The MLB Playoffs: No Day Games Commercials Between Pitches And Four Hour Games, TBS vs. Fox

I’m pleased to present a guest post from Doug Bird, who has offered to write a regular Sunday post here.

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TBS hasn’t forgotten that the game is the star and not the announcer, Fox still hasn’t replaced the man with the golden voice with someone who actually cares about and pays attention to the game on the field, happening right before his eyes,   the replay afficiados are still screaming to be heard on virtually every play and the games on Fox are passing the midnight hour, no weekend day games in sight.

The coverage on TBS, as in past years, has been markedly better than that of Fox for several reasons.  The focus, despite the over-talk of Ron Darling, is on the game itself. Now, Darling has a pretty good broadcasting voice as far as that goes  and seems to know what he is talking about but seems to be of the opinion that no one listening has watched a baseball game before. The third man in the booth, John Smoltz, began his career in the over-explanation mode, but quickly realized that the odd insightful comment was much more valuable and in tune with the flow of the game and has become one of the few interesting ex-players to listen to during the game.

I do wish that TBS had used Atlanta Braves broadcaster, Joe Simpson, on its telecasts, a man who’s broadcasts are always insightful and interesting. But that is a small criticism. TBS does not run incessant commercials between pitches, nor do they fill the screen with bars and bars of information.  Unless you are one of those who own a gigantic television screen, it makes it difficult to actually see the events unfolding on the field at any given time. Most of us, and certainly the regular fan, are able to keep track of the number of outs, the score, the pitch count and how many runners are on base. For those who have just tuned in for whatever reason, a quick and non distraction to the ongoing game, would certainly suffice. TBS seems to realize that the game is for the fan, not for their corporate sponsors.

The opposite, sadly, has been true of Fox baseball coverage for many years now and four hour plus games have become the norm instead of the exception. I tuned in the other night an hour after the start time and the game was still in the second inning. Surely there must have been a long rain delay or a score of 10-10.  No, the score was 2-2 and there been no rain delay. As I continued to watch the game, there were commercials, and many commercials, between pitches.  These were not of the full thirty-minute variety, (fortunately), but a quick ten-second or so verbiage by Buck, with the company logo filling up half the screen.  There were also instances of missed first pitches because the commercial break had run too long.

Buck often finds it difficult to concentrate on the game, talking about anything else or engaging in what I’m certain he considers to be, witty dialogue with partner Tim McCarver.  Tim attempts to steer the conversation back to the on filed action but generally with little avail. I often feel McCarver would like to leave the booth and sit in the dugout or stands where he could hear relevant baseball conversation. Who could blame him? Fox often advertises other show during the game, either network shows or the upcoming Sunday NFL match. It seems to be a chore for the Fox network to even broadcast baseball games. With the Giants now in the World Series, the games will feature two teams which Fox rarely, if ever, have shown on their Saturday broadcasts.  How they must be crying in their collective soup now that neither their beloved Red Sox or Yankees will be on the biggest stage of all.

There should be day games on weekends.  No, a 4 p.m. start is not a day game– 1 p.m. is. Again, Fox is to blame although surely major league baseball shouldn’t pander to the Fox executives despite having greedily signed  on the dotted line.  Late October and early November weather is cold, especially at night.  Cold is not the optimum condition in which to play baseball.  It also gives no leeway in case of inclement weather, (see 2008 World Series).  The Little Leaguers of America, always given lip service by major league baseball executives, are not likely to be awake past 11 p.m., forcing them to miss the latter part of the games.

Baseball playoffs, on weekends, should be played in the warmth of the afternoon sun, not the cold frost of the evening. There should be no commercials between pitches. Announcers should discuss the ongoing events on the field, not everything but those happenings. The game should be first, foremost and last. I could do without everything else. Sadly, Fox will be covering the World Series again this season and with the conclusion of the American League playoffs, no more TBS.

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Email Doug Bird at d.bird@rogers.com

0 thoughts on “The MLB Playoffs: No Day Games Commercials Between Pitches And Four Hour Games, TBS vs. Fox”

  1. I usually listen to playoff games on the radio whenever possible. This is the alternative to the constant moronic dialogue I often hear on the TV broadcast. I even listen to the Cubs games on the radio over the TV, or turn the TV sound down to listen to Santo and Hughes do the game. The only exception for me are the Twins TV guys. Listening to Blyleven is always a treat.

    1. I listened to the last few innings of Game 6 of the NLCS on the radio, and I definitely enjoyed it. Radio is perfect for a suspenseful game, with listeners able to let their imaginations create the dramatics of what they’re not seeing.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Doug. They’ve done just about everything possible and gone outof their way to make the game as fan unfriendly as they possibly could. A production crew that never saw the game played could do a better job of presenting the games than this current wrecking crew does.
    The answer of course is to listen to the game on the radio and boycott watching it. Let them live with the rotten ratings. That’s the only way to get their attention. Avoid watching the screen and let them lose a whole lot of green.

  3. Doug: Nice job. I agree with much you say, especially that the Fox post-season broadcasts are plodding and annoyingly beholden to sponsor and network interests. Although unpleasant, this is a price we pay for primetime network sports broadcasts.

    However, I have a different take on the Buck-McCarver partnership, and I think a few words in support of Joe Buck are in order. Being Tim McCarver’s partner is a challenging task. I have thoroughly enjoyed McCarver’s broadcasting these past 25 or so years. He is a voluble guy with often brilliant commentary and analysis. He was an intense player and he is an intense announcer. But left unchecked, McCarver often wanders into tedious monologues about baseball minutiae. I mostly like the minutiae, but not all viewers do. Buck, unlike any other announcer who has been paired with McCarver, has a gentle way of cutting through McCarver’s attitude and keeping the casual viewer engaged. Buck’s wit is real, sincere, and almost never defamatory.

    Another price of network primetime broadcasts is the use of announcers that do not regularly work together. I would prefer that post-season games be broadcast by announcers who have a long history of working together and who thus have a ready dialogue in presenting the games. In this year’s NLCS, I sometimes found this quality lacking from the Buck-McCarver broadcasts. Although Buck and McCarver have worked together for many years, these days they don’t work together very often. Buck was mostly absent from Fox’s Saturday broadcasts this summer, with Kenny Albert frequently with paired with McCarver.

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