With baseball ending its season with the World Series, it’s time to do the 1st Ever Fang’s Bites MLB TV Awards. This follows the 1st Ever Fang’s Bites Tennis TV Awards, the 1st Annual NHL TV Awards, the College Football TV Awards and the NFL TV Awards. I hope to do a College Basketball TV and Radio Awards down the line as well.
Let’s do this. Some of the choices may be obvious, others may not. Some may surprise you, others may not, but again, remember, this is just the Best and Worst, it’s not a competition, so please, no betting.
Starting with the top:
The Vin Scully Award for Best Play-by-Play: Named after the best play-by-play voice in baseball, bar none, this year’s award goes to Dan Shulman of ESPN and ESPN Radio. He’s no nonsense and really, one of the best multisport announcers as he also calls college basketball and the NBA quite well. Dan doesn’t yell, he doesn’t depend on catchphrases, he just does his job which is welcomed. He really should be ESPN’s number one announcer ahead of Jon Miller who seems to have slipped some this year.
Honorable Mention: Dave O’Brien, ESPN
Best Game Analyst: This is slim pickings as you have Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan, Rick Sutcliffe, Eric Karros and others as candidates. I’m going to choose Orel Hershiser of ESPN out of default. He doesn’t offend me as the other analysts and he does a pretty decent job. With Steve Phillips out of the picture at ESPN, I expect Orel to get more assignments whether on Monday Night or Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Honorable Mentions: Ron Darling, TBS and Jim Kaat, MLB Network
Best Debut: With the advent of league-owned TV networks such as NFL Network, NBA TV and NHL Network, it was only a matter of time for Major League Baseball to start one of its own and finally on New Year’s Day, MLB Network debuted, although not as smoothly as hoped. But once it got the glitches out of its system, MLB Network made splashes through big hires, coverage of breaking stories, live game coverage, going head-to-head with ESPN, and using its power to pick up live games whenever possible. In just 10 short months, MLB Network has become the Network of Record for Major League Baseball coverage, wresting the title from ESPN. Whether it be its signature show, MLB Tonight or being able to do live cut-ins at a moment’s notice, MLB Network has become a welcome addition to baseball fans.
Best Studio Show: MLB Tonight. The show is able to do live extended cut-ins unlike its ESPN counterpart, Baseball Tonight. There are cases as during a no-hitter when ESPN can cut-in, but those are only in special circumstances. Plus, whether the show is hosted by Victor Rojas or Matt Vasgersian, it moves quite well, although being on the air live for 6 hours can sometimes lead to some unfortunate comments, but for the most part, MLB Tonight has risen to the occasion to become the best studio show.
Honorable Mention: Inside MLB, TBS
Best Studio Host: In the past, it was Karl Ravech of ESPN, but he’s been overtaken by Victor Rojas of MLB Network. Victor is the answer to a nice trivia question. Who was the first person to be seen when MLB Network debuted and that answer is Victor Rojas. The former radio announcer to the Texas Rangers joined MLB Network and made a very good transition to studio host. While Matt Vasgersian and Greg Amsinger do most of the hosting for MLB Tonight, Victor is the best host the network has and should have been given a bigger role for MLB Network’s World Series coverage. And not only is he an excellent host, he’s also one of the funnier people on Twitter so follow him and also read his blog at MLB.com.
Honorable Mention: Karl Ravech, ESPN and Ernie Johnson, TBS
Best Studio Analyst: This is a tie between Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams of MLB Network. HR is a known commodity from his work at ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. But Mitch came over from Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and he’s fast becoming a star as a regular on MLB Tonight. HR explains baseball very well and can spot trends. Mitch can give perspective as a pitcher and is very funny. His one liners can break up the studio at a moment’s notice. Both HR and Mitch should be paired together during the 10-midnight hours of MLB Tonight.
Honorable Mention: Al Leiter, MLB Network
Best Game Coverage: Say what you will about its announcing crews, MLB on Fox does a very good job in its production of the games. Director Bill Webb does do a lot of crowd cutaways, but he and producer Pete Macheska do a bang-up job in finding right facts, pictures and replays to cover the stories that pop up during the 9 innings of a game. Very impressed by their work.
