Monday, August 01, 2005

Off-day topic No. 463: rate your announcers


Hey, it's a day off!

Actually, the topic is somewhat timely, as USA Today recently released its radio team rankings. The criteria employed by the writers were a bit contrived, but the gist of it is that each MLB radio team was ranked according to Technical rating, Fan rating, and Entertainment rating. (I suppose Degree of difficulty was retired when Harry Caray passed on.)

Where do Charlie Slowes & Dave Shea rate? Pretty high, actually: tied for 14th in the National League.

Wait a sec . . . That means tied for next-to-last? Oh.

Seriously, though, the "closer look" summary isn't particularly critical; I think the writers just didn't know what to do with the Bang! Zoom! duo:


It almost would make more sense to give Charlie Slowes and David Shea an incomplete grade. They weren't named the team's radio guys until late February and signed one-year deals. Both are veteran broadcasters and have settled into the job. The complaints are few. Having had less than a season's worth of material, it's difficult for these two to tell outstanding stories from days past. The Nats, while happy with the crew, were hoping to get Montreal's veteran broadcaster, Elliott Price, in the booth, but couldn't resolve visa and immigration issues.

I am an XM Satellite Radio subscriber, so I've accumulated plenty of opportunities to scout around the big leagues and check out the announcers. I noted a bit of that during spring training and had actually intended to make that a running regular season feature in the space, but I plum forgot to until now. At any rate, I think C&D's rating is a bit low. I'd skip them clear ahead of the Arizona team (which is pretty bad, in all honesty), the Philly team (Harry Kalas isn't around enough, and the other guys are wholly generic), maybe the Florida team (I appreciate professionalism, but Dave Van Horne tends to put me asleep), the Houston team (I despise Milo Hamilton) and the Atlanta team.

[Aside: I wonder about the depth of this USA Today survey. For one, it doesn't even list Chip Caray as being on the Atlanta team, even though he's . . . well, on the Atlanta team quite prominently. Which reminds me, when team with his father, Chip has the ultra-annoying habit of referring to Skip as "Dad" and telling the audience that he's going to hand the play-by-play over "to my pop, Skip Caray." Okay, Chip, we get it; you have a job in the industry because of your last name. Oh, if we all were so fortunate.]

All in all, I'd rate Charlie & Dave, on an objective basis, somewhere around 10th in the NL; any better is probably pushing it, but it's equally clear that the USA Today writers merely were unfamiliar with the guys and had no other place to put them. This isn't to say---objectively speaking, of course---that C&D are great by any stretch; they certainly are not. They have a budding rapport, but neither is good at "setting the scene" (count; score; positioning; pitch type; location) on a consistent basis. Furthermore, sad as it is to say it, Dave's a weak link. Sometimes, he's out of his depth, and his play-by-play has a certain inebriated quality to it---and not in the funny-drunk, Harry Caray sense. I like Dave, but in my humble opinion an offseason upgrade is in order.

I wonder what Cristian Guzman will be doing next season.

Of course, on a subjective, fanboyish basis, I love the guys. The recent struggles have humbled Charlie a bit---which is the best and only good thing to say about the recent struggles. Toward the end of June, Charlie was developing this invincible streak, and his now-signature call was getting a bit diva-ish. Overall, though, they are great companions. Considering my only other access is a computer screen, the fellas make Nats' games seem real and special, like I'm a vintage baseball fan.

There is not enough thanks to give Charlie & Dave, warts and all.


__________________

I also have quite a bit of experience listening to the Baltimore team, of course, and I generally like them. "Generally," however, does not include Jim Hunter, who I believe is a hack on the worst order.

On the other hand, I love Fancy Fred Manfra, and Joe Angel is sort of a poor man's Jon Miller---except with perhaps an even more sardonic sense of humor. It's a good team, better since Angel has returned---and quite good when Hunter moves over to the TV booth and resumes the Who's Got Grayer Hair? contest with Buck Martinez.

Comments:
I like the C&D team... they have a gentle feel for the game that reminds me of the glory days of O's radio before certain people were fired. I agree that they're not great, but they are certainly better than next to last. I like 'em.
 
I agree wtih most of the comments -- Slowes and Shea are ok, but they're a little dull. Not helped by the lack of offense on the team, honestly -- it's pretty tough to call a 3-2 game if the pitching isn't ostentatiously dominant or something.

The Philly team is terrible -- even when I lived in Philly and cared a little bit about the Phils (though the O's always came first -- back in the day, I could get WTOP in Philly at night if I aimed the antenna just right), I couldn't listen on the radio. Long silences, purely matter-of-fact description... it was dull as dirt.

And I love Joe Angel. Manfra's pretty good too, but Joe Angel is fantastic. Great voice, great sense of humor, great ability to set the scene.

I still remember the old O's TV team with Chuck Thompson and Brooks Robinson. Brooks always pronounced Orioles as "Oreos" and called Mark McLemore "Mark Maccalamore." Maybe Ron Darling needs a bit more down-home Arkansas style to really connect with his audience.
 
I have to think that Dave Shea's time is D.C. will be limited to this season. I think he was with Bruins radio prior to the lockout, so I imagine he will be returning.

I like Charlie Slowes, he has really grown on me. I hope he stays and is paired with a former player/manager type. Most of all, I hope they get on a decent station all of the time.
 
We had Charlie Slowes down here in Tampa with Paul Olden doing Devil Rays games for seven years. They did a pretty nice job, especially considering the miserable team they worked with. The Devil Rays took the radio broadcasts "in house" this season, bringing in two very competent, but bland broadcasters. I would love to see Charlie and Paul return. These other guys put me to sleep.

Captain Fenway
 
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