September 13, 2002
When you are living in a house that has DirecTV and you have the MLB Extra Innings package you don't realize how lucky you are (and how used you are to watching about 10 baseball games at a time) until you move to a college dorm and your only choices for baseball are local broadcasts (the Twins for me), ESPN and FOX.
So, the other night without DirecTV, I watched the A's/Angels game on ESPN (or maybe ESPN2, I forget) and came away from it thinking that Tony Gwynn is definitely a very good announcer.
He has a nice voice, he works well with the play-by-play man, he tells some good anecdotes/stories and he obviously has a ton of knowledge about baseball.
Plus, he seems to be a little more sabermetrically inclined than some of the other "analysts" that ESPN uses, such as Rick Sutcliffe or Mike MacFarlane, neither of whom I can stand to listen to for more than about 3 consecutive minutes.
If ESPN's #1 analyst, Joe Morgan, didn't write his (often idiotic) opinions each week on ESPN.com, I would probably like him as an announcer more than I do.
That said, I think Joe is pretty good and along with The Great Jon Miller, they make a very good team.
On the radio side at ESPN, I have really grown fond of Dan Shulman and Soup Campbell, who are very good and seem to have good chemistry.
Anyway, this was probably the 3rd or 4th game I have heard Gwynn do and I have also been reading quite a few of his ESPN.com articles and chat sessions.
And each time I hear or read him, I come away more impressed.
Here is an excerpt from one of Gwynn's recent chat sessions:
Kevin(Sacramento,CA): Thanks for taking the time Tony. I was wondering how you feel about MVP and Cy-Young canidates in both leagues?
Tony Gwynn: "I still think A-Rod is the MVP in the AL. Cy Young? Zito has been awfully good, but Pedro is the best pitcher in the AL. Zito has been good all year, though. In the NL, I think it's between Schilling and Johnson, but Oswalt has come on like gangbusters. That's a three-man race. The NL MVP is still Bonds. He's the best player by far. There are others who will contend."
Notice no mention of John Smoltz for NL MVP, as opposed to some other idiot ESPN.com writers (see Rogers, Phil).
With that statement alone, Gwynn passes my "baseball compatibility test."
Whenever I come across a new baseball writer or someone emails me and I chat with them about baseball or I talk baseball with someone in person, I always put them through my little test.
Basically I check for who the person thinks the 2002 MVP is in each league.
If there is any mention of John Smoltz or Albert Pujols or if they say that Miguel Tejada should be MVP, I immediately know that this person isn't on the same page as I am as far as baseball goes.
Not that a writer can't be good or a person can't be nice to talk baseball with while thinking Tejada or Smoltz is the MVP, he just can't be that good (to me at least).
For the record, I am pretty sure that my uncle and grandfather, with whom I talk baseball with a lot, both do not pass my "baseball compatibility test."
But that doesn't stop me from talking to them, even if they are completely clueless (just joking!)
So now that I am officially cut off from the baseball utopia that is MLB Extra Innings, I thought I would take a little time to give my opinion on some teams' local television announcers.
Before I start, I want to mention that I obviously do not watch every team an equal amount.
All things equal, I tend to watch A's or Giants or Yankees or Braves games and, of course, I never miss a Twins game.
Which is my way of saying that I might not have an extremely developed opinion on the Pittsburgh Pirates' announcing team (although from what I have heard of them, they aren't bad).
My favorite announcers (in no particular order):
Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, San Fransisco Giants.
Kuip and Kruk, while maybe not the greatest individually, are a super announcing team.
They have nice voices, they work well together and they have good senses of humor.
Of course, it helps them attract me as a viewer when they are the ones announcing Superman's games.
I especially like the "He hits it HIGH, he hits it DEEP, OUTTA HERE!!!!!!!" home run call, which is good no matter if it is for Barry Bonds or David Bell.
Also, I like when they find some "unique" looking person in the audience and "discuss" him or her.
Overall - very good chemistry and fun to listen to (plus, having Bonds as the main attraction doesn't hurt): A.
Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins.
These are my local guys and I probably listen to them call over 100 full games each season.
There is nothing extraordinary about either of them really.
Bremer is a very simple play-by-play guy, although he does have a decent sense of humor that occasionally comes out.
Blyleven has a good sense of humor and can sometimes be pretty wacky.
Bert (who is originally from Holland and was born Rik Aalbert) sometimes has a little trouble with elements of the English language.
