Fox Sports Detroit doing ‘Players Only’ broadcast for 17 Tigers games

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Tigers games on Fox Sports Detroit were, for many, many years, called by Mario Impemba and Rod Allen. As you may recall, both were fired last year after a long-simmering personality conflict turned into — allegedly — a physical altercation of some sort about which everyone has stopped talking, probably due to healthy severance packages and non-disclosure agreements.

This year Fox Sports Detroit promoted backup play-by-play guy Matt Shepard to join a mix-and-max combo of analyst Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris, depending on the day (all three were in the booth for the home opener last week). This morning we learn that, starting with tomorrow’s game, and repeating 16 more times this season, Tigers games will be called in a “Players Only” format, with nothing but ex-Tigers on the mic. And on the phone.

According to Fox Sports Detroit,  Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Craig Monroe, Dan Petry and “special guests,” who will be calling in via video conference. No, I am not making that up:

Special guests will join the broadcast through the Video Call Center (VCC).

“With this technology, we can check in with guys from all over the world and we plan to do just that,” said Gibson, who used the VCC during the 2018 Opening Day broadcast from Los Angeles.

The VCC enables broadcasts to leverage the world’s billions of smartphones to enhance their coverage, with two-way video calls from any location, using any device. FOX Sports Detroit will be utilizing these patented technologies and services to bring in acclaimed former players, who will engage in rapid back-and-forth dialogue and even play-by-play commentary, enabled by VCC’s hyper-low-latency-return video feed.

“These broadcasts are going to be a lot of fun,” said Monroe, who played for the Tigers from 2002-07. “We’ll have a chance to share even more analysis and stories from our playing days. Viewers will truly feel like they are watching the game with us and part of our team.”

My favorite part of this is the “. . . and even play-by-play commentary,” bit, which makes the play-by-play sound like something which we may, if we’re lucky, get a bit of. It’s an admission that paying attention to the actual game at hand is going to take a back seat to banter and war stories from ex-players, none of whom are particularly invested in calling the game because it’s not their job. Even the GM of the network talks in the press release about “the conversation” these guys are going to have as opposed to couching it in terms of a them calling a game for the benefit of fans.

Which makes me think that, in essence, Fox Sports Detroit is recreating the ballpark experience in which four bros in the row in front of you get a text from bro five who is elsewhere in the park, he comes over, squats in the aisle and they all start talking about when they were back in college. Just substitute “that time Chad passed out while doing a keg stand” with “that time Dave Rozema came back to the Marriott with all of those Eastern Airline stewardesses during the road trip to Baltimore.” As Morris, ever the enlightened one, condescendingly says that “the P.C. term is now ‘flight attendants'” viewers will be wondering who the new pitcher is. It’ll be epic.

OK, I exaggerate. I presume that there will be some seriously stressed and aggravated producers helping guide this a bit more than that — and I imagine Gibson can only take so much in the way of shenanigans that he’ll at least attempt to restore order at some point — but I fear the worst here. At the most basic level, the idea that ex-ballplayers are, without question, the best people to analyze the game was dubious to begin with, but the notion that they are also the best ones to call the play-by-play is beyond idiotic. Putting four or more of them on the broadcast at a time with the intention of engaging in “conversation” makes a bug of multi-person booths — too much non-game chatter — a feature. I cannot see how on Earth it will work.

If you’re a Tigers fan and you watch the game on your laptop or mobile device, I highly recommend using the “radio overlay” feature for these 17 contests. As I’ve noted in the recaps a couple of times this year already, the radio guys do it way, way better anyway.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: and