TBS' Playoff Coverage Much Improved In Its Second Year

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.

Negatives

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.

Positives

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.

Winners

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.

Losers

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.

Grading

- 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)

- ALCS:

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)

Overall

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

33 Comments:

Chip Caray used the phrase "fisted" multiple times last night. Struck me and the blog we were on...
Boatdrinks

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:05:00 PM  

That is very generous grading for TBS.

A few issues...

There is really no excuse for "technical difficulties" that cause part of a LCS to not be televised.

It is also inexcusable to give a LCS to a network that doesn't have 95%+ HD coverage. What % of cable customers actually have TBS-HD? 50%? 75%? I suppose this should be directed at MLB, not TBS.

Lastly, the producers struggle to catch all the on-field action. Returning to a pitch late and getting an angle on dropped 3rd strikes and the throw to 1st was a problem more than once.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:18:00 PM  

Jeezis Christ, is that Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes?

hollywood wags said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:22:00 PM  

Even if FrankTV is gone, it'll be a problem with some other show. See House of Payne and Bill Engvall ads during the NBA playoffs.

Dan said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:22:00 PM  

I'm sorry but I disagree with MOST of these grades. It's pretty bad that they use Braves announcers and have a Rent-a-Broadcaster program (Anderson, Reynolds.) Also, check Football Night in America's Jets highlights for us. I think I heard Olberman say "Total BS." Calling out that night's rival network maybe?

Chris said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:34:00 PM  

To the second anon:

The only part I might disagree with you there is about the HD coverage. Using this site (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1058081), 9 of the 14 providers listed offer TBS in HD to just about everyone (so that's 64% of the group), and the other 5 are limited availability (we'll say on average about maybe half those people get it in HD, so that's another 18%), which makes it over 80%. I understand your point, and frankly any channel with sports at this point should be like ESPN and be 100% HD across the market, but I'm not sure if it's as big a discrepancy as you might think. Def. agree with your other two points.

Ed said...
Oct 20, 2008, 2:38:00 PM  

Craig Sager got the grade he deserved.

Oct 20, 2008, 2:38:00 PM  

I thought TBS did a tremendous job. Graphics were great and definetely less distracting than Fox's. Harold Reynolds is the man he instantly makes any broadcast better. Kudos to TBS. Im pissed i have to listen to monotone Joe Fuck and Tim MaaaaaaCarrrrrrverrrrrr as my Phils play in the WS

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:00:00 PM  

"thousands of events are aired on networks across the Country and I can't remember that happening in recent memory."

Welp, it also happened in Buffalo on Sunday - power failures at Ralph Wilson Stadium, forcing anyone who wanted that game to watch Steelers@Bengals on two separate occasions while the Chargers and Bills played on.

These are complicated systems, with backups, and sometimes backups for backups - and sometimes, things fail.

Mark said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:22:00 PM  

I'm sorry, but there is nothing Harold Reynolds can do or say to make me like him. I've always thought he was awful. And hearing Caray go apeshit every time BJ Upton caught a routine flyball was beyond annoying.

Bruce said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:24:00 PM  

@ RJBO: I would give Craig Sager's wardrobe an F-. I don't think I can remember a thing he said, as I was too distracted by his mid-age crisis....

@ Chris: You're absolutely right about Olbermann. He said that "Favre said that reports he fed information to the Lions about the Packers are total BS, or TBS". Easily the quote of the night. I bursted out laughing when he said that...

As far as the grades, you were awfully kind to Caray and Co. Not even Ron Darling saved that team from tanking in the ALCS. Unabashed Sawx Hater Chip Caray, was, well, his name. Buck Martinez, in my opinion, talks way too much. He is the kind of person who likes to ramble on and on and on on a topic and once he gets going on a subject he doesn't like to stop kind of like a wind up toy he just keeps going and going and going annoying everybody in sight with his constant talking and yapping not letting Darling get a word in edge wise and it also doesn't hurt that he has one of the most annoying voices. As far as Sager goes, see my comment to RJBO. I would give the team a D, for Darling trying.

JFein said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:28:00 PM  

I really don't understand the Rays bias... in game 5, Chip Caray and the entire announce team were rooting hard for the Sox to come back, to the point where I couldn't listen to them anymore, promptly muting the television and turning on the radio.

