With the baseball season over, it’s time to bring you the 2nd Fang’s Bites Awards for broadcasting. You can see what transpired last year.
This will deal with the national partners, not local. Some of the choices will be obvious, some might not. Let’s get to this so we can bring the season to a close.
Once again, this is just Best and Worst, it’s not a competition, so please, no betting.
Starting from the top:
The Vin Scully Award for Best Play-by-Play: Brian Anderson of TBS. I’ve seen him call play-by-play very well for the Milwaukee Brewers on Fox Sports Wisconsin and over the last three seasons, he’s picked up a nice gig with TBS. This season, he got more work on Sunday Afternoon Baseball after Turner Sports got rid of Chip Caray after last year’s disastrous performance in the ALDS and NLCS. Brian called the bulk of the work for TBS on Sunday afternoons and he got the assignment for the Philadelphia-Cincinnati series and called the historic Roy Halladay no-hitter. Brian was on top of the game and allowed the moment to breathe as the no-no was about to be achieved. Great job by Brian and I hope to see him get more recognition down the line.
Honorable mentions: Dan Shulman and Dave O’Brien, ESPN
Best Game Analyst: Ron Darling, TBS. Mets fans know what the country is beginning to discover, that Darling is a very good analyst. Teamed with Keith Hernandez on SNY for the Mets, Darling has become very strong in the booth and during the postseason, he was teamed mostly with John Smoltz. They worked well off each other and were on top of trends. Darling also worked solo for TBS during the regular season and came off quite impressively. Having him on the top games is just right. And he would be a fine candidate to replace Tim McCarver if Fox ever got bold and took him off its package.
Honorable mention: Jim Kaat, MLB Network
Best Debut: John Smoltz, MLB Network and TBS. Even though he has yet to officially retire, John Smoltz has just about committed his time to being a TV analyst. And whether it’s working with Bob Costas on MLB Network or Ernie Johnson on Braves games on Peachtree TV, Smoltz has proven to be as close to being a natural in the booth. He is not afraid to express his opinion or state when a player has to step up. Normally, it takes an analyst two or three years to form strong opinions, but Smoltz has done that almost immediately. He and Ron Darling played off one another quite well during the postseason and I wouldn’t mind seeing them back together next season. And Smoltz is definitely another candidate to replace McCarver or even Joe Morgan on ESPN. He’s that good.
Honorable mention: Ernie Johnson, TBS.
Best Studio Show: MLB Tonight, MLB Network. There’s only one show to turn to now for in-game updates, highlights and no-hitter cut-ins, and that’s MLB Tonight. Baseball Tonight used to be that show, but with a great production crew, studio analysts and reporter Trenni Kusnierek (see? I got you in this year, Trenni!!) going to game sites, there’s no show that bring the baseball fan closer to the field. Of the people I deal with on Twitter, Facebook or in person, everyone turns to MLB Network. ESPN sent me a press release saying its ratings for Baseball Tonight were strong during the MLB Postseason, but I don’t see it.
Best Studio Host: Karl Ravech, ESPN. With last year’s winner Victor Rojas going to the Anaheim Angels, Karl is the winner by default. He does a great job on the highlights on Baseball Tonight and as a game host on Wednesday Night Baseball. However, without the playoffs, Karl is kind of forgotten. Perhaps MLB Network can bring Karl over to be a host on MLB Tonight. In the meantime, Karl hosts rather quietly on ESPN.
Honorable mention: Matt Winer, TBS
Best Studio Analyst: Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, MLB Network. Whether it’s on MLB Tonight or his spots on the Dan Patrick Show, the “Wild Thing” really shined this season and he came into his own. Mitch can be candid, humorous and instructional all at the same time. Williams can spot things on the mound from the studio and also gave some strong opinions on Stephen Strasburg during his debut and when the rookie Washington Nationals pitcher got hurt later in the season. I was quite impressed with Mitch’s work this season.
Honorable mentions: Harold Reynolds, MLB Network; Bobby Valentine, ESPN
Best Reporter: Trenni Kusnierek, MLB Network. Trenni did a lot of traveling this season for MLB Network and was all over the country. I wonder how she manages to keep track of it all, but she does a great job and makes it look effortless when MLB Network sends her to Anaheim, San Francisco and Milwaukee at a moment’s notice. I wish she was at the World Series, and I hope she gets a bigger role at the network down the road.
Honorable mention: Matt Yallof, MLB Network
Best Game Coverage: MLB on Fox. While Fox Sports made the decision not go true HD and do the silly widescreen format for the postseason, the production by the team of Pete Macheska and Bill Webb still do a tremendous job.
Honorable mention: TBS
Most Valuable Network: TBS. Great coverage of the postseason gives TBS the MVN award for this season. During the American League Championship Series, producer Glenn Diamond called for a montage of Bengie Molina home runs against the New York Yankees in past postseasons. Lo and behold on the next pitch, Molina hits a home run that essentially knocks them out of the playoffs. In addition, replays were done well. The Turner network continues to provide understated coverage of the postseason and it works.
Best Move: Removing Chip Caray from the MLB Postseason, TBS. Without Chip Caray, TBS improved by leaps and bounds. While his replacement, Ernie Johnson got off to a show start in the ALDS, he improved to the point where he was quite competent in the booth and worked well with the aforementioned Darling and Smoltz. There were no more “FISTED” references and we the fans were rewarded.
Worst Play-by-Play: Joe Buck, Fox Sports. There’s no doubt that Joe isn’t committed to calling a full season of baseball. He called just 14 games this year, not including the All-Star Game and the postseason. His snark just doesn’t work in the booth and he sometimes comes off as arrogant. It’s not working. Fox Sports would be better served with an announcer who can do an entire regular season instead of working half the season.
Worst Game Analyst: Joe Morgan, ESPN. He can retire this award. Morgan is horrible. He refuses to do any homework and it shows. Morgan just enters the booth and makes statements that come off as aloof and distant. He’s mismatched with Jon Miller who does his best to draw him into conversations, but Morgan doesn’t want any part of them. Morgan’s contract is up now and it’s time for ESPN to find someone else for the Sunday Night Baseball spot. Viewers would be better served.
Dishonorable mention: Tim McCarver, Fox Sports.
Worst Studio Host: Chris Rose, Fox Sports. What is it about Chris Rose that when he’s hosting the World Series Trophy Presentation, he has to appear chummy with the players? Last year, he called Derek Jeter, “Jeets” offending fans all over the world. This year, he called Brian Wilson and Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, “my friend”. It was set people off on Twitter and Facebook. When he’s in the studio for MLB Network, Rose actually does a decent job, but on Fox, he’s goofy and he falls back to his annoying persona on the old Best Damn Sports Show Period. Bring back Jeanne Zelasko!
Dishonorable mention: Greg Amsinger, MLB Network
Worst Way To End A Career: Last year, it was Steve Phillips over the Brooke Hundley affair. This year, it’s Rob Dibble over his poor judgment in saying an injured Stephen Strasburg should pitch through pain. Just a few days after Dibble made his statement on Sirius XM Radio, Strasburg was shut down for the season and would not return for 12 to 18 months. Dibble was suspended from his Nationals analyst job on MASN and subsequently fired. While I felt he should not have been fired, the team felt he was too far damaged to return. Dibs is still working for MLB Home Plate and will probably get another team gig down the line, but he’ll have to do some penance before getting back to the broadcast booth.
And that will do it for our 2nd annual MLB TV Awards.