Honorable Mention: Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN
Most Valuable Network: Yeah, MLB Network. Yes, ESPN has Sunday and Wednesday Night games. Fox has coverage of the All-Star Game, LCS and World Series. TBS has Sunday afternoon games on the entire LDS, but in just less than a full season, MLB Network has shown it can juggle programming, add games, use the vast MLB historical archive and develop programming that can rival or surpass any of the league-owned channels. Color me impressed with MLB Network.
Best Move: MLB Network hiring Bob Costas away from HBO Sports to do play-by-play of the sport he loves and to host a regular interview show. It was only natural that Costas join MLB Network. I remember asking an MLB spokesman last year if the network was going to hire Costas and telling him it would be a natural fit. Sure enough, Costas came on board in February this year and made an immediate impact on the Alex Rodriguez steroids story. Hopefully, Bob will call more than just five or six games for MLB Network next season.
Honorable Mention: Fox hires Ozzie Guillen for the World Series
Worst Play-by-Play: Earlier this week during the Sports Media Weekly podcast, Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner gave praise to Chip Caray of TBS for his work during the MLB Postseason. From what I can tell, Jim is the only sports media writer to give Chip some love. I cannot. While I won’t take shots like some others have, I found Chip to be very annoying. His constant “FISTED” references plus miscalling plays early in the postseason led fans to go nuclear on Twitter and Facebook. Chip has done good work for the Cubs and the Braves, but he’s not worthy of being a number one announcer and shouldering the responsibility of leading a major broadcast. I hope TBS reconsiders and uses another announcer for next year. His work gave some fans a new appreciation for Joe Buck.
Worst Game Analyst: In a sport that has so many candidates, there’s only one who “wins” this award hands down. And it goes to Joe Morgan of ESPN. Morgan is dry, humorless, unwilling to see any team better than the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds, no manager better than Sparky Anderson, no middle infielder better than him and adds nothing to the game. In an effort to spice up the Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, ESPN brought in Steve Phillips to add another voice. It really didn’t work as Morgan continued to bore people at home. Why ESPN chose him to be its number 1 analyst and continues to use him in this capacity is beyond me. One of the worst analysts in sports television, period.
Dishonorable Mention: Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN and Tim McCarver, ESPN
Worst Game Coverage: World Baseball Classic, MLB Network. During March, MLB Network relied on the world feed for the games it was airing from Puerto Rico and Mexico. It resulted in pictures never matching what the announcers were saying and there were times when complete plays were missed. Replays were often the same angle that we had just seen on TV and some of the production was disjointed. For what was supposed to be a showcase for baseball on the world stage, viewers deserved better.
Dishonorable Mention: None
Worst Studio Host: Greg Amsinger, MLB Network. When I read he was hired, I thought it was would be as a backup to Matt Vasgersian and Victor Rojas, but for some reason, the former CBS College Sports host was given a prominent role during World Series coverage. He really doesn’t deserve it. Greg sounds like he smokes 60 packs of cigarettes a day. He raises his voice unnecessarily and he tries too hard to be funny. Leave the humor at home. I ask MLB Network to put Greg on its Quick Pitch show instead of MLB Tonight.
Dishonorable Mention: Chris Rose, Fox Sports
Worst Studio Analyst: Orestes Destrade, ESPN. What is that? Seriously. Why is he even on my TV?
Worst Way to End a Career: I don’t need to rehash the Steve Phillips affair. You all know what happened. But I have a feeling we won’t be seeing the end of Steve.
Worst Disappearing Act: TBS Hot Corner. I can go ad nauseum on how much I enjoyed TBS’ online coverage of the MLB Postseason when it began in 2007, but Hot Corner has gone from online studio show in 2007 to in-game reports last year, to virtually nothing this year. While we can see alternate angles, I wish TBS would go back to the online studio show it shared with MLB.com two years ago. And I would love to go back and forth with Beau Estes of Turner Sports once again. Please TBS, bring back the online show and a Friend of Fang’s Bites, Heather Catlin.
That concludes our first ever MLB TV Awards. We’ll back same time, next year with the 2nd Annual Awards.
Last October in its first year of airing the MLB playoffs, TBS tried something new by supplying online content to compliment its postseason coverage. The result was a studio show, called “Hot Corner” co-hosted by the always lovely Heather Catlin, tool Matt D’Agostino and the equally lovely Kelly Cross. It was quite popular garnering over a million hits during the ten days it was webcast. I live blogged the shows which culminated in a live fashion show of Alyssa Milano’s Touch clothing line.
