Since the Mets play in the National League, I get a little more exposure to the NL broadcasters than the American League. Whenever the Mets are on local television in New York (less and less often these days), and they're playing a team with less games on local television, I get to see an out-of-town broadcast. Couple that with the fact that I watch a lot of other games, predominantly National League games, and I get a chance to see the National League broadcasters a lot more than the American League ones. Thus, (and remember - grades are based on nothing but my opinion...there's no complicated formula...I just make up a grade based on my thoughts on about a broadcast) here are my reviews:
ARI: Thom Brennaman and Mark Grace on FSN Arizona.
I'm not a big fan of Brennaman and Grace. (Greg Schulte fills in for Brennaman when he's on assignment for Fox - but that doesn't make much of a difference - if my memory serves me correct, it's like he does a Brennaman impression when he's in the booth.) I've disliked Brennaman for years...it might stem from the time a friend of mine called him "Thom", pronouncing the "th" sound at the front of his name, saying that's why he didn't like him. My dislike of this broadcast team might also stem from their sideline reporter, who once interviewed a spelling bee champ during the game, and pretty much made fun of the kid. I also think Mark Grace is opinionated just to be opinionated, in the hopes that he can get his name in the paper just because he said something controversial - sort of like what Curt Schilling would be like if he was an analyst. Too many things working against this broadcast team that ends up distracting me from the game...which is a big, BIG negative. GRADE: D-
ATL: Skip Caray and Pete Van Weiren on TBS/Bob Rathbun and Jeff Torborg on FSN South. (I do believe there are others involved in the TBS broadcasts)
Skip and Pete drive me nuts. This could be because of the Braves' dominance over the years, and my dislike of watching them instead of New York announcers in the years before I had DirecTV. Also, Skip Caray falls into the same "Thanks, Dad" category of Joe Buck, Duke Castiglione, Kenny Albert, et al. I actually like Rathbun and Torborg - Torborg is a much better announcer than a manager. Now, it was announced over the All Star break that TBS is getting a bigger piece of the MLB television pie - I even think they're getting the Sunday night games, instead of ESPN. TBS's coverage is good, so this isn't a bad thing. I wonder, though, who the broadcasters will be - because this could be a disaster if it isn't the right guys. GRADE: C (TBS), B (FSN)
CHI: Len Kasper and Bob Brenly on WGN.
I don't spend much time watching games on WGN (see Chicago White Sox), so rarely do I catch Cubs games...although the Mets play the Cubs this weekend, so I might be able to update my reaction after the weekend. I can't offer full comment on these two, but I remember liking Brenly on Fox. I can't swear to it....but I think he was a decent analyst. GRADE: INCOMPLETE
CIN: George Grande and Chris Welsh on FSN Ohio.
Another dominant DirecTV choice (oops - explained that in the Rockies entry, which is next) - these guys are always on...and it's not a bad thing. You might remember Grande from the early days of ESPN...and I think he made a recent comeback on ESPN, or had the chance to, but chose to do Reds games, because it was his lifelong dream to do play-by-play. (Or maybe he just mentioned that when he was back for that big ESPN reunion a couple of years back...my memory is foggy on this.) Anyway, he's good at it, and he's got a good voice for it. Welsh is average...but he's not bad. GRADE: B-
COL: Drew Goodman and George Frazier on FSN Rocky Mountain.
I LOVE watching Rockies games. Goodman and Frazier are great. It's weird, because I wouldn't have expected to enjoy broadcasters for the Colorado Rockies....but they're funny, they have great chemistry, and they are very informative - a great recipe for great broadcasting. I should note here that with the DirecTV package, there are certain dominant channels, in other words - if the Rockies are playing, say, the Cubs, the Rockies' broadcast will be picked up. I'm not sure why or who makes that decision, but I get to watch a lot of Rockies' broadcasts. Goodman is just a good, solid broadcaster - he knows his stuff, and he doesn't get in the way of Frazier, who is one of the better color analysts I've seen. Frazier is very funny, but he gets serious when he needs to, and when they show him in the booth explaining the proper way to grip a pitch or do something, it's not just to show the booth - it's for a reason. So I guess the production team gets credit for that too. GRADE: A
FLA: Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton on FSN Florida.
