As I’ve said many times before, nothing says a writer is out of ideas faster than him writing a column that’s just one big list.
As promised in yesterday’s sterling Cubs’ Report, today we’re going to take a tour of the big leagues and rate the TV announcing teams for each club. Thanks to the MLB Extra Innings package, you can hear practically every big league TV announcer do games.
I thought about how best to do this. Should I give each club a ghey little letter grade A-F? Nah.
How about something very Al Yellon-esque like five microphones for the best and down the line until oen for Chip…I mean, the worst. Nah, that’s too hack, even for me. Instead we’re going to use very simple categories and let the critiques speak for themselves.
One broadcast stands alone. It’s the gold standard, one that cannot be improved upon and the reason I’m glad I live in an age when I can pick a random night, sit down in front of the TV and listen to a guy do a broadcast by himself from Dodger Stadium, and know that if it were 50 years ago and I lived close enough to LA to pick up a radio signal, I’d have heard much the same broadcast.
Los Angeles Dodgers — Vin Scully
Vin Scully is still the best, still the smoothest even on the other side of 80 years old. While most men his age have been fitted for drool cups and are eating hearty meals of pudding every night, Vin is still doing every home Dodgers game, and road games within the NL West. When you listen to him you’re struck at how unlike every other broadcast it is. He’s just talking to himself. No color man, no crazy catchphrases. Just Vin describing the action and explaining interesting tidbits he found out about some of the players. When you get immersed in the action, you realize he’s not talking to himself. He’s talking to you. Directly to you, and who knows how many other people are feeling the exact same thing. He’s the last of his kind, and likely the best there’s ever been. It’s pretty cool to still be able to experience it.
When the Dodgers go on the road away from the NL West, Charley Steiner and Rick Monday call the action. I like Charley, and Rick seems like a nice enough guy, but those two…uh…not so much.
Pretty, Pretty Good
San Francisco Giants — Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper
I suppose any list I do is going to be biased towards the west coast for the simple reason that when the Cubs play night games, they’re what I’m watching. So my leisure time watching baseball usually is later on at night. But back when I first got my satellite dish I was drawn to Krukow and Kuiper. They’re funny, they’re low key, they love busting on fans for wearing bad hats or bringing dates to the game that are obviously out of their league, and they’ve both got Cubs connections. Krukow, of course, pitched for the Cubs and Kuiper hit his only career homer off of one time Cubs pitcher and announcer Steve Stone. When you listen to them, you’re struck at how Kuiper has a better broadcasting voice than most of the non-players turned announcers.
They don’t let the broadcast get in the way of the game. Something that’s increasingly rare these days.
Chicago Cubs — Len Kasper and Bob Brenly
Speaking of that, it’s the single most reason I am happy to say I so enjoy Cubs telecasts again. After seven years of Chip Caray sucking the air out of every moment, the Cubs have announcers who know when to shut up. It’s harder than it appears, or at least it must be because so few announcing teams are good at it these days. They seem to actually like each other, they work well off each other and when nothing needs to be said, nothing is said. Watching Cubs games isn’t an endurance test any longer. Now we can just obsess on the product instead of the packaging.
San Diego Padres — Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant
Of course we all know Vasgersian from his award winning XFL coverage and… Actually, since the local station in San Diego that carries the Padres games just this year joined the DirecTV package, that, and his few years with the Brewers were all I really knew about Vasgersian. Well, that and his work on MLB The Show with Dave Campbell and Rex Hudler. But from the games I’ve watched this year, he and Grant are really good. And not just when they’re ripping on Cardinals fans for having mullets and driving Camaros.
You do not suck
New York Mets — Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez
I don’t like the Mets, not at all, not even a little bit. But Cohen’s solid, Hernandez is liable to say anything and Darling’s not terrible. I like it when announcers are not afraid to rip on their team and these guys aren’t. When the Mets were choking away the playoffs last year Hernandez wasn’t just throwing them under the bus, he was getting on the bus and running them over with it. This year he went off on what a weasel Gary Carter is for campaigning for Willie Randolph’s job, when Willie was still in it. Also, SNY has nice HD, so you can see what a complete cesspool Shea Stadium is and enjoy watching Mets fans stew in it.