Heather and Kelly modeled some of the clothes.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked here. The whole reason behind this post is to inform you on what TBS has planned for this season. According to Turner Sports staffers, the online studio show will not return, however, fans will be able to click on various camera angles to make the viewing experience more interactive. This would be similar to what NBC is doing with Sunday Night Football Extra online.
Also, TBS plans to staff the games with on-site reporters. I don’t have the full roster as of yet and that will most likely be announced sometime on Thursday when Turner Sports holds a media conference call to discuss its plans.
As with last season, TBS will air all four League Division Series and this year, will carry the American League Championship Series.
When I get more information, I’ll post it here.
I won’t be able to give you the Saturday links as usual this morning. I’m currently away and have had to leave the house early for a get-together. I’ll give you the links later today.
As I celebrate the one year anniversary of the re-launch of this blog, I think back to some of the bigger stories of the last 12 months.
I’ll count them down in reverse order:
11. Alycia Lane’s pictures being e-mailed to Rich Eisen and having them intercepted by his wife.
10. Bethanie Mattek showing her cleavage to a ball boy at the US Open and dressing as a French Nanny.
9. The Red Sox firing Jerry Trupiano from the radio booth and using the combination of Dave O’Brien and the inexperienced Glenn Geffner to replace him in 2007 leaving Red Sox fans in despair whenever Glenn was on the air.
8. Turner Sports successfully debuting TBS Hot Corner during the MLB playoffs, mixing live coverage on TV and on the internet.
7. The NBA reups with ESPN and TNT for another 8 seasons.
6. Dan Patrick leaves ESPN Radio and then goes missing …. errrrr…. I mean, signs a weak radio syndication deal and then joins Sports Illustrated.
5. Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel was suspended for making a racial slur earlier this year and subsequently apologized upon her return.
4. Debut of the Big Ten Network to a miniscule audience.
3. NFL Network vs. Cable.
2. Media buyouts leaving newspapers and TV stations with skeleton staffs.
1. The Buzz Bissinger vs. Will Leitch segment on Costas Now.
It has been a good 12 months. I’ve enjoyed doing the links and I’ll continue doing them as long as I’m able. And thanks to the people who have sent kind words over the last 12 months including Neil Best, Ken Schott, David Scott, Richard Deitsch, Joe Favorito, Bruce Allen, Bob Glauber, Chris Pursell, Beau Estes, Vince Wladika, Darren Rovell, Andy Gresh, Curt Chaplin, Christopher Byrne, Andrew Siciliano, John Ourand, Dave Weekley, John Crowe, Rick Lacroix, Amazing Race Asia Executive Producer Michael McKay and anyone who has sent comments anonymously both good and bad. I appreciate your patronage and I hope you continue to visit over the next 12 months and beyond. This has been lots of fun.
Checking around the ‘net for links this evening, I came across a few things that I did not cover earlier today so I’ll give you some stuff before turning in for the evening.
Before going into the links, watching the coverage of the Red Sox Rolling Rally from New England Cable News through MLB.com was ok. Most of the interviews inside Fenway Park came from NESN so I don’t understand why MLB.com did not pick up NESN’s coverage anyway. With NESN being the Red Sox rightsholder and the only broadcasters allowed to do anything in the park while other outlets had to remain outside, it would have behooved MLB.com to pick up NESN unless the channel did not give permission. New England Cable News has a decent stable of reporters including sports anchor Chris Collins and the venerable R.D. Sahl who seems to have been in television since the 1950′s, but gives a nice historic perspective. It wasn’t bad, but I would have preferred to see NESN online. As far as I know, NESN did not offer its live coverage of the Rolling Rally online, but I have recorded it so I can compare it to NECN’s. At least Tom Ellis wasn’t involved otherwise, he might have recited a poem that no one would have wanted to hear.
A quick aside here. I knew someone who used to work at NECN and she told me that Tom would deviate from the teleprompter and the guys in the control room would have no idea where he was going or how long he would take before introducing a report. It would be a miracle if his broadcasts ended on time, but I don’t know if does that anymore. Anyway, let’s get to the links.
