Please, MLB: Bring Back Local Team Announcers To Postseason Broadcasts
This post is from By Dan Schlossberg of the IBWAA. Shared with SSTN by permission.
This article ran in the IBWAA newsletter Here’s The Pitch on October 9, 2020
By Dan Schlossberg
During the Good Old Days of broadcast baseball, the World Series announcing teams always included one broadcaster from each of the two contestants.
That was a great idea – especially considering how poorly the so-called “national announcers” have been handling their postseason assignments.
Matt Vasgersian, who bounces around networks almost as often as Edwin Jackson changes teams, has a great voice but needs a fact-checker more urgently than candidates in political debates.
If he wanted to learn the correct pronunciation of Travis d’Arnaud’s surname, for example, all he had to do was listen to an inning or two of any Atlanta Braves broadcast.
He also needs to know that d’Arnaud was never traded from the Dodgers to the Braves but to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he spent all of the 2019 season before Atlanta signed him as a free agent – after they failed to land first choice Yasmani Grandal.
Vasgersian has a great voice and a plesant demeanor in the booth but he’s often surrounded by former players, managers, or even general managers who seem uncomfortable behind a microphone. They also sound uncomfortable.
Sometimes, it seems they don’t even know what they’re watching. In Thursday’s NLDS finale between Miami and Atlanta, Fox Sports announcer Adam Amin (who?) said “Ground ball to Acuna” even though the ball was hit to second baseman Ozzie Albies. Ouch!
With few exceptions, such as John Smoltz, Jim Kaat, and even newcomer Adam Wainwright, players don’t make good announcers. Many of them, especially Harold Reynolds and Bill Ripken, are truly awful and difficult to listen to.
When the FS1 image conked out during one of the Braves-Marlins games, I ran upstairs to catch the MLB Network broadcast on Sirius XM. As expected, the “local” Atlanta announcers were far superior to the national guys.
The reason is obvious: they see the team every day, know the participants, and know the history of the men and team involved, not to mention the history of the game.
One established baseball writer, auditioning for MLB Network, lost his bid for a berth because Reynolds did not realize Ted Williams was once a promising pitcher.
Williams once struck out 17 men while pitching for his San Diego high school team – there’s even a picture of him pitching in his autobiography – but Reynolds had no knowledge of it.
Instead, he challenged the auditioning writer, who had said that Williams, along with Babe Ruth and George Sisler, might not have been discovered as a hitter had the designated hitter rule come along decades sooner.
Reynolds is the only announcer, national or network, who persists in whistling as if he were sitting in the stands. It is not just annoying but ear-splitting and totally unprofessional.
MLB Network, like MLB teams, needs coaches: one to improve broadcast techniques, one to keep anchors well-versed in baseball history, one to provide instant fixes that should be corrected on-air, and another to make sure anyone assigned to a particular series knows as much about the teams involved as the local broadcasters.
That’s exactly why adding team broadcasters to postseason crews would be the best way to improve the quality of network broadcasts (are you listening, ESPN?).
Stuffing a room full of former players is simply not the best way to serve your audience.
HERE’S THE PITCH Weekend Editor Dan Schlossberg is former AP Broadcast Editor for New Jersey and host of a podcast called BRAVES BANTER.