I’m not going to use this space to pile on some of the feelings I’ve had about a particular Royals broadcaster’s career (for that I’ll stick to Twitter). Instead I’ll write with unusual brevity and without any stats.
I simply want to ask one question: what should we expect out of broadcasters?
When you sit down to watch a baseball game, or listen to one on the radio, what do you want to hear. Perhaps I should state it is as how do you want to hear the game unfold? If I asked you to grade the broadcaster, what criteria would you use and what overall theme do you require out of your broadcaster.
I’ll respond to my own call with my thoughts. I think there are two types of broadcaster (says someone with zero broadcasting experience).
This is undoubtedly Rex Hudler. Often times it’s provided through an “aw shucks” personality, and usually it’s the color commentator. Often times that color commentator was an ex-player too.
This fits more in the Ryan Lefebvre mold. A commentator that knows about the game on the field, maybe isn’t quite as detailed on the locker room side of things, but knows the history of the game (players, moments, records, etc...) and current events. These guys aren’t not fun, but they usually stay out of that light because of the dynamic of a broadcast team.
It’s possible for a broadcaster to be of both types. We were blessed with that in Vin Scully for almost 70 years. He mixed storytelling with a dazzling turn of words based off the incredible amount of baseball he’s seen over the years (remember that he was calling baseball games when Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra, and Duke Snider were just getting going). If there was a criticism of Scully (you monster...), perhaps he wasn’t as informed of the analytics and metrics of the modern era, but that wasn’t his game and not why you tuned in to listen to him.
In a way, we have that with Denny Matthews too. Like Scully, you’d probably be surprised if he started going on about DIPS theory, WAR, or wRC+. Still, Denny weaves words, even if sometimes he leaves us wanting more with his emotions (or lack thereof).
To me, I want the latter, and I think we get that with Lefebvre. I think a broadcaster's duty is simple: inform viewers/listeners of trends in the modern game while analyzing, narrating, and explaining the game. Royals hit five home runs in a game? Talk about how players and the league are hitting home runs at a higher rate than ever. Pitcher getting tough luck hits on balls that fall in play? Talk about how BABIP (mentioned on the Royals TV broadcast last night) or FIP works perhaps. You don’t have to go that detailed, but broadcasters shouldn’t be judging pitchers by their W/L record, or using three or four plate appearance sample sizes for pitcher/batter matchups as being relevant.
I know that might be asking a lot, and it’s reasonable to ask me to temper my expectations, but this seems to be the way the game is moving, both on and off the field. I think broadcasters have a responsibility to their audience to be informed themselves and inform their audience.
So, what do you expect out of a broadcaster?