I knew there was a reason why I was live blogging TBS Hot Corner for all of its live webcasts during the League Division and National League Championship Series. Besides wanting to see Heather Catlin and Kelly Cross, the show was pretty decent and actually gave some pretty good information. As I mentioned in my posts, the Atlanta segments were well produced while the segments from MLB.com looked like they were produced in a dentist’s office. Well, it seems many of you were watching as well. Neil Best of Newsday blogged today that Sports Business Journal has done a story this week on TBS Hot Corner’s popularity and the online show had a million views during its coverage. Neil put up a picture of Alyssa Milano and while she was involved in Hot Corner, she was not on the live show albeit for one phone call. I cannot link to the Sports Business Journal story because the site requires a subscription, but you can get a four week trial subscription if you so choose.
The Sports Media Watch blog has the overnight ratings for Monday Night Football which had no sports competition from baseball and won the night for cable programs. Mike Reynolds from Multichannel News has more on the ratings for MNF. Kimberly Nordyke of the Hollywood Reporter says 14 million viewers on average watched Monday Night Football.
Last week’s Monday Night Football contest between Indianapolis and Jacksonville was the most watched cable primetime program for the period ending October 28..
Reynolds of Multichannel News adds that TBS and ESPN were tied for the top spot for the cable primetime ratings in October. And Reynolds writes that FSN Southwest hopes that the San Antonio Spurs can pace the channel to the top spot of the NBA Regional Sports Network ratings again.
John Dempsey of Variety writes that TBS saw a 123% increase in viewers in October as compared to a year ago thanks to the MLB Postseason.
Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune writes that Fox’s Jay Glazer appears to be the spokesman for Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
David Hinckley of the New York Daily News says baseball sleezebag Scott Boras manipulated the media during Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday.
Blogging for Broadcasting & Cable, Jim Cheney says that he doesn’t find Joe Buck and Tim McCarver as objectionable as he used to, but adds Fox crammed the commercials into each World Series game.
Michael McCarthy of USA Today has comments from TNT’s Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith in advance of tonight’s opening of the NBA season.
Gregg Easterbrook tries to tell us in his latest version of “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” that last week’s crazy column on “Good vs. Evil”, a comparison between the New England Patriots (“Evil”) and the Indianapolis Colts (“Good”) was satire (whatever), and he also rails against the NFL Sunday Ticket being on DirecTV. Keep it up, Gregg. You’ll have no friends by the end of the season.
James Fussell of the Kansas City Star writes that the NFL is increasing its marketing to women. Also from the Star, Jeffrey Flanagan says CBS’ Kevin Harlan wishes he could call the Green Bay-Kansas City game this Sunday instead of it being on Fox. Harlan has ties to both teams.
Albert Breer of the Dallas Morning News writes that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is enlisting powerful Texas state legislators in an attempt to get the NFL Network on cable systems in the Lone Star State. The Wisconsin State Legislature is looking at ways to get the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network on state cable systems. Alex Weprin of Broadcasting & Cable writes about the NFL Network’s plans to air 36.5 hours of coverage on the Patriots-Colts game this Sunday. John Consoli of Mediaweek also writes about the NFL Net’s plans for the Pats-Colts. The NFL Network will carry its second college football regular season game this Saturday.
Mike O’Hara of the Detroit News reports that Fox is pulling back two Lions games to prevent NBC from picking them up for primetime.
Diane Sherrer of the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette says NBC will show the start of the New York City marathon this Saturday on the Today show, then hand it off to NBC Sports.com which will show it live online (don’t forget it’s $4.95).
Nathan Summers of the Greenville (NC) Daily Reflector says MASN is in a dispute with Suddenlink Communications to get its channel shown in the area.
The Business First Journal of Louisville says Churchill Downs will air a daily half hour horse racing preview show online as well as on HRTV. Lenny Shulman of Bloodhorse.com writes that the ratings for the Breeders’ Cup on ESPN last Saturday saw only a marginal increase from last year and a viewership well below NBC’s ratings two years ago. Fred Angst of the Thoroughbred Times has his version of the story.
David King of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the 15 lateral play by Trinity to beat Millsaps can still be seen online, but not on YouTube. It can be seen over at ESPN.com, but of course, you can see it on Fang’s Bites here.
The Danbury (CT) News-Times says the UConn Huskies game against Rutgers will be on ESPNU this weekend, but many across the Nutmeg State will not be able to see the game because the channel is not carried by Comcast.
Plenty of links tonight. Back on Wednesday with more.