This year, NBA TV changed course for its NBA Playoffs coverage. Instead of syndicating local feeds, the network hired national teams to cover games. While it seems like a small detail, it was a significant improvement for fans. Instead of hearing homerized calls from either the road or home announce team, National Basketball Association fans were treated to a proper broadcast deserving of the playoff stage with pros like Ian Eagle and Kevin Calabro on the call.
That's not to completely bemoan the job of local announcers. Their first priority was to serve their home markets as they had done all season, not the syndicated national audience. The onus wasn't on the local announcers to change their approach, it was on NBA TV to change theirs.
Now Fox is beginning to be asked the same question for its national Saturday MLB coverage.
Fox has been using local announcers for their national broadcasts for quite some time now. A home team's analyst may be paired with a national play by play man like Kenny Albert, or vice versa, or one representative from each team's announcing pair may be present.
With Fox broadcasting so many games a week and the nature of baseball rights, it's somewhat understandable. The TV announcers can't work those Fox games on local TV anyways, so why not bring them in to do the job since they're already there? The wide majority of the time this has not been an issue as the local announcers are not merely working a syndicated feed, but working for Fox. This means it has to be a straight-down-the-middle call with no favoritism.
The last two weeks though, this hasn't been so simple.
First Billy Ripken, who isn't even an Orioles broadcaster but an MLB Network employee, was roundly criticized for his perceived favortism last week in an O's-Tigers game. Ripken has called 3 Fox games this season, all involving Baltimore for whom he played most of his MLB career. Many saw Ripken's analysis and presence in the booth as heavily pro-Balitmore, including actor Jeff Daniels. (How's that for a random drop-in?)
Then on Saturday current Phillies play by play man Tom McCarthy and former Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams called the Philadelphia-San Francisco game. Listen to these two calls below and judge for yourself whether or not there is a major difference. First, Giants P Matt Cain homers off Cole Hamels in the top of the 3rd before Hamels returns the favor in the bottom half of the inning.
Are you serious? The first call might as well be Hawk Harrelson depressingly calling a White Sox walk off loss. The first words from McCarthy and Williams are "uh oh" and "no way." Yikes. On the Hamels home run, both McCarthy and Williams are much more excited and clearly much happier. Williams even throws in a "payback!" for good measure. If I was a Giants fan or even a neutral observer, I'd be incredibly disappointed in the effort from the booth.
Unlike NBA TV though, the onus here is on the network and the announcers who know they're working a national feed. McCarthy has to do a better job of finding some sense of balance and unbiasedness and Fox certainly needs to rethink this practice if it can't get straight-laced calls free of homerism. It's not like the feat is impossible, just take a look at Brewers announcer Brian Anderson calling the Milwaukee-St. Louis NLCS for TBS last year.
If Fox gets more calls like the ones above on its national Saturday telecasts, it will have to follow NBA TV's lead and exclusively hire national broadcasters for their games. Those baseball fans that happen to be outside a team's home market deserve better.
AJ, I don't disagree with you, but there's something else to consider: if McCarthy is a pro, he should be able to control it. If he isn't a pro, he shouldn't be on Fox or with the Phillies.
You're blaming McCarthy, but it's really the fault of Fox. McCarthy was the "cheap choice" since he's here already. Is he horrible? Yes. But his homerism is excusable since he has no inner filter.
It isn't "awful announcing" as much as it is "Awful Programming."
Tom McCarthy isn't the best announcer but would have been okay if paired with a Giants voice such as Miller, Flemming or Kuiper. Mitch Williams is a waste, another example of a jock who makes a fool of himself as a broadcaster, which is evident everytime he speaks into a microphone. Of course, Fox Sports doesn't know a damn thing about putting on a good broadcast. If they're looking for broadcasters, I know about 15 guys in the Pacific Coast League better than those two.
What network announcers are missing, two network announcers on Fox in particular, is some enthusiasm for what is happening. This is not a broadcast of a surgical operation. It is supposed to be fun. This two Philly people just forgot what they were supposed to be doing. It is a big mistake to bring in more sterile network types.
When Cleveland was in the World Series in the 1940s owner Bill Veeck found a loophole in the network TV contract and was able to require that one announcer from each team be used in the telecast. This lasted for decades and served us well. That is why Vin Scully announced the 1959 World Series and why Dick Stockton, then the Boston announcer, called Carleton Fisk's shot off the foul pole in 1975.
I think hearing other announcers is fun. That is what is on the Extra Innings package and a lot of MLB-TV. Dan Osillo in Boston is great as is Dick Enberg in San Diego. Just avoid Seattle and the South side of Chicago.
(McCarver announced the Giants on Sundays for a year a while back. He was awful at that also as he didn't bother to learn anything about the team and kept jabbering anyway. Mike Krukow had to feed him the correct pronunciations on the air and he still got them wrong)
The issue, as someone else mentioned below, is competence. Vin Scully and Jon Miller came up--classic examples, but neither is a "we" announcer. Jack Buck played it down the middle on network broadcasts, although some fans accused him of bias; I didn't hear it, and I listened for it, but Buck, while pro-Cardinals, also would let them have it. On a World Series, including the home announcers would be wonderful and refreshing, and we should EXPECT bias in that case if they tend to root. Now, I might draw the line if the White Sox got into the World Series, because further exposure to Ken Harrelson violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Who was more biased and unprofessional than Joe Buck when he called the World Series between the Phils and Tampa Bay - especially the final game when the Phils clinched it! I prefer the local guys calling the games, with the possible exception of 'Wheels' who is just terrible!