Chip Caray should be ashamed for his announcing ability, ruining the legacy that Harry left behind. Caray is absolutely horrible, but I think that TBS did an overall good job. Anything looks good compared to Joe Buck though...

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:32:00 PM  

For all the talk about a pro-Rays bias, Buck Martinez's man crush on Dustin Pedroia is beyond embarrassing.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:33:00 PM  

There was a Rays bias? What about Chip Caray's fawning over the Red Sox ability to score with two outs?

Caray also said Game 7 was "pivotal."

Indeed it was.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 3:43:00 PM  

Does anyone else think that Cal Ripken looks like Darth Vader when he takes his helmet off at the end of 'Return of the Jedi'?

Gregg said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:05:00 PM  

Gregg, ABSOLUTELY! He wanted to see Eck's hair with his own eyes!

GMoney said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:15:00 PM  

I could not disagree with you more on TBS. I don't care for any of their broadcasters except for Ernie...and that's probably just good will engineered from his NBA work more than anything else. The "Steve Harvey" episode was unprecedented in not only its length but how incredibly stupid it was handled. One provision you always have is a studio host who can handle things if a remote situation occurs, even if all your regular hosts are offsite. The very next day, CBS was unable to show San Diego-Buffalo to its audience for a chunk of time, but they immediately "took over" and showed the sports fan sports. You do not put on the tail end of "Bloopers With Dick Clark" and "The Steve Harvey Show" as compensation for not being able to broadcast a Game 6 of an ALCS. You have redundancy built into your system for all possible scenarios. And as for Chip Caray, I'd prefer Bill Engvall do the games.

Sportsattitude said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:16:00 PM  

What Rays bias? Were you watching the same games that I was watching? Are you serious? A RAYS bias?

I think you meant to say a Red Sox bias, but maybe you actually weren't watching the games...

And Buck Martinez's crush on Pedroia is unhealthy...

And Chip Caray is a disgrace to his father...

J said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:23:00 PM  

The only time there was a Sox bias was in Game 5 when the crew wanted the Series to keep going. They may have switched a bit during Game Six, but during Games 1-4 and 7, Caray could not contain his excitement after every Rays' homerun.

Oct 20, 2008, 4:29:00 PM  

Chip Caray tried to roll the dice and "foreshadow" big plays, like saying the tying run at the plate would tie the score by hitting a home run(which often didn't turn out this way)

Granted, just two years and they looked pretty good, but there were some technical glitches that were funny, like the accidental cutaway to what looked like an interview set during one of the White Sox games, or cutting to the wrong camera on a pickoff move, like when they cut to the high first cam that had a great wide shot of left field.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:34:00 PM  

Chip Caray was just trying way too hard. As a Mets fan, I've loved Ron Darling as an analyst and Buck Martinez was very good. Caray suffers a bit from Joe Buck's Disease where he think he needs to always be talking.

Sean O said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:37:00 PM  

David Aldridge and Sager need to GO! They have little or no baseball knowledge and their comfort level with baseball is very obvious. I don't think Ernie Johnson is that great at baseball either, but still a decent host for the casual fan. I think Verducci could have been stronger given his extensive baseball knowledge but he gets a pass since it is his first time on TV.

Taylor said...
Oct 20, 2008, 4:46:00 PM  

It's absolutely insane - as a Rays fan - to continue to hear this junk about biased announcers. After all these years of the sports media licking at the Red Sox and Yankees feet, we have a little excitement and get a little credit and all the whiners come out. The Red Sox fans are a bunch of idiots.

Maybe the Rays are getting alot of love because....they won the AL East? Maybe because they won their first two playoff series? Nah, the entire sports media should instead revert back to their September ways and talk 24/7 about Manny and the Red Sox - that's so much more interesting.

Idiots.

Go Rays!!!!!!!!! said...
Oct 20, 2008, 5:54:00 PM  

There'll always be a "bias" perceived, and announcers in all sports tend to go with the better team, which the Rays were for most of this series (and I'm a die-hard Sox fan!) Nice to see our guy Don Orsillo get some praise. He's so smooth night in and night out for the Red Sox broadcasts.

