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Baseball on FOX

I was writing a quarterback factory post that I hope to have up in a little while, but as these things tend to go I went off on this long discourse about Tim McCarver and baseball announcers that sort of overwhelmed the whole thing. So I pulled that and use it here.

* * *

Little things have been annoying the heck out of me this year when watching the World Series on FOX. I’m not talking about big things like the camera cuts or the graphics or the strike zone thing or any of that. I really am talking about tiny things, stuff that probably doesn’t bother anybody else. But I can’t help myself.

For instance, I have now heard FOX announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver repeatedly refer to the Rangers comeback in Game 2 as the inning where “Josh Hamilton and Michael Young hit sacrifice fly balls.”* I know that baseball announcers have a long history of loving the RBI, praising the RBI, worshiping the RBI, I get that, but how do you make Hamilton and Young the heroes of that inning? Ian Kinsler hit that pop-up single and stole second base on the great-throwing Yadi Molina. Elvis Andrus cracked a single — the only really solid hit that entire inning — and then took second on a brilliant bit of base-running that for some reason was reduced in narrative to an Albert Pujols gaffe. He then took THIRD on the Hamilton fly ball. The point is that the sacrifice flies, while functional at-bats, were not the story of the inning. They were fly balls. The hard work had already been done. To me, crediting Hamilton and Young for that inning is a bit like crediting the guys who drove in the golden spike at Promontory Summit with building the railroad.

*Maybe this is bothering me because the Michael Young deification is driving me up the wall. Young has been a good player in his career. Not a great player. Not close to a great player. But a good player. A solid player. He won a batting average title. He’s a .300 hitter who doesn’t walk, has played several positions but none of them especially well, he has shown a little pop in large part because he has had the good fortune to play his entire career in a great hitters ballpark. He gets a lot of points for leadership, and he might indeed be a Patton-like leader in the clubhouse, but I also know that Young has twice complained loudly and publicly when the Rangers moved his position. His career WAR, at this moment anyway, is almost exactly the same as Dave Henderson and Melvin Mora. His career 106 OPS+ is the same as Don Money and Bill Doran and David DeJesus. All of this seems to place him firmly in the “good but not close to great” column.

And yet, all postseason I’ve been hearing Michael Young hosannas. Great player. Classy player. Fantastic player. Leader. Role model. Hero. Even this would be OK if Michael Young was having a great postseason. But at last check he was hitting .207 in the postseason. I don’t get it.

Meanwhile, there actually IS an underrated guy on the Texas team that the announcers could be celebrating — Ian Kinsler. He has been an excellent defensive second baseman, and over his career he gets on base more than Young, he hits with more power than Young, he’s a much better base-stealer than Young, he’s a better base runner than Young. Kinsler too takes big advantage of his home ballpark, but he’s a better player than Michael Young and, as is the case for truly underrated players, nobody in the television booth seems to know it.

The reason for this, I regret to admit, is batting average. Michael Young has a career .300 average, Kinsler is way down there at .275. And that is that. A month or so ago — and I wasn’t the first to say this — I wrote that maybe batting average was finally losing its unique hold on the American psyche because Curtis Granderson was a serious MVP candidate even though he was hitting in the .260s. After almost a month of watching the playoffs on television, I take it all back. The postseason announcers — pretty much to a man — still refer to batting average like it’s the most perfect of all statistics. I guess batting average, like the Terminator, is impossible to kill.

Sorry. Back to McCarver and FOX. On Sunday night, McCarver broke out an odd statistic that sounded completely wrong to me. I couldn’t quite follow it at first — it sounded like McCarver had said that Elvis Andrus was the first shortstop in the history of baseball to steal 30 bases for three consecutive seasons. This obviously is a million miles from being true — heck Bert Campaneris had six consecutive seasons of FORTY stolen bases.

But it turns out that wasn’t what he said. McCarver’s voice trailed off at the end but what he actually said was that Andrus was the first shortstop in baseball history to steal 30 bases for three consecutive season to START A CAREER.

Well, that’s different. It STILL sounded wrong, but I do know you can do a lot of damage to greater truth when you throw that extra “start a career” thing at the start of any statistic. The only catcher in baseball history to start a career with three consecutive 120 hit seasons is Jason Kendall. The only only second baseman in baseball history to start a career with three consecutive 100 run seasons is Jim Gilliam. The only left fielder to start a career with three consecutive 100 RBI seasons is … yep, you guessed it, Hideki Matsui.*

*That’s a wonderful trick question — Ted Williams played his first year as a RIGHT fielder.

Still, the Elvis Andrus statistic sounded PARTICULARLY wrong. And so, of course, I looked it up and it turns out that it is technically right but only technically. Hanley Ramirez stole 51, 51, and 35 stolen bases his first three years, which would clearly put him in the category. BUT, Ramirez got two-at bats for the Red Sox in 2005, so apparently that eliminates him. Maury Wills, Bert Campaneris and Edgar Renteria all stole 30 bases in each of their first three FULL seasons, but each of them had a partial first season where they did not. In other words, the statistic is meaningless. And it always was meaningless — a shortstop stealing 30 bases is not exactly rare. Ozzie Smith did it 11 times, Freddie Patek did it eight years in a row, Jimmy Rollins has done it a bunch, Jose Reyes has done it every full season he’s had in the big leagues.

You know, I’ve been listening to Tim McCarver call baseball games for almost 30 years now. One of my best friends in high school, Robert, was the first person I knew who had a satellite dish — this was in the days when you had to be one of those guys in the Apollo 13 room to figure out how to operate the thing. I remember there were a lot of vectors involved. Anyway, Robert was and is a huge Mets fan, and so we watched a lot of Mets games with McCarver calling them.