Wait a minute. when Vin Scully or Jon Miller did national games, no one accused them of bias. This is a problem with these particular people who forgot that we were forced to watch then in Northern California. I enjoy hearing local announcers, but an entry level prerequisite is the ability to competently broadcast a game without cheering for one of the teams,
As I write this I am looking at a foul ball from the memorable at bat where Will Clark knocked in the pennant winning run off of Mitch Williams in 1989. Still bitter?
I have to put a lot of the blame here on Fox. Putting two broadcasters associated with the Phillies in the booth for a national game is completely irresponsible. Either use national broadcasters or use one Phillies broadcaster and one Giants broadcaster. You can't put use two broadcasters both associated with the same team and expect a fair national broadcast.
I'm from Philly and a Phillies fan, but I thought the same thing when I heard it. I'd be pissed if I was a SF fan. It was pretty bad.
@mosesjd At least with the Mets, I prefer the local guys because they know the team inside and out. National guys parachute in, clueless.
@awfulannouncing I prefer listening to biased announcers. Not kidding. I want them to be excited for my team and not for the opposition.
Even when "Jimmy" made an out to Sandoval, ol' Mitchy had to audacity to say "what's he doin' playing in? If he weren't playing there, that's hit!". And also later in the game, the Giants played their infield shift for Howard, who then hits right into it and that idiot Mitch says "That would be a hit for Ryan if they didn't play the shift!". WHAT A SCHOLAR!!
Pathetic broadcasting... even Krukow, who is a big homer, would have been much more balanced.. besides he played for both teams... East Coast bias in full effect..
This was not a "national" game. It was seen only in Pennsylvania, parts of Maryland, West Virgina, Virginia and not even all of California.
@awfulannouncing @baycityball & I thought Daron Sutton & Mark Grace were bad!! Mitch Williams & Tom McCarthy are the worst homers #Phillies
The whole game was like that--it wasn't just the Cain/Hamels HR calls. Compare Utley's HR call vs. Posey's, too. Or listen to the last out--a line drive to Theriot. Mitch Williams (heavy sigh): "Wow." You would have thought the bases were loaded in the seventh game of the World Series, not two outs and a man on first for a last-place team in July.
Even more ludicrous was the way Williams talked about the Phillies by their first names throughout the game: "Cole should have thrown..." "If Jimmy had just..." "Next time, I'm sure Ryan won't..." You would have thought that Cole, Chase, Jimmy, and Ryan were all coming over to his house for a BBQ after the game.
I've been watching national TV games since the 60s, and that was one of the very worst I've ever seen.
As somebody who has called several games and been accused of bias, I honestly can't understand how the announcer can be that obvious. It should be his job to recognize the situation and network he is on and adjust. If anything, he should be more biased for the other team, to avoid the perception.
@eytanshander we would also like McCarthy removed from the local broadcast as well as national if possible !
This post is hilarious to me, because as a Phillies fan, Tom McCarthy could not be more unbiased when calling games. He'd be a great national announcer, we just don't like him in Philly because he talks too much, makes tons of mistakes, and seems to be rooting for the other team at times. Don't cherry pick one call. Go listen to some opposite team walk-off wins against the Phillies and you'll see McCarthy actually being quite favorable to the opposing team.
what's the big stink? Hamels' call was more hyped because it came in the same inning as Cain's, a response if you will @awfulannouncing
@awfulannouncing For the record Cliff Lee says "No way" not defending TMac's call but you cant expect Cliff to be unbiased
@awfulannouncing That's what it sounds like to me at least. Too easy to feed off home crowd in baseball though.
@awfulannouncing McCarthy gets some blame, sure, but that immediate reaction of "uh oh" is Cliff Lee, who they're interviewing at the time.
What's the solution? The current Fox national teams are so bad do we want them trying to recruit additional teams? I'd say have the local guys swap so they aren't doing 'their' team's game. But really, Fox needs to just make it a Game of the Week and put some effort into it to improve ratings.
@awfulannouncing you would think major league announcers know there's a difference between calling a game locally and nationally...
@awfulannouncing So he pissed off Giants fans? Wow. He's been doing the same to Phillies fans for years now.
@awfulannouncing @baycityball I'm a Giants fan, of course, but I'll give them a pass; they were mid-interview with Cliff Lee on Cain's HR.
@awfulannouncing not sure about biased but as someone who suffers thru a whole season with him, i can tell you he's awful. I mute all games
We don't know if Fox told McCarthy to filter his comments. If so, then he's at fault. My guess is, they wanted local flavor. Either way, he's horrible and it's about time a national audience got to experience what we Phillies fans have to put up with on a daily basis.
@ChipAphelion That's fine on SNY. But when you do a national game on FOX, you have at least make an EFFORT to be impartial.
Squintymagoo Portland and possibly Seattle got this game too and Ken Rosenthal was the Field Level reporter for the San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies game last Saturday too!
@VictorFiloromo I totally agree with this. This article is missing the point - you can't expect hometown broadcasters to suddenly switch off the bias that they are supposed to have the rest of the season when they call a nationally broadcast game. The point should be that McCarthy is an absolutely awful broadcaster.
@VictorFiloromo Can we start a McCarthy for national broadcasting campaign? Get Franzke up to the big time.