July 26, 2009

In The Booth

NESN's Don Orsillo has had at least eight different partners in the booth this season as Jerry Remy recovers from lung cancer surgery. None of them have been as good as Gordon Edes, who filled in for the Orioles series this weekend.

Edes, who was at the Globe for nearly 12 years before moving to Yahoo! Sports last August, did not offer too much analysis, but NESN viewers weren't getting much of from anyone, anyway. What he did offer was concise news on what's going on throughout baseball (including the National League!), trade rumours, what teams are looking for as the trading deadline nears and who they are shopping. He had good information on the Orioles' young pitchers.

Sadly, it all came as a shock because we've never heard this fresh insight from Remy, or any of the other fill-ins this year.

Edes was low-key, but the last thing I want to hear is a pompous McCarver/Sutcliffe-type proclaiming his opinions loudly and insistently. He also had a nice easy rapport with Orsillo. And he spoke when he had something to say, knowing that quiet (on a TV broadcast) is not something to fear; rather, it shows the announcer understands and is in tune with the flow of the game.

I heard Jim Kaat for only a handful of innings -- I'm not sure how many games he did -- and it seemed he talked more about pitching in general, rather than anything specific to the Red Sox. Nevertheless, he'd be a great replacement if Remy cannot return.

Once Dennis Eckersley toned down his slang and sat upright in his chair, he has been pretty good, though he still gives us more shtick than insight into various strategies on the field.

I'll love Dave Roberts forever for 2004, but he has been an utter disaster in the booth. All he seems capable of doing is narrating the replays, describing exactly what we saw and what Orsillo just finished calling. Then he wraps it up with "that's a good piece of hitting" or "he didn't give in to the pitcher" or "he didn't give in to the hitter" some other worthless cliche. And if I had a dime for every time he says "you know", I could buy out Tom Werner's stake in the team.

I say all this knowing that calling a game must be incredibly difficult and learning on the job cannot be easy. It is unfair to pass judgment on someone based on a week or a month, or maybe even a season, of games. However, while Eck has clearly improved, Roberts has not. (With the Extra Innings package, I'm not always given the NESN feed, so I'm always happy when I do. Lately, however, I have been muting games so as not to start grinding my teeth the second I hear Roberts's voice.)

Also: Orsillo did the first three innings of one game by himself in the early part of this season and was a revelation. With Remy, he rarely did anything other than strict play-by-play, along with too-long recitations of an opposing player's career or a stream of numbers from the press notes. Flying solo, though, he ditched that and proved to be extremely adept at both calling the game and doing analysis. I loved it. (Did he work by himself when he did PawSox radio?)

I have no idea what NESN is going to do -- or if Remy will try to return this year or next -- but Kaat, after getting some schooling on what's going on in the Sox organization, would be a fantastic addition to the NESN team. I'd also be happy with Announcer Boy going it alone.

24 comments:

Kristin said...

While I appreciate Edes' knowledge and think he's good as a pundit for pre- or post-game shows, I find him distracting when he's in the booth. The things he talks about are often totally apart from what's happening on the field. Whatever you think about Eck's style, at least he talks about the game most of the time.

L-girl said...

I know we all hope Remy is able to return, but if he can't, Kaat would be an excellent choice.

I feel about Eck the way you feel about Roberts. Roberts doesn't add anything to the broadcast, that's for sure, but I can easily tune him out. Eck is like fingernails on a blackboard for me. No, he's worse. Don plus fingernails on a blackboard would be easier for me to listen to than Dennis Eckersley.

I know most fans find him cute and chummy. I find the chumminess contrived and I hate cute.

Edes was a breath of fresh air, but it can't be anything but temporary for him. He's got a great national writing gig, that's got to be way more important to him.

redsock said...

I have grown to like Eck. I did not at first, when it was wall-to-wall cheese paint gas paint cheese paint paint paint. He's calmed way down, though "I got to have it" isn't much better. He can be very entertaining and maybe that's what NESN wants, since the serious fans will always watch and they need to attract the so-so fans.

Roberts is annoying me on a level usually reserved for ESPN broadcasts. And that ain't good.

Edes's topics did not bother me because (a) it was often in answer to a question from Don, (b) it was stuff I did not know, (c) I can see the game so I know what is going on and do not need a recap.

L-girl said...

(c) I can see the game so I know what is going on and do not need a recap.

This is my problem with colour "analysts" in general.

As I said recently in a gamethread, what I want is a play-by-play announcer who calls the game like it's a radio broadcast, and fills in with the occasional factoid when possible - i.e. I want Vin Scully.

I think Don could do a great job on his own, but I can't see NESN going against fashion that way.

Ish said...

Unfortunately a sports broadcast has been focusing more on being a program in and of itself rather than just letting the game unfold. It's a lot like all the promotions and sponsors and sound effects at the baseball field itself. They want it to be an experience rather than hey, we're going to watch a baseball game.

Why does a baseball broadcast have to be some sort of an art form? Why does it require a play-by-play-sort-of-broadcaster-slash-advertiser-slash-pa-announcer and a color-commentator-former-player-cliche-spewing-t-shirt-selling-website-plugger? Why does it need to be an ongoing discussion in the booth?

And why a third?!?!?! Some teams have three broadcasters! Sunday Night Baseball has three! WHY!!?!?!

