The last time we met, I was reviewing the broadcasting career of now-retired Tim McCarver, and wondering how much we'll miss him. From the latter question, though, something was missing: his replacement. I will venture that if Fox replaces McCarver with someone we love, we won't miss McCarver so terribly much. But there's a distinct possibility that McCarver's replacement will be less insightful, less literate, less likeable than he was.
And yes, there is news of a sort. When Googling McCarver to find something else, I came across Chad Finn's column in The Boston Globe ...
MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds is the front-runner to replace McCarver, as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch was the first to report several weeks ago, and at this point it seems a fait accompli that he’ll be the choice over candidates such as Tom Verducci and John Smoltz.
It wouldn’t be the worst choice. I mean, I suppose they could go after someone like Rex Hudler or Ken Harrelson or another shrieking homer and really botch it. At least Reynolds is pleasant and his appreciation of the game comes through. It’s just that as a studio analyst, he rarely says much beyond the obvious, and his rejection of advanced analysis in favor of vague intangible concepts suggests a closed-mindedness in the manner of a more affable Joe Morgan.
If Fox Sports were as bold and fun-loving as its cultivated image suggests, it would pursue an analyst with an abundance of charisma and an incurable habit of speaking his mind, consequences be damned. That means Pedro Martinez. Or how about Dennis Eckersley? But Harold Reynolds? That’s not bold. It would be bland.
I can think of many worse choices than Harold Reynolds. For example, Rick Sutcliffe (who Finn likes, but who makes me want to run screaming to a dark room with padded walls). And Rex Hudler ... I mean, just no. As for Pedro Martinez and Dennis Eckersley ... They might be fine, but Martinez has essentially no experience and Eckersley ... well, he's actually pretty good, although the studio desk isn't the greatest test environment. Of course you can say the same thing about Harold Reynolds, whose experience as a game analyst is largely limited (I think) to the Little League World Series. But Reynolds is somewhat famous for his likeability, and he does know the game.
The non-statistical side of the game, I mean. Statistically speaking, he's utterly lost. If you've ever seen him arguing with Brian Kenny on MLB Now, you know what I mean. Reynolds flat-out doesn't believe in BABiP or DIPS or any of those other acronyms we've all come to know and (mostly) love. He just doesn't, and almost certainly never will.
My ideal analyst -- or color man, as they used to be called -- would come across as likeable while also knowing the game inside-and-out and having at least a passing familiarity with, and respect for, 21st-century analysis. Those are the three legs of the analyst's stool, and without all three he's likely to fall over ... unless he's especially strong in two of them. And perhaps Harold Reynolds' two legs are strong enough. I suppose we'll probably find out.
Personally, I would prefer Orel Hershiser or Chris Singleton or David Cone or Keith Hernandez or Bob Brenly or one of the other ex-players who does acknowledge that things have changed since 1987. But I gotta say ... I don't know that it matters much who's in the analyst's chair when Joe Buck's sitting in the play-by-play chair. The man in that chair has two jobs: Call the game as it's happening, and set up the analyst. Generally, the analyst is going to follow the play-by-play man's lead, because the latter controls the rhythm of the broadcast.
Think about it, though: When's the last time you heard Joe Buck mention modern baseball analysis without an accompanying sarcastic or dismissive sneer?
Yes, that's a trick question: He never has done that. He'll tell you, I think -- because I've heard this a million times from other people in his business -- that he's familiar with sabermetrics, but can't mention them on the air (unless to make fun of them) because the fans don't understand such things. One, I disagree. Ever heard of a little hit movie called Moneyball? And two, if anyone can make the fans understand such things, isn't it the play-by-play announcer in the g-d World Series? The first nationally distributed Baseball Abstract was published in 1982. Fourteen years later, Joe Buck worked his first World Series. Now it's 17 years after that, and we're still waiting for Buck to acknowledge that sabermetrics plays a big role in what nearly every major-league team does.
Instead, Buck calls a game exactly like it's 1968, except with Fox's super-modern whiz-bang production values behind him. The worst of both worlds, as it were. Which is why I usually listen to ESPN Radio, and look at the screen when something exciting is happening.
You know, I loved Joe Buck in those Holiday Inn commercials. He's funny and talented and seems like a good guy. He's just not good at this particular job, because the game's passed him by.