DMZ · October 8, 2004 at 12:35 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

We had a really interesting discussion on managers and what we wanted to see out of them, and I wanted to open up a similar one.

We carp about how bad the non-Niehaus portion of the M’s broadcast crew is, but where do we go from here?

I wrote a column at BP about this (in fact, I even said “I’ve complained a lot about broadcasts, but what do I actually want?” which I quoted there for the sake of repetitiveness).

Take, for example, Mike Curto, who does the announcing for the Rainiers. We’ve touted him over and over for a major league job. Huge amount of prep work, he’s insanely prepared and up on the game, he’ll say dumb stuff in the course of three hours (and I would too, if I had to talk for three hours broadcasting a game) but often realizes it and goes back. We love Pat Dillon, who does the broadcasts for the Everett Aquasox, another guy who’s interested in learning everything he can so he can do his job better — in the Northwest League!

What do you look for in your broadcast crew? Is it the voice? Why do teams remake their rosters when they stink, but are unwilling to replace even the worst announcers with clearly superior talent?


67 Responses to “Broadcasting”

  1. Rob on October 9th, 2004 12:15 am

    After listening to nesn all year(red sox), I can’t even watch a m’s game with the sound on. I don’t know what exactly it is, maybe there stupid commments, but it seems like remy keeps it interesting. They do some funny things during the blowouts, but they still do stupid crap.

    I personally hate joe buck and tim on fox, and Chris berman. All three of them get on my nevers. I just want people who know baseball, don’t say the same thing over and over. I also don’t want annoying ppl ala the swami. Just don’t be over the top and know your stuff and keep it interesting.

  2. Charlie on October 9th, 2004 12:22 am

    There’s a reason they invented the mute button – Rick Rizz. The most important attribute of a good TV broadcaster is not what they say, but rather knowing when to shut up and let the viewer watch the game. Rizz doesn’t understand this – I guess it’s difficult to make the transition from radio, where you have to explain everything that’s going on, to TV where the viewer doesn’t have to hear described every single thing that’s happening. Rizz will even interupt a good story being told to tell everyone that so and so just took a pitch that was outside, and then he’ll hit us with the count, and if we’re lucky, repeat the score again, and on and on and on.

    Reading all the criticism of Fairly suprises me a little, cause I kind of like him. I realize he’s a little pompous, but he seems to know the game, and he does a good job of correcting Neihaus (no Boone didn’t hit the home run last inning, it was Wynn, etc. etc.). I can forgive Neihaus, I’m getting up there in years myself (I can remember Dizzy Dean and Pewee Reese when I was a kid) – but Niehaus is the only broadcaster that’s not afraid of criticizing the home team – guess he’s not too afraid of losing his job. I only hope that Niehaus hangs in there for a few more years, because I know that Rizz is waiting in the wings.

  3. big chef terry on October 9th, 2004 10:32 am

    Baseball honors its excellence, sooner or later, in most cases. e.g. see the attention and re-discovery of George Sisler this summer.

    Niehaus has been the franchise for much of its pre 1995 existence of marginal players, too young and never was guys. Yet if the game was honored by those marginal players in terms of their effort he did not disrespect them. If it was a situation where the manager had lost control and the team quit (Del Crandall, Maury Wills and Bill Plummer years), he would convey that to us in so many ways. That’s integrity. And yet through that the game was told, stories embroidered to the broadcast.

    Like so many other ways with this organization, I suspect that the announcers have been given appropriate “talking points” and “non-talking points”…the talking points being selling something from the mariner store or an upcoming game…the non-talking points being that they’ve gone from a 93 win team to the worst team in baseball…

    Like anything else they need to find and attract talented people. Like the upcoming manager search and free agent signings, nobody short of desperation will want to work for this organization. So don’t hold your breath for the reincarnation of Dizzy Dean or Red Barber.

  4. Andy Metz on October 9th, 2004 12:51 pm

    I agree that Calabro would be the best option for play-by-play. The time I heard him broadcast a Mariners game, he was far far superior to Neihaus. He could do it and still keep his Sonics job for the most part. April is the only overlap month, and neither the Sonics nor the Mariners will make it to the playoffs for a long time, so why not? This is of course assuming that he enjoy working all year long. Also, you guys bash Rizz too hard. I find his voice much easier to listen to than Neihaus, he’s just kind of a pud.

  5. Colm on October 9th, 2004 1:06 pm

    Two things I’m surprised no-one has mentioned:

    1: New York Vinny. I used to like his post-game show when the M’s were on 710 KIRO locally. I know he’s done at least a little play-by-play; he has a good character voice for radio; and he’s the only baseball commentator associated with the M’s who has anything close to Niehaus’s genuine enthusiasm.