And I loved McCarver. Absolutely loved the guy. Every at-bat, it seemed, he taught me baseball. It was that way for a long time. I honestly believe that McCarver was one of the great pioneers in baseball commentary, the John Madden of his sport in many ways. He was the first I knew who could really break down what the pitcher was trying to do, why he was trying to do it, how the hitter was trying to counter it, and so on. He broke down the game in a way I can never remember any other color commentator doing it. And he was a good story teller too. If I’m listing the greatest color commentators in baseball history, he’s right up at the top.

Trouble is, McCarver has been doing this a long time. And one of the sad truths is that sports color commentary tends to have an expiration date (and, I’ll admit, sportswriting often does too). There comes a time when everyone has heard the stories, when the insights have become cliches, when the game just changes on you. And if we’re being realistic — and I’m not saying this is true for McCarver because I don’t know — there usually comes a time when longtime color commentators stop doing the prep work, stop working the clubhouses, stop keeping up with the latest news. They rely on their experience, their history. That’s just human nature. I thought it was telling when Terry Francona, who was so refreshing in part because he was so up to date, made the point that Kinsler is one of the best young players in the game. Two days later, McCarver said: “I had never thought of him that way.”

McCarver can still wow you now and again. There was a moment on Sunday when he picked up that Yadier Molina had called a full-count pitch verbally against Nelson Cruz, and McCarver brilliantly deduced that Edwin Jackson was going to throw a slider and it probably was not going to be in the strike zone. Sure enough, Jackson threw a slider out of the strike zone. McCarver still understands the pitcher-catcher relationship better than just about anybody in the business.

But, all in all, he has become a hard listen. Al Michaels*, in explaining the art of broadcasting, said that he sees the game as the music and the announcing as the lyrics. And by that he means that the lyrics need to fit the music, they need to enhance the music, it must blend together. The worst thing an announcer can do is jolt the viewer out of the moment, stop them cold, take them away from the game. McCarver does that to me way too often now. I find myself 20 times a game taken away from the ballgame and wondering if what I just heard was (1) True; (2) True but misleading; (3) Significant in any way.

*Michaels is the master, I really believe this, the best who ever called a football game. Sunday, as I flipped channels back and forth between the World Series and the horrendous Saints-Colts game, I heard Al give a statistic. I won’t get it exactly right, but it was something like: The New Orleans Saints rush six or more 36 percent of the time. I have grown so used to the baseball announcers of this postseason giving statistics without any context at all, that I almost wanted to cry with joy when Al followed it up with: “To give you an idea, the league average is 11%. So that means the Saints are blitzing six about three times as often as the average team.” That, my friends, is what a great announcer does. He makes the game MORE interesting.

At some point during the night, I put up a Twitter poll: If you could choose any two living announcers to call the World Series — they have to be living, this is not some sort of imaginary exercise — who would you choose? Hundreds and hundreds of people rushed in to take the poll. Many missed the “living” part of it — Red Barber was a popular choice. Some used it as an opportunity to make a joke about Buck and McCarver. And there were a few people praising some really good announcers out there like Jon Miller, Boog Sciambi, Tom Hamilton among others. I thought an intriguing combo might be Bob Costas and Terry Francona, I’d love to see how that combination might work. But then, I really miss Bob Costas on postseason baseball.

The vast, vast, vast majority of people (of course) simply selected: Vin Scully. No second person. Just Vin. Brandon McCarthy chose Vin and someone to bring him water. Several chose Vin and Teller from Penn and Teller. And so on. I could not agree more. What I think makes Vin such a wonderful listen — and has for more than a half century — is that his voice stays in the background, the statistics he uses make sense and feel true, his stories enhance what you’re watching, he’s honest about whatever he’s seeing and he has Coltrane’s sense of rhythm. It’s a remarkable combination. Baseball is a tough game to announce. The action is spread out. The pace is uneven. The strategies are often intricate and not especially interesting for casual fans (they don’t call boring politics “inside baseball” for nothing). The statistics are often wonky. But there are great opportunities too — baseball’s a wonderful game for stories, for drama, for insight. Yes, it would be great to hear Vin Scully call a World Series again. Well, hey, at least we got him to trend on Twitter for a while.

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86 Responses to Baseball on FOX

  1. Josh says:

    One of my least favorite announcing moments ever was when McCarver, out of nowhere and during an important moment of Saturday’s game, noted that Nolan Ryan threw seven no hitters in his career. As if this was news to us.

  2. Scoops says:

    Honsetly, a good part of the reason I buy the MLB app every year on my iPhone is to listen to Vin Scully. I don’t even like the Dodgers, but I love listening to Vin Scully.

    If he called the World Series again, I’d hope that some series of events managed to turn it into a 15 game series, and I’d be glued to every inning.

  3. jjspringer says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. jjspringer says:

    I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the post season, but I did catch the part where the other guy (Buck?) told us that the reliever’s nickname is “Scrabble” to which McCarver said, “It’s a five letter word: S-T-R-I-K-E”.

    (To his credit, I’m told he corrected himself later in the broadcast. Gotta respect that.)

  5. Jim Bennett says:

    Josh Lewin is a great baseball announcer. Calling a close, exciting game is easy. Josh has a rare talent for keeping you engaged during a blowout. This sometimes requires talking about things other than baseball, but that is OK. Many Rangers fans really miss having Josh on their announcing team.

  6. Mattsullivan says:

    McCarver is very much like John Madden IMHO. Both were lifers in their sports who came to announcing after substantial careers and lasted far too long, eventually becoming parodies.

    McCarver is the king of senseless banter and constant references to the useless statistics (ridiculously small samples seem to take near-holy import to the man). He is unbearable in my mind.