L's right. Solo is the way to go, just as long as the guy can cut it. Vin Scully was made for this. He doesn't need to waste many words describing the subtleties of the play so he can provide a balanced broadcast, allowing viewers to enjoy the game.

CaKeY said...

I like Eck!! I get the feeling he know's its just a temporary gig and he's doing the best he can, while at the same time enjoying himself.

I did not enjoy Kaat. He reminds of McCarver... with the "little known facts" and the stupid little stories and nicknames.. blah..

I still think Bill Lee would be great! Was really hoping they'd get him in a series or two.

9casey said...

Eck I like, just thought he was funny , in the way L hates...

Roberts is bad, and I am sure they tested him first, bad job by letting him go on air.

Edes' I find has trouble finishing thoughts, lets his ramblings go on during a play, the same way they let Heidis pretaped interviews go on during plays...


But all in all Edes did a decent job and L mentioned he wouldn't leave his writing gig, does that pay more?

9casey said...

Off topic, is the Smoltz experiment over yet......it will be interesting to see if they learned from the Gagne experiment

Jere said...

I think if Kaat wanted to go back to regular announcing, he'd go back with the Yanks, since he's still a YES employee anyway. If he became our announcer, I'd be fine with it, as he's always been the only Yankee announcer I could stomach, and even enjoy, but I don't see him up and switching to the rival.

The best part about Edes today was when Orsillo asked him if he was gonna sell stuff, after he plugged his Yahoo gig, and Edes didn't miss the lob, saying, "I leave that to the RemDawg."

L-girl said...

I would have thought that about Kaat too (re Yanks) until I heard him in an interview with Castiglione the other day - talking about his move to New England to be with his new love/wife, who is a Red Sox fan, how much he loves New England, Sox culture, etc. It sounded like he was making a pitch to come on board. :)

L-girl said...

Also, it was always obvious to me that Kaat had problems with Yankees management. No love lost there, I think.

Jere said...

That's cool. Maybe he could fill the Castiglione-partner role. If he doesn't mind doing a few innings of play-by-play each night.

Jere said...

Right, re: Yankee management, but he is still doing his blog on Yes.

L-girl said...

I like what Ish says about entertainment and trying to make the broadcast into the show.

Also, I know everyone but me likes Eck. That's been very obvious!

L-girl said...

L mentioned he wouldn't leave his writing gig, does that pay more?

I guess I've been assuming he is actually a writer. In which case it's not only which pays more. It's just a better job - bigger audience, more scope in what he can write about, more stories to cover, wider readership than Boston. In writing terms, it's a big step up.

Which pays more, I have no idea.

The Omnipotent Q said...

Jim Kaat did just the three games in Toronto and was terrific. He stuck with what he knows best, pitching. He's a joy to listen to, and announces under the assumption that the audience is reasonably intelligent.

I also enjoyed Gordon Edes, too. Talked a lot about the trading deadline and that was very interesting. I met him in April 2004 at a bar in NYC with other Sox fans and he's a great guy in person, too.

L-girl said...

We met Edes at a Red Sox game in Toronto. He was very nice - and funny.

tim said...

First of all, yup - what ish said. Well put.

I enjoyed Edes, only caught a bit of Kaat and from what I heard, was OK. I agree that Roberts is awful and, yes L, I agree with you - Eck is terrible as well. He's OK in very small doses and I do enjoy laughing at his obscenities and miscues. He has become slightly more palatable since toning down the excessive gas-cheese-paint-fest, but I would rather do without him.

Orsillo on his own would be interesting to hear. I dunno, I don't really care much about the announcing as my main focus is the game. But yeah, it does take away from my enjoyment of the game when it is shitty.

FenFan said...

Ish - your comments are dead-on.

Watching rebroadcasts of games played well before my time, the focus was on the game at hand, rather than filling in the "dead space" with inane chatter. Now it's about tapping into demographics.

Sitting at Fenway on Saturday night was a treat as always but the absence of someone describing the obvious made it even more enjoyable.

andy said...

I watch the local broadcasts of Dodgers games all the time just to hear Scully. He said he talks to the viewer since you are stuck listening to him he might as well address you.

James said...

I do like Kaat a lot, but if they're going to have a former player, I'd prefer he'd be a former Red Sox. It seems weird to have someone who was never a part of your organization be your color guy. It's not a rational thing, I'll admit.

Paul said...

I think Eck has improved immensely. He LOVES baseball, and it shines through. it's a kid's game, so why shouldn't he be having fun up there?

hankgolfer said...

Ok this is the definitive answer about the commentators. Eck is the best he combines solid baseball knowledge with lively comments. I love the words paint, hair, high cheese, throwing salad. He can keep a boring baseball fun and interesting with his comments. He works great with Don, a lot of good interaction there. Dennis if you read this do not change a thing. Others like McCarver are boring and make you think that they are sharing some great secret with you. I don't want a science lesson. NESN would be making a great mistake to let him go. Keep him with Jerry. Don is great too. Don and Dennis make a great team. Excellent banter between them. Bottom line Eck is the best with Don, then Jerry. So it is written so shall it be done.

hankgolfer said...

This the definitive statement on the commentators. Eck is the best he combines intelligent conversation with witty talk. I enjoy the words high cheese, hair on it, throwing salad, paint. He is the best working with Don. The conversation and banter between them is great. Don't change a thing Dennis. Eck can make a boring baseball game interesting and fun to watch. NESN would be making a big mistake not to keep Eck in the booth. So it is written so shall it be done.