I thought that the TBS coverage of the Wild Card game in Texas and the Division Series against the Yankees was sub-standard. I fully admit to be being an announcing snob - 99% of the time, I don’t feel that the announcers for most sporting events are doing anything to help add to the game. Paul and I often watch the MASN regular season broadcasts without the sound on, especially when the Orioles are playing another contender. This is a sad but true reality. My experience is that Gary Thorne, while a professional and a good voice for play0by-play, often tries to overcompensate being a “national” announcer by talking up the opponent more than the Orioles, his “home” team. I don’t expect every announcer to have the “homer” passion of Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox nor would I expect every call to be made in the pompous nature that the Yankees John Sterling calls the games on radio. But I do expect the lead play by play announcer for my team to at least be fair to the Orioles, which doesn’t happen often enough.
The announcing crew of Ernie Johnson, John Smoltz, and Cal Ripken Jr. was below average. Ernie Johnson showed little to no restraint in being openly biased towards the Yankees during the ALDS. John Smoltz was a little better in his analysis, especially when speaking about the game from a pitchers perspective. But he would still dive into area’s of what hitters should and shouldn’t be swinging at, something from which he is far from an expert.
And then there is Cal. If Gary Thorne overcompensates on the MASN broadcasts, I don’t know what adjective describes Cal’s performance in the booth. To be fair, this was his first time calling a stretch of games (he did announce a few TBS games towards the end of the regular season) and it is certainly not an easy job. A three person announce booth inherently takes away from a smooth conversation flow that occurs with most two person teams. But overall, if you were a novice baseball fan who didn’t know that Cal spent his entire playing career in Baltimore, I’m not sure you would have known he was an Oriole and not a Yankee fan. And Cal brought very little to the table in terms of in game analysis, which would have partially made up for his biased talk throughout the series.
I get that the Yankees are all “national” celebrities, though as of October 17 they are celebrities on the brink of extinction from the playoffs. I understand that regardless of what I want from a broadcast, the Yankees storylines and players are going to get the hype, regardless of if it is deserved or not. Even MLB Network, which does at least try to be more fair to ALL teams, will go with the big market, sensationalistic stories (covering the Red Sox to death in 2012 despite a record that would have any other team at the end of each highlight show, aka “The Bobby Valentine Drama”) over the more quality stories (A’s and Orioles not just exceeding expectations but being amazing underdog stories in 2012). But I expected something out of Cal that would help even those odds and make the fans in Baltimore know that this is not a pro-Yankee broadcast.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In the end, I would have rather watched the YES Network broadcast the game. At least I would have known up front it was a Yankees broadcast.
On an entirely different note, while I have no love for Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, or Fox Sports in general, Fox is able to mic the stadiums so that you can actually hear the crowd reactions. I was extremely disappointed to watch the highlights of game two when I got home and know that about one-tenth of the stadium noise got on to the broadcast. Contrast this with the July 14 Orioles vs. Detroit Fox broadcast, where Taylor Teagarden’s walk off home run and subsequent crowd reaction is clearly audible. TBS failed big time in this area.