  7. Mark says:

    Joe, thanks for this. It saddens me when people pile on McCarver because, while he might deserve it, I too remember the 80s Mets and how much he brought to those telecasts. Funny, knowledgeable and in the moment… all those things that sadly he is seemingly no longer bringing.

  8. feitcanwrite says:

    As somebody whose primary exposure to baseball color commentary is Frank “Dr. Hibbard” White, I think McCarver does a fine job.

  9. RIP says:

    My most frustrating McCarver/Buck moment was in the All-Star game a few years ago when they didn’t even know who Joakim Soria was or how to pronounce his name. They gushed over the 4 other closers on the team and how it was possibly the best collection of closing talent, yet didn’t even mention Soria (his numbers were better than almost all) and didn’t seem to even know who he was. It goes back to Joe’s theory of “no homework”…they just sit down and talk about what they know (or knew).

  10. feitcanwrite says:

    Joe – I think the better Twitter poll would be this:

    If you could choose any two living announcers to call the World Series, who are the LAST two you would choose?

    My vote goes to Hawk Harrelson and Frank White.

  11. Grulg says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Josh says:

    Buck is worse than McCarver. McCarver’s sin is he stayed too long and the game has passed him by and he’s gotten too comfortable to do the work to be consistently good-to-great. Buck, on the other hand, tries to make himself more important than the game, picks favorites, does a poor job of leading his broadcast partner (in every sport: it’s amazing how much better Troy Aikman does an an analyst when paired with Brennamen or basically…anyone that’s not Joe Buck) and basically adds nothing.

    McCarver has the excuse of being a legend resting on his laurels. Buck is supposedly in his prime, and it turns out…he just stinks.

  13. Clashfan says:

    @Josh, Joe Buck finally went way over the line a couple of years ago for me. During a WS or AS game, MLB was honoring Jackie Robinson and had his widow out there at home plate, accepting a plaque or something. She said a couple of words, then Joe Buck broke in and enthused, “What a special moment!” and hustled her off the field.

    He couldn’t let it just *be* a special moment.

  14. Frank says:

    Interesting that it is deemed McCarver has “passed his expiration date.” Scully, several years older and much longer the broadcaster, apparently has not. So, I’m not sure it’s the age / longevity factor.

    Maybe the difference is their respective roles as color commentary vs. play-by-play. (On the other hand, Scully is his own color guy.)

    Maybe the difference is that we have changed in what we expect of broadcasters. The old McCarver may have spewed the same mindless banter in the 1980’s – we just didn’t mind it so much. Or, perhaps the Information Age just gives McCarver so much more material, and neither he nor Fox can figure out what to do with all of it.

  15. This is what I don’t get about FOX, in general: They have decent guys like Joe Buck who would be TERRIFIC on-air hosts for pregames and that type of entertainment programming, but they put them in roles like lead PBP announcer and use guys like Karros and Rose for the show hosting roles. NBC puts its best talent on the show hosting, and then good PBP guys on games.

    I think I’ve posted this previously: If you paired up the CBS football PBP announcers with the FOX analysts, you’d have some solid announcing teams.

  16. GoBlueKc says:

    How many times have I heard this duo call a player ‘one of the greatest __fill in the blank__ in the history of baseball’? Ughhh…,

    And not to mention their intense fascination with Pujols. Yes, he is a great player, one of the best hitters to play the game, but they showed his HR from the night before about 30 times, yet, Napoli hits a very pivotal HR in the game they were calling, and it took 2 batters before they showed it. Then that was pretty much the last time they showed it. Gets old. This has been such a good series, yet they almost make it unbearable at times

  17. Also, Michael Young is earning SIXTEEN MILLION dollars this year. Which I shout at the TV every time I hear what a great sacrifice he is making by changing positions. Ugh.

  18. Andy G. says:

    I listen to the Series on ESPN radio while watching the telecast as a way of avoiding the Fox commentators. This isn’t meant necessarily as criticism of them; I understand that the television crew has to appeal to a wider audience than just baseball fans while doing the Series. Another option is to listen to either teams’ radio broadcast of the game if you have satellite radio or the AtBat app.

  19. bigsteveno says:

    We really have to do something about McCarver. Someone has to convince Fox that he’s ruining the postseason. I have to watch with the sound off, because he makes me scream at the TV set.

  20. Sergio R. says:

    Just gimme Boog Sciambi and whoever else doing color. It doesn’t matter cuz Boog is that good!

  21. Grulg says:

    *Michael Young is a plenty good enough player-200 hits, batting titles and 100 rbi years are not ‘Bad’, even if the WAR crowd whines about him not taking 100 walks a year. Young is what he is, plus he has played all around the IF effectively if not exactly Bobby Grich Jr. Yes I know he plays in a hitters park, yes I know his OBP isn’t like Rickey’s. He’s still worthy of recognition.

    *Vin Scully-in a word: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Gimme classic Harry Carey or Ned Martin/Jim Woods on the radio or Al Michaels. Bob Costas-MUCH better as a host than play by play guy.

    *McCarver’s done. Puts me to sleep. Joe Buck is like Pat O’brien he has Shill stamped on his forehead. They can’t show a graphic or have someone come out of the dugout or BP without it being the ‘Pepsi Managerial Walk to the Mound’. Gag. I can do without that.

  22. E says:

    Scully. The last four paragraphs. Giants fans dislike everything Dodgers. Their stadium. The color blue, their city, their fans, the owners, the players, their lifestyles. Everything. Except one. And he alone almost makes up for all that is unlikable and distasteful about the Dodgers. The rivalry was relatively low-key on the West Coast, until 1959 when Sam Jones lost a no-hitter on a very controversial ruling by scorer Charlie Park. Jim Gilliam hit a routine grounder to rookie SS Andre Thomas who bobbled it badly. It was ruled a hit. And the feud was on.

