Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Play By Play Announcer

A few times now I have brought my criticisms forward concerning Our Washington Nationals Play-By-Play TV Announcer on MASN--Bob Carpenter.
Some have questioned why I feel this way. And, that's all fair. So, I wanted to explain my position, hopefully, a little better.

In a Baseball Play By Play Announcer I wish to hear and see all the following:

A compelling call of the game. Describe the action in detail, and when the situation calls for it--raise the level of your game--get excited--show everyone this moment is thrilling to see. No one does this better than Jon Miller--while being absolutely hilarious at the same time. Don't just say "Ryan Zimmerman batting right handed" Say "Ryan Zimmerman, closed stance, feet square, crowding the plate--set near the back of box." That's a huge difference. On a fly ball--Don't just say "Church back to wall--to make a great catch!!" Say "Church, on his horse, toward left center, back to warning track, to the wall, leaps, AND MAKES THE CATCH!! What a CATCH!!" A lefthanded Snare of the baseball heading over the wall!!" Big, BIG, Difference. Something--again--Jon Miller has practiced and shows in each an every game description--whether its TV or Radio. Its why he's so good. Many others also do this well. Charlie Slowes is EXCELLENT on the radio with the game on the line. Dave Jageler is getting there, too. In fact, on radio--we are very lucky as Washington Nationals Fans.

An understanding of the game--its strategy, its nuances. When something odd occurs--like in most every game you will ever see--explain why it is weird. Why this play was so unusual. Don't just say--"Wasn't that odd?"

Know the Rules of the Game. Don't be guessing and making assumptions. Like The Umpires themselves--a Play-By-Play Announcer should be fully versed in the rules and regulations. At times, you might have to clarify something in the rule book--I understand. But, please know the game.

An ability--despite being a Homer, to still be critical of mistakes, sloppiness or someone being downright lazy. Whenever any player is involved in an error or mistake--tell it like it is. Please don't make an excuse for them. All the good announcers are to the point. Nothing, do I appreciate more.

Its OK to praise great players and fine plays by the opposing side. No one would be a fan of this great game if they did not appreciate fine efforts. But, don't gush constantly over the opposition's players at the great expense of our very own--especially when its over a young talent like Ryan Zimmerman. This has happened far to often this year on MASN. I understand Ryan has had his problems throwing and setting his feet, but it does not take away from his terrific talents.

If you worked for The St.Louis Cardinals for years, I can understand your fondness for many there you know. But, that doesn't mean that Scott Rolen is the GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME. The guy can barely stay healthy.

If you don't know something, an answer to a situation--don't act like you do. It only looks foolish.

And finally--Don't Ever Talk Down to the Fans. Baseball Fans are the most educated students of the game. No sport has so many experts as Baseball. I am very serious about that fact.

Play-By-Play Guys I love:

Jon Miller, Charlie Slowes, Vin Scully, Jim Kaat (Also a TERRIFIC ANALYST), Ken Singleton, Michael Kay, Sean McDonough, Duane Kuiper, George Grande, Bob Uecker, Pete Van Wieren, Charlie Steiner and Chip Carey. (I have never heard Harry Kalas do a full game---probably a shame for me).

Loved Ernie Harwell, when he was broadcasting Tigers Games. What a joy that man was. Even at an advanced age and well past his prime--Harry Carey was downright HILARIOUS to listen to on WGN, to the very end.

Color Announcers I adore--Joe Morgan (along with Miller--the finest broadcast team money can buy).

Don Sutton (what a revelation that man has been for me in 2007)--never has an away game gone by that I have watched this season where he hasn't said something that made me say--"Wow, that's interesting." Or. "I didn't know that." All in the most civil tone like you and I are having a discussion at the dinner table with your best friends. Just love the man.

Others: Just about any Yankees Broadcaster on YES. Kaat & Singleton are special. Even Bobby Murcer was entertaining before his tragic Brain Cancer Surgery. I wish him well. Like everyone in New York--these guys are DIRECT. Nothing escapes them. Just a pleasure to listen to--whether you hate The Yankees or not.

Jerry Remy on NESN. Mike Krukow on Giants Broadcast. Rex Hudler on Fox Sports West Angels Game. Hudler the most interesting color guy on the West Coast. Always a good listen. Rex downright entertaining.

