2016 Broadcaster Rankings (Radio): #20 – #11 by Carson Cistulli June 7, 2016 Nos. #30 – #21 Roughly four years ago now, the present author facilitated a crowdsourcing project designed to place a “grade” on each of the league’s television and radio broadcast teams. The results weren’t intended to represent the objective quality or skill of the relevant announcers, but rather to provide a clue as to which broadcast teams are likely to appeal most (or least) to the readers of this site. The results of that original exercise have been useful as a complement to the dumb NERD scores published by the author in these pages. Four years later, however, they’ve become much less useful. In the meantime, a number of the broadcast teams cited in that original effort have changed personnel. It’s possible that the tastes of this site’s readers have changed, also. Recently, the author published an updated version of the television rankings according to the site’s readership. This week: the results of that same exercise, but for radio broadcasts. Below are the 20th- through 11th-ranked radio-broadcast teams, per the FanGraphs readership. But first, three notes: Teams are ranked in ascending order of Overall rating. Overall ratings are not merely averages of Charisma and Analysis. The author has attempted to choose reader comments that are either (a) illustrative of the team’s place in the rankings or (b) conspicuously amusing. A complete table of ratings will appear in these pages on Thursday, unless they appear later than that. *** 20. Baltimore Orioles Main Broadcasters: Joe Angel and Fred Manfra (and Jim Hunter) Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.3, 3.6 Representative Reader Comment “Angel… [d]oesn’t really offer any in-depth analysis or anything but he’s witty, natural, always ready to go. Never at a loss for words.” Notes There appears to be something like a consensus that Joe Angel is the real draw of the Orioles’ radio broadcast. There’s also something like a consensus that the author ought to be clear about the various broadcasters’ roles — namely, how Angel and Manfra serve as the main radio personnel, handling play-by-play duties in alternating fashion over the course of a game, and that Hunter periodically substitutes for one or the other of them. *** 19. San Diego Padres Main Broadcasters: Ted Leitner and Jesse Agler Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.6, 3.7 Representative Reader Comment “Sometimes Leitner grates, but it might just be the fact he’s calling a Padres game.” Notes There’s a lot of enthusiasm present among respondents regarding Jesse Agler, both for the interest he seems to exhibit in analystics and also for his youth — which latter quality has multiple readers optimistic that he’ll develop into the longtime radio voice of the club. *** 18. Seattle Mariners Main Broadcasters: Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith/Dave Sims Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.7, 3.4, 3.7 Representative Reader Comment “Goldsmith brings a nice level of statistical analysis to the broadcast and is a great play-by-play man in his own right.” Notes If the reader’s comments are any indication, Rizzs and Goldsmith seem to complement each other well, the former having become (in the words of one respondent) a “local institution,” the latter possessing a working knowledge of analytics that lends itself to reasoned commentary. *** 17. St. Louis Cardinals Main Broadcasters: Mike Shannon and John Rooney Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.9, 3.1, 3.7 Representative Reader Comment “Mike Shannon has to be the worst way to find out what is going on in a baseball game. He also has to be the most entertaining way to listen to a baseball game.” Notes When this exercise was conducted four years ago, the Cardinals’ radio broadcast placed ninth in the league. They’ve fallen to 17th now, as one sees here. The major difference in the interim? The reduction of an aging Mike Shannon’s responsibilities (predominantly? exclusively?) to home games. There’s considerable anxiety among respondents regarding how KMOX intends to handle Shannon’s retirement. For, whatever his limitations as a broadcaster, he appears to compensate for them by force of personality. *** 16. Atlanta Baseball Club Main Broadcasters: Jim Powell and Don Sutton Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.2, 3.8 Representative Reader Comment “Don and Jim are greater than the sum of their persons. Several years ago when someone said that they’d listen to Jim Powell broadcast paint drying, I’m not convinced that they were being hyperbolic. He has such an enthusiasm for the game, a seamless way of introducing advanced stats into the broadcast, and just an amazing rapport with Don Sutton. Some of his dry wit has been mentioned before, [such as] ‘Right down the middle for ball 1’ or ‘It’s that kind of [curveball] that led to a combined total of 3574 strikeouts between me and Don.’ Perhaps my favorite Jim Powell-ism is whenever he announces the umpires and Sam Holbrook is an umpire. Normally upbeat with an enthusiastic cadence, Powell drops his voice and grunts out ‘Sam. Holbrook.’ as a reminder of The Great Infield Fly of 2012. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to play catch with Jim Powell in a yard and have him tell me he’s proud of me.” Notes The team of Powell and Sutton appeared eighth among the league’s 30 radio broadcasts the last time this exercise was conducted. Now? Sixteenth. What could explain the decline? First, possibly just margin of error. The pair received an overall score of 4.3 last time, which is only half a point higher than the rating they’ve received here. That’s not much. It’s also possible that the rest of the league has just improved. That’s less likely, but still not entirely incroyable. Finally — and there’s some reason to entertain this explanation, given reader comments — finally, it’s possible that FanGraphs readers are a bit less forgiving of (in particular) Sutton’s lack of interest in newer sorts of analysis. Is this fair? I don’t know. I’m just an idiot typing these words at a cafe somewhere. *** 15. Arizona Diamondbacks Main Broadcasters: Greg Schulte and Tom Candiotti Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.6 3.7, 3.9 Representative Reader Comment “Schulte has vastly improved over his years as the play-by-play voice of the Diamondbacks.” Notes During an appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, comedian Anthony Jeselnik discussed the early days of writing for Jimmy Fallon’s first late-night show. Some of Jeselnik’s monologue jokes were rejected — not on the grounds that they’d get no laughs, but that they’d harm Fallon’s affability. Addressing the show’s writers, producer Lorne Michaels impressed upon them that it was necessary merely for the show to survive for the first couple years, that eventually audiences would come back for Fallon himself, not necessarily the quality of this or that specific joke. Is this relevant to the reader comment above, regarding Schulte? Regarding any broadcaster, perhaps? It’s difficult for a broadcaster to debut excellently. The relationship between a radio voice and his or her audience is one that grows with time. Has Schulte vastly improved? It’s possible. What else is possible, though — even likely — is that listeners have developed a natural affection for Schulte which is merely the product of time. *** 14. Boston Red Sox Main Broadcasters: Joe Castiglione and Tim Neverett Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.4, 3.9 Representative Reader Comment “I would trade my grandfather for Joe Castiglione — he can talk to me all night long.” Notes Since the last edition of these rankings, Dave O’Brien has moved from the radio to television side (which personnel change also prompted the departure of Don Orsillo from Boston to San Diego). Regardless, the score here is largely similar to the one produced from that previous round of balloting. Which is logical: Castiglione is the main attraction, both for the length of his tenure and understanding of regional concerns. *** 13. Toronto Blue Jays Main Broadcasters: Jerry Howarth and Joe Siddall Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.9, 3.5, 3.9 Representative Reader Comment “Jerry Howarth is an institution — he’ll never be one of the all-time greats, but he’s that familiar voice you instinctively associate with Blue Jays baseball.” Notes FanGraphs readers ranked Howarth and then-partner Alan Ashby fifth overall among the league’s radio broadcast in 2012. Ashby, however, has since assumed television duties for the Astros. It’s notable that the reviews of Siddall’s work are generally positive. It merely seems that he doesn’t (yet?) possess Ashby’s gravitas. *** 12. Cleveland Baseball Club Main Broadcasters: Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 4.1, 3.4, 4.0 Representative Reader Comment “Tom Hamilton’s apocalyptic enthusiasm is quite literally the most exciting thing about the Cleveland Sports Ball Club Team. I could do without some of his mainstream Americana moralizing from time to time, although it surely plays well with the local crowd.” Notes There’s almost uniform praise from respondents for Tom Hamilton’s call of the game — and, specifically, for the exuberance with which he delivers it. This is largely beyond criticism. Where the praise is less uniform — and perhaps counts actively as a negative — is the broadcast’s relationship with analysis, where Hamilton and Rosenhaus seem not only to ignore newer analytics, but to actively discount them. *** 11. Tampa Bay Rays Main Broadcasters: Andy Freed and Dave Wills Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.9, 4.0, 4.0 Representative Reader Comment “I would have given them a 4 but the audio always sounds like Freed is a DJ at a strip club with [the] combination of his voice cadence and the audio inside the Trop.” Notes For those of us who harbor suspicions about Florida and the tastes of those who willingly inhabit it, it’s not surprising to find that a reader is compelled to reference a strip club when attempting to characterize the audio quality of Tampa Bay’s radio broadcasts. Indeed, the strip club would appear to represent a particularly flexible and widely applicable metaphor wherein Florida and its residents are concerned.