    Scully is and was and always will be the best. The last 4 paragraphs

  23. jdc says:

    I wonder who would be outraged if McCarver was replaced. Does he have a loyal following?

  24. Buck is a poser who is still riding his daddys coattails and McCarver is just past his prime. He will still throw out something insightful every now and then, like his comment: “The difference between AAA pitchers and Big League pitchers, is that they more often throw off-speed stuff in fastball counts”, but mostly its meaningless and trivial. I get the sense that McCarver knows that this is his swan song.

  25. X Mark says:

    They showed a graphic in Game 1 showing that in his career, Napoli is 3 for 3 against Chris Carpenter. Then McCarver said that “of course” came while Napoli was with the Angels and Carpenter was with the Blue Jays. This didn’t sound right to me, so I took 15 seconds to look it up and sure enough, Carpenter last threw a pitch for the Blue Jays in 2002 and Napoli debuted in 2006. I didn’t even have to look up their individual matchups, just a basic back of the baseball card check.

  26. mckingford says:

    One of the things that killed me just a little was the ongoing description of the Game 2 comeback as “huge” or “massive”.

    Ok, some context here people. It may have been a fun comeback to watch, and was certainly *important*. But virtually by definition, coming back from 1-0 down is the *smallest* comeback possible.

  27. Dinky says:

    I remember back when Scully had a color man (mostly Jerry Doggett) and the color man was useful. Perhaps the best color man Scully worked with for the Dodgers was Ross Porter, who had the gift of citing meaningful statistics in context, but wanted to do play by play. I seem to recall Scully and McCarver were a great team a while ago for a World Series, and suspect Karros and Hershiser both would be good color men for Scully. Heck, I think Scully and Charlie Steiner would be a great combination.

    BTW, Scully does not drink anything during the games, at all. The bathroom is too far for him to be certain of reaching it and getting back. So he has a pocket full of Jolly Rancher candies to keep his mouth moist and his bladder empty. So a water fetcher is unnecessary. You’d think the Dodgers would run pipes for him, but Dodger Stadium has been known for too few bathrooms from day one.

  28. ibrosey says:

    A glaring difference in circumstance between Scully and McCarver today, or McCarver today and McCarver in the ’80s with the Mets is just that – living with a team, being in the clubhouse daily, getting to know the players and what management is doing and thinking, as opposed to flying in, doing a couple of interviews for background, getting stats handed to you and BOOM “Let’s do this!”

  29. Stephen says:

    Jon Miller and Earl Weaver, as long as Earl gets the perm and does a Manager’s Corner.

  30. Sandy says:

    I press the “Mute” button on my remote control. Problem solved.


    I usually don’t take the time to post a comment, but I had to on this occasion. For I simply can’t agree with your assessment of Tim McCarver.

    I too am a long time listener. Tim’s my favorite color commentator and remains my favorite.

    Tim’s like a fine wine that you settle in with and have become comfortable with. Or like a classic book that seems to get better with every reading.

    I just sit back and ENJOY what Tim and Joe have to say. I’m not analyzing all their comments; I’m just taking them in — and appreciating them for what they are.

    I do wonder Joe, if you’ve not become overly analytical — to the extreme, because you’re a writer (and seem always to be looking for something else to write on — or to be critical of). Why do you feel that it’s necessary to make comments that are critical of Tim?

    Perhaps Tim hasn’t changed at all; I don’t think he has. I still see his insights as fresh and vibrant — and greatly enjoy the banter between McCarver and Buck.

    Perhaps you’re the one who has changed Joe. Think about it.

  32. surfmonkey89 says:

    Batting average has nothing to do with why Curtis Granderson is considered an MVP candidate. Curtis Granderson is considered an MVP candiate because he plays for the Yankees.

    Why is this so hard to understand?

  33. Will says:

    I wouldn’t agree. Vin always brings up diseases players have had or family members of players that have recently died. I can’t stand to listen to him. But then, I guess everyone becomes obsessed with mortality as they age.
    Interesting tid bit I noticed this year. At one point Michael Young and Ian Kinsler had the same on base percentage and Ian was hitting exactly 100 points lower.

  34. KHAZAD says:

    I agree that Mccarver has become a caricature of his former self. His absolute obsession with sac flies and bunts (“They will probably want him to bunt here”-in the first inning) is maddening.

    They have mentioned every game about Young’s selflessness in changing positions when in fact he said he was livid, felt disrespected and misled, and requested a trade.

    NOTHING is worse than Joe Buck, though. He is the darling of fox, seemingly presiding over every major sports event they cover, and I don’t think there has ever been a broadcaster in any sport who annoyed me more. I cannot stand to listen to him. He will say things in every game he does that make me want to slap him in the face. I think the worst of Mccarver comes when he is following Joe’s lead. I can’t even stand to look at him, with his long crooked head and overly botoxed forehead featuring cartoon slash eyebrows that never move. Never. I routinely turn down the volume on fox games because the anger he inspires in me inhibits my enjoyment of the game.

  35. Frank says:

    Khazad – Wow. Those are some strong sentiments. While Buck / McCarver are not well-liked across the board, I am not sure the depth of your dislike is that universal. For my part, I have never seen anything like the depth of universal hatred and contempt for Howard Cosell in his prime.

  36. Mark Daniel says:

    It seems to me that McCarver would be the guy who should have been touting the exploits of Kinsler and Andrus in the “sacrifice fly inning”. McCarver’s the color guy. He’s the one who’s supposed to give us the inside info. And here’s the perfect event for which he could show off his insight. He didn’t, and instead focused on the sac flies, which we all saw with our own eyes.

