As usual, we’ll deal with the national TV partners, ESPN, Fox, MLB Network and TBS. This is a listing of the Best and Worst, it’s not a competition, so please, no betting.
We’ll do the Best and finish with the Worst.
The Vin Scully Award For Best Play-by-Play: Sean McDonough, ESPN. Glad to see Sean calling baseball on a national level once again. It seemed after he was let go by NESN after the 2004 season, he was in exile. But this year, ESPN brought him back to call the sport he loves for Monday Night Baseball and we the public were the beneficiaries. If ESPN ever gets the MLB Postseason back, it would behoove the network to give him an assignment. One of the best all-around announcers, Sean did a very good job working on baseball this season.
Honorable mentions: Dan Shulman, ESPN; Brian Anderson, TBS
Best Game Analyst: John Smoltz, MLB Network/TBS. John has fast become the best game analyst in just two seasons on TV. He can pick up trends, predict home runs and know when a pitcher is losing it. I would love to have John work the World Series to replace Tim McCarver (more on him later). Smoltz works well with Matt Vasgersian on MLB Network and worked off Ron Darling during the MLB Postseason on TBS brilliantly. I’d love to see John get more of a national showcase during the regular season.
Honorable Mentions: Ron Darling, TBS; Orel Hershiser, ESPN.
Best Debut: A.J. Pierzynski, Fox. The catcher for the Chicago White Sox got the opportunity to work on TV during the American League Championship Series and World Series for Fox. I was quite impressed with his work and his candor. The man has a future in TV when he retires.
Honorable Mention: Terry Francona, Fox during the ALCS; Jamie Maggio on TBS’ MLB Postseason coverage.
Best Studio Show: MLB Tonight, MLB Network. Let’s face it, MLB Network is the Network of Record for baseball and MLB Tonight is the signature show. Whenever there’s a big moment in baseball, MLB Tonight will cut-in and show it live. The program is produced well, the analysts are always on top of the action and you know that the show will air a highlight or a live cut-in when it’s most needed. The hosts could be better, but with Brian Kenny hired by MLB Network, you’ll probably see him on the anchor desk extensively in 2012.
Honorable Mention: Baseball Tonight, ESPN.
Best Studio Host: Matt Winer, TBS. In his second year on the desk for TBS whether it be for the All-Star Game Selection or during the MLB Postseason, Matt is very smooth. Hired originally by Turner Sports to be the main host on NBA TV, Matt has done work with the NBA on TNT, NCAA Tournament for TBS and was given the main host assignment for MLB on TBS last season. He’s become one of the best studio hosts on sports television and he has learned to distribute the rock to his analysts very well. I’m quite impressed with his work this season.
Honorable Mentions: Karl Ravech, ESPN; Matt Vasgersian, Matt Yallof, MLB Network.
Best Studio Analyst: Harold Reynolds, MLB Network. H.R. wins the award outright after being given the award in a tie with Mitch Williams in 2009. Harold is very comfortable working in the studio and being the main guy on MLB Tonight. He’s quite good. While he won’t go out of his way to criticize, he will come down on a player when it’s necessary. Harold has won Emmy Awards for good reason. He’s the best studio analyst in the sport.
Honorable Mentions: Dennis Eckersley, TBS; Mitch Williams, MLB Network.
Best Game Coverage: MLB on Fox. The World Series proved that the Fox crew does a great job with game production. Using 30 cameras, Fox was right on top of replays, showing the proper angles of controversial calls and not overdoing it on the strike zone never showing it live. We can pick on Fox’s announcing crew, but the production is top-notch every season. My only problem is the crowd cutaways as I’m not a fan of showing fans wringing their hands on every pitch, but that’s me. Overall, Fox gets an A for its production.
Honorable Mention: ESPN.
Most Valuable Network: Fox. Not for a lack of trying, Fox does its best to promote baseball. The ratings in the regular season were down again and the American League Championship Series did not do well, but Fox was finally rewarded with a thrilling World Series and the most watched Fall Classic contest in Game 7 dating back to 2004.
Best Move: MLB Network hiring Brian Kenny and Sam Ryan. I’m not a big fan of Brian Kenny as he can be abrasive, but he loves baseball and is a very good studio host. Sam Ryan is an excellent reporter and I’m looking forward to seeing her extensively on MLB Network next season.
Worst Play-by-Play: Yes, Joe Buck, Fox. He seems to be turning the tide with sports media observers with his plagiarized use of his father’s home run call from the 1991 World Series, but to be honest, I still think it was a bad job by him. There are times when he calls games as if he’s at a wake. While this season, he had to overcome a virus that almost took his voice, it still did not help him improve as an announcer. I feel Buck is regressing, not improving. One more year and Buck can retire this award.
Worst Game Analyst: Tim McCarver, Fox. Whether it be miscounting how many letters there are in the word, “strike” or overanalyzing situations, McCarver is verbose and does not allow a game to breathe. I feel the game has passed Tim by. It’s time for him to go.
Worst Studio Show: Intentional Talk, MLB Network. This show is an abortion. Co-hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar, this show makes no sense. Rose is a bad host. Millar is constantly yelling. Why is this show even on the air? And why did MLB Network allow this to continue during the offsesason? Intentional Talk needs to be put to sleep and immediately. It is one of the worst shows in the history of sports television.
Worst Studio Host: Chris Rose, MLB Network/Fox. How this man hosts for two networks is beyond me. He’s gone from being on the Best Damn Sports Show, Period to somehow hosting MLB on Fox and Intentional Talk. Chris Rose is an enigma. And his postgame questions during the American League Championship Series were mind boggling.
Worst Studio Analyst: Kevin Millar, MLB Network. He has apparently subscribes to the Michael Irvin Style of Broadcasting which means yelling, yelling and more yelling. Why does he have to yell? Why is he yelling? Does Millar yell because he thinks yelling is funny? Does he feel he has to yell to get his point across? After watching him, I need to take 10 Tylenols to get rid of my tension headaches. I love what Millar did with the 2004 Red Sox. I hate him on TV.
Worst Way To End A Career: Dan McLaughlin, Fox Sports Midwest. Dan McLaughlin, the TV voice of the St. Louis Cardinals had some pretty good gigs. Not only was he the main announcer for the Cardinals, he also was calling college basketball games on ESPN. However, after being arrested not once, but twice on DUI charges over a span of 13 months, McLaughlin lost his jobs calling Missouri basketball and Missouri Valley Conference games. His future with Fox Sports Midwest remains in doubt and he wasn’t seen doing the last two weeks of Cardinals games. Here’s hoping Dan gets the help he needs so he can get back on the straight and narrow.
And that will conclude this year’s edition of the MLB TV Awards.