With baseball ending its season with the World Series, it’s time to do the 1st Ever Fang’s Bites MLB TV Awards. This follows the 1st Ever Fang’s Bites Tennis TV Awards, the 1st Annual NHL TV Awards, the College Football TV Awards and the NFL TV Awards. I hope to do a College Basketball TV and Radio Awards down the line as well.
Let’s do this. Some of the choices may be obvious, others may not. Some may surprise you, others may not, but again, remember, this is just the Best and Worst, it’s not a competition, so please, no betting.
Starting with the top:
The Vin Scully Award for Best Play-by-Play: Named after the best play-by-play voice in baseball, bar none, this year’s award goes to Dan Shulman of ESPN and ESPN Radio. He’s no nonsense and really, one of the best multisport announcers as he also calls college basketball and the NBA quite well. Dan doesn’t yell, he doesn’t depend on catchphrases, he just does his job which is welcomed. He really should be ESPN’s number one announcer ahead of Jon Miller who seems to have slipped some this year.
Honorable Mention: Dave O’Brien, ESPN
Best Game Analyst: This is slim pickings as you have Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan, Rick Sutcliffe, Eric Karros and others as candidates. I’m going to choose Orel Hershiser of ESPN out of default. He doesn’t offend me as the other analysts and he does a pretty decent job. With Steve Phillips out of the picture at ESPN, I expect Orel to get more assignments whether on Monday Night or Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Honorable Mentions: Ron Darling, TBS and Jim Kaat, MLB Network
Best Debut: With the advent of league-owned TV networks such as NFL Network, NBA TV and NHL Network, it was only a matter of time for Major League Baseball to start one of its own and finally on New Year’s Day, MLB Network debuted, although not as smoothly as hoped. But once it got the glitches out of its system, MLB Network made splashes through big hires, coverage of breaking stories, live game coverage, going head-to-head with ESPN, and using its power to pick up live games whenever possible. In just 10 short months, MLB Network has become the Network of Record for Major League Baseball coverage, wresting the title from ESPN. Whether it be its signature show, MLB Tonight or being able to do live cut-ins at a moment’s notice, MLB Network has become a welcome addition to baseball fans.
Best Studio Show: MLB Tonight. The show is able to do live extended cut-ins unlike its ESPN counterpart, Baseball Tonight. There are cases as during a no-hitter when ESPN can cut-in, but those are only in special circumstances. Plus, whether the show is hosted by Victor Rojas or Matt Vasgersian, it moves quite well, although being on the air live for 6 hours can sometimes lead to some unfortunate comments, but for the most part, MLB Tonight has risen to the occasion to become the best studio show.
Honorable Mention: Inside MLB, TBS
Best Studio Host: In the past, it was Karl Ravech of ESPN, but he’s been overtaken by Victor Rojas of MLB Network. Victor is the answer to a nice trivia question. Who was the first person to be seen when MLB Network debuted and that answer is Victor Rojas. The former radio announcer to the Texas Rangers joined MLB Network and made a very good transition to studio host. While Matt Vasgersian and Greg Amsinger do most of the hosting for MLB Tonight, Victor is the best host the network has and should have been given a bigger role for MLB Network’s World Series coverage. And not only is he an excellent host, he’s also one of the funnier people on Twitter so follow him and also read his blog at MLB.com.
Honorable Mention: Karl Ravech, ESPN and Ernie Johnson, TBS
Best Studio Analyst: This is a tie between Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams of MLB Network. HR is a known commodity from his work at ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. But Mitch came over from Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and he’s fast becoming a star as a regular on MLB Tonight. HR explains baseball very well and can spot trends. Mitch can give perspective as a pitcher and is very funny. His one liners can break up the studio at a moment’s notice. Both HR and Mitch should be paired together during the 10-midnight hours of MLB Tonight.
Honorable Mention: Al Leiter, MLB Network
Best Game Coverage: Say what you will about its announcing crews, MLB on Fox does a very good job in its production of the games. Director Bill Webb does do a lot of crowd cutaways, but he and producer Pete Macheska do a bang-up job in finding right facts, pictures and replays to cover the stories that pop up during the 9 innings of a game. Very impressed by their work.