  37. No discussion of horrible Fox announcers would be complete without mentioning Thom Brenneman, who like Joe Buck, has rode his father’s coat tails to a career in awful broadcasting.

  38. Phil says:

    Fun drinking game: during the pre-game, guess how many seconds it takes from the time Joe Buck throws it to Tim McCarver until he looks at the camera and smirks while Tim is talking. I’ve been playing this since 1996. The answer is usually three.

  39. Jason says:

    Some announcers I have liked recently: Brian Anderson and Ron Darling who worked the Brewers – Cardinals series on TBS.

    I’d also include Jon Sciambi and Dave Campbell – and listening to Al Michaels is always great. He announced a Mets – Giants game on the MLB Network this year and I tuned in just to listen to him.

    I think McCarver would be better again if he were with someone who really enjoyed baseball – not Joe Buck who you can tell would rather be talking about that thrilling Rams-Cowboys game.

    On the other end of things, the mute button was made for Joe Buck, Mike Tirico and Chris Berman. I’ll also include Bob Costas when he is in his ‘I’m the smartest human alive phase’ – which is most of the time.

  40. Kent Morgan says:

    I have been switching channels. McCarver will say something that is incorrect so I go over to Gary Thorne and Rick Sutcliffe. Then Sutcliffe will come with something just as bad to it’s back to Buck and McCarver. There have been so many gaffes. At this point, I’m no longer sure who said the following, but I think it was McCarver. After Allan Craig hit his important pinch hits in two consecutive games the color man later made a comment about it being a record. The only problem was that he started the remark by crediting it to David Freese. When he was finished, his partner very quietly said, “Allan Craig” and left it at that.

  41. adam119 says:

    What’s more astonishing: that Fox is still going with Buck/McCarver for baseball or that Fox is still going with that ridiculous robot during football games?

  42. nightflyblog says:

    Joe, your ears do not deceive you. McCarver was really great on the WPIX telecasts for the Mets. Heck, his book’s pretty darn good too. I think going national ruined him.

  43. stephen says:

    Was I the only guy in the twitter poll who said “Bob Uecker and Vin Scully”? How cool would it be to hear those two guys together at a combined like 160 years old?

  44. I love the “ultimate team player” line they keep spouting about Young, when he wanted to be traded in the off-season if he wasn’t going to play 3B because of Beltre. Also Kevin on Intentional Talk called Young a bonafide superstar in the Show because of his 200 hits and said Tulowitzki is not a superstar……they don’t bother to look at the road splits for Young or any Ranger for that matter. Tons of people want Tito back, he was surprisingly good, maybe we should write to Fox? I don’t know much about Kinsler but i had the feeling he was really good, speed and power at the top of the order with good defense. Costas or Scully. And Thank You Carlton Fisk, now they complete exaggerate the whole “get the players facial reactions” to the max on these broadcasts.
    ^ Thanks for reminding me about the robots, what’s worse that or using the NFL theme song for MLB now? I think they’re just lazy and don’t really care, people will watch or not watch, just like their sub-par HD quality.

  45. goodsam73 says:

    thank you for starting this thread JP – these 2 are unlistenable – I turn off the sound now and listen to the radio – don’t care if FOX does have a 4-8sec [or longer!] delay built in – Francona was great and Buck made his usual sarcastic and condescending remarks towards him – when will Fox get the message that BOTH of these 2 are DONE ? especially when there are so many quality announcers/analysts out there – take a listen to the Giants/Stanford’s Dave Flemming sometime to hear a new play-by-play talent

  46. denopac says:

    Dinky, Babe Ruth didn’t need Lou Gehrig batting behind him in the lineup to mash the ball. Ruth’s three greatest seasons (using OPS+) were 1920 (.376/.532/.847), 1921 (.378/.512/.846), and 1923 (.393/.545/.764), when he was protected by the likes of Duffy Lewis and Del Pratt. In 1924 he hit .378/.513/.739, the only time he led the league in BA. Gehrig became a regular in 1925. With Gehrig protecting him in the lineup, Ruth led the league in walks seven times between 1926 and 1933.

  47. scatterbrian says:

    While we’re at it, can someone tell Buckarver to get off Mike Scioscia’s nuts? Any time they mention Napoli, they bring up the fact that he played for Scioscia, learned the catching trade under Scioscia’s steady hand, and is now a “star” thanks to what he learned in Anaheim. Scioscia preferred playing a no-hit glove behind the plate and relegated Napoli to DH, 1B or the bench. And since they presumably had nowhere to play Napoli, the Angels swapped him (and Juan Rivera) for $85M worth of Vernon Wells.

    Napoli is playing well in spite of Scioscia, not because of him.

  48. hds says:

    This summer, McCarver said a player had turned things around 360 degrees. Terrible in math and terrible in the booth. Buck has a million dollar voice and a ten cent mind, however I giggle every pre-game when Joe gazes adoringly at his colorman, McC or Aikman.

  49. Gary says:

    I certainly agree with the general assessment of Buck and McCarver. McCarver is beyond irritating and his “insights” are often just plain stupid from a coaching point of view. Although no one was worse than Tony Kubek on the old NBC Game of the Week.

    But I still found this column a bit mystifying because Vin Scully has always been one of my least favorite announcers. His voice has a grating quality and a game he announces always seems to be more about Vin Scully announcing the game than about the game itself.

    As far as color commentators, I currently enjoy Orel Hershisher and I thought John Smoltz did a nice job for TBS. Both give good insights, don’t stomp on the play by play man and offer a little self-deprecating humor. The best play-by-play announcer of all time was Ernie Harwell.

  50. Will says:

    Agree, I’d have to say Orel, too.

