN clearly recognizes, which is why they introduced Steve Phillips to that sanctified space this season.

It did not go over well.

Every time Joe peaked at him out of the corner of his eye, Steve must have understood a little what it felt like to be Aaron Rodgers in '07. Joe clearly saw Phillips only as a whippersnapper with eyes on his job. And he's not ready to retire. Morgan was already prone to the occasional inscrutable rant, in '09 it became a weekly staple, brought on usually by a relatively obsequious comment from Phillips which Joe felt the need to virulently discredit, no matter the cost. Sometimes this dynamic was good for a laugh. Usually, it wasn't.

Well, thanks to Phillips undiscriminating libido and a young ESPN intern who spells sports with a capital CRAZY, Morgan got his wish. Will ESPN send somebody knew into the lion's den in 2010?

1. TBS - Chip Caray, Buck Martinez, Ron Darling, & Craig Sager

Chip Caray is no Skip Carary, and he damn sure ain't no Harry Caray. I never thought I'd say this, but after two seasons of TBS Postseason coverage, I'm longing for Joe Buck and Tim McCarver by the time the ALCS rolls around. Yes, there is the incessant advertising; this year George Lopez scooted across the screen every fifteen minutes, which isn't half as bad as Frank Caliendo (I hated his show before it even came on the air). Caray hawks the wares of TBS advertisers even during play-by-play: "There's a deep fly ball to center. Victorino tracked that ball down just as quickly as a Sprint 3G phone, now with GPS."

And, yes, there is an egregious East Coast bias amongst the commentators and a fair amount of preachiness. Guess what? Chip, Buck, and Ron all agree that Derek Jeter is not just good....he's grrrreat. He's got so much moral fiber, he's got to take Imodium before every game just to keep from crapping all over the diamond. But Manny Ramirez? Well, they aren't so sure about him.

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