Broadcaster Rankings (Radio): #30 – #21

At the beginning of March, we released the results of our television broadcaster rankings — itself the product of reader crowdsourcing that had started in late November. Since then, FanGraphs has asked readers to rate the radio broadcast teams (on a scale of 1-5 for charisma, analysis, and then overall) for all 30 major-league clubs — with the intention, ultimately, of determining which broadcasts might best reflect the sorts of inquiry and analysis performed here at the site.

Below are the 30th- through 21st-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.
• I’ve 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 and ballots cast will appear in these pages Friday.

30. New York Yankees
Broadcasters: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 2.3, 2.0, 2.1

Three Reader Comments
• “What can I say about John Sterling that hasn’t already been said about any of history’s greatest monsters?”
• “Ask John Sterling if you can predict baseball.”
• “My mother would never let us say anything bad about Suzyn Waldman because she is a cancer survivor. That said, her most memorable contribution to the broadcast, in my memory, was when she declared that she was going to challenge Kyle Farnsworth to a cookie baking contest. The results were not reported to my knowledge.”

When there’s praise among reader, it’s generally for what I’d guess you’d call the “timbre” of Sterling’s voice and for Waldman’s clubhouse reports. Such comments, however, are greatly outnumbered by criticisms — largely concerning Sterling’s belabored trademark calls and poor eyesight and the pitch of Waldman’s own voice.


29. Chicago White Sox
Broadcasters: Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 2.8, 2.9, 2.8

Three Reader Comments
• “I do think that given that right partner, Ed Farmer would be a great guy to have on radio. His stories are relevant and charming and he just has a natural radio voice/vocab.”
• “[Actual quote from] Jackson: ‘It’s not rocket surgery.'”
• “[Jackson’s] finest moment… was his legendary extension to Hawk’s pre-game staple: as usual, Hawk began his segue to the first commercial break with, ‘So sit back, relax, and strap it down,’ at which point Darrin added, ‘Whatever you do, just don’t strap it on.'”

Many commenters note that, while quite capable when he served as the color commentator alongside John Rooney, Farmer is less well suited for play-by-play work, which he’s adopted since Rooney’s departure from the booth. Many commenters note that, if the pair have a charm, it’s off the odd-couple variety. Other readers refer to that same dynamic as “hating each other.”


28. San Diego Padres
Broadcasters: Ted Leitner, Andy Masur, and (less frequently) Jerry Coleman
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.0, 2.8, 2.9

Reader Comment
• “As an overweight guy, I refuse to call the people at MediFast simply because of [Ted Leitner’s] endorsements for them, exposing myself to more and more health risks as I age simply because I can’t stand that man’s voice and style. YOU’RE KILLING YOUR LISTENERS, TED!”

A small majority of commenters complain that, at a very basic level, play-by-play broadcaster Tim Leitner talks too quickly. There’s a sort of nostalgiac appreciation among respondents for Jerry Coleman (whose trademark “Oh doctor” call you’ll likely recognize), but his age (87) and its effects are cited more than once.


27. Los Angeles Angels
Broadcasters: Terry Smith and Jose Mota
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.0, 2.7, 3.0

Reader Comment
• “Jose Mota… [has] an almost mystical belief in Mike Scioscia. According to Mota, Scioscialism… is the belief that a round, lazy, white man was gifted by God the abilities to save an entire baseball-watching nation by teaching players to play the game the right way, have a good clubhouse attitude, and always go for the extra base… Mota informs us that Scioscia is all-knowing and that any success at any time by any player, coach or manager who has ever come accross His path is not because of their own skills, but because they decided to buy into what Mike Scioscia preaches.”

Judging by the reader comments, the Angels radio broadcast appears to be the most ordinary of radio broadcasts: a professional, if unremarkable, play-by-play man paired with an ex-player and his attendant platitudes.


26. Miami Marlins
Broadcasters: Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.1, 2.8, 3.0

Reader Comments
• “Van Horne is a legend, but his best days were in Montreal. Still, he is very, very, good. When he takes a break, the quality of the ‘cast dips to very mediocre.”
• “They both sound like little children.”
• “I don’t care about this but Ozzie Guillen is a Moran.”

As noted above, Van Horne was the play-by-play broadcaster for the Expos, and, if memory serves, was well liked in that market. Also, regarding that second comment: while the author’s aversion to children is well documented, there are scenarios in which a pair of children broadcasting a major-league game would provide amusement.