Jim Palmer. The man knows his stuff. He can break down pitching as well as Sutton.

Bert Blyleven. Former pitchers are BY FAR--better color analysts--it seems.

There are some broadcasters and tandems I have never heard. DirecTV shows all the games, but not all the different broadcasts. That's why I have never heard Kalas. So I am not on top of everyone. But, those are my favorites.

And, I do not like Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on Fox TV. I feel they talk down to each and every fan. As if we know nothing about the game. At times, its almost insulting. Although, during the playoffs, Fox has used former pitcher Al Leiter. Who, in the briefest of times on the air--described pitching beautifully and the play on the field in fine style. Not sure why I haven't seen more of him. Al Leiter has great potential in the booth.

PS--I promised The African Queen that Today, Saturday June 16th would be HER DAY. So, I did not watch our 7-3 Loss to The Toronto Blue Jays. Listening briefly on the radio while driving to and fro--I guess I can sum up our Bats Today in this way:

"K K K K K K K K K K K K K K" Yes, 14 Strikeouts in all by Our Washington Nationals.

Not Much Offense. Not Much Of A Game. I guess I didn't miss much, Huh?

Although I know that Section 320 Faithful--MsZimmy and Johnie Damon were on hand at SkyDome (Yes, SkyDome to me) and I can't wait to hear their report.


Anonymous said...

We will definitely fill you in the game today. Surprisingly, Toronto is a pretty good town to see a baseball game.

But I just wanted to comment about announcers - Jon Miller is very much responsible for my becoming a baseball fan. Since I couldn't stay up late to watch the ending of games very often, I had to listen to Jonny on the radio for the O's broadcast. Peter Angelos firing Miller for not being enough of an O's homer was the first straw in my giving up "fandom" of the team (the other two being firing Manager of the Year Davey Johnson because you want to show who's boss, and signing the anti-Oriole Albert Belle - three strikes, I'm out as an O's fan).

So I just wanted to say I completely agree about Jon Miller, love Charlie, especially when he's calling a Cordero inning (since Chad always keeps it interesting), and I really enjoy Sutton this season.

Bang the Drum Natly said...


I couldn't agree more with this one, I remember as a kid my dad commenting on how he loved Jon Miller's O's casts, especially because he'd be the first to criticize the team/players if warranted, which brought a new understanding to me about what the broadcaster should do, and from then on, I would listen a lot more intently. His firing was the first example for me to fully gain an understanding as to what kind of owner Angeloser truly is.

And I also couldn't agree more about Tim McCarver, the guy is a friggin' idiot. I will never forget (as I've related many times to my fellow baseball fan compatriots) there was one moment during a game in the 9th, bases loaded, 2 outs, and McIdiot comes up with this nugget: "Now, here the pitcher really wants to get this guy out." As I almost committed TV-icide with a flying beer bottle, I had to chuckle as all Joe Buck could respond with was "Uuhhhhmmmm..." (My one dissenting note is I have to say I dig Buck).

I can deal with Jim Palmer, but I am getting really sick of his catch phrase :"Well, there you go." It was one of those things I noticed one day, and now cannot stop noticing it.

Cheers, and happy baseball.

Jim H said...

Growing up in northern NJ, I was a Met's fan. The trio of announcers at the time? Lindsay Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy. I wax nostalgic...but I think overall, play-by-play announcers have mightily improved over the years.

Although, I must admit...there was something about Kiner's Korner after the games that just isn't there with ol' Ray Knight and Johnnie Holliday (sp?).

Anonymous said...

SBF, I hoped the African Queen enjoyed her special day.

I couldn't agree more with the first two comments.

SBF, you named special broadcasters - tough acts to follow! I enjoy their voices, regardless of the teams playing.

As a casual (i.e. novice-but-trying-to-learn!) baseball fan, I appreciate announcers who entertain yet educate. Most of the time, I have no idea what's happening on the diamond. I need an expert to convey nuances without the condescension.

The best announcers LET THE GAME BREATHE, not overshadowing the gameplay.

There lies my problem with Carpenter.

Shut up Bob. Let Sutton give some insight that is actually meaningful. If you don't know something, that's OK. Don't try to do more than you can. Bob, you are a talented play-by-play man. However, Sutton probably knows a bit more about baseball than you.