About what you'd expect from the Florida Marlins - these guys must come cheap. (Although I get the impression that they've been there since the franchise's early days - at least Waltz has...which also might explain why they bore me...."Oh, no - don't get good, Marlins - they'll only break up the team again!" They must get tired of the Marlins' act as well.) Anyway, I don't like these guys. GRADE: D
HOU: Bill Brown and Jim DeShaies on FSN Houston.
The answer to the question "Whatever happened to Jim DeShaies?". I can't put together an honest report on the Astros' broadcasters. I like watching Astros games, for the most part, and I love watching games when they are home so I can see their ballpark. But as much as the Rockies' telecasts are dominant on the DirecTV package, the Astros games aren't. So I rarely get Brown and DeShaies. So this is an incomplete. GRADE: INCOMPLETE
LA: Vin Scully on FSN West.
I owe Vin Scully an apology. For years I've disliked him, because, along with my dad, I've been under the impression that he was anti-Mets during the 1986 World Series, which Scully broadcasted along with Joe Garagiola. 20 years later, upon watching that World Series again, I have come to realize a couple of things. 1) Maybe Scully was against the Mets - after all, they were not an easy team for non-New Yorkers to like. 2) Maybe Scully was caught up in the excitement of a possible historic Red Sox championship - their first in 68 years. So I can't really blame him for that. Therefore, Scully regains stature in my mind as one of the greatest broadcasters ever. Extra bonus points go to him because he does the games solo, and I think at times he is simultaneously the radio and television broadcaster. His distinctive voice, storytelling, and ability to keep the broadcast moving all by himself (despite the step or two he's lost as he ages) should be envied by all other play-by-play broadcasters. (When I was in LA, I found that Charley Steiner, after leaving the Yankees broadcasts, does either radio or local television for the Dodgers...but he doesn't factor into this rating....he'd probably result in the rating dropping a few notches.) GRADE: A
MIL: Daron Sutton and Bill Schroeder on FSN North (I think it's North).
There's something about these guys - I can't put my finger on it - but I like them. It's strange, because they have a lot of elements that would work against them in my grading system - they're homers (and it's worse because the play-by-play guy is more of a homer than the analyst, which I could almost stand), and they have an annoying sideline reporter who's more interested in schtick than the ball game. The broadcast can be very hokey - but I think that works for Milwaukee, and I enjoy watching Brewers games with these guys. They're not great - but they're enjoyable. I'll leave it at that. GRADE: B
NYM: Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez/Ron Darling on SNY.
About the only move SNY has gotten right in its infancy is Gary Cohen. He's the best in the business right now, no exaggeration. He's so good that sometimes I wish he was still doing radio - because it alomst seems his talents are slightly wasted on TV - but maybe he'll force TV to shift to great broadcasters instead of some made-for-TV clowns. Cohen has the national recognition, too - he was the main play-by-play guy for the national radio broadcasts of the NLCS the past couple of years. So the Mets have the number one guy in the play-by-play portion of their booth. I'm still trying to figure out Hernandez and Darling. I should start with the fact that I love that the Mets are incorporating these guys - because for too long it was Tom Seaver and only Tom Seaver from the Mets' past that they recognized. Sometimes it seemed like 1986 never happened. But in the past 5 or more years, the Mets have started to recognize and incorporate their 1980's ballplayers, in the broadcast booth, as minor league managers and instructors, etc. Hernandez did an awesome job when he first started, offering great insight where Fran Healy didn't. Lately, he seems to want to say something just for the sake of stirring things up - a la Mark Grace. Darling has done a better job than I expected after seeing him in Washington last year - and truth be told, sometimes I'd prefer him to Hernandez, just because of all the extra baggage that seems to follow Hernandez around these days (the female trainer incident, to name one). Darling also did a nice job of showcasing himself to the New England audience during an inning's work (maybe half an inning - I forget) on NESN during the Mets-Red Sox series. Overall, this group is much better than it used to be (see ya at the tennis matches, Ted Robinson), and though the analysts could stand to be better, nothing beats Gary Cohen. GRADE: A
PHI: Strangely, I haven't seen any Philadelphia broadcasts this season...or at least I haven't realized it if there has been. I think there is such a thing as FSN Philadelphia, and I feel like I've seen that before...but I can't recall seeing a Phillies game on their air. Or at least, I never took notes on it. GRADE: INCOMPLETE
PIT: Greg Brown and Bob Walk, Larry Fratturre and Steve Blass on FSN Pittsburgh.
