If you have been following the television coverage of the MLB playoffs so far, TBS is the channel you’ve been watching. While it used to be the home station that aired all of the Atlanta Braves’ baseball games when Ted Turner was the owner, it now hosts the playoffs up until the World Series, which is covered exclusively by Fox. TBS has its own lineup of analysts and announcers who aren’t seen typically seen nationally and includes some people you might not know very well.
The pregame and post game shows are primarily hosted by Keith Olbermann. I know Keith Olbermann more from his gigs on ESPN, and he has his own show on the network now as well. I thought it was strange to see him anchoring the broadcast for someone other than ESPN, but he has been covering every game of the playoffs including game 163 between the Rays and Rangers. He has the best broadcast presence and doesn’t have overpowering opinions that build up or bring down the performances of the players. He seems to remain neutral which is best suited for the man who is more so the moderator of the other analysts.
Tom Verducci is the baseball expert on the show who always has an opinion to offer (it is his job after all). I’m not sure about his playing experience or baseball background, but he does give insightful views, although I don’t always agree with him. Verducci has written many pieces and articles on baseball and has an established credibility with his writing. I don’t have a problem with what he says unlike some of the other broadcasters we’ll talk about.
One of the faces I recognized but did not know that he was a broadcaster is Dirk Hayhurst. Hayhurst had a short career with the San Diego Padres, and he has written two memoirs about his playing days. The Bullpen Gospels and Out of My League were his first two releases with a few more on the way. I have read Out of My League and had an idea of what Hayhurst was like as a person; he is goofy and laid back with a whimsical sense of humor. He doesn’t come across as a baseball player to me, but he played enough to be able to document his time in professional baseball through multiple books.
As a broadcaster, Hayhurst is not your typical commentator. He makes jokes that the other analysts don’t always catch right away, if at all. His metaphors and comparisons are “stupid funny”, meaning that the baseball fanatic won’t really appreciate what he is saying until he says what he actually means. He adds quirky tidbits before and after the technical baseball terms. It seems to be a good way to catch the attention of a non-traditional baseball fan, but those fans aren’t usually watching the pregame and post game shows anyways, so there isn’t much of a fan base for his style. I personally like Hayhurst, but until he says the words “baseball” or “pitcher” the other commentators have no idea what he is talking about.
No show gains credibility without former players or coaches to give their insightful opinions, and TBS has chosen Pedro Martinez to be their mainstay ex-pro player. I would have never imagined seeing Pedro as a TV analyst, and what he says doesn’t really contribute much to the broadcast. There is an obvious language barrier which limits the ways he can critique the players and games. He does smile a lot and probably is there to draw on the Hispanic fan base of baseball. Pedro will make an interesting comment here and there, but he mainly says things that are already obvious to baseball fans, such as “the pitcher did a nice job and had good control”. That is vividly seen when a pitcher throws 7+ innings and has 10+ strikeouts. The best part about having Pedro on the show is that there is a segment called “Who’s Your Daddy?” TBS shows the clip of Pedro when he talked to reporters following a game against the Yankees where he said that he needs to call the Yankees his daddy. Pedro then goes on to name his daddies for the games played. This is essentially the player of the game, but it is a new and funny way that they present it. The segment is good for the playoffs, but I doubt it will hold its appeal long term.
Mark DeRosa was an analyst for the first few days of the TBS playoff broadcast. DeRosa was a journeyman in baseball playing for several different teams and won a World Series ring with the San Francisco Giants. I didn’t find him very appealing as an analyst, and his co-workers seemed to share that opinion as he didn’t get much air time for speaking compared to the other hosts.
Gary Sheffield has been on the broadcast the last few days. I love Sheffield and loved watching him play. He had the most swag before swag became a popular reference today. Shef tells it like it is, and is a big contrast to the styles of the other hosts. He doesn’t seem to fit in, which is why I have enjoyed watching him on the show. While the other analysts want to talk technical terms and how a hitter should do this or needs to do that, Sheffield says it directly that a player did a good job or bad job. He also makes sure to throw in a line about how good of a player he was as well.
Playoff announcers are unorthodox
The game announcers on TBS are more traditional, with the big names being John Smoltz and Cal Ripken Jr. I tend not to listen to the announcers too much unless it is a player like those two speaking, so I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on the game broadcasts.
The pregame and post game shows have analysts that seem to try to appeal to every demographic that is possibly watching. Hayhurst is a quirky and sly ex-pitcher. Pedro is Hispanic. Sheffield is African American. DeRosa is a former player who almost reminded me of Ryan Lochte, but that would be giving Lochte too much credit for being having that much charisma. Verducci is the baseball writer who puts a face to words for people who haven’t seen him on television before. Olbermann is the well-known face on TV who leads the broadcast and interprets what all the other guys are trying to say.
I typically don’t watch pregame and post game shows for baseball unless my team wins or is on a winning streak. After catching playoff fever and watching the first few playoff broadcasts though, I couldn’t help but notice the vast differences that these analysts had and how they didn’t seem to mesh well in talking about baseball. They all know it from different points of view and seem to be following a script more than just talking about the game. The Baseball Tonight crew and the Baseball Network are much better with their anchors actually knowing each other. Regardless, the games are on TBS and it is the playoffs. I would probably watch Alex Rodriguez and Bud Selig discuss tomorrow’s pitching match-ups if that is who was on TV, but that might draw the biggest ratings of all with those two in a 1-on-1 conversation.