  51. Antoniomo says:

    Stephen- I missed voting in the poll, but I definitely would have voted for Bob Uecker. Knowledgeable, funny and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

  52. Yeah, there was that play where a Rangers runner (Kinsler?) was hit by a foul screaming bounder while taking his secondary lead off of third. McCarver explains that the batter would have been out (and the 3rd out of the half-inning) if the runner had been in fair terrority while hit. So I start in with the “No, Tim. The runner is out. The batter is credited with a single. There is one exception though. If the runner is behind the nearest infielder, the runner can be awarded the next base with the batter granted first base on a single and no out recorded on the play. That latter scenario actually happened on a groundball that hit by Raul Mondesi of the Dodgers against the Astros in …”. Yeah, and around then someone had obviously whispered into McCarver’s earpiece and he at least mentioned that the batter would have been credited with a single and the runner would have been out if he had been in fair territory (I wonder how they decide whether the baserunner is in fair territory if he’s straddling the line?). Those are the sort of errors that McCarver shouldn’t be making given all the innings of major league baseball he’s witnessed in his lifetime.

    His strengths are his usually accurate knowledge of baseball in the 1960s plus or minus a decade, the catcher-pitcher relationship, and catching strategies and technique. It is probably a bit of a stretch to expect him to be an expert analyst when he’s actually seen very little of the two teams that he’s watching in the telecasts. I can vaguely remember “The Baseball Network” MLB national game broadcasts that aired on NBC and ABC back in 1994. In at least some of the games, they paired a lead broadcaster or color analyst from the home team’s TV or radio booth with another from the road team’s booth. That’s almost sort of the ideal scenario – get a solid play by play guy and get two analysts who have actually called a lot games from each of the competing teams and make that your series TV team (though logistically it might be a little difficult to coordinate given some of the broadcasters’ other commitments). I’ll gladly accept a little less on-air chemistry in exchange for better insight into each club and how each manager has typically deployed his personnel throughout the season.

    I find Buck more amusing than good. I can tolerate him in this year’s series because he at least has some local knowledge of the Cardinals (though he doesn’t call their regular season games anymore). I could definitely do without his perpetually referencing what the nearest NFL team to each of the two teams’ locales did earlier that afternoon, though.

  53. rokirovka says:

    The best comp to McCarver’s career from the 80s to the present might be David Letterman.

  54. Richard says:

    I know that McCarver was good when he did the Mets. He was trained by the best! (That is, I remember when he started doing some Phillies games, with Harry Kalas & Richie Ashburn, the best broadcast team ever.) But almost as soon as he went national he became intolerable. It was always a shame, because he was capable of genuinely useful insights into the game. But he would fall in love with them, beat them to death. And at some point he started to believe the reports of his intelligence, and he turned into the kind of guy who awkwardly used unnecessary words, who belabored his decent points, who laughed at his own jokes, who brought up statistical non sequitur after statistical non sequitur, who called everything “unbelievable”, and so on. But this was all easily 20 years ago.

  55. One minor quibble – Michael Young was a very, very good second baseman for the first half of his career, before he switched to short. One of the better in the game at the time, just below the elites like O.Hudson.

  56. NMark W says:

    Maybe in the coming years with more techno-devices available for the viewing public, viewers will have the option of listening to a few different choices in announcers while the video would all be the same feed. Perhaps this will eventually become another one of those “revenue-enhancers” that corporations love to sprout. I can see where you might have the two different teams’ broadcast crews available for more of the hometown/hometeam sounds, the Buck/McCarver type crew and then one or two more for those who want to hear more historical info during the game and/or more amusing announcers. (Sort of like now if you wanted to hear the Spanish broadcast crew.) I can see this actually costing more $$$ to be spent than what it would bring in now that i think more about the idea.

    One other comment: What is going on with all of the batted balls being pounded into the feet of the batters this series? Have there not been an inordinate amount of these painful instances or am I just paying better attention?

  57. alan0825 says:

    I would agree with Richard as far as McCarver believing his press clippings when he went national. Rudy Martzke of USA Today had his favorite color guys and continually made them out to be geniuses and many seemed to take it to heart, including McCarver, John Madden and Joe Morgan. My nominee for newest most annoying color man/studio stooge is Bobby Valentine-somebody please give him a managing job somewhere.

  58. GregTamblyn says:

    Agree with Joe completely. They are unlistenable.

    But if you think McCarver is bad on MLB, check out his CD of song standards. Don’t go out and actually BUY it, though. That would only encourage him.

  59. Dominic says:

    @bill lawerence you are definitely in the minority, a quick glance at twitter during mccarver’s broadcasts would show you how despised and widely- mocked he is. There is even a fake twitter account @faketimmccarver that mocks all his idiotic statements, the man needs to retire, he is the worst color man ever, other Joe Morgan, in my mind

  60. KY says:

    Thank you MLB Gameday Audio. I just can’t take the FOX broadcasts anymore, I have to hit mute on the TV and turn on either the Cardinals or Rangers broadcast, despite the delay.

  61. twassel says:

    McCarver was definitely a great announcer for the Mets in the ’80’s. As I long-time knowledgeable baseball fan, he brought a lot of “inside” knowledge out that I didn’t hear anywhere else. My wife, not a long-time fan, loved to listen to him because she started to really understand some of the finer points of the game. Unfortunately, as you say, it appears that his shelf life is over, as he rarely says anything interesting any more. Sad.

  62. blovy8 says:

    I just leave the sound off until something interesting happens. Why do I care what they’re saying? I would rarely get information about things I can’t see, like where the outfielders are playing. I don’t need to hear ball one high, slider low and away, I can see that. I hate both those guys, even when they are occasionally right, so I’ve given up. When I’m at a game, I like having the radio feed in the bathroom when there’s a line. In fact, radio guys talk less than TV guys, which is ass backwards!

