MLB playoffs 2015: Ripken, Reynolds show three-person broadcast teams are one too many
If you’ve spent any significant time watching the playoffs on TV as opposed to the local radio feeds via the At Bat app then you’ve certainly heard your share of constant talking on Fox/FS1 and TBS. In fact, it’s been a never-ending barrage of chatter with three men in each booth. And even though three-person booths are not atypical in the annals of MLB broadcasting, these particular combinations strain the very utility behind the idea.For the American League Championship Series, Fox/FS1 telecasts have featured Joe Buck on play-by-play with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci and former MLB second baseman Harold Reynolds. For its National League counterpart, TBS went with Ernie Johnson up front and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. Each of these booths have had their strengths, but the weakne ses are so glaring and obvious, it makes the experience of watching on TV more grueling than enjoyable.MLB PLAYOFFS 2015: Each team’s most heartbreaking postseason moment With Fox, Buck is a serviceable play-by-play announcer with 20 years of experience calling the MLB playoffs for Fox. People love him or hate him and have done so for years, but he gets the job done. Verducci, a longtime senior writer for SI, was a surprising and welcome addition last year, showing off a very evident acumen and the ability to convey events with an extra layer of context, often from an advanced analytics bent. But the problem with the Fox Joc Pederson Jersey booth is Reynolds, who is only slightly more tolerable than he was last year when he first joined up. Reynolds has been a TV baseball analyst for years previously on ESPN and still in the studio for MLB Network and he clearly should have a large knowledge base to draw upon, but most of what he contributes to the telecasts comes off as superficial, surface-level stuff. For a man who had 5,398 career plate appearances, you wouldn’t really know it to hear him speak. When Toronto’s Chris Colabello cranked a solo homer in the second, Reynolds’ contribution was, Well, I gue s he made an adjustment.Immediately after, Verducci jumped in and explained how that was the first home run that Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez had allowed in his past 1,228 changeups. Reynolds’ response: How do you know that? Unbelievable, Tom. You were sitting on that one, weren’t you?On the one hand, Reynolds doesn’t talk as much as people probably think he does. For example, during the bottom of the first of Wednesday’s Game 5, he spoke for one minute and 25 seconds out of six minutes and 46 seconds of airtime. A quarter of that was spent reading off the initial defensive positioning for the Royals. Another three seconds was spent replying to a question about the Rogers Centre chanting: Whatever it is, it’s loud. Another quarter of that time came after a strikeout and subsequent slo-mo replay. With Reynolds, it oftens comes in bursts and he’s perhaps better at picking at his spots to jump in, but much of his speak is just empty calories for the TV viewer. Meanwhile, Verducci often https://www.dodgersedge.com/los-angeles-dodgers/chris-taylor-jersey talks about his conversations with scouts and batter tendencies and pointing out adjustments in a player’s swing. The difference between the two analysts is stark and noticeable.TBS’ baseball broadcast season is now over, with the Mets having completed their sweep of the Cubs in the NLCS, but let’s take a moment to reflect on what didn’t work about this booth namely the one Ernie Johnson refers to on the air as the Iron Man at pretty much every conceivable opportunity. If Ripken is expected to play the role of the crotchety ex-player, then he serves his purpose exceedingly well. Anyone who watched Game 2 of the Mets-Dodgers Division Series will never forget how Ripken was quick to categorize Chase Utley’s slide into the Mets’ Ruben Tejada (which broke Tejada’s leg) as a clean play, as a little late, https://www.dodgersedge.com/los-angeles-dodgers/hyun-jin-ryu-jersey and nothing more than competitive baseball. Considering what Utley actually did and that Ripken’s entire career was built on a consecutive games streak that would’ve vaporized had anyone slid into him that way, the entire defense rang hollow and unnece sarily contrarian for its own sake. What’s especially disappointing about Ripken’s shtick is that he’s actually a bright and personable guy who knows what he’s talking about. I’ve interviewed him before and talked at length about baseball and how the game is played and he really knows his stuff. Why that has not translated to the TV booth is kind of a mystery.The truly frustrating thing is that Fox and TBS already have in-studio talent that viewers would celebrate as voices in the booth. The former has Raul Ibaez and Frank Thomas, who are excellent in the pregame show, while the latter has Pedro Freakin’ Martinez, who is never afraid to speak his mind on Twitter and seems to have a genuine connection with fans.Either substitution would represent a ma sive upgrade, but so would some addition by subtraction. Two-person booths have worked just fine, and when there’s le s talking in the booth, you can actually let the game itself get in a word or two.Erik Malinowskiis a freelance sportswriter based near San Francisco and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, Sports on Earth, and Uproxx.