    2: Among Niehaus’s charms (child-like enthusiasm) and flaws (increasingly hazy grasp of what is actually happening) no-one has mentioned this: He can’t actually pronounce Mariners – he always says “Mawiners”.

    …oh, 3: What about that young David Locke kid?

  6. John in NV on October 9th, 2004 3:32 pm

    NY Vinny !!??? Maybe you guys should disable the comments.

  7. Jsa on October 9th, 2004 9:07 pm

    Fairly actually calls a good radio game, when Dave leaves him in charge of the mic for a pee break. He describes the game better than Dave for the radio audiance.

    If Rick Rizzs would just STOP GUSHING all the time he would be passibly good too.

    As a non-Seattlite, I’m not all that impressed with Dave N., he does not walk on watter for me.

  8. David on October 10th, 2004 2:53 am

    I guess I’ll touch on and maybe combine a couple things…

    — Kevin Calabro’s name has popped up a number of times, and rightfully so, I think. He’s got a hell of a voice, and he’s versatile. That’s the good kind of versatile, not “versatile” in context to Jolbert Cabrera or Willie Bloomquist.

    — One word about Tom Paciorek: “Wow!”

    — Chris Begley in comment 35 brought up the Canucks’ transition from Jim Robson to Jim Hughson. I’d like to bring up the current Canucks’ radio crew of John Shorthouse and Tom Larscheid. Shorthouse had to succeed two guys that were pretty derned good, from most accounts, and from listening to Shorty over 75 times this year, I’d have to say he’s also pretty freakin’ good. As for Larscheid, I think he’s the most objective color commentator I’ve heard in any sport so far (“that was a TERRIBLE shift by Brent Sopel!”). Granted, hockey’s a much faster game. There might be a few minutes of all Shorty and then all Larscheid gets to say is “you’re listening to A&B Sound Vancouver Canucks hockey on the Corus Radio Network” before the commercial break. But when Larscheid does pop up, he’s golden. Larscheid has some versatility also, with much experience with the BC Lions CFL team. I’ve still never figured out how to score a single point in CFL play (I’m not talking about the PAT either).

  9. don on October 10th, 2004 11:08 am

    tyler, #40 – that wasn’t fairly’s best moment. earlier this year, after an opposition home run, ron pointed out that the mariner outfielder would have gotten that one, except the fence got in the way. i think he was serious, too.

  10. Andy Metz on October 10th, 2004 11:24 am

    Whoever said Fairly is good when Neihaus takes a pee break is retarded. I’ve never heard worse baseball coverage in my life than when Fairly is covering the game himself.

  11. Shannon on October 10th, 2004 12:18 pm

    I can understand getting on Rizzs for gushing and overly cheery sugary sweettalk. Yeah, that’s irritating. But for me gushing is way more tolerable than when I turn on the radio a couple innings into the game, Niehaus is on and I immediately know I won’t be getting the score OR the number of outs for at least five to ten minutes. So I have no idea what’s happening– is it scoreless? Tied 1-1? A rout 10-2 already? Those five to ten score-less minutes will be filled with any number of things, some of them completely unrelated to the game– sponsors, chatter, Ron’s Tales Out Of School, SILENCE– but, for some reason, Niehaus refuses to give the score unless someone scores or the inning ends.

    And I remember listening to the first game the M’s won this year (vs. the A’s) when Arthur Lee fell apart and it went to extra innings. I think it took Dave about seven minutes to tell us how many outs there were in the all-important ninth inning even though he kept talking about how many were on base.

    I want a radio announcer who, above all, will give me the score and number of outs/men on more than I want to hear it. I’d rather be bored with that than with anything else. Someone needs to tell Niehaus (and Rizzs if he starts doing this) that when people listen to the game over radio, they can’t immediately see the score when they tune in.

    And Fairly? Gah. I will take anyone any day over him.

  12. The Ancient Mariner on October 10th, 2004 3:47 pm

    Re Chris Begley’s comment, I’ll second that (and, for that matter, David’s in #58)–which sparks the thought: what’s Robson up to these days? Think he’d be up for a job with the M’s? If the man isn’t the best broadcaster I’ve ever heard, he’s pretty darn close.

  13. The Ancient Mariner on October 10th, 2004 3:54 pm

    Oh, and on Steve Stone (whom, I agree, should be a real target for the M’s FO), this is really random, but I found this in a column by a fellow Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Robert Kopp:

    “Steve Stone, as loyal as they come but not as witless as Cubs’ apologists prefer, was especially hard on the team down the stretch.