Washington Nationals — Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton
I liked it better two years ago when it was Carpenter and Tom Paciorek, because away from Hawk Harrelson, I always liked Wimpy. Sutton’s good, if not a little dull, and he’s started to tone down the creepiest perm in sports history. It’s more Hubie Brown circa 1992 now than Barbara Streisand in The Champ, which is a step in the right direction. Carpenter’s got the rich announcer’s voice and from time to time it lapses into Rick Dees, but for the most part he keeps it out of the annoying range.
Minnesota Twins — Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven
Apparently, the funnest thing to do in Minnesota in the summer is to go to a Twins game, hold up a sign and have Bert circle you with the telestrator. That’s as good as it gets. I feel for those people. They’re trapped in their houses all winter, then summer finally comes and mosquitos the size of sparrows take over. But I do enjoy these broadcasts, and not just because the Twins seem to pound the White Sox every year during them. Bremer’s a pro and he enjoys giving Bert a hard time, and Bert enjoys being given a hard time. Plus, there’s always the chance that when Bert is working with a weekend replacement that he’ll drop a few f-bombs.
Arizona Diamondbacks — Daron Sutton and Mark Grace
If we had done this list two years ago, the Diamondbacks would have been dead ass last. When Grace was paired with tHom Brennaman I couldn’t watch these broadcasts. Brennaman brought out the worst in Grace, just bad jokes, bad puns and copious amounts of smug. But tHom went home to be with daddy, and Sutton came on board, and he brings out all of the best in Grace. Suddenly, Grace is just funny without schtick, relaxed and having a good time. It makes for a much better broadcast. I liked Sutton in his Brewers days. He knows when to try to be funny and when to shut up and let the game do the talking. As you can see, I’m big on that.
Boston Red Sox — Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy
Remy is basically the Red Sox’ Ron Santo, though to be fair to Jerry he does a lot more pregame prep (which means any) than Ron. But he’s pretty much just there to give a little analysis but mainly just be Jerry Remy. Orsillo isn’t bad, even if he does look exactly like Otto Pilot from Airplane!
I wish I could take credit for that, but alas, I read this somewhere, I’m sure somebody wrote it in a mailbag item to Bill Simmons.
Don and Jerry are fine, but up until a few years ago it was Sean McDonough and Remy and that broadcast was tremendous. Don just doesn’t have much personality, which is fine by Jerry, but Sean called him on crap all the time. It was a lot of fun to listen to them do games together, even when for a while it was only on Friday nights.
Tampa Bay Rays — DeWayne Staats and Joe Magrane
I will admit that had DeWayne never done Cubs games they’d be in a different category. I really liked his work in Chicago and so when he landed in Tampa via a few year layover with the Yankees, I paid attention even when the Devil Rays were horrendous. Now, they’re just the Rays, they’re good and he and Magrane have been set free from baseball purgatory. Magrane did some national stuff a few years ago and was good, probably why he’s not doing national stuff any longer.
You, you’re nice. Maybe too nice.
Colorado Rockies — Drew Goodman and George Frazier
Frazier is best remembered for losing three World Series games with the Yankees–in one World Series–and for his stellar work on the 1984 Cubs (cough, cough). I couldn’t pick Goodman out of a police lineup. I had to look it up on their Web site to even get his name. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. The really good ones and the really bad ones stand out. Drew is basically baseball wallpaper.
Texas Rangers — Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve
How can you not love the lisp? Lewin is really good. He’s funny, he pays attention and he sets Grieve up for what turns out to either be long, insightful stories, or long, boring ones. Tom’s got the whole repertoire. Lewin deserves extra credit for having Harry Caray treat him like crap in 1997 for the sole reason that he wasn’t Harry’s grandson. Josh never complained and when he talks about it he basically says, “Hey, he was Harry Caray. He gets to act however he wants.” Lewin does San Diego Chargers games and lisp or no, he’s a million times better than falsetto Jeff Joniak.
