Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I wouldn't say that TBS entirely failed during their first attempt at the MLB Playoff, but you could definitely tell they weren't entirely ready last year. There were problems with the graphics, the announcing teams weren't familiar with each other and some fans sensed bias among those assigned to National League teams. Not all of the problems were their fault though. There were a trio of first round sweeps, and after both the big market National League teams (Phillies and Cubs) were eliminated, they were left with a ratings downer of the Diamondbacks and Rockies for the NLCS (which also ended in sweep).
With last year's attempt, and a full season of Sunday games under their belt, TBS says they're ready for a second try. They'll get no breaks though as they have all four opening round series. Via the AJC....
Turner Sports executive producer Jeff Behnke said he was pleased with last year’s show: It did well in the ratings and got the network’s name and face out there. This year, he said, the analysts need to keep covering the stories that are on the field and make sure viewers know who the players are.I think that last sentence is definitely the key. Growing up in and around Baltimore, I had been trained to listen to every word that Cal Ripken says, but last year he just didn't seem ready to go. If I felt that way as a native Marylander, I can't imagine how awkward it was for the rest of you. With that said, I still think he's right for the job. Ernie Johnson is the best studio host out there, and with Eck filling in the gaps instead of Tony Gwynn or Frank Thomas, I think they've set themselves up with the right people for a solid pregame show.
“We came in to a white-hot scenario: All of the lights were on, and all of the attention was on TBS,” Behnke said. “We thought we were very ready last year, but we’re enormously ready this year.”
The pregame and postgame shows’ producers are hoping to build on last year’s momentum. They are also taking advantage of the network’s Sunday games to become more familiar with teams other than the Atlanta Braves — the longtime Turner staple before this year — and their opponents, said Tim Kiely, coordinating producer.
Kiely’s strategy is simple: find people who can talk about baseball and can forget that a TV camera is following them.
“You have to take chances on guys and hope some of them have the personalities to do it,” Kiely said. “Your rocks have to be the guys who can handle themselves in front of the camera.”
For TBS, that rock last year was Ripken, Kiely said. He also placed veteran announcer Johnson, who won two Emmys on TNT’s NBA studio show, as the show’s host. Eckersley was added this year because he blended well with Ripken, Kiely said.
“I push them to remember those kinds of stories and those kinds of ways of personalizing it: what did it smell like, what did it taste like. And then you have the right person to deliver it, without putting the person to sleep.”
As far as the announcers, they seem to have some of the right people on board, but they just don't know where to place them. I think Brian Anderson is fine, but you just can't put a guy in a series which features the damn team he works for in the regular season! Phillies fans have already begun groaning about that choice and it's just going to get worse if A) Anderson shows any bias and/or B) Philly goes down in the series. Other than that, the additions of Harold Reynolds and John Smoltz should help their teams, Dick Stockton will be his normal old self and Chip Caray will continue to be polarizing. In the end, the key is to not distract people from the action on the field, and I think that's exactly what happened last year.
I'll be keeping track of each of the teams throughout the first round, and we'll see how it works out starting with the Brewers and Phillies this afternoon.
TBS readies for year two of postseason-baseball deal (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A Look At TBS' Pairings For The Opening Round Of The MLB Playoffs (Awful Announcing)