Nothing big, but he often does stuff like pronounce names wrong.
John Mabry (MAY-BREE) becomes John MAY-BERRY (who is actually an entirely different player) and on some Hispanic or Asian names (and strangely enough, the word "preview"), he doesn't even try.
And listening to him do the "without the express written consent on the Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball" speech every game can be an interesting experience.
On the other hand, Blyleven loves to say Shigetoshi Hasegawa (who doesn't?) and will usually work the name into a broadcast at least once every 10 games or so, even when the Mariners (and previously the Angels) aren't even playing the Twins.
Bremer also has a weird thing with Ichiro Suzuki's name where he calls him EESH-E-ROW.
So, you're asking, why do you think these guys are good if they can't even pronounce anything?
Well, they usually pronounce everything well, but when you watch them call 1,000 innings a year, you notice some things.
And with Blyleven, it is a lot funnier than it is annoying.
Plus, they are definite Twins homers and as a Twins homer myself, I enjoy that.
On the negative side, somewhere along the line Blyleven started circling fans with his telestrator.
It was amusing for about 2 weeks, but now they are at the point where tons of people brings signs to games (even road games) and Blyleven is circling about 3 groups of people every half inning.
It's not so amusing anymore.
Overall - a solid but unspectacular duo that have a good chemistry and generally have fun in the booth: B.
Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodgers.
Quite simply, the best.
I love to watch late night baseball and in Minnesota all the West coast games start at 9 pm, which is perfect.
And the West coast has a lot of interesting teams to pick from, with the Giants and A's being two of my favorites.
However, I find myself watching an awful lot of Dodgers' games, even though I am not really a fan of the Dodgers and even though I don't find them particularly interesting, simply because of Vin Scully.
Now, Scully is getting up there in years and he will occasionally make a mistake on a name or something like that.
But for pure announcing ability and style, it doesn't get any better than Vin Scully.
I would listen to him read the phone book.
Overall - one of the all-time greats who is still very good. For pure late night baseball enjoyment and a nice, easy, relaxing style along with an awesome voice, nothing beats Vin Scully: A.
Skip Carey, Joe Simpson, Don Sutton and Pete Van Wieren, Atlanta Braves.
As far as quality and quantity, nothing beats the Braves' announcers.
Carey and Van Wieren are both quality play-by play guys, although I like Carey (who is Harry's son and Chip's father - more on that later) more than Van Wieren.
Simpson and Sutton are very good analysts too, although Sutton can get a little repetitive at times.
They rotate in and out of the booth (switching between TV and radio), which always seems weird to me no matter what team is doing it.
Overall - Four very good announcers who generally have a very good chemistry with each other established. I enjoyed listening to them on TBS before I got DirecTV and I still enjoy them: B+.
Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve, Texas Rangers.
I try to watch ARod as much as possible, so I find myself listening to these two quite often.
Lewin is a very good play-by-play guy, although his one major weakness is his voice, which isn't very good.
Grieve is a good color guy who adds a lot to the broadcast and seems to have a good chemistry with Lewin, despite not working together for very long (Lewin used to be in Detroit).
Overall, a very solid duo who are knowledgeable and interesting: B.
Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, Bobby Murcer and Jim Kaat, New York Yankees.
For those of you wondering where Suzyn Waldman (their alternate play-by-play person and "sideline reporter") is on the cast list, well, I left her off because I think she is absolutely horrendous.
I like the rest of the Yankees' broadcasters, so I didn't want to ruin their entire grade by including Waldman.
She has a bad, annoying voice and is not the greatest play-by-play person ever.
As for the normal play-by-play guy, Michael Kay, he is pretty good.
Although a little smug and sometimes annoying, he has a good sense of humor despite sometimes trying to be too funny/witty.
He is generally very solid.
The strength of this team is the analyst duo of Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat.
My favorite Yankee broadcasts are the ones in which Singleton and Kaat are alone in the booth, without a true play-by-play person.
They both have good voices and good senses of humor, especially when they are together.
Bobby Murcer is decent, although I much prefer Kaat or Singleton.
Overall - For sheer quantity of announcers and pre-game people, they dominate. As you would expect from the Yankees, their broadcasters are some of the best in the business: B+.
Dave Niehaus, Seattle Mariners play-by-play (I am not a big fan of the rest of the Seattle crew, but I enjoy Niehaus and you gotta love his home run call, "FLY AWAY!")
