2016 Broadcaster Rankings (TV): #20 – #11 by Carson Cistulli May 18, 2016 Introduction and #31-32 #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. About a month ago, the present author began the process of reproducing that original crowdsourcing effort, facilitating a ballots for this site’s readers. This post represents the third installment of the corresponding results. Below are the 20th- through 11th-ranked television 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 cast will appear in these pages Friday. *** 20. Texas Rangers Main Broadcasters: Steve Busby and Tom Grieve Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 2.9, 2.6, 2.9 Three Reader Comments • “Busby’s main entertainment value comes from his apparent lack of awareness of obvious double entendre. He has provided many superb sound bites since taking over in the booth, such as the time he described David Murphy’s run of success in the second spot of the lineup as ‘eating that number two hole up.’ A favorite of his is the term ‘fisted;’ when L.J. Hoes fouled a ball off the handle of the bat one day, he said, incredibly, ‘And Hoes got fisted.'” • “[Grieve] is usually quite likable, and his broadcasting feels a bit like you’re talking to a grandfather about baseball (in the good way). At the same time, though, his analysis and traditional views in regard to numbers feel a bit like you’re talking to your grandfather (in the bad way).” • “I was spoiled with Josh Lewin for all those years.” Notes A number of the broacast teams in this middle range seem to share a certainly quality — namely, that they neither add nor subtract much from the experience of the game. For certain broadcasters, this might actually be regarded as an ideal outcome. Others likely would prefer to curate the viewer’s experience a bit. Whatever the case, the general sentiment among respondents regarding Busby and Grieve is that they do no harm. *** 19. Chicago White Sox (Home) Main Broadcasters: Jason Benetti/Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.0, 2.9, 2.9 Three Reader Comments • “Benetti has a good sense for when to defer to Stone and how to go to him for analysis that is advanced for his youth (and likely aided by having done other sports besides baseball as a PBP), and in one game you get more advanced/”sabermetric” analysis than you do out of Hawk for an entire year.” • “I’ve only had a chance to hear new play-by-play man Jason Benetti a couple times but thus far I really like what I hear — engaged, not over-the-top, and interacts well with Stone. • “[Benetti’s] engagement with the game and general curiosity has in turn brought out the better side of Steve Stone.” Notes The ratings for the White Sox here — and the rank, in general — likely merit an asterisk. Because while other broadcast teams feature a rotating cast, it’s unlikely that any of them offer two personalities as distinct as Harrelson and Benetti. The latter of that pair, as indicated by the reader comments above, is well suited to the tastes and concerns of a FanGraphs reader. Harrelson, less so. It does appear as though Benetti is covering most, if not all, of the home games at this point. It might make sense to revisit this ranking in the near future. *** 18. Arizona Diamondbacks Main Broadcasters: Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.2, 3.0, 3.1 Three Reader Comments • “It’s not the most ‘advanced’ broadcast team, but considering their audience, Berthiuame gets some good statistical info in there each night.” • “Love Berthiaume…. The old dude is good, too.” • “i have watched a baseball game announced by these people.” [sic] Notes There are mixed reviews for Berthiaume and Brenly among FanGraphs readers, although most seem to prefer either of them to Mark Grace, who seemed to have indulged in the less appealing qualities of the former athlete and/or just being a man in general. One critique that appeared on multiple occasions: a possible excess of enthusiasm for team-related promotions or events. This seems like a challenge that faces a number of broadcasters — namely, how to promote the team in a way that appears (or actually is!) authentic. It’s not an enviable position, really. *** 17. Seattle Mariners Main Broadcasters: Dave Sims and Mike Blowers Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.2, 3.2, 3.3 Three Reader Comments • “It goes without saying that Sims should get full credit for his fine work this season, as he underwent surgery in the offseason for prostate cancer and made a full recovery before spring training started…. [W]e should all be thankful that he’s fully recovered.” • “Blowers is underrated. He speaks so little, and yet so often nails what’s going on in a few words.” • “Boomstick baby!” Notes Apart from a few dissenting voices, few respondents articulate anything specfically objectionable about Sims and Blowers — which is a greater achievement than it might seem at first. If anything, there are some who are interested in a larger role for Aaron Goldsmith, who occasionally handles play-by-play duties. Others, it seems, can’t help but compare the current broadcast team to those anchored by the late Dave Niehaus. *** 16. Houston Astros Main Broadcasters: Bill Brown and Alan Ashby Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.1, 3.3, 3.3 Three Reader Comments • “[T]he broadcast is generally good-natured and has levity, helped along by the quick-witted Julia Morales, among the top in-game reporters in the league.” • “Maybe