I can't get the Pirates broadcasters straight. They're always on, but I can't figure out how often each guy does games. (Also, Larry Fratturre may not exist - I can't read my handwriting there. It's something close.) I guess I give the Pirates an "incomplete" grade. Maybe if they become more relevant I'll watch more telecasts. GRADE: INCOMPLETE
ST. L: Joe Buck and Al Hrabosky on FSN Midwest (with Dan McLaughlin filling in for Buck most weekends).
I don't like Buck. I can't really tell you why...could be because of the fact that he was bred for this job ever since he was a child, because of his dad, giving people like me one less job to choose from. Could be because he's a sell-out, doing adds for Budweiser and now Holiday Inn. Could be because sometimes during games he sounds bored, like, "Why am I here doing this God-forsaken game when I could be sitting at home sipping an iced tea?", while I would LOVE his assignment...or it could be a combination of all those things. Truth be told, when he decides to focus on the game, Buck isn't a bad broadcaster, and I find him more tolerable on the local Cardinal broadcasts than on the national FOX games. Hrabosky is a good analyst. McLaughlin does a good Buck impression while Buck is on assignment. But I'm not a fan...so he should try being himself. GRADE: B-
SD: When I was in San Diego, I saw that a lot of the games were on their local channel 4 when I was either out at dinner or inside the ballpark. I didn't get the two Mets games that I didn't attend on TV, because our hotel didn't have the channel they were on. And this channel never appears on the DirecTV package. So I haven't seen many (if any) San Diego telecasts. GRADE: INCOMPLETE
SF: Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow on FSN Bay Area.
And you thought these guys just did broadcasting for video games. I actually don't like them on the video game...but I really enjoy them in real life. This is an interesting duo - because they're both former players - teammates on the Giants in the mid-80's. And they both do a fine job broadcasting. The dual-player thing wouldn't work everywhere - it's not something I would enjoy if Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling were doing it - but it works very well for these two. Unfortunately, I don't watch too many Giants games because of Barry Bonds...but when I do, I like the broadcasters, at least. GRADE: B+
WAS: Bob Carpenter and Tom Paciorek on MASN.
There are things I like and don't like about this duo - in their first year in the Nationals' broadcast booth. The big thing I don't like is the homer-ism....where they (Paciorek, mostly) openly root for the Nationals...which wears thin quickly, especially when the Nats are doing poorly. But that's a minor thing, because I really like Paciorek, and sometimes it comes off as funny when he's doing it. He's very entertaining - and for all the homer-ism, he was very complimentary of the Mets and their moves when Washington was playing New York. (Bonus points in my book.) Carpenter is a very good broadcaster - I became used to him from his ESPN work, and it's comfortable hearing him on these telecasts. This is a good tandem. GRADE: A-
COMING UP: Back to baseball tomorrow - Mets and Cubs in a daytime tilt. I'll try to post right after the game...otherwise it'll be a late post - I'm going to a Worcester Tornadoes game Friday night.