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How Do You Fix MLB’s Worst Radio Booths?

Matt Fishman

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Last week, I gave you my favorite MLB team radio booths. This included the Indians, Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals.

This week, I want to look at what I find to be the two worst MLB team broadcasts. My opinion is based on broadcasts that I have heard myself. I know everyone has their own thoughts but these are mine. In addition to telling you why I feel their broadcasts are terrible, I’m going to give some important suggestions on how they can be fixed. 

Washington Nationals-Charlie Slowes (pbp)and Dave Jageler(pbp)

I’m not a big fan of two announcer teams to start with. I feel like if you are going to have a two-person booth, one should be the play by play announcer and the other an analyst who can give some insight as to what’s going to happen and why. So that’s strike one. Strike two is Charlie Slowes announcing. He’s what we used to call a “puker.” He’s someone who is over annunciating every word. Strike Three is the massive amount of stats delivered during the Nationals radio broadcast. 

You can’t listen for one batter without hearing a litany of stats and numbers. I’m listening on the radio; please describe the action because I can’t see it. Just because baseball has a million stats now, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.

Alright, enough of my complaints; easy to do but harder to fix.

In a perfect world you settle on one play by play announcer and one analyst. Really hard to do when the Nats started as the only former players they had then were technically Montreal Expos. Now that the Nationals have just completed their 14th season in DC there are former Nats to pick from to add to the radio booth. 

My first choice would be Jayson Werth. An extremely popular player who just had his number retired this season. He still lives in the area and really knows the game. The downside is that he’s very involved with his son’s burgeoning baseball career. 

Image result for jayson werth jersey retirement

If Werth is not available I would definitely look at Mark DeRosa. DeRosa only spent one year of his major league career with the Nats, but he’s a smart and entertaining analyst for MLB Network. He’s very well thought of around the majors with his name even being mentioned for some managerial openings. 

Other Possible Analysts:  Adam LaRoche, Nick Johnson or Davey Johnson

Then the question is which of the two play by play guys do you keep? I would keep Jageler as I find him to be more conversational and less stats-crazy than Slowes. Either one would really be helped by better defined roles and a full-time analyst. Having two play by play announcers is like playing two quarterbacks. The old adage is “If you have two quarterbacks you have none. “ I think that applies to this situation. You have to trust either Slowes or Jageler to call your games and give them an analyst so we are not overwhelmed by stats and data listening to your games. 

Chicago White Sox-Ed Farmer(pbp) and Darrin Jackson(color)

Having listened to them a couple of weeks ago, I am again surprised at how embarrassingly awful this broadcast is. Trouble in the White Sox radio booth began when John Rooney left the White Sox after the 2005 World Series Championship season to call St. Louis Cardinals games. (The Cards won in 2006 making Rooney the only radio announcer to call his team’s World Series win for two different teams in consecutive seasons.)

Image result for john rooney cardinals

Ed Farmer was Rooney’s analyst and the broadcast worked. Farmer moved over to play by play when Rooney went to St. Louis. He wasn’t a play by play man then, and still isn’t one now. He mumbles and stumbles his way through a game with a monotone voice. Additionally, Farmer apparently does little to no prep for his broadcast. 

For example, during a weekend series with the Cubs, he was talking about having seen Cubs reliever Steve Cishek when Cishek was in Minnesota and how he’s practically unhittable. Sounds great, except that Cishek has never played for the Twins. Farmer had confused him with former Twins and current Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.  Knowing the information is 100% wrong, analyst Darrin Jackson had to correct Farmer on the air. 

To add to the fun there is no chemistry between the two, but they both try to be funny or bust each other. It is so dry and contrived and it nearly always falls flat. Jackson’s not going unscathed here as he talked about astronaut and American Hero Jim Lovell as having “intestical fortitude” instead of “intestinal fortitude”. It’s an embarrassment to a storied franchise that has had some great announcers through the years. 

There’s good news. This can be fixed and here’s how. First, say goodbye to Farmer and Jackson. Thanks for your time. Next, hire AJ Pierzynski as the new radio analyst. He played for the White Sox for eight seasons including their 2005 World Championship team.  He returned to the White Sox as a “Team Ambassador” last December.  You hire Pierzynski then just move Andy Masur from Pre and Post game duties with the Sox to the play by play job. Masur has play by play experience with the Padres from 2007-2014 and is a native Chicagoan. 

It’s also the perfect time for a major shakeup like this in the Sox radio booth. The team has been going through a rebuild and will bring a number of exciting prospects to the big leagues over the next two years. Additionally, this was the Sox first year on WGN and I know that Todd Manley, WGN’s Station Manager and VP of Content and Programming, has to make this broadcast better. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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