This is pretty big news for folks who watch baseball on TV. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that Fox is getting rid of Tom Verducci and Harold Reynolds and installing John Smoltz as the network’s lead color man. Smoltz will join Joe Buck in a two-man booth for World Series coverage. Reynolds and Verducci will continue to have some role in broadcasts, but not in the booth.
Big news and good news. Reynolds is generally likable, but he is painfully out of his depth as a commentator, offering up the most superficial and oftentimes contradictory analysis imaginable. He is far better-suited to being a studio host of some kind than the person baseball viewers hear first when it’s time to explain what just happened on the field. Verducci, while an excellent writer and journalist, has never seemed comfortable in the booth, often deferring to Reynolds in immediate analysis (he may have been better in a two-man booth) and, more recently, seemingly retreating to jokes or would-be memes or catch phrases rather than analysis.
In contrast Smoltz, who has broadcast games for MLB Network, has proven to be an excellent commentator. He, like Tim McCarver in his prime, explains what’s going on on the field with the knowledge of an insider but in a manner which is immediately relatable to the common fan. Rather than reiterating what just happened, he points out what you probably missed. That’s the essence of the job. It’s a tough job and not just any ex-player can do it, but Smoltz has done it well.
Fox has taken a lot of criticism for its broadcast in recent years. But this move — going back to a two-man booth from a three-man booth and putting a GOOD second man in it — is most welcome and is deserving of some serious praise.