Joe Buck, St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play (Joe has been the FOX national announcer for baseball for a few years, but I like him more on the local broadcasts, possibly because he is without Tim McCarver, who I cannot stand).
My least favorites announcers (in no particular order):
Chip Carey, Joe Carter and Dave Otto, Chicago Cubs.
Now, I would like to watch a lot of Cubs games.
Sammy Sosa is a lot of fun to watch and they are often the only game on during the day time.
However, as much as I try, I cannot stand to watch a game being announced by Chip Carey.
I like his dad (as I said before) and I liked his grandfather (although he was almost done by the time I was watching him) but I cannot stand him.
And being teamed with Joe Carter and Dave Otto doesn't help matters much either.
Both of them are horrible and full of cliches and idiocy, which, along with Chip Carey's annoying voice and overall stupidity, make for unwatchable Cubs games.
I was trying to think of a positive for the Chipster and the only thing I came up with is that I think he has a decent home run call, "The 2-1 pitch to Sosa...swung on and BELTED TO LEFT."
It's actually pretty good.
Overall - Absolutely horrible from top to bottom. The voices are bad, the opinions are bad and the cliches are worse: F.
Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson, Chicago White Sox.
Geez, I feel sorry for baseball fans in Chicago.
When I was little I used to watch White Sox games on WGN all the time and I really loved Hawk and Wimpy (Tom Paciorek).
Over the years, I stopped liking them so much.
And when the Sox got rid of Paciorek and brought in Darrin Jackson that officially made them one of my least favorite teams.
As with Chip Carey, I actually like Hawk Harrelson's home run call (You can put in on the board...YYYYYEEEESSSS!!!!!", which a lot of people hate.
Other than that, there isn't much to like.
They are extremely homerish, to the point that it gets very annoying, especially as a Twins fan.
Darrin Jackson adds absolutely nothing.
Overall - Very annoying, although not horrible to listen to in very small doses. Good home run call and not much else positive (although calling Herbert Perry the Milkman was fun and saying "Norton, you're the greatest" for every good Greg Norton moment was okay): C-.
Matt Vasgergian, San Diego Padres.
To tell you the truth, I don't even know who the Pads' analyst is, but it doesn't really matter.
Their play-by-play guy, Matt Vasgergian, is absolutely horrendous.
You may remember him from his stint as the announcer of the XFL.
He was also the Brewers' announcer for a while, which is when I first learned to hate him.
Here is a quote from MattVasgerian.com (yes, there is such a thing!):
"Matt Vasgersian wears many hats, but he is best known as the witty, yet clever lead television commentator for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team he had covered since 1997 prior to joining the Padres. Broadcasts never see a dull moment with the youthful Vasgersian at the microphone. His enthusiastic and creative home run calls have become a major staple of highlight reels on all of the major sports networks."
That paragraph, which was no doubt meant as a positive, is all you need to know about how bad Matt Vasgerian is.
He tries to be witty and clever, but he isn't.
He is smug and pushy, the kind of guy you just want to punch in the face after a while.
I like home run calls a lot and think that a signature call is a real plus for an announcer, but just as I don't like "Booyah!" or "Bonds dials long distance!" on Sportscenter, I don't like Vasgergian's homer calls, which are basically just Sportscenter phrases said during a baseball game, as opposed to during baseball highlights.
Overall, perhaps the most grating announcer of them all because of his smugness and "youthfulness," which is just a code word for someone trying to be really cool, which isn't what I want from my baseball announcer: F.
Rex Hudler, Anaheim Angels analyst (Wonder Dog appears to be one of the nicest and most hyperactive men on the planet. His hyperactive and overly-enthusiastic style can become a little too much if you watch him too often. My Hudler limit is usually about once a week).
Chris Berman, ESPN (I know, I know, he isn't a local announcer, but he is so bad that I couldn't leave him out. No matter if he is doing baseball or shows like NFL Countdown, he simply will not shut up. And it isn't as if he really has anything to say either. He just sort of babbles and rambles on about stuff that doesn't even make sense half the time. It's like he gets lost in his own voice and can't remember what he was talking about, so he just repeats stuff over and over and makes up new stuff that doesn't really have a point. He can talk for 2 straight minutes, finish, and you have no idea what he was talking about because it was just mindless babble.)
Okay, there you have it, my thoughts on the baseball television announcers across the country.
If you have any thoughts or opinions of your own on this subject, feel free to send them to me at AaronGleeman@aol.com and if I like it, I'll post it on the site (yippee!)