Honorable Mention: Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN
Most Valuable Network: Yeah, MLB Network. Yes, ESPN has Sunday and Wednesday Night games. Fox has coverage of the All-Star Game, LCS and World Series. TBS has Sunday afternoon games on the entire LDS, but in just less than a full season, MLB Network has shown it can juggle programming, add games, use the vast MLB historical archive and develop programming that can rival or surpass any of the league-owned channels. Color me impressed with MLB Network.
Best Move: MLB Network hiring Bob Costas away from HBO Sports to do play-by-play of the sport he loves and to host a regular interview show. It was only natural that Costas join MLB Network. I remember asking an MLB spokesman last year if the network was going to hire Costas and telling him it would be a natural fit. Sure enough, Costas came on board in February this year and made an immediate impact on the Alex Rodriguez steroids story. Hopefully, Bob will call more than just five or six games for MLB Network next season.
Honorable Mention: Fox hires Ozzie Guillen for the World Series
Worst Play-by-Play: Earlier this week during the Sports Media Weekly podcast, Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner gave praise to Chip Caray of TBS for his work during the MLB Postseason. From what I can tell, Jim is the only sports media writer to give Chip some love. I cannot. While I won’t take shots like some others have, I found Chip to be very annoying. His constant “FISTED” references plus miscalling plays early in the postseason led fans to go nuclear on Twitter and Facebook. Chip has done good work for the Cubs and the Braves, but he’s not worthy of being a number one announcer and shouldering the responsibility of leading a major broadcast. I hope TBS reconsiders and uses another announcer for next year. His work gave some fans a new appreciation for Joe Buck.
Worst Game Analyst: In a sport that has so many candidates, there’s only one who “wins” this award hands down. And it goes to Joe Morgan of ESPN. Morgan is dry, humorless, unwilling to see any team better than the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds, no manager better than Sparky Anderson, no middle infielder better than him and adds nothing to the game. In an effort to spice up the Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, ESPN brought in Steve Phillips to add another voice. It really didn’t work as Morgan continued to bore people at home. Why ESPN chose him to be its number 1 analyst and continues to use him in this capacity is beyond me. One of the worst analysts in sports television, period.
Dishonorable Mention: Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN and Tim McCarver, ESPN
Worst Game Coverage: World Baseball Classic, MLB Network. During March, MLB Network relied on the world feed for the games it was airing from Puerto Rico and Mexico. It resulted in pictures never matching what the announcers were saying and there were times when complete plays were missed. Replays were often the same angle that we had just seen on TV and some of the production was disjointed. For what was supposed to be a showcase for baseball on the world stage, viewers deserved better.
Dishonorable Mention: None
Worst Studio Host: Greg Amsinger, MLB Network. When I read he was hired, I thought it was would be as a backup to Matt Vasgersian and Victor Rojas, but for some reason, the former CBS College Sports host was given a prominent role during World Series coverage. He really doesn’t deserve it. Greg sounds like he smokes 60 packs of cigarettes a day. He raises his voice unnecessarily and he tries too hard to be funny. Leave the humor at home. I ask MLB Network to put Greg on its Quick Pitch show instead of MLB Tonight.
Dishonorable Mention: Chris Rose, Fox Sports
Worst Studio Analyst: Orestes Destrade, ESPN. What is that? Seriously. Why is he even on my TV?
Worst Way to End a Career: I don’t need to rehash the Steve Phillips affair. You all know what happened. But I have a feeling we won’t be seeing the end of Steve.
Worst Disappearing Act: TBS Hot Corner. I can go ad nauseum on how much I enjoyed TBS’ online coverage of the MLB Postseason when it began in 2007, but Hot Corner has gone from online studio show in 2007 to in-game reports last year, to virtually nothing this year. While we can see alternate angles, I wish TBS would go back to the online studio show it shared with MLB.com two years ago. And I would love to go back and forth with Beau Estes of Turner Sports once again. Please TBS, bring back the online show and a Friend of Fang’s Bites, Heather Catlin.
That concludes our first ever MLB TV Awards. We’ll back same time, next year with the 2nd Annual Awards.