  63. AJK says:

    Anyone else think McCarver is secretly rooting hard for Francona to land another Manager job soon?

  64. To me, the most annoying and hard-to-take characteristics of sports play by play or color announcers are arrogance and pomposity. (My worst nightmare would be putting Mike Lupica in the announcer’s booth.) McCarver has drifted into self-satisfied arrogance over time, as did Joe Morgan. What once seemed enlightening because they offered baseball knowledge that people like tony Kubek or Joe Garagiola didn’t has devolved into blather from people enchanted by the sound of their own voice. Still, McCarver is not as annoying as Al Michaels, who oozes arrogance and condescension with every breath. And I agree with the earlier commenter that Costas can approach this level of obnoxiousness when he is donning his cloak of the “smartest human (pound for pound) in the universe” (exacerbated when he accessorizes that with his “lone man seeking to rescue the soul of baseball” hat). Joe Buck? He doesn’t stand out enough for me to develop the antipathy others have for him. He’s not as funny as he thinks he is (there’s a reason why Craig Ferguson got the Late Late Show instead of Buck), but he doesn’t make my skin crawl as someone like Royals announcer Denny Matthews does.

  65. Josh says:

    I still think Al Michaels is really good–when he calls the game. Where Michaels goes to hell is when he starts trying to do analysis/color AND do play-by-play. Lately, I think he’s doing less of that and has regained some of his old strength. If the game goes to hell, he still falls along with it, sadly.

    Joe Yuck’s need to make himself the star of every broadcast is sickening, and his self appointment as the Moral Authority of Sports is equally contemptible. There’s a part of me that wonders if McCarver might recover some of his old skill if paired with a young, hungry play-by-play guy.

    I like Kevin Harlan & Gus Johnson for their ability to bring excitement to even minor-league matchups. But it probably wouldn’t translate well to baseball. Jon Miller was one of the best, but he’s gotten waaaay too comfortable with Joe Morgan (who has become one of the worst).

  66. Kenny Sears says:

    Give Ron Darling over McCarver any day. As a Mets fan we would get McCarver every game. Pure agony!


  67. Bryan says:

    Gary Thorne. That guy calls every sport, and knows how to pronounce every name. It’ll be 8am and on ESPN13 he’ll be announcing a women’s junior high lacrosse game and he’ll know everything about them, that night – on to the NHL game where he correctly pronounces every name and keeps up with the fast-paced game. He is THE MAN!!

    Let’s throw Frank White in there too, just because it’s impossible to not like the guy. You can just picture him with a smile on his face 100% of the time.

  68. davidinnyc says:

    @Gary —

    John Smoltz? Are you serious? The man who gave us the brilliant insight in the NLCS that “there is no such thing as a 4-run homer” (when he was chastising the losing team for overswinging)?

    And the only thing I remember about Brian Anderson, aside from his overall blah-ness, is that he kept on referring to the Cardinals RF as “Lance Bergman”.

    Anderson, Darling, and Smoltz were so bad I was actually glad that FOX has the WS — and I think Buck and McCarver are an utter disaster on their best days.

    Favorite McCarver moment from Game 5: defending Pujols for not swinging after PUJOLS called a hit-and-run because the pitch was “not hittable” or some such nonsense. Uh, Tim — ever hear of “protecting the runner” on a hit-and-run play? Absent a swing from Pujols, that pitch was an almost-perfect pitchout.

    Reminded of McCarver’s all-time brain cramp — when he defended, at great length, Chuck Knoblauch for not chasing the ball because he (Knoblauch) thought the ump had blown the call in the 1998 ALCS. Even Knoblauch had the sense to apologize to his teammates after that gaffe, but McCarver continued his defense of him long after the game was over.

  69. simon says:

    Most of the guys in this discussion are ex-players. Has there been an example of a sabermetrically inclined color man on a broadcast? (not that I know of – my hometown Blue Jays had a pretty irritating combo of Pat Tabler & Buck Martinez this year. That’s two color men and no play-by-play)

    What would happen if World Series TV played to this crowd a little more? What if the colour man’s focus was on things that lead a little more directly to wins. Focus on Ian Kinsler more for leading the Rangers in WAR? Get angry at the ridiculous use of IBBs, sac bunts and hit-and-runs? Showcase OBP and SLG instead of ending the discussion with AVG? Would we be happy? Would so-called “casual” baseball fans be confused and wonder why the announcer is upset at fundamental baseball?

    I think I would be happy. Happier.

    Favourite/most outrageous line so far was when, I think McCarver, said something like: “The Rangers have 2 leadoff hitters, so when Kinsler doesn’t get on base, you know that Andrus will”. It’s just wrong. He is lying to us!

    Then again, pulling ridiculous lines from this broadcast team is like fishing with dynamite.

  70. Slideguy says:

    I’ve watched the MLB International broadcast, which is available on my system. Gary Thorne and Rick Sutcliffe do a great job *without* McCarveresque digressions or Buck-hype.

    Sutcliffe is particularly informative on pitch selection, and its fun to hear him predict pitches consistently and accurately.

    Fox also mics the entire stadium, so the crowd noise is prominent – it’s quite different on the MLB Int’l broadcast.

  71. dschavone says:

    I’d love to hear a tandem of Uecker and Eckersley. I heard Eck cover a few Red Sox games on NESN while Jerry Remy was unavailable and he was great. the two together would be a lot of fun.