BTW, watch a Mets SKNY broadcast with Ron Darling. Leave the sound up. This can't be the same guy who worked with Mel Proctor in 2005?

Anonymous said...

Great post - I haven't been listening to enough to have favorites, but I definitely find Carpenter annoying. Did anyone catch the other day when the other guy (Not Sutton, but Ray Knight?) called an at-bat, which is apparently Carpenter's job? And Carpenter must have given him a look because Knight said: "Now don't get mad, now!" and Bob tried to cover by telling him to ahead and call the play as well as give color?

Might be reading into it, but I thought it was telling.

And I hate it when they say obvious things, too. Sometimes I like to have the tv on as background while doing other things, and they have literally been silent about some plays -- I'll look up and there's a guy on base, or there's an out, and they said *nothing*. This is why I often turn the radio on and mute the tv (even tho I agree that Sutton is pretty interesting - how come he's not at every game lately, btw?) -- at least Charlie & Dave are obligated to tell you what's going on.

(But I agree with another blogger that they could do a reset more frequently than they do.)

Anyway, I often end up snarking back at the television, especially when Carpenter's talking. "OH really??" I'll say.. or "GEE! Ya' THINK?!"

And the tv guys haven't made me really trust their analysis, so when they're going on and on about batting order (e.g., for Lopez) or the new hitting coach making such a difference, I'm not sure whether to give much credence or not. (Same for the Nats Xtra folks... )

To be fair, I get frustrated with Jagler (sp?) on the radio sometimes too - with Charlie, even if I'm half-listening, I can feel the rhythm of the game; not-so-much with Dave.

There was a sweet moment on the tv the other day when they congratulated Debbi(?) on her new baby and talked about how many uncles the new baby had. (Uncles "Don-don" and "Ray-ray" and "Byron-byron") That was cute.

Love your stuff, SBF - you're a daily stop for me!

Anonymous said...

Growing up in DC, I was truly blessed to have heard Bob Wolff and Chuck Thompson call the Senators' games on radio and TV. How much better can it get? TWO Hall-of-Famers calling the games for your home team! On a Sunday afternoon in the mid-'80s while waiting in a concessions line at Memorial Stadium, I was able to watch the game on TV and listen to Chuck Thompson call the action. Not only did Chuck accurately describe what was happening on the field, but he also captured the rhythm of the game. The man was truly an artist.

Regarding your critique(s) of Bob Carpenter: I too am annoyed at how Scott Rolen can make a routine play yet have it described as: "another fantastic play by the Gold Glover" or if a ball gets by him have Bob say, "If Rolen can't make that play, no one can." (Dear Bob: You are working in Washington now.) Also, Bob's use of the term, "...and he will make the catch" (future) long after the play has been made is cause for consternation. It's a shame that the TV and radio broadcasts aren't in sync. However, If I were to switch to the radio sound, I would miss Don Sutton's insights. You're right. Don Sutton raises the term "color analyst" to a whole new level. He's a Hall-of-Famer in the booth as well.

My wife brings a radio to every home game, and occasionally, I will listen to Charlie and Dave call an inning or two. Charlie is dead on with his desriptions and manages to capture the rhythm of the game as well. Dave has improved in his year+ as Charlie's partner. If the two of them can stay together for a while, I'm sure that years from now we will be raving about what a great play-by-play team we have here in DC.

Keep up the great work. I love the site, and look forward to your take after each game. See you at RFK.

Anonymous said...

She didn't want to watch the game?
And I thought she was the perfect wife! Time to reevaluate . . .

Edward J. Cunningham said...

This blog entry was about TV commentators, and Jon Miller certainly qualifies since he has been on TV for many years. (In fact, his frequent appearances on ESPN was ostensibly the reason why Angelos fired him.) Still, I have to say that as far as radio goes, we are lucky to have Charlie Slowes, a good broadcaster with a distinctive voice. I hope to hear him calling Nats games for many years to come.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Tom: You have made my DAY!! Sohna and I appreciated the remark--and laughed greatly. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I grew up outside Philly, listening to Harry Kalas and Whitey Ashburn for over 10 years. Harry did (and I assume still does) a fantastic play-by-play, and Whitey, well, he brought years of experience as both a player and as a color announcer. True professionals.

