TBS strives for a better postseason broadcast

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The question of the Game 2 starter

Three billion dollars is no small amount to pay for the rights to baseball games. For any media entity, an investment of that magnitude requires a commitment to the cause, and when two competing media companies throw that much money into one pot as FOX and TBS did in 2006 for MLB rights, the product aired must be of a superb quality.

Last year, as the Yankees marched to their 27th World Series title, TBS’ coverages wasn’t all that. Chip Caray was pilloried in the press, and TBS brass eventually removed him from the broadcast booth. For a game long accustomed to the subpar stylings of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, the TBS fiasco was just business as usual, and it seemed that baseball would be relegated to an afterthought on the national stage.

But TBS this year is taking its commitment to the game seriously. As I detailed yesterday on Second Ave. Sagas, TBS and MLB have engaged in a groundbreaking advertisement campaign in the New York City subways to promote TBS’ postseason coverage. One of the 42nd St. shuttle trains will be fully branded with baseball superstars, and in-car video screens will show highlights from playoff games and promotions for upcoming contests. While the dollar totals for the deal haven’t been announced, the shuttle branding combined with the display ads represent an aggressive push by TBS to get casual fans interested in their baseball coverage.

“Postseason in New York is always a big moment for sports fans, and this is an opportunity to excite the local fan base and launch a campaign that highlights iconic players in local markets,” Christina Miller, a Turner Sports senior vice president for strategy, marketing and promotion, said.

David Wells has become a reliable fixture on TBS' baseball coverage. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/TBS)

Over at AOL’s Fanhouse, Andrew Johnson picks up on this theme as he explores how TBS is improving its October coverage. In its fourth season of playoff coverage and with Ernie Johnson’s replacing Chip Caray, TBS is striving to bring a better understanding and presentation of the game to the fans. “It’s really important that we know our roles,” Ron Darling said to AOL. “We’re really custodians of these great athletes and great teams that are gonna be chronicled forever and be on DVD forever, so we do feel a responsibility, with Turner doing these games, that we’re part of it. We’re part of history every year.”

Darling and John Smoltz will join Johnson in the booth. The color analysts in the studio will include David Wells, Cal Ripken and Dennis Eckersley. Their analysis might not stray into sabermetrics and advanced statistical viewpoints, but these are players who are both entertainers and baseball supporters. Eric Byrnes and Kevin Millar they are not.

This push by TBS to do better stands in stark contrast to FOX’s coverage which often seems begrudging at best and downright resentful at worst. FOX too has spent the billions, but they don’t listen to the loud groundswell of disgust for the quality of their broadcasts. They continue to turn to Buck and McCarver as the voices of baseball. They plug football nearly as often as they discuss baseball during the broadcasts, and they haven’t engaged in much advertising to promote their cause.

Baseball writing on the Internet has at times grown on the wings of Fire Joe Morgan, a site dedicated to, well, seeing the dismissal of ESPN’s lead baseball color commentary realized. We can’t bash on the bad coverage without giving a nod to the good, and while TBS still makes its mistakes, it’s doing more to promote the game than other outlets who pay the big bucks. As the Yanks will soon be appearing on TBS, we should sit back and appreciate.

Baseball America's Top 20 GCL Prospects
The question of the Game 2 starter
  • yanksfandownsouth

    Kudos to TBS for stepping up to the plate. Chip Caray was more baseball cheerleader than insightful broadcaster. As to Fox baseball broadcasts, I watch the games without sound because I already know that the two Cardinal shills (Buck & McCarver) in the booth hate all things Yankees.

  • larryf

    Ron Darling is a monotone bore. No sound and RAB on the laptop is the way to go….

    Maybe Sterling for the home run calls and thuuuh Yankees win call.

    • Yank the Frank

      The only problem with Sterlings home run calls is that you have to listen to a few non-home run calls before he gets one right.

    • Keith

      I wanted to say that I think while Darling and Smoltz were great pitchers well at least smoltz was that putting those two with Ernie is maybe possibly the worst combination of all time particularly Ernie he is no baseball announcer. I am not concerned with yankees fans but the group has absolutely no interest in announcing anything to do with both teams. I would not put these three together for anything ever again Ernie is boring and doesn’t know baseball and Smoltz is quiet and Darling has no color to add there wer actually dead spost through the entire broadcast I thought there was no silence when the cameras were rolling. Maybe they should listen to some guys like Marty Brennaman that guy is amazing.

  • Bill R

    See I always felt McCarver was a yankee buff

    • whozat


      What? McCarver is about as clueless as they come. He just parrots the common wisdom. He called Gardner a great bunter last year, because he’s fast-n-scrappy, therefore he MUST be a great bunter.