No problem seeing the Rays pull out the win. They've done it right and they're a pretty classy bunch from Joe Maddon on down. We'll see 'em next year!

Ref said...
Oct 20, 2008, 6:07:00 PM  

I thought TBS did pretty good, especially the Inside MLB studio show.

One thing that completely struck me as odd was the programming decisions made for after the post game shows ended. Taking a guess that a large portion of viewers were male, you would think TBS would program some movie or show that would at least have some chance to keep viewers from changing the channel after the postgame show ended. More than once, TBS immediately started with "Sex & the City". It only took two seconds for millions of TVs to flip to something else. There were some movies (MIB), but they still could've put in more effort to keep people around.

mike said...
Oct 20, 2008, 6:51:00 PM  

Anybody notice how Darling and Martinez would re-word each others' analysis? Mostly it was Martinez after Darling.

Darling: "Not all hits given up by pitchers are mistake pitches, Ortiz just hit a good pitcher's pitch"

Martinez: "Ortiz just hit a good pitch there, not all hits are mistake pitches"

And so on ...

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 7:09:00 PM  

If you grade TBS just on Game 6, F. If you grade TBS overall B+. Orsillo and Anderson are 2 of mlb's best young pbp. Smoltz killed Leiter and Gonzo in the booth. Darling is sensational and Eck deserved a national audience. The graphics, camera angles and replays were top-notch. No excuse for Game 6 and so many people looking to rip TBS got a fat one over the heart of the plate.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 7:15:00 PM  

I watch a lot of Mets games on SNY(although I'm a Yankees fan), and Darling is terrific.

Thought he did a great job, and although I'm not a fan of Buck Martinez, I thought he was good too.

Eric said...
Oct 20, 2008, 8:09:00 PM  

I think TBS blew FOX out of the water this year (which isn't hard). The pre and post game shows were top notch per usual for Turner. Brian Anderson is actually better on national telecasts than he is with the Brewers. A lot more constraint and doesn't ramble NEARLY as much. I got spoiled with Matt V and Darron Sutton for 4 years so I was extremely hard on BA when he started.

Tim said...
Oct 20, 2008, 9:19:00 PM  

Ernie Johnson versus Jeanne Zelasko or Karl Ravech? I will take EJ any day.

Anonymous said...
Oct 20, 2008, 11:04:00 PM  

I agree that Smoltz was great (I wouldn't say he killed Leiter, whom I've always liked in the booth), but Darling? Seriously?

I live in DC and first heard him during his short stint with the Nats and was relieved he went to the Mets so I would have not reason to listen to him. Only to have him rear his ugly head for TBS...ugh.

If for no other reason than he would no longer be calling Cubs games, Dick Stockton needs to be either put out to stud or taken behind the barn and shot. If I wanted to hear pointless semirelated ramblings I'd volunteer at an old folks home.

Tony Gwynn should be doing nothing near a TV camera that doesn't involve shooting an instructional video on hitting a baseball.

I would like to give a special shout out to Brian Anderson. As a Cubs fan, I've watched my share of Brewers games these last couple of years, and I was worried how he would do calling their first postseason in 26 years. He was the consumate professional throughout the parts of their games that I watched. Great job.

Oh, and yeah, I'd take the TBS guys over any team that includes McCarver. See Stockton, Dick (above).

Bayma said...
Oct 21, 2008, 2:03:00 AM  

I feel sorry for anyone who has to watch baseball without Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy as the announcers. The Sox season is always a joy to watch on NESN and then you get to TBS & FOX for the post season and nothing can compare to the high standard of NESN broadcasting.

Additionally, for all of you people who commented that Chip Caray ruined his fathers reputation... lest we forget that his father was a total drunk and could barely sing "Take me out to the ball game"

Anonymous said...
Oct 21, 2008, 10:48:00 AM  

Chip Caray is Harry's grandson. Skip Caray, who passed away recently, is his father.

I've had the MLB Extra Innings package for 7 years and have listened to every announcing team in both leagues. You're kidding about the Red Sox announce team, right? Remy is awful and ranks right up there on the homer scale along with Hawk Harrelson and the clowns that do the Cubs on TV, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly.

Anonymous said...
Oct 21, 2008, 11:47:00 AM  

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