When Whitey died it was truly like losing a member of the family (and I was down here when it happened; I can only imagine what it was like up in Philly).

You should do what you can to listen to Harry do a game; he's got to be close to retirement at this point. I occasionally pull out my dvd of game 5 of the 1980 NLCS series between the Phils & Astros, called by Harry.

About McCarver, he started doing color for the Phils in 1980, and I seem to recall his work (at that time, anyway) much more favorably. Could have had much to do with his excellent chemistry with Whitey, though.

I've got no argument about the criticism of his current work, however.

Shawn said...

I believe there is a contractual reason that the Phillies network is not part of Extra Innings.
If you are a Phillies fan,you always get the opposing feed.
I know it is the same way for the Flyers on Center Ice.
I do not get the NBA package,so I am not sure if the Sixers are the same.

Anonymous said...

Would have to agree with most of your comments about announcers. I grew up in the era of baseball on radio with the Senator's announcers, Bob Wolff and Dan Daniels. Chuck Thompson, an unabashed homer, held down the mic in Baltimore with Ernie Harwell before he moved to Detroit. You missed another great one in Red Barber, a southerner who had to deal with his own feelings about baseball integration to report on Jackie R's rookie year in Brooklyn. Spent 2 years in the Navy at San Diego listening to Vin Scully, who is indeed, one of the best at describing the atmosphere of the game. But, Jon Miller does all of this: relevant stats, interesting background pieces and just the right detail of the action, and all with a sense of humor. His one drawback had been not giving the score often enough. He remedied this by using an egg timer to remind him to give the count, outs and score. Charlie and Dave could use this idea themselves. One last thing. I'd really like to see an interactive display at the HOF museum concerning baseball on the radio. I envision visitors to the HOF paying a nominal fee; sitting in a booth that replicates old Tiger stadium, or some other ballpark "shrine" radio booth and "calling" a game while watching a taped or filmed inning of a game of their choice. An audio tape could be made and available for, again, a nominal fee. Dana Gunnison

paul said...

TV and radio are two different worlds, of course. I still love Jon Miller on the radio, and as Red Barber would tell you, any broadcaster worth his salt would rather do radio. You get to paint the picture and not serve as--what, affable guest (Bob Carpenter), drunken uncle (Dave Shea/Tom Paciorek), baseball professor (Don Sutton)?

As for Sunday night baseball, it seems like all three announcers get into these long conversations about nothing that is happening on the field. The score is 6-0 and for a half hour I have no idea how it got to be 6-0. And for my money, Joe Morgan is sort of like a combination of the drunken uncle and the baseball professor. He tries to teach us obscure and interesting stuff, but instead of explaining, he just repests himself, sometimes verbatim.

Ah, but during the World Series, listen to them on the radio. Morgan is confined to 10 second sound bites, and it reminds us of the Miller-Johnson-Gillick glory days--how brief they were!

Sauxfan said...

I'm an out-of-towner who grew up in Boston with Curt Gowdy, Ken Coleman and Ned Martin...all terrific in their own right, especially Gowdy. Martin was the radio guy and very good. One of his best calls when the Sox were playing Baltimore in the 60's..."Malzone slaps it to third, that's death." in reference to Brooks Robinson.

Just to take a poke at your PBP announcer analysis. (Let me say I've never seen Carpenter's work), but what you describe in what you want from your PBP announcer is a perfect description of a radio announcer. A TV announcer allows the game to breathe. One of the best TV calls of all time was Al Michaels call at the end of the semi-final hockey game between the Russians and the US. He just shut up and then a simple, "Do you believe in miracles?" On the radio, the announcer had to tell his audience about Jim Craig looking for his dad and the players going nuts etc.

So, the TV announcer, on a baseball play should say, " time." Theoretically, you can see the stretch, the close call...why tell you the obvious? He might say, "I don't know, Young's foot was off the bag...he may gotten away with one..." or something that may not be obvious. In many ways, the TV cast is so much easier than the radio broadcast, even tho the TV gets the bigger paycheck and the pretty face.

Anyway, agree with all your comments about all my favorite announcers, and Miller is at the top of the list as you said. Just wanted to maybe cut Carpenter some slack for doing his job by being brief and not as discriptive.

san antonio via beantown