Seattle Mariners — Dave Niehaus, Dave Sims and Mike Blowers
Niehaus has a great voice and won a Ford C. Frick Award, but I’m glad he leaves the booth after the third inning and hands it over to Sims because he wears me out. He never shuts up. Guess who worked with him in Seattle for a few years? Yes, the eyebrow himself, Chip Caray. I have a hunch we have Niehaus to blame for Chip’s “style.” Sims is good, and the only African-American play-by-play announcer in baseball. You may remember him from all of the Big East basketball games he did for ESPN and ESPN Plus back in the day, and for the hilarious toupee he wore
This is a hat, but it looks a lot like Dave’s old toupee.
I couldn’t tell you what Blowers sounds like. I didn’t even know he was the color guy. I thought it was Dave Valle.
Florida Marlins — Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton
Waltz looks like a retired boy band singer, or a guy who is selling you real estate and your wife can’t help but just eye fuck the shit out of him the whole time. I don’t normally like guys like that, but he kind of grows on you. Hutton’s just solid. He had a little too much fun with a foul ball at Wrigley in 2004 that landed near…well, shit, you know…but I’ve pretty much forgiven him for it. Pretty much. Ahh, maybe I’ll move these clowns down another notch.
Cleveland Indians — Matt Underwood and Rick Manning
Matt Underwood and Drew Goodman may be the same person for all I know. This one’s all about Rick Manning. I remember two things about Rick Manning. One, he got booed at County Stadium for scoring the winning run (for the Brewers, mind you) in a game because Paul Molitor was on deck and the fans wanted him to get another at bat to extend his 33 game hitting streak. I thought that was a little harsh on poor Rick.
Second, when he and Dennis Eckersley were on the Indians, Eckersley came home one night and found Rick banging his wife. Oops. Dennis and Rick didn’t get along real well after that, and the Indians traded Eck and Jason Kendall’s dad (seriously) to the Red Sox for Rick Wise, Bo Diaz and two guys not killed by satellite dishes in Venezuela.
Philadelphia Phillies — Harry Kalas, Gary Matthews, Chris Wheeler and Larry Andersen
Let’s face it, Gary Matthews is not good at four things a) catching flyballs, b) coaching players to hit, c) fathering baseball players, d) announcing baseball games. He’s so bad, Davey Nelson makes fun of him. Chris Wheeler is a non-descript hairdo with a fake announcer voice and Larry Andersen is famous for being traded for Jeff Bagwell and for ripping off George Carlin’s act to make sports writers think he was funny. “Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?” Oh, shut up. Ryan Dempster must love this guy.
The only thing keeping the Phillies out of the suck pile is Harry Kalas. He’s old, he’s well past his prime, but he’s still the man. What a voice. In his prime he was as good as anybody, and anybody who can narrate a 1982 Chicago Bears Season Recap and make it sound exciting is worth his weight in gold.
How do you spell milquetoast?
Pittsburgh Pirates — Lanny Frattere, Greg Brown, Bob Walk, Steve Blass and John Wehner
First off, Steve Blass is a prick. I’m glad he caught his own disease and ruined his career and Rick Ankiel’s. Oh, sure, I might have that opinion because last year I heard him say, “I hope the Cubs choke and the Brewers win. I hate the Cubs.” Actually, I kind of like that a guy would say that. Nah, screw him.
Lanny has a good voice but his “There was noooooo doubt about it” win call makes me want to run over his toes with a Buick. I have no idea who Greg Brown is. Bob Walk is too ugly for TV (and radio for that matter) and John Wehner blows at everything.
Milwaukee Brewers — Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder
Anderson came to the Brewers to replace Daron Sutton and his last job had been at the Golf Channel. You can tell, he thinks his job is to bore us to tears and you half expect him to whisper during the broadcast. Schroeder’s being wasted with this stiff. He was good with Sutton and has a good sense of humor. Oh, well, who cares, everybody in Wisconsin just listens to Bob Uecker on the radio anyway.
