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. Consider: the average telecast of a major-league game offers four distinct audio feeds — which is to say, the radio and television commentary both for the home and road clubs. The idea of these broadcast rankings was to give readers an opportunity to make an informed decision about how they consume a telecast.
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 first installment of the corresponding results.
Before examining the rankings in earnest, three observations of varying merit:
Broadcasting Is Difficult
Assuming a roughly average time of game (about three hours each) and full major-league season (162 games), it’s probably not incorrect to say that a club typically plays about 500 hours of baseball each year. Broadcasters are tasked with providing some manner of spoken content for the duration of those 500 hours. Radio announcers are compelled to relay the sport’s sometimes complex machinations in real time — while also supplementing their narratives with analysis. Television commentary might actually pose a greater challenge. As the well-respected radio voice of the Rangers, Eric Nadel, suggested on this site’s podcast, the relative freedom provided by video — which renders much descriptive activity moot — conspires only to facilitate more opportunities for a broadcaster to embarrass himself. For the endurance required of the job alone, broadcasting is difficult.
These Rankings Aren’t Absolute
The rankings one finds here are specific to readers of this site. By definition, they’re the product of respondents who are aware — even if only vaguely — that FanGraphs exists. This is, in other words, a very particular subset of baseball fans. The television and radio networks responsible for broadcasting the pastime likely have particular ideas about the criteria which constitute a successful broadcast. Those criteria are very possibly not the ones most relevant to a FanGraphs reader’s experience of the game.
A Broadacast Is More and/or Less Than the Sum of Its Parts
As noted above, each respondent was asked to provide a grade between 1 and 5 regarding a broadcast’s charisma, analysis, and overall appeal. One ought to note that the overall grades here aren’t mere averages of the first two. One finds below, for example, that the Blue Jays’ television team receives grades of 2.9, 2.6, and 2.2 for charisma, analysis, and overall appeal, respectively. That latter, all-encompassing score is actually over 0.5 points less than the average of the two grades which precedes it. Why, precisely, is beyond the scope of this introduction. That it’s true, however, is self-evident.
All the most obvious caveats having been made, what follows are the 31st- and 32nd-ranked television broadcast teams according to FanGraphs readers. (Note: there are 32 different television teams because both the Dodgers and White Sox feature distinct home and away personnel.)
32. Chicago White Sox (Away)
Main Broadcasters: Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 2.3, 1.7, 1.9
Three Reader Comments
• “Hawk’s general interest in baseball waxes and wanes significantly at the game-to-game level, and whatever folksy charms he had have long since ossified into pull-string cliche.”
• “Hawk Harrelson, you are a misunderstood legend. Much like Henry Darger, you will not receive the recognition you deserve until you’re gone.”
• “[Hawk] has tons of charisma, but the wrong kind.”
There are a number of reader comments which roughly approximate the three published above, but which lack the requisite civility to be reproduced here. Generally speaking, there are few who possess a neutral opinion regarding Hawk Harrelson, now relegated (almost?) exclusively to away games. Only slightly more possess an unambiguously positive opinion.
31. Toronto Blue Jays
Main Broadcasters: Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 2.9, 2.6, 2.2
Three Reader Comments
• “The addition of Dan Shulman to some of the broadcasts has helped improve the broadcast, but he’s only calling 30 games so it’s limited. Buck and Pat mean well enough but if Shulman is not on, there is potential for me to tune into opponent feed instead.”
• “Shulman is so good and I love him and want to kiss him and marry him.”
• “How does one translate these scores into Celsius?”
The prevailing notion among readers seems to be that, rather than lacking any merits whatsoever, that the current Toronto broadcast team is actually just miscast, essentially featuring two color analysts. Dan Shulman receives considerable praise for the part-time role he plays.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.