Making the Call on Baseball's Best, Worst TV Broadcasters
In terms of big names, there has been a pretty large shuffling of play-by-play announcers this past week. We found out that Chip Caray was ousted from his post where he called fisted foul balls at TBS, Vin Scully has re-upped for another year with the Dodgers (his 61st, which is pure lunacy in the good way) and that the Padres have hired the ancient Dick Enberg to work as their TV voice.
In that vein, I started thinking about which announcers I liked the best and discussed with my MLB FanHouse colleagues. Invariably, we discussed the worst ones as well. So I've attempted to rank the top 10 and bottom five -- no small task. We limited this to guys who presently do play-by-play on TV. So no radio voices like Marty Brennaman or Pat Hughes, no color commentators like Bert Blyleven or Mark Grace, and no historically great announcers who are resting in peace like Harry Kalas, Harry Caray or Red Barber.
The Top 10
1. Vin Scully, Dodgers: He started broadcasting games when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. He's done football and movies. And yet he's still at his best sitting there in Dodger Stadium, without the help of a color commentator or field-side reporter. Seriously, he carries a broadcast by himself and it's still interesting. My question is how he remembers all these stories he tells? It's unreal. He's 82 years old and tells little vignettes about individual players throughout the game as if he's known each particular story throughout his entire life, yet he still finds a way to broadcast each pitch and identify everything going on in the game. Simply put: he's a once-in-a-lifetime broadcaster and it's going to be a shame when he's gone. Fortunately, there's at least one season left, Jeff Kent be damned.
2. Bob Costas, MLB Network: Sure, he only works like four games a season, but that's good enough for me. There's sure to be a line of Costas-haters stretching out the cyber-door, but he's a great baseball announcer. He knows perfectly how to capture each moment in a game and I'll take him over anyone else who sits with a partner.
3. Duane Kuiper, Giants: The major league record-holder for total at-bats with only one home run (did you know it was off of fellow broadcaster Steve Stone?) is ironically famous for his home run call. "He hits it high ... hits it deep ... this one is outta here!" He got to do that many times as he was calling Barry Bonds' pursuit of the all-time home run record.
4. Gary Cohen, Mets : Makes Mets broadcasts a joy, no matter what's happening with the team. Sometimes that's a tough thing to do.
5. Dick Bremer, Twins - This native Minnesotan teams with Blyleven to form one of the best broadcasting duos in the business.
6. Josh Lewin, Rangers/FOX : "Ballgame!" The Rangers could be losing him to national broadcasts permanently, and that would be a shame for their TV audience.
7. Thom Brennaman, Reds/FOX: I would have ranked him easily in the top five a few years ago, but he seems to have gotten a bit big for his britches -- constantly acting as a color man when he's not. Still, he does the play-by-play job as well as anyone.
8. Dan Shulman, ESPN: Exponentially better to watch his games (with Orel Hershiser) than the Sunday Night broadcasts on the same network.
9. Gary Thorne, Orioles/ESPN: He has one of those old-school radio voices, yet was able to transition it into television. You might also hear him doing the Little League World Series.
10. Mario Impemba, Tigers: The Tigers could be in last place or first place, but Impemba's broadcasts are always a joy.
Also considered: Jon Miller (for having to carry Joe Morgan), Michael Kay (bad voice, good at drawing analysis from his partners), Dave Sims, Boog Sciambi and Tom McCarthy.
The Bottom Five
1. Hawk Harrelson, White Sox: While I think it's gotten to the point that it's funny, you can't have a play-by-play announcer who is at the same time playing a fan (works for color, just not for play-by-play). Seriously, he says "good guys" and "bad guys" when reading the score. If he doesn't like an umpire's call through his rose-colored glasses, he'll still be whining about it five innings later. Like I said, though, it's too laughable to be angry. He's just an embarrassment.
2. Chip Caray, unemployed: He'll find a gig. I just hope it's somewhere that I don't have to hear him.
3. Daron Sutton, Diamondbacks: Like Caray, I'm sure the last name didn't have anything to do with getting the job (Sutton's father is Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton). Diamondbacks broadcasts are actually tolerable because of Mark Grace, but Gracie leaves for the weekend to work for FOX. When that happens, it's evident how bad Sutton is.
4. Dick Stockton, FOX/TBS: Please, Dick, just retire. Most people who have been broadcasting nationally for more than 45 years have adjusted their diction to say "error" instead of "errah." And that's not all. He's boring and doesn't have near as much knowledge of the game at this point as he should.
5. Joe Buck, FOX: Honestly, I don't personally hate him near as much as the masses seem to. I don't especially like him, either, so I'm good with him being fifth on the "hate list." It probably doesn't help that he's working with an insufferable broadcast partner.
Spared: We actually didn't have a problem with many other play-by-play guys. Some names were brought up, but there weren't any remaining with a real consensus of hatred. I have a feeling, however, if we tried to put together a list of hated color commentators we could easily run into the teens. Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver are just the tip of the iceberg there.