Monday, October 20, 2008
It can't be easy to throw together a random collection of people for a two week period (which has multiple games a night), but TBS definitely benefited from having a year under their belt. For the most part, the network pulled off a great Postseason, and should be praised for vastly improving over last year. There were a few hiccups, which I'll get into, but they completely outdid FOX his Playoff season. I'm almost sad to see them turn it over to the national network. Let's get into things as a whole with the positives/negatives and then we'll look at the winners/losers as well as final grades.
The thing about airing a ton of games over a short period is that there will always be mistakes, but in the end it only matters how a network limits or handles those errors. The biggest transgression was obviously the delay of coverage at the start of Game Six. Two circuit breakers went out before the game, which caused the feed to go out and viewers to not see the game until the Bottom of the first.
Obviously this was a freak accident, but thousands of events are aired on networks across the Country and I can't remember that happening in recent memory. Every single precaution should have been taken to make sure that didn't happen, so TBS does need to shoulder some of the blame.
The biggest negative to me continues to be the biases of some of the announcing teams. I really don't know why the A-Team latched on to the Rays the way they did, but at times the hyperbole was borderline unbearable. Even as someone who's not a fan of the team, I could understand why Red Sox thought that Chip Caray and Co. were pro-Rays for most of the Series. It's hard to juggle two storylines, especially with one being a "Cinderella Story", but you have to give it a better shot than that team did.
Other than that, the list of negatives is pretty short. The Frank TV thing has been commented on ad nauseum but they really need to rethink that marketing strategy for next season. Hopefully the show will be long gone by then though.
First and foremost, the new people, that the network worked into the booths and studio show, almost all worked out. Using the Inside the NBA formula, the network put together an amazing pre and postgame show in Inside MLB. If you're comparing it to FOX, or even Baseball Tonight, it blows them both out of the water. I still think they could do with out Cal Ripken, but even he seemed to improve over the course of another season. Eck, Granderson and Harold Reynolds worked great with EJ, and each other, and I actually looked forward to watching them following each game.
The network also addressed some of the huge negatives from year one including perhaps the biggest one, graphics. Everything was much cleaner and again, if we're comparing it to FOX's production, about a thousand times less distracting.
We've already touched on the studio show, but as far as the announcers went, I think most teams in the early rounds (outside of one...see below) worked well together. Brian Anderson and Joe Simpson had a perfect balance of play-by-play and analysis, and with the added inside info from John Smoltz, created one of the best trios I've heard in quite some time. Having Anderson call the Brewers series was a bit skeptical at first, but didn't turn out nearly as bad as I thought it would.
Orsillo and Harold Reynolds were also stellar and even Chip Caray and Buck Martinez worked well in the Division Series. Ron Darling had a tough time working with his first round partners (see below), but he impressed me in the ALCS.
I don't know how many times that I can say this, but it's seriously time to phase Dick Stockton out of all broadcasts. I know the guy is a legend, but he just can't keep up with the pace of any Sport at this point in his life. Having Tony Gwynn as an analyst didn't help either, and Ron Darling was left picking up the pieces. I hadn't really enjoyed Darling up until these Playoffs, but as I mentioned above, he was the only thing keeping those broadcasts afloat.
- Studio Show Personalities:
Ernie Johnson - A (Best in the business)
Dennis Eckersley - B (Got made fun of a lot but took it in stride and provided great analysis)
Harold Reynolds - B- (Made the transition from the booth flawlessly. He's actually better in this format)
Cal Ripken - C (Still don't think he works as an analyst)
Curtis Granderson - B (Great showing by the rookie in the opening round)
- Division Series Teams:
Brian Anderson, Joe Simpson and John Smoltz (MIL-PHI) - B+ (The only three-man team that disproves my theory that a third man is useless)
Dick Stockton, Ron Darling and Tony Gwynn (LAD-CHC) - D (Stockton and Gwynn need to go)
Chip Caray and Buck Martinez (BOS-LAA) - B- (Didn't become annoying until the ALCS)
Don Orsillo and Harold Reynolds (CHW-TB) - B+ (Just a great team from the jump)
Chip Caray, Buck Martinez and Ron Darling - C+ (Would have been good if it wasn't for the Rays bias, the plus sign is all Darling)
I was extremely impressed with TBS' second year. It takes networks years of different announcing combos, and production elements, and TBS is almost "up to speed" after two attempts. I said it before, but I think if people had to choose between TBS and FOX, the majority would be picking the cable network after only two attempts. I think that speaks volumes to the progress they've made.
Final Grade - B