With the Yankees considering Aaron Boone for their managerial opening, I’ve come to joke the Yankees should hire the man for the sole purpose of saving the Sunday Night Baseball television booth which has already grown weaker with Dan Shulman stepping aside.
The joke should actually lead to a broader discussion about baseball television booths. Specifically, are the play-by-play and color analysts really the best in the business?
This is really a debate that could be had over the course of the past 50 years, but that debate was framed much differently. From the time the Mets won their first World Series in 1969, the World Series announcers included Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, and Bob Costas.
With the other national games, you would get other great broadcasters like Howard Cosell and Marty Brennaman. Really, no matter what game you were getting on a national level, you were getting a Hall of Fame broadcaster. Even if you wanted more Scully and Buck, because who doesn’t, you were getting the best baseball had to offer.
Somewhere along the line that changed.
That time was really around 1996 when Fox finally got World Series rights. Since that time, we have had Joe Buck announce nearly every World Series that has ensued.
We’ve seen other networks follow suit. Instead of getting “THE” guy, they’re going with “THEIR” guy. Sure, that happened previously with the networks, but they used to have great announcers. However, that list now includes Ernie Johnson doing play-by-play for baseball games. Johnson has more than proven himself a tremendous broadcaster, and an even better human being, but at the time he was given the job, he was not a baseball play-by-play announcer. He just wasn’t.
Yes, we have seen Johnson step aside this year in favor of Brian Anderson. Like Buck, Anderson has shown himself capable, but is he really the best of the best? Hardly.
The best includes Duane Kuiper, Gary Cohen, and Don Orsillo. Of the three, Orsillo is the only one who gets any national work, and we do not hear him for any League Championship Series or World Series games.
Right now, ESPN needs a new play-by-play guy for baseball’s biggest weekly showcase. Buck has hinted he’s nearing retirement. This should create an opportunity for networks to reset to their pre-1996 thinking, and they should be immediately recruiting the best announcers in all of baseball to cover the best games baseball has to offer.
Sadly, with the way networks have shifted their attention away from the best baseball broadcasters, it’s doubtful we will ever see a Scully, Buck, or Garagiola ever broadcast a postseason game again.