October 09, 2007
John Molori's Media Blitz
BY: John Molori
- TBS is not OK
TBS announcers a postseason disappointment
TBS bobbled the ball, gave up a game-winning home run and struck out with the bases loaded. While Major League Baseball's Division Series have given us some memorable moments, the broadcast teams describing those moments have been disappointing.
In each of the four series, TBS's talent, with the exception of play-by-play announcers Don Orsillo and Dick Stockton, have lacked depth and rhythm. Orsillo, paired with Joe Simpson, and Stockton, teamed with Ron Darling, have been the saving graces for their respective broadcasts.
Most especially, the Red Sox-Angels team of Ted Robinson and Steve Stone seem to be better suited to the quiet confines of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show than the exciting drama of playoff baseball in Boston and LA. I half expected Stone to nod off a few times during the coverage.
Neither man gave viewers any new insights and Stone's monotone voice was barely audible. When he was heard, Stone offered a host of meaningless thoughts.
In the third inning of Game 2, Stone said, "Mike Lowell has the all-time record defensively at third base." Exactly what record is that, Steve? Fielding percentage? Assists? Best goatee? Give us some help here.
Robinson seems like a nice man and his broadcasting resume includes the Olympics, but in the heat of playoff baseball, that and a quarter will get you a gumball. His voice is a cross between Mr. Rogers and the Scarecrow from the "Wizard of Oz." Shame on Robinson for taking two great characters and turning them into one disappointing play-by-play man.
The fact is that most Boston and LA fans know more about the Red Sox and Angels than Ted Robinson and Steve Stone. TBS's broadcast teams have fallen victim to an age-old error on the part of programmers, specifically, hiring generic talent for important games.
Why wasn't Orsillo, Boston's local TV announcer on NESN, calling the Red Sox series? Was wasn't Stone, a longtime Cubs analyst, doing the Chicago-Arizona series? Why was Ron Darling of SportsNet NY doing the Cubs-D'Backs series while Chip Caray, a former Cubs announcer, calls the Yanks-Indians matchup?
Former Padre Tony Gwynn and ex-D'Backs manager Bob Brenly are longtime NL West guys. Don't you think they'd be better suited to a series involving the D'Backs or Rockies as opposed to the Indians and Yankees?
These men could have provided great insight from seasons of experience in those cities. Maybe TBS feared that the announcers would be biased toward their local teams or cities. That's silly.
Stone resigned from his post as Cubs analyst in 2004 because he was tired of hearing that he was too critical of the home team. All of these guys are professionals and there is precedence for using local announcers in postseason games, ironically involving one of TBS's 2007 announcers.
In 1975, Dick Stockton, then the Red Sox play-by-play man on Channel 38 in Boston, joined Curt Gowdy et al for NBC's coverage of the World Series between Boston and Cincinnati.
It was Stockton who provided the national guys with information and insight into all things Red Sox. It was Stockton who gave the memorable call of Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in Game 6 of that series. Great announcers like Stockton rise above any perceived local bias.
The Division Series gave TBS a chance to make its mark on a national stage. Instead, they seemingly pulled broadcasters' names out of a hat and assigned them to games. The result is predominantly bland and detached television that has failed to appropriately capture the fine moments that the players have provided.
Despite TBS's shortcomings, I was glued to the set watching Game 2 of the Red Sox-Angels series in Boston last Friday, but during a break, I flipped to the Utah-Louisville college football tilt on ESPN and heard the familiarly superb tones of play-by-play man Sean McDonough.
It raised a question. Why isn't McDonough doing any baseball locally or nationally?
McDonough was born and bred to be a baseball announcer. The son of the late great sportswriter and commentator Will McDonough, he grew up with the sport as a backdrop.
"I have vivid childhood memories of being at Spring Training in Winter Haven sitting in the booth watching (legendary Red Sox announcers) Ned Martin and Ken Coleman call the games," says the 45 year-old McDonough, who does college football and basketball for ESPN. "Al Walker the broadcast engineer would make sure I had plenty of popcorn and hot dogs."
McDonough attended Syracuse University (Class of 1984). After three years of minor league baseball play-by-play with the Syracuse Chiefs and several other regional and national broadcasting gigs, he attained his dream job in baseball.
"I was only 25 years old when I got the Red Sox play-by-play job with NESN in 1988," explains McDonough. "My dad told me not to worry if I didn't get it because I was so young. I looked at Ken Coleman and Ned Martin who had been doing it for thirty years and realized that jobs like this don't open up too often."
McDonough would eventually team with current NESN analyst Jerry Remy as arguably the best Boston sports broadcasting tandem ever. "We had a great time," says McDonough.
"You can't fake that type of chemistry. A woman once wrote a letter complaining about our "inane banter," so we started running an Inane Banter Warning whenever Jerry and I got off on a tangent. We are still good friends."
Following the Red Sox 2004 championship season, McDonough was abruptly fired from NESN. He recalls, "They never had a conversation with me about why I was fired. I got the call in December of 2004. I had an option year left on my contract and figured I'd be back. I heard it was because I was making more money than Don Orsillo, but they never came to me and negotiated.
"That's the only thing that angered me. If NESN thought I was making too much money, but there should have been some back and forth, some negotiation. "
As a former lead baseball announcer for CBS, McDonough delivered superb calls of two of baseball's most memorable moments. "I had no idea that Joe Carter was going to hit a home run (in Game 6) to win the World Series in 1993," he explains.
"There's no advance notice. Those calls tend to be the best. You just do it. I also called Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS when Francisco Cabrera won the game for Atlanta. As Sid Bream slid into home, my voice fell apart and I thought I botched the call. The next day, CBS sent me a bunch of great reviews. You have to go with the moment."
McDonough remains on an elite list of the best baseball play-by-play announcers in the business, and one of the most philanthropic. In 2002, he established the Sean McDonough Foundation (seanmcdonoughfoundation.org), which raises funds and distributes them to children's charities throughout Massachuse tts.
In 5 years, McDonough and friends have raised upwards of $2 million for 86 different Massachusetts charities.
Despite a busy schedule, McDonough does not rule out a return to baseball. "It would have to be the right situation," he states. "I talked to the Arizona Diamondbacks last winter about doing some games for them, but I would have had to move to do it.
"I had the baseball job I wanted in Boston. The next move would have to be perfect." As a baseball fan, here's hoping that next move comes quickly
John Molori's columns are published in Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, New England Hockey Journal, BostonSportsMedia.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportz.com, Methuen Life and several newspapers and websites throughout New England. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.
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