Richard Sandomir does his normally good job of reviewing and dissecting the Fox World Series broadcast over at The New York Times. His verdict: it wasn’t good. While Fox’s camera work was excellent and some of its graphics good (others bad) Sandomir gives the booth low grades, noting that the three-man setup is too chatty and that Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci’s insight was often shaky, too late or less-than illuminating. Ultimately, the three broadcasters need more reps together, Sandomir notes.
The big takeaway, with which I agree: we miss Tim McCarver. Not that he was the be-all, end-all, obviously. And not that he was as good in the past few years as he used to be (he clearly had lost a step). But (a) he was way better at anticipating things and offering his insight before an event happened rather than second-guessing afterward; and (b) the mere fact of a three-man booth just really, really sucks for baseball.
Mets fans like their three-man booth, but I feel like the Hernandez-Darling-Cohen booth is the exception, not the rule. They have a relaxed thing that is better geared toward the regular season (and Hernandez is not totally full-time anyway). And if you have to have three guys in the booth, at least the Mets’ setup is ideal: a pitcher to break down pitcher stuff and an everyday player to talk about hitting and defense. Indeed, I find it rather crazy that the Fox booth doesn’t have either a former pitcher or former catcher like McCarver was who can talk about pitching. That seems essential to me.
In an ideal world — in my view anyway — you have a one-man booth with a person who can talk about the game at hand, not get lost in conversation. Someone who can set the scene and offer some occasional color-style insights (broadcasts over-analyze unimportant crap as it is). No one really does that anymore, but I think there are a lot of decent play-by-play guys who, if allowed to do that for a while, would become good at it. Vin Scully is great, but he’s not some absurd freak of nature or a god. He got great at that because he’s done it forever and knows what the heck he’s doing. If, say, Len Kasper or someone was allowed to do that for a long time and became, say, 66% of what Scully is, we’d be about 200% better with broadcasting than we generally are now. Heck, I bet even Joe Buck could do it. He’s way better than he used to be — he’s actually gotten really good at feeling the moment in a baseball game, which was one of his early problems — and he’s been around enough to make note of significant strategic things if he was allowed to.
But I suppose that’s a pipe dream. Now Fox, ESPN and TBS give us three-man booths, for whatever reason they do it. Maybe because they can. It makes for a crappy game product though. So short of going to a one-man, ratchet it back to a two-man booth and get someone in there who knows what the heck they’re doing.