New York Yankees — Michael Kay, David Cone, Ken Singleton, Paul O’Neill, Bobby Murcer, Al Leiter and every other living former Yankee (and probably a few of the bad ones, too)
By the far the worst part of this crew is the ever changing cast of characters. In any game you are likely to get Kay and one or two of any of the other schmoes. Kay’s not bad, actually, but no broadcast is going to go well when you spend half the game trying to figure out who is in the friggin’ booth. Plus, the Yankees keep a pretty tight reign on the broadcast, so don’t expect to get any real objective analysis from any of these guys. When Jim Kaat was doing the games, the ones he did were clearly the best ones. But he retired and really, only Cone is any good, and he’s pretty spotty. Half the time he waits so long to talk that you think maybe he snuck down to the bullpen for a JO.
Detroit Tigers — Mario Impemba and Rod Allen
I like Mario (and his brother Luigi) but Rod Allen is so dull you couldn’t cut butter with him. Apparently his claim to fame is that he played in 15 more games for the 1984 Tigers than you did. (No you, Alan Trammell, the other guys who are reading this.) He did actually show a pulse last week in a game against the Cardinals when Rick Ankiel hit two homers. Rod yelled, “The guy can’t hit anything but a fastball that he can pull, and we’ve just thrown him two of them!” He almost seemed real.
Oakland A’s — Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse
Glen is the younger brother of Duane. No, seriously, he is. And their other brother Daryl (not really, Daryl) works with Duane on Giants broadcasts as a producer. Yeesh. Nepotize much, fellas? But I like Glen. He’s solid and Ray Fosse is good, but his voice is not good. It’s just annoying, I can’t even describe it. It’s so raspy it’s like Tyne Daly is calling the game or something. Or was that Sharon Gless? I forget, either the fat one or the ghey one. Five minutes listening to Fosse and you can see why Pete Rose ran over him.
Huh? Who are you guys, eh?
Toronto Blue Jays — Jamie Campbell, Pat Tabler, Rance Mulliniks and Darrin Fletcher
I don’t think I’ve ever listened to them. I have no idea who Jamie Campbell is, I assume they bring Tabler in to announce only when the bases are loaded, Mulliniks can’t get his mustache through customs and I got stuck using Darrin Fletcher as the catcher on my fantasy team one year, so I still hate him. I’m sure they’re, aces, though. Maybe they could get Joe Carter to join the team next year? That’d be great! When the Bills play their two games there this fall, Joe could ask the guys about Pete Rozelle.
You, you are not good.
Houston Astros — Bill Brown and Jim DeShaies
It’s funny because when you read interviews with DeShaies or hear him interviewed he’s funny, like really, truly funny. If that’s the case, Bill Brown must be the worst TV announcer around, because the ‘Stros games are a snooze fest. They are so bad you almost want to turn on the radio and listen to Milo Hamilton.
I said almost.
Chicago White Sox — Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Darrin Jackson
All corn pone schtick and dullness. The greatest thing that happened to interleague play was WGN and Comcast Sports Net agreeing to let both Cubs and Sox crews work each game so fans could pick the ones they want to hear. Thanks to that, I haven’t heard Hawk in three full years now. Put it on the board, yeee-ssss! Oh, and you didn’t invent the fucking batting glove you pompous ass.
Kansas City Royals — Ryan Lefebvre, Paul Splittorff and Frank White
They wanted UL Washington to do the games but you can’t understand him with that toothpick in his mouth. You all know Ryan Lefebvre as the guy who Milton Bradley tried to break into the press box to kick his ass. His dad is former Cubs’ manager Jim Lefebvre. Too bad Milton got stopped.
Baltimore Orioles — Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer and Buck Martinez
First off, let me emphasize that I like Jim Palmer and I like Buck Martinez. I even think both of them are pretty good analysts, and I like Buck from his XM Radio show, too. That’s how much Jim Hunter stinks on ice. What an annoying gasbag this guy is. Ever listen to Westwood One’s coverage of NFL football and want to strangle the guy doing the highlights who makes the horrible puns like, “In Chicago, the boys from Green Bay Packed up the Bears and sent them to the meat locker!” That’s Jim Hunter. He’s even worse doing a three hour baseball game.
