ESPN Makes Bad Call in Firing Legendary Jon Miller, Joe Morgan
With the furor of "The Decision" having calmed to a low roar, the pooh-bahs at the Worldwide Leader stepped right into another mess Monday by bouncing "Sunday Night Baseball's" Jon Miller and Joe Morgan from the booth when the new season starts next spring.
Norby Williamson, the ESPN executive who took the torrent of criticism this summer for the ill-advised, horribly executed one-hour special where LeBron James took an hour of company-donated prime time to announce that he was "taking my talent" to Miami, is apparently stepping forward to take the heat for casting Morgan and Miller adrift from the Sunday night booth after 21 years together.
In a statement released on Twitter, Williamson said, "Jon and Joe have contributed greatly to the success of Sunday Night Baseball for the past 21 seasons. Over the last two decades, Joe went from Hall of Fame player to one of his sport's top analysts and Jon's Hall of Fame voice and tremendous knowledge of the game have connected with baseball fans everywhere. We owe them our deepest thanks for an outstanding body of work."
With all due respect to Williamson, Miller and Morgan contributed greatly to the success of "Sunday Night Baseball" in the same way that Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers contributed greatly to the success of the sitcom "M*A*S*H." Sure, someone else could do the job, but certainly not better.
Miller, who received the Ford C. Frick Award this summer from the Baseball Hall of Fame for a brilliant career that has included stops in Boston, Texas, Baltimore and San Francisco, is at the top of virtually any list for best play-by-play man in any sport. His deft blend of knowledge and humor combined with a sublime ability to immediately get to the essence of a play are legendary. People in Baltimore still marvel at how Miller, from his perch in the visiting radio booth in Yankee Stadium, could spot that a fan, later identified as a 12-year-old boy named Jeffrey Meier, reached over and interfered with a Derek Jeter drive to right in Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, with the naked eye.
Meanwhile, Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman on those Cincinnati Reds "Big Red Machine" teams of the 1970s, has, despite the carping of some bloggers, been one of the best analysts in sports television, with a pair of Sports Emmys to his credit.
The pairing of Morgan and Miller was originally an odd one, as Miller's puckish sense of humor frequently went over the more strait-laced Morgan's head. However, over the years, the duo settled into a solid groove, and made the Sunday night telecast an entertaining one.
The duo made the transition to radio work, as they became the lead voices of ESPN Radio's postseason telecasts. Indeed, while the Giants were winning the World Series last week, Miller, the team's main radio announcer, and Morgan, who spent nine years as a Giants broadcaster, were working in the ESPN booth, apparently for the last time together.
Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser, who joined Miller and Morgan in the television booth this year, are rumored to be first in line to replace them next spring, and they'll do fine. But that won't change the notion that ESPN made a colossal blunder by casting aside a talented team long before their run should have ended.
Hello, TBS or MLB Network. There are a couple of pretty good announcers available on the free-agent market. Don't waste any time. Sign them up now.