Joe Buck has been the lead broadcaster for Fox's MLB coverage since its inception in 1996. That's fifteen years of Buck & McCarver as the national voices of baseball. In that timespan, we've seen Joe Buck go from Jack Buck's kid to the most notable play by play man in sports. Joe Buck has announced the World Series, the Super Bowl, hosted Fox's NFL Pregame, and even had his memorable, hilarious trainwreck of a late night career. Yet through it all, Joe Buck has been a baseball guy, getting his start with his father's team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Somewhere in those fifteen years though, scores of baseball and sports fans turned against Joe Buck. Maybe it was his overreaction to Randy Moss, maybe it was admitting that he didn't enjoy baseball anymore, maybe it's his too understated play by play, maybe it's his smug demeanor and failed late night career. Nevertheless, at some point, Joe Buck was transformed from the bright, young, shining star of sports broadcasting to one of the most disliked announcers in sports. In fact, it's almost a near certainty that you will find Joe Buck's name trending on Twitter during Saturday's Fox MLB coverage and always because fans are destroying him.
In this year's season though, something else has been different about Joe Buck... his voice itself. For several months, Joe Buck has been dealing with a virus in his vocal cords since after the NFL season ended. The ailment has caused his voice to sound weaker and hoarse. You can really tell that Buck's voice is struggling in this botched call of a Reed Johnson solo home run in this weekend's broadcast of a Cubs-Yankees game. Thankfully, the virus isn't painful or causing any damage to Buck's voice (we're not completely heartless and actually wish Joe the best in health), but fans are taking notice of what sounds wrong with Joe and it is hurting the Fox broadcast.
Simply, Fox needs to sit Joe Buck and his voice and take him off their MLB coverage for the time being. Not just for the present, but for the overall outlook of MLB on Fox...
It's admirable that Buck wants to broadcast even with his voice not being 100%, but it has become detrimental to the broadcast. Nearly every trait about Joe Buck's broadcasting that annoys and inflames viewers (and in spite of the fact that he's not our favorite broadcaster, he does do some things well) is exponentially multiplied because of his vocal cord ailment. More monotone? Check. More low-key in the big moments? Check. Sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else on the planet than the ballpark? Check. In announcing a game, you have to be able to raise your voice at the right time and distinguish between big moments and the ordinary events in a game. An announcer's voice is critical in drawing viewers or listeners in to the game and the moment. Buck isn't a broadcaster that raises his voice and gets excited a lot to begin with, but with this vocal cord issue his weakened voice is incapable of providing inflection and it drastically affects the quality of the broadcast.
Why not just rest Joe Buck and bring him back when his voice improves? He's admitted he doesn't necessarily enjoy doing baseball games in the past, so why not let him sit for the regular season and bring him back for the playoffs and (knock on wood) NFL season. Too many fans are now watching games wondering what Joe Buck's voice problem is and it is taking away from the game. Instead of focusing on the game, we're focused on the hoarse play by play man that sounds like he may turn into this guy at any moment.
Fox sticking with Buck, even through his vocal cord virus, also says a lot about their total lack of quality baseball announcers and obsession with Buck as their top guy. In the past, announcers like Thom Brennaman and Dick Stockton have sporadically entered the top pbp slot and filled in for Buck's absence... neither of them are exactly fan favorites. The analyst side isn't much better with Tim McCarver (who you'll find on our AA Mount Rushmore), Eric Karros, and Scotch Grace. Anyone expecting Gus Johnson to waltz into Fox and take the #1 slot on the network surpassing Buck will be utterly disappointed.
There are too many good MLB announcers around the country to have to sit through Joe Buck sounding like death and the rest of the Fox regulars every afternoon. Why not try something new after 15 years of Buck & McCarver? Some of the names you suggested on Twitter like Gary Cohen of SNY, Josh Lewin, WGN's Len Kasper, and Matt Vasgersian would be excellent choices to step in the booth and get a chance on the national stage. Even bringing in legends like Vin Scully or Bob Uecker for select games would be a welcome experience and something fresh. Maybe Gus would want to give baseball a try? Oh, and there's even a Hall of Fame broadcaster that was just released from his national duties - Jon Miller. At least he has experience working with a bumbling analyst.
It's time that Fox seriously thought about making a change with their MLB coverage, or at least started looking in some new directions beyond Buck/McCarver and the ho-hum Fox bullpen. MLB on Fox has been in need of change to the status quo for several years. Now is a perfect time for Fox to inject some welcome new voices into their MLB coverage.