California Angels — Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler
Hey Arte! I called them the California Angels! Ooh, aren’t I living dangerously! Anyway, Physioc isn’t a bad announcer, in fact, he’s kind of good, but Hudler is so bad, I’m positive that his words literally fall off the DAT and can not be recorded for posterity. I don’t know if he’s dumb, or clueless or both (my money’s on both) but you can’t listen to the Angels because of him. It’s just awful. And, no matter how many times he gets busted in an airport for having weed on him, he can’t seem to lose his job.
Atlanta Braves — Chip Caray, Boog Sciambi and Joe Simpson
The only thing keeping them out of the suck pile is that Chip doesn’t do all of the games, and when Boog and Joe are the only ones there, they’re actually pretty good. Boog looks just like every other guy named Boog, ever. He’s tall, chubby and redheaded but he’s a solid announcer. Simpson’s always been good, but I found it disorienting when he and Don Sutton did games together because they sound exactly the same. I miss Pete Van Wieren, who just does radio now. I just like his voice. I didn’t even pay attention to what he said, I just liked the voice.
As for Chip? He’s still just tremendously shitty. Just awful. The worst. I hope his imaginary wife and imaginary kids have left him for an imaginary lesbian couple.
The suck pile.
The creme de le creme, the absolute worst there is, and…it’s a tie!
St. Louis Cardinals — Dan McLaughlin and Al Hrabosky
I hate these two talentless hacks with a red hot passion. McLaughlin has taken over full time for the smarm-fest that is Joe Buck, but he’s not much better. Look, I know that the fan base of the team has an average IQ slightly higher than that of a dented kumquat, but this guy is just so pandering, so condescending and so phony that my ears bleed on reflex if I even see him, much less hear him. As for Hrabosky, he sucked when he played and he sucks now. His career tailed off in 1977 when Vern Rapp took over the Cardinals and made Al shave off his mustache and cut his hair. Apparently now that he didn’t look like a gay porn star, he couldn’t pitch. No wonder he’s so popular in St. Louis.
Cincinnati Reds — tHom Brennaman, Chris Welsh, Jeff Brantley, George Grande
Grande of course is most famous for being the first person ever on ESPN back in 1979. He’s been with the Reds since 1993 and he and Chris Welsh are pretty good. A little dull, but not bad. But when you mix in the irritating fake booming voice of tHom and the cowboy hick shtick of Brantley it makes for the worst broadcast in the world. Not just baseball…the world. Seriously, they’re even worse than a morning TV show in Tulsa.
Brennaman is still the king of the strongly worded statement that says absolutely nothing.
“I cannot stress enough just how irresponsible it is of this franchise to consistently serve hot dogs with soggy buns!”
He’s like his old man, Franchester Martin Brennaman in that they think anything said with a pissed off tone makes it important.
“My house keys are color coded so that I can easily find the right one even when it’s kind of dusky. You know, not quite dark, but not really light. You hear me! Color coded!”
As for Brantley, he’s just babbling. His words don’t even form real sentences. He just says it with a deep voice and some awkward pauses and hopes you think it’s astute. What it is, is assinine.
“Baseball lugwrench…ball point pen…desk calendar…Adam Dunn…Schottzie the third!”
Ugh. Just make it stop. No, seriously, make it stop. Is there anyway we can arrange for the home TV booth at Great American Ballpark to be removed during a game by a large crane and loaded on a ship for the Ukraine like a freight container?
So there you have it.
One legend still kicking ass.
Three really good broadcast teams.
Six who don’t suck ass at all.
Six who only suck a little ass.
Five who are basically three hours of Tylenol PM.
One bunch of crazy Canadians that nobody’s ever actually heard.
Six who are so bad they should be reassigned to WNBA broadcasts.
Two who are so horrid, so terrible that people are actually dumber for having listened to them.
Aren’t you glad you asked? Even though you didn’t.