we were spoiled having Jim Deshaies for as long as we did.” • “Bill Brown is DA BOMB.” Notes When this exercise was last conducted, the Houston television crew was ranked fourth overall by FanGraphs readers. In the meantime, however, color analyst Jim Deshaies has departed for Cubs television, replaced by Alan Ashby. There’s still considerable affection for Bill Brown, but also the sense that Ashby skews more to the traditional side of things. Multiple respondents praise Julia Morales and, it seems, would embrace a larger role for her. *** 15. Pittsburgh Pirates Main Broadcasters: Joe Block/Greg Brown and Bob Walk/Steve Blass/John Wehner Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.4, 3.1, 3.3 Three Reader Comments • “Bob Walk… has an active mind, and he lets it wander, which is great for a baseball game.” • “[Walk is] also a good example of an older broadcaster who still loves the game. When talking about Bryce Harper’s Make Baseball Great Again antics earlier this year, he made the Bill Jamesian point that old players have been complaining about kids for as long as there have been old players.” • “Joe Block… [is] analytically minded, with good coverage and a clever and light style.” Notes As was the case four years ago, the Pirates continue to pose a challenge for this sort of rankings exercise because of the rotating cast of personnel, all of whom also work on the radio side, as well. It should be noted that Joe Block, who arrived from Brewers radio this offseason and integrates advanced metrics/ideas into his telecasts, might have increased the appeal of the Pirates broadcast to FanGraphs readers: after ranking 20th in the last iteration of these rankings, Pittsburgh now ranks 15th. *** 14. Los Angeles Dodgers (Away) Main Broadcasters: Joe Davis, Nomar Garciaparra, and Orel Hershiser Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.1, 3.4, 3.3 Three Reader Comments • “The real star is Davis. He’s only been on the job for a few weeks but already he’s demonstrated acumen for reading the game and incorporating advanced stats when appropriate.” • “Joe Davis does a good job bringing analytics and statcast into the broadcast.” • “[Joe Davis] is best suited as a good Collage… Announcer.” [sic] Notes For as much affection as viewers — not just in Los Angeles, but nationally — have for Vin Scully, it’s encouraging to see the enthusiasm among respondents here for Joe Davis, as well. One gets the sense that, when Scully does finish his tenure as the Voice of Baseball, that the Dodgers will have a capable replacement in the young Davis, who’s praised for many of the same qualities as Jason Benetti above, including clear intelligence and the ability to integrate progressive analysis into his telecasts. *** 13. Kansas City Royals Main Broadcasters: Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.8, 3.0, 3.5 Three Reader Comments • “The broadcast is technically sound with plenty of replays and well-produced graphics.” • “Ryan Lefebvre is great — I’ve never heard a bad word about him. He does a great job of reeling in Hudler.” • “Rex Hudler once thought the moon was a planet.” Notes Rex Hudler is frequenly referred to as “Uncle Hud” by respondents — and the characterization seems appropriate. The sense one gets of Hudler is that, like many uncles, even he himself doesn’t know what he’s about to say, but he’s going to say it enthusiastically nonetheless. Not every respondent is in love with it, although most praise Ryan Lefebvre’s ability to deftly navigate his way around Hudler’s personality. *** 12. Detroit Tigers Main Broadcasters: Mario Impemba and Rod Allen Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.6, 3.1, 3.5 Three Reader Comments • “You can tell [Impemba] has great respect for the viewer’s sanity.” • “Rod Allen… has a drinking game devoted to his catchphrases, plus you can always get some laughs watching his fight in Japan.” • “[T]here’s nothing offensive about this group.” Notes Reader comments regarding Impemba and Allen are the sort one finds concerning many broadcasters. Some readers appreciate their personalities; others are sickened by them; still others are neutral on the subject. What’s less expected are the reports which characterize part-time broadcaster Kirk Gibson as simultaneously soft-spoken and thoughtful — which is to say, not the image one typically conjures up of the hobbled Gibson rounding the bases for the Dodgers or the managerial version of Gibson who seemed to value a certain brand of masculinity to the detriment of other skills. *** 11. Boston Red Sox Main Broadcasters: Dave O’Brien and Jerry Remy Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.6, 3.3, 3.5 Three Reader Comments • “Dave O’Brien is a decent replacement for Don Orsillo, but Jerry Remy continues to be an ‘enigmer.'” • “Like the beverage Moxie, Remy has a distinct regional flavor whose taste is best described as ‘acquired.'” • “When [Dennis Eckersley] is in the booth, it’s prime time. He’s an example of what Hawk Harrelson could be if he wasn’t an angry old man yelling at a cloud.” Notes Respondents appear, in almost every case, to acknowledge Dave O’Brien’s capacities as a play-by-play commentator while simultaneously noting that they’d still probably prefer Don Orsillo, who was dispatched from the booth last year. The ratings here would appear to reflect that: when this same exercise was conducted four years ago, the Red Sox finished fifth among all broadcast teams. Now, 11th.