Talking is hard. I mean, seriously, it is harder than you might think. I have been lucky enough to make a few radio appearances, and I consider myself a fairly smart and well-spoken individual, and when you get on the air, knowing thousands of people could be listening...it is hard to make good words come out of your....word-talking....thing.
Some people get paid handsomely to talk for a living. Baseball television broadcasters, for example. The Royals' television broadcast team has been with us for several years now, with Ryan Lefebvre joining the crew in 1998, and Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc coming as a package deal from the Angels in 2012. Awful Announcing recently had readers rank all of the television broadcasting teams in baseball, and while Hawk Harrelson and the White Sox team predictably came in last, the Royals' broadcast team fared well, finishing 12th in voting.
The Royals make a big jump compared to the prior two rankings, but are still part of that middle of the road tier where teams can end up falling in any order. More than three-quarters of the Royals grades were either A, B, or C.
That seems about right, to be honest. There are some truly terrible broadcast teams out there, from the annoying Hawk Harrelson, to the antiquated old school takes of Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley, to blowhards like Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, to the Braves' teams of Joe Simpson and Chip Carey who aren't quite sure who is on the field. The Royals' broadcast team does a very competent job that is informative, non-controversial, and for the most part, non-annoying like some other teams. Let's look at each of the individual pieces.
Lefebvre is now the longest-tenured member of the Royals' on-air broadcast team, and after initially having trouble gaining public acceptance after he replaced the popular Fred White, he seems to have been embraced by Kansas City. Lefebvre is a true professional (even keeping his cool with a great comeback to an obnoxious Orioles fan), keeping an even-keel and doing a good job of describing the game while not making himself the center of attention. He has been around the game of baseball since he was a kid, as the son of former big league player and manager Jim Lefebvre, having spent a year of minor league action himself.
Lefebvre does have a penchant for falling back on some old tropes too often - the Alex Gordon/Brian Duensing were in each other's weddings story, for example. And he has some cringe-worthy moments like when he does a terrible Italian accent for some players' names (i.e. Vinnie Pestano). But for the most part, Lefebvre is perfect for the Midwest - humble, non-assuming, non-controversial, but consistent and competent.
So Hudler is a pretty acquired taste. His wacky antics and malapropisms ("the moon is a beautiful planet") may be grating to some, but for others have caused him to be endearing, even to the point of inspiring an ad by local retailer Charlie Hustle. His "non-intellectual guy who loves baseball" schtick follows a long legacy among baseball broadcasters from Dizzy Dean to Yogi Berra to Ralph Kiner.
But make no mistake, Hudler is no dummy. He can offer some genuine insight to the game, such as adjustments hitters make in a slump, how to look for certain pitches, and how a defender may position himself depending on the situation. It has taken awhile for Hudler and Lefebvre to mesh together. Lefebvre will jab Hudler at times, and whether it is Ryan's wry sense of humor or actual tension between the two, there are times in which the chemistry seems awkward or hostile. But the two have seemed to pair better the last few seasons.
So yea, let's talk about Phys. First of all, Physioc also seems like a genuinely good person that is praised by many in his field. Royals fans are typically fiercely tribal, preferring genuine Midwesterners, and Physioc is that, having grown up a Royals fan in Merriam, Kansas. He began his career doing games for Kansas State, and was a sports anchor in Topeka.
Phys has a perfect announcer's voice for anyone that grew up in the 70s or 80s. It is the kind of booming, welcoming, but kinda hollow affect that brings to mind game show hosts, used car salesmen, and political candidates. If you need radio voice over work, Steve Physioc would be a great name to call.
But as for calling baseball games, hmmm. Here is a pretty typical exchange from Phys, from the Giants game last week.
For Jason Vargas, another seven innings and just one run allowed, so that makes it 10 of his 13 starts he has allowed two or fewer runs. That is just sensational. And you know, the sad thing is, Hud, his ERA actually went up from 2.08 to 2.10.
No, I'm sorry, it was 2.18, I beg your pardon, I stand corrected. I was looking at the wrong column.
Not more than five minutes later he had to beg our pardon once again as he flubbed the start time of tomorrow's game, confusing the West Coast local time with the Fox Sports Kansas City air time back in the Midwest. And this happens a lot. Starlin Castro becomes Starling Marte. Mike Trout will return before the All-Star break, but maybe after. Jason Vargas allows two hits on eight hits.
*Castro swings*— Dylan Miles (@DylanOnDeck) May 21, 2017
Physioc: "GOT EM!!"
It was strike two...
Physioc: "That ball is struck well to left..."— Ethan Denton (@EthanDenton76) April 30, 2017
Gordon comes up a few steps for an easy fly ball catch...
"Fastball. No changeup up." - Physioc— Kevin Scobee (@scobes15) April 29, 2017
It was a slider.
Look, like I said, talking on the air extemporaneously is hard. But he is a professional.
What do you think about the Royals television broadcast team?