    • gc

      That’s the thing. I watched most of last year’s WS games with other Yankee fans, and I watched one of the games at a friend’s house who was a Phillies fan. That night, I was basically the only Yankee fan there. And all night long, they went on and on about how pro-Yankees the FOX broadcast and McCarver/Buck were. Exactly the opposite of what I was hearing when I watched the game with a bunch of Yankee fans. People basically hear what they want to hear. Ignore the positives and focus on the negatives. Not to say that I think McCarver and Buck are great baseball announcers, but I just think the whole folly of ragging on baseball announcers is pretty silly to begin with. They’d rather turn the volume UP so they can bitch and moan about the announcers than to simply turn the volume off if it really bugs them that much.

  • Jon

    Just as long as its not John Miller and Joe Morgan!

  • Yank the Frank

    I wish in addition to the national broadcasts they could have YES do the games (YES could run the same commercials). I could take Kay, Singleton and whoever over any of the other stations broadcasters.

  • Guest

    I propose a three-way trade next season. Kay for Torre, with Kay transferred to studio and Bob Lorenz/Jack Curry in the booth. DFA Flash.

  • CBean

    I complain about Michael Kay through the whole baseball season and then the post-season comes and I miss him.

    • Guest

      Methinks he could be gotten over in time with better commentators. Of course, who knows?

  • Hughesus Christo

    People complain about national broadcaster in every sport, all the time. They don’t have the same job as a local team. I don’t know why people can’t accept this.

    Side note:

    Someone should just hire the Mets’ broadcast team

    1. They’re very good (I would trade them for the YES team straight up, right now, no second thoughts)

    2. They’re used to covering bad baseball, and can fill time when things get boring

    3. Never have to worry about COI

    • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

      I think most of the guys who do the ESPN games during the week are pretty good. I don’t really know any of their names off hand, but last night I had the game on on ESPN instead of the Rays broadcast (those guys are awful) and the commentary was pretty good, or at least as good as you can expect. They’re always gonna say stupid stuff that’s gonna piss me off, but then I remember it’s their jobs to say stupid duhhhhh stuff. It’s not so easy to appeal to both the casual fan and the die-hard fan at the same time, and that’s what they have to do on national broadcasts, especially in October.

      • http://theblogthatruthbuilt.com Craig

        I want to say Rick Sutcliffe was on the color last night.

      • Bill R

        I was at the dodgers game last night and it was Nomaaaaah in the booth for ESPN

  • larryf

    The subway never looked so good!

  • jim p

    My cable is gone come October. Does this mean I’m out of watching the playoff games? Anyone know?

    I guess there’s radio, and hopefully Gameday will work for the Post-season.

    • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

      atdhe.net will probably have all the games.

      best website ever.

      • http://theblogthatruthbuilt.com Craig

        Cable is gone? That sounds like a solvable problem. And I know watching playoff games with a bunch of other people is not the most ideal situation (maybe it is, I’m just one of those fans that tends to curse, throw and break things), but you have to have at least one friend who is a Yankees fan that you can watch with.

        • jim p

          One friend in the city with Cable. AND a brand-new baby. I guess I could nurse a drink at a bar for a few hours. Thanks for the response.

      • jim p

        This looks promising. Very promising. Thank you.

  • JeffG

    They should hire David Cone.

  • nsalem

    Though I find McCarver to be pompous at times and in the past Morgan’s agenda seemed to be defending the honor of The Big Red Machine, I feel that these two have great insight to offer about the game of baseball.
    I am disappointed in their rejection of the advanced statistics, but I also am disappointed in those who embrace advanced statistics and reject the importance of “old stats” such as RBI’s and Wins. I think all these numbers are important in certain contexts and their respected values do not have to be mutually exclusive. It should be realized that most of the old school announcers computer capabilities end at managing their email. You can see how O’Neill rejects stats on the Yankee broadcasts by talking about how he can’t even turn a computer on. It should also be realized that these national broadcasts are targeted for the casual baseball fan which is a demographic universe away from thos who frequent RAB.

  • bottom line

    My hope: Every time some joker like Buck mentions Yankee payroll, ten RAB readers bombard Fox/TBS with this question: How else is a winning team that is penalized by drafting at the bottom every single round supposed to acquire good players?

  • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

    If they really want to improve they should stop hiring Buck Martinez.

  • Big Stein

    Does anyone know how they got those images on the train? It doesn’t look like paint.

    • Andy in NYC

      Most likely a “wrap”: high-quality-printing on adhesive-backed vinyl sheeting.

  • Poopy Pants

    Those subway ads seem like an enormous waste of money to me.
    Same with the Con Ed ads.