25. Los Angeles Dodgers
Broadcasters: Charley Steiner and Rick Monday
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.2, 3.0, 3.1

Three Reader Comments
• “I’d say the team overall is pretty competent. Monday’s analysis is decidedly old school, but he does bring up interesting points and anecdotes now and then. Steiner gets points for his endearing chuckles (uk-yuk, uk-yuk), but other than that is pretty average.”
• “Part of the problem with these guys is that they are always going to be compared to Vinnie, Don and Ross from my childhood. The other part of the problem is that I don’t enjoy listening to them. I find that Charley Steiner is laughing an awful lot and that I am not.”
• “As pointed out, it seems that announcers’ overall rating are tied closely to charisma. And I think the guys have enough charm that they’re ‘fair enough.'”

A number of commenters point towards what they perceive to be shortcomings in Steiner’s play-by-play — specifically, a tendency to become overzealous about fly balls or line drives that become either easy fly outs or foul balls. Also, more than one respondent notes that Steiner would be well served to mention the score every so often.


24. Pittsburgh Pirates
Broadcasters: Greg Brown, Tim Neverett, Bob Walk, Steve Blass, and John Wehner
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.2, 3.0, 3.1

Two Reader Comments
• “When finally given a winning team to work with during the first half of last season, the crew seemed reenergized. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be calling crappy baseball year in and year out; it’s tough enough to watch.”
• “I was listening to an MLB radio spring training broadcast when Bob Walk excused himself to buy a hot dog.”

A number of respondents note that it’s tough to assign merely one overall score to the Pirates radio team, because it contains a rotating cast. This, of course, is a challenge for a neutral fan, as well, who is less likely to actively seek out a broadcast that lacks one trademark voice. In terms of the individual members of said team, readers appear to be united — or close to united — in their opinions on Steve Blass. Regarding the nature of those opinions, it is not altogether positive.


23. Houston Astros
Broadcasters: Milo Hamilton, Brett Dolan, and Dave Raymond
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.2, 3.2, 3.2

Three Reader Comments
• “He’s a legend, but the quality of the broadcast has improved dramatically with less Milo Hamilton.”
• “The road broadcasts are solid. Raymond stands out. He’s on point, entertaining and smart. He clearly embraces advanced statistical views, and knows how and when to explain them plainly.”
• “Dave stands out with this bunch. He gets the game, does a good job explaining it as well as more advanced baseball thinking and he’s just a clever, witty broadcaster.”

The 84-year-old Milo Hamilton, who now broadcasts only home games, is a polarizing figure — although, it should be noted that most respondents congregate around the pole for people who are driven mad by Milo Hamilton. Many of the sentiments regarding Dave Raymond are reminiscent of those regarding Astros television broadcaster Jim Deshaies, who is decidedly excellent.


22. Seattle Mariners
Broadcasters: Rick Rizzs, Plus Ron Fairly, Ken Levine, or Ken Wilson
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.4, 2.9, 3.3

Three Reader Comments
• “Rizzs is a solid PbP man, but there isn’t any commentary that’s worthwhile, and that derails the broadcast.”
• “I like one of the Kens.”
• “Levine’s greatest contribution to date was a call after an exceptional play that ended with ‘… if I had a catchphrase I’d be saying it now.'”

If there’s a theme among respondents with regard to Rizzs it’s that he has a tendency towards blind optimism regarding the team; however, most commenters seem to regard his basic broadcasting skills as good. Ken Levine gets consistently high marks for his comedy jokes.


21. Minnesota Twins
Broadcasters: John Gordon and Dan Gladden
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.6, 2.9, 3.3

Three Reader Comments
• “Gordon was fantastic growing up, but the few games I did catch this year he wasn’t quite as good as his legendary prime.”
• “Gordon was highly overrated by Twins fans, in my opinion, mainly because of his longevity. While it was fun to hear his passion and excitement for the game, and he had the personality of a teddy bear, he was not great at calling game action and had annoying voice inflections. However, his home run call (‘Touch em all, Justin Morneau!’) is second to none.”
• “Gladden is passable at best and a coagulated mess of former player broadcasting cliches at his worst.”

Cory Provus has replaced John Gordon (now retired) on the radio side, so this rating serves predominantly as reference. Most of the comments regarding Dan Gladden suggest the sort of broadcasting skill set that one generally expects of a former player.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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11 years ago

I was happy to see the Yankees broadcast ranked last. I have XM radio in my car and it awesomely provides a radio broadcast for the baseball games, which I love while I’m driving. However, it only plays the home team. I wanted to listen to the Rays game, but had to suffer through the Yankees radio broadcast. My biggest complaint with them is that they just never stop talking. They’re constantly saying things and never let the game speak for itself. Frustrating.