    “The WGN-TV analyst said this on WGN-AM radio on September 30 as the inevitability of another season down the toilet became increasingly apparent: ‘You want the truth. You can’t handle the truth…The truth of this situation is an extremely talented bunch of guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look and kind of make excuses for what happened…At the end of the day, boys, don’t tell me how rough the water is, you bring in the ship.’ . . .

    “Unfortunately for Stoney (who should have consulted pastors who know how to tell people to go to hell in a way that they’re looking forward to the trip), players, coaches, Dusty, and the deep but barely opened pockets at the Trib were aghast at his, uh, honesty.”

    Well, *they* may have been aghast, but *I’d* like to see that in our broadcasters.

  14. eponymous coward on October 10th, 2004 6:12 pm

    Part of the problem is the M’s now have “old timers” (former players) doing the broadcasts…so now it’s “Oh, we can’t fire lovable ol’ Hendu or Valle!”

    It’s also a way for the team to be nice to THEIR Old-Timers…even if they don’t really cut the mustard as announcers. Part of the “familiar face” phenomenon we all have grown to know.


  15. Troy on October 11th, 2004 1:05 pm

    #45 mentions Levine’s Law. I believe the actual quote was “the leadoff walk always comes around to score unless it doesn’t.” I thought it was great. I took it as a bit satirical towards the old-school baseball cliche “the leadoff walk always comes around to score.” I would take Levine over Rizzs any day of the week.

    In response to some other commentors – Kevin Calabro is the man. Nothing will ever beat the thrill of being a young teenager obsessed with the Sonics who got to hear Kevin describe the latest exploits of The Reign Man and The Glove. Where have you gone, early 90’s?

  16. TTop on October 11th, 2004 1:40 pm

    A great discussion here. My own $.02:

    (1) Rizzs is just too “golly-gee” and too reluctant to say anything less than 100% positive. I wish he were replaced.

    (2) Ron Fairly. I think this guy has been overly-criticized. Yeah, I know sometimes he says things that are “Fairly obvious”, and indeed sometimes those things are ridiculous. However, I think we also need to understand that not everyone listening to the broadcast is a baseball expert. I didn’t play baseball growing up, so I learned it by listening to M’s broadcasts on the radio. Things that might seem completely obvious to you, the seasoned baseball fan, are not necessarily obvious to everyone (kids, immigrants, others new to baseball). I thought Fairly’s penchant for the obvious was always kinda folksy, in a Yogi Berra kind of way, he just doesn’t seem to be as witty in his obvious observations. I like his stories about his old playing days. I would much rather hear him than Valle or Hendu, who both come across as complete meatheads when commentating. I feel like I should add a jab at Joe Morgan here (though not an M’s broadcaster), because he far and away seems to be the worst commentator, spewing nonsense almost everytime he opens his mouth. Too bad, because I like Jon Miller okay. Joe just seems to make shit up and if you listen carefully will often contradict himself depending on the situation.

    (3) Ken Levine. I always liked Ken Levine as a color commentator. Now, at the time he was on I wasn’t nearly as knowledgable about baseball as I am now, so for all I know the things he said just sounded good. But I liked him.

    (4) Rich Waltz. I was pleasantly surprised at Rich’s play-by-play ability, I think he’s very competent. As a color guy or just a pre-game interview guy, I generally think he lacks charisma. But yet somehow his play-by-play seems alright.

    (5) Neihaus. A legend, but his abilities have clearly slipped over the last few years — he bumbles calls a lot more, mis-identifies players, gets worked up over too many long fly balls. He’ll always be the prototype announcer for me, but his best days are past him and I’d just assume he retires before he slips further.


  17. Jack Howland on October 11th, 2004 9:07 pm

    My requirements:

    1) An Entertainer. The announcer needs to be entertaining and funny. Jerry Remy is funny. Rick Rizzs thinks he is funny but he’s not which is even worse than not being funny in the first place.

    2) A student. There is an obvious difference between a broadcast team which does its homework and a team that is too lazy to open a book. You never know when a tidbet from the Prospectus, an odd stat from Total Baseball, or a passage from the latest Sports Illustrated will come in handy during your broadcast. It sure beats spewing the same old crap game after game, year after year. At the very least it allows you speak more intelligently which our booth could sure use a dose of.

    3) Don’t talk down to me. If the audience in Seattle is perceived to be baseball uneducated which might be somewhat true, they will never learn a thing from the group currently in the booth.

    My Perceived Road Blocks:

    1) Rick Rizzs squeezes in anywhere from 3 to 6 advertisements per 1/2 inning. He is a huge moneymaker in this respect which the front office is well aware of.

    2) Randy Adamack thinks these guys walk on water.