  72. It could always be worse. Imagine if Bob Carpenter or Chip Caray were calling these games?

  73. Mike Bennett says:

    Tim McCarver’s problem is he has an almost Andy Rooney-esque ability to focus on some meaningless b.s. and go on and on about it. I remember during an NLCS game decades ago, a team (I think it was the Pirates) had three pitchers warming up. Tim said this once. And said it again…and, for good measure, said it one more time. Moreover, he is rarely concise, and, as Joe pointed out, often says things not connected to the game.

    Play-by-play is so subjective. I did football, baseball and basketball games in college, and think an play-by-play guy’s job is to tell you what’s going on, enhance a bit with stats, and set up the the color commentator. The best play-by-play announcers have both laser focus and peripheral vision. For example, Marv Albert and Jim Durham are the gold standard in hoops — all important info gets out quickly and uncluttered.

    Football — Al Michaels is a solid announcer, but I think he tends to blather on a lot. I loved Pat Summerall’s minimalism. Keith Jackson was a marvel. Verne Lundquist does a fine job on SEC games. Packers announcer Wayne Larrivee is outstanding. Football is by far the easiest sport to do.

    Baseball — I’ve come to appreciate Vin Scully, and he is great, but he’s inspired a lot of lesser imitators. I prefer announcers like Harry Caray (during his White Sox era) and Jack Buck. I don’t think there are many good play-by-play guys now — most are bland and don’t command attention.

  74. zenny says:

    McCarver is especially awful when commentating games played by non-big market teams. If it’s anybody except the Cardinals, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox, he doesn’t seem to know anything about the teams or players except general cliches. Goes back to the point about doing his homework – he doesn’t seem to bother, and hasn’t for years now.

    There are MANY better broadcasters out there. Time for new blood, imo.

  75. Pan says:

    I don’t know how we can talk about the best commentators in baseball without mentioning Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper (Kruk and Kuip). They are remarkably insightful, sharp, fair, and by far the funniest pair I’ve come across in any sport, unless it is a joke sport. I will miss them almost as much as I’ll miss baseball this Winter.

  76. Pan is right. Kruk, Kuip and Jon Miller have made me the baseball fan I am today.

  77. Jason says:

    I’ve always disliked McCarver because he seemed so smug and at the same time full of crap. I admit I didn’t start hearing much out of him until about 1986 so maybe he was better before that.

    Hands down I want every game I listen to called by Bob Costas and Bob Uecker. No one has a better sense of what is beautiful, graceful, and perfect about the game than Costas. And no one remembers why a beautiful, graceful, and perfect game is still so much fun the way Uecker does. I LOVE it when I am close to Milwaukee in the summer. Don’t like the Brewers but my radio is always set to WTMJ or the Brewers Radio Network.

  78. Keatang says:

    Favorite Scully moment. Game 6, 97 world series (I think), national radio broadcast. Vin goes on for a while with a whole bunch of meaningless Game 6 stats (similar to out-of-context stuff Joe talks about above). then he pauses, and says, “Of course, none of this means anything but it’s fun to talk about.”

    And put me down as a longtime Met fan who adored Tim McCarver in the 80’s and can’t quite take him anymore. And please give Jon Miller Joe Bucks’s job!

  79. I used to defend Joe Buck, I don’t anymore. He is terrible at football (as anyone that watched the Giants/Pats Super Bowl will tell you). He’s passable at baseball, but he shouldn’t be the top guy, and he was handed the top spot by Fox without earning it in the 90s and never gave it up.

    Fox has the most exciting, popular play by play guy in the business in Gus Johnson and they’re wasting him doing terrible Pac 12 and Big 12 games on FX.

  80. adam119 says:

    I’ll take Krukow & Kuiper (Kruk & Kuip) over anyone. They transform casual fans into informative, thoughtful fans due to their ability to appeal to the masses. They’ll have a discussion about a pitch progression that results in my learning something new and my wife being entertained at the same time. Tough to do.

  81. Brain1081 says:

    I really want to hear what Kevin Harlan would sound like doing a baseball game. I think that with the pacing of the game that he would be brilliant at it.

  82. Wookster says:

    Jon Miller would be really high on my list (I was THRILLED when ESPN declined to bring him back – it meant that now we get him on KNBR for weekend games too). My dream would be to have him and Vin together, if only to hear Jon do his (excellent) Vin Scully impression while Vin was in the booth.

  83. jg says:

    Here’s another thing about Ian Kinsler (and Michael Young): when Young was playing shortstop (and won a gold glove in the season before Andrus pushed him to third) Ian Kinsler was widely considered to be a butcher at second.

    I’m sure Kinsler has spent a lot of time working to make himself better, but it’s funny how the concern about Kinsler’s defense died away after Andrus took over and Kinsler no longer had to cheat the middle to cover for the hat rack on his right. And now with Adrian Beltre manning third, Andrus doesn’t have to worry about the hat rack to *his* right and the Rangers defense up the middle looks even better – because it is better.

  84. DMB1305 says:

    Vin Scully by far is the king. I remember Saturday games of the week with Scully being paired with Dick Enberg or Joe Garagiola. Those were the days. An earlier comment about Frank White cracked me up referring to him as Dr Hibbert. I have made the same comment myself, however, I enjoy Frank. He is very involved with todays game and is a great link back to yesterdays greatness for the Royals. We are Royals fans living in Buffalo, NY and we once met him here in Buffalo and he was a very nice guy and my son who was 7 or 8 at the time still talks about him and proudly displays the autographed Frank White ball he ended up with. Viva la Frank!!

  85. Dan Davis says:

    There are too many announcers on televised games. We can see what’s happening, we don’t need some guy telling us what we’re seeing, often inaccurately. One good announcer is plenty for television, but the networks refuse to understand that and always cram more people into the coverage. Fewer people blabbing and more silence would improve virtually every televised sporting event.

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