It's been a while, again, since we've all gotten it together enough to do one of these. This week's topic was simple enough: Besides Vin Scully, because duh, who's your favorite broadcaster or broadcasting team? Our answers*,in randomized order:
David: Cory Provus, Twins
Call me a homer [you're a homer. --ed.], but I really like what Cory Provus is doing with the Twins radio broadcast. He's a smart, well-spoken guy, and he is shouldered with the task of working with Dan Gladden most days, which must suck so hard. Cory Provus should get a Presidential Medal of Freedom for having to work with that bloated, man-shaped slug. Dan Gladden is ostensibly your drunken uncle who played a little High A ball, and finds it his mission in life to educate all of us on what the game was like back in the glory years. Please, Dan Gladden, regale us with another fascinating tale of those years you played in Japan. What's that? Another rehash of that same story about that prank some dude played that one time? It's not even my birthday! I'd just like to go on record here and profess my desire for Dan Gladden to get bent. If that dullard never sat in front of a microphone again, it would be too soon.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite television broadcaster because I dislike all of them, as a rule. I'm not sure why, but it does not take long for me to sour to a baseball broadcaster, dismissing them like a bad bowl of soup at a Cracker Barrel. They talk too much, and when they talk I always pick up on a few (or more) little things that bother me and I can't let it go. They always seem in the way, somehow, like they're purposely going out of their way to ruin my baseball experience. Of course they are not deliberately trying to bother me while I'm watching baseball, that's my wife's job. (Insert rimshot) It never gets so bad that I have to mute the TV, though. I can at least stand it. It's like discovering a rock in your shoe while walking. It's annoying, but you'll tough it out until the end.
I flip around a lot between games most nights, but I always end up watching at least a few innings of the Rays. I'm not a fan, per se, I just like the way they do business. I respect that team, and I want to watch them and I hope they do well. I can handle the Rays TV folks, mostly because it seems like they know when to shut the hell up. They don't need to fill time with inane stories, or lecture me about how a pitcher is getting hit because he's not keeping the ball down in the zone. They let the baseball do the talking. They also use meaningful stats, a move that can and should be copied by other clubs. When someone's up to bat, I get their OPS. When a pitcher takes the mound, they'll give me the K/BB ratio. They even had a full-on nerd dayback in May, with FIP and everything. It was just one day, but, you know, baby steps.
I don't have a favorite announcer. I don't have a least favorite announcer. I don't have strong feelings on Vin Scully beyond an appreciation for the fact that Chris Carter (not that one; no, not that one, either) loved him enough to name Gillian Anderson's X-Files character after him. I've written on this very site about Hawk Harrelson and on my blog about the Ray Fosse/Scott Hatteberg debacle in Oakland, but in the end, I only dislike Harrelson so much, and that so much is, I suspect, quite a bit less than other people dislike him.
Announcers aren't fungible, of course. Joe Morgan always found a way to poke the small, cute bear known as internet baseball nerds, and that's a whole different approach to calling a game than Orel Hershiser has. Still, I have a hard time remembering times when X said this or that or the other. I can't really name anybody's signature call, outside of Glen Kuiper's "that baby is GONE" (and that's only because someone once made an Amber Alert joke on Twitter about the call -- now that's memorable), but on-field moments, games, and attributes stay with me as they do with any baseball fan. I remember Dallas Braden's perfect game, though. I remember Ben Grieve's swing. I will never, sadly, forget Coco Crisp's throwing motion. I don't remember a single thing any booth-man ever said about these things.
It's not that I don't like them or think they're necessary in the moment. It's really just that I don't care about them as soon as I shut off the TV.
Cee: Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, Red Sox
I wanted to write about Vin Scully, which would be the most obvious choice for me (or anyone for that matter), so I had to pick someone else. I watch a lot of games and typically find broadcast teams boring enough to mute (ever watch a Diamondbacks game?) or annoying enough to mute (climb under this bus, Hawk Harrelson). There are some fantastic broadcast teams out there, but my current favorite, Scully aside, is Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, who have been in the booth in Boston on NESN together since 2001. There's something about their dynamic that should be annoying. There's something that seems a bit too formulaic about their relationship, the Felix Unger and Oscar Madison of the baseball world. Orsillo is straight-laced and detailed as the play-by-play announcer, while Remy often seems distracted. Orsillo has a melodic cadence in his speech, while Remy assaults ears with a thick New England accent. Remy starts tangential conversations about everything non-baseball, from his Wally the Monster stuffed animal to his favorite drink at Dunkin Donuts, while Orsillo tries to reign him back into baseball discussions. But for some reason, the dynamic just works. Their friendship seems genuine, their banter is often humorous, and regardless of the state of the Red Sox, they call a fair game, giving credit and criticism of both teams, with no blatant homerism (I've now backed that bus up over Hawk Harrelson). There have been some downright hysterical moments in the NESN booth with Don and Jerry, like the time they saw a fan grab his girlfriend's boob mid-inning, or that time they played with a light saber. Don and Jerry are also fantastic dancers.
Bill: Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, Cubs
I don't often witness growth in broadcasters. I'm sure there are a lot of ways a professional broadcaster can improve his or her delivery, timing, etc., but I don't tend to notice those things much. Substantively, I find that they're either good or bad (and most are bad), and that you can tell right away whether a given broadcaster knows his or her stuff.
It wasn't that way with Bob Brenly. He was never in that inner circle of the most immediately detestable broadcasters (Tim McCarver might have that one all to himself), but he wasn't good either, one of those totally forgettable guys who would often appear on things like the down-ticket Fox Saturday game and spout a bunch of forgettable and vaguely applicable cliches. That seems to have changed -- slowly, but hugely -- starting in 2005, when Brenly started working with Len Kasper.
Kasper, the play-by-play man, still drives the show. He's witty, he doesn't feel the need to fill up every bit of dead air, he's not afraid of peppering in some stats that don't factor into the Triple Crown. His coverage of the game is just smarter than most, and much more enjoyable to listen to.
Brenly seems to have absorbed some of Kasper's energy and style. His analysis, when Brenly analyzes, is still hit or miss (which is still better than it had been), but more importantly, they have an excellent rapport with each other, and the two together have exactly the right temperament for covering Cubs games -- they're almost always upbeat, even in a blowout loss, and don't take anything too seriously. They seem (or WGN seems) to recognize that most Cubs fans are well past the point of caring about wins and losses (not just this year, but always), and that they're out to have fun first and watch some baseball second. Len and Bob have fun, and you have fun watching, and that (much more than offering insightful or complex analysis, in my mind) is the best thing that can be said about a broadcaster or team (who aren't Vin Scully)..
The Common Man: Bob Uecker, Brewers
So, The Common Man said that he would participate in the Friday Forum, in fact this was even th
e topic that he selected, because presumably he had a lot he wanted to say about Brewers announcer Bob Uecker. He probably had some anecdotes that would have come together for a top-notch paragraph or two about a beloved announcer, but he really dropped the ball on this. He promised that he'd talk about why Uecker is his favorite, but clearly promises are easily broken, especially when you have a pseudonym to hide behind. Since he didn't write about Bob Uecker, please accept this video as an apology from The Platoon Advantage on behalf of The Common Man.