This is not an easy task. It’s not a fair task. But it is a rather fun one.
Being a subscriber to MLB TV for several years now, I have had the pleasure — sometimes, displeasure — of watching all 30 teams on their individual broadcast feeds. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. A look now at all 30, starting with the worst (because you should always save the best for last, right?), with the primary broadcasters listed in parentheses:
30. Chicago White Sox (Hawk Harrelson, Steve Stone)
Disclaimer: I actually really enjoy listening to Steve Stone. He has a friendly voice and is very knowledgable about the game. But nothing or no one can make up for Harrelson’s obnoxious, homer schtick. He’s made a career of it and hats off to him for doing it, but it’s gotten old, probably even for some ChiSox fans. Harrelson crosses the line between being a homer in a fun way and downright immature with his “good guys vs. bad guys” routine. He knows the game, but doesn’t show it. It’s also not fun to hear him get genuinely angry when things don’t go his team’s way. Poor Stone.
29. St. Louis Cardinals (Dan McLaughlin, Tim McCarver)
There is Harrelson, a known commodity among homers, and then there is the less-heralded McLaughlin. His questionable personal life not withstanding (McLaughlin has kept his job despite two DUI arrests), McLaughlin has never hidden from the fact that he is a Cardinals fan first and foremost. He is a skilled play-by-play guy, but his antics make him a lite version of Harrelson. When he’s not standing up and screaming for his hometown Cards, he’s sounding downright sad when an opponent strikes, even turning it over the fans to let their collective groan tell the story of an opponent’s game-winning hit last year. McCarver and Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky aren’t much better, leaving only a slight respite when Rick Horton steps in for a few select road games.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (Steve Berthiaume, Bob Brenly)
Another classic case of a good color commentator who is marred by a shaky play-by-play partner. Berthiaume, a former SportsCenter anchor on ESPN, is not a natural play-by-play man. He often leaves out important details and is not consistent with his hometown enthusiasm (for the record, Berthiaume is a noted Red Sox fan, so maybe he is still coming around on the D-Backs). His voice does not lend itself to a baseball telecast, as he is probably better suited for a pregame hosting role or something similar.
27. Washington Nationals (Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo)
This is actually the inverse reaction from the first three on the list. Carpenter isn’t bad with play-by-play, but Santangelo is just too much and comes across as a smug know-it-all. When he’s not over-homering for the Nats, he’s jumping the gun on replay reviews or making silly references that just feel forced. Even if you enjoy Carpenter’s “see…you…later!” home run call, you can be sure it will be followed by something less profound by Santangelo. Still, a shout out to “MASN Dan” Kolko, the young field reporter who seems to take more shaving cream and chocolate syrup abuse than his interview subjects.
26. Philadelphia Phillies (Tom McCarthy, Matt Stairs, Ben Davis)
It was probably worse hearing McCarthy’s shouting when the Phillies were a 100-win team a half-decade ago. He’s undoubtedly toned it down since, but still doesn’t bring much range to the table. Stairs has some occasionally funny dry wit, but Davis barely adds anything of substance. Gregg Murphy is a very capable field reporter and good interviewer, but not enough to save the CSN telecasts.
25. Toronto Blue Jays (Dan Shulman, Buck Martinez, Pat Tabler)
Keep in mind that Shulman, the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball frontman, will only call about 30 Jays games. That leaves all of Canada to suffer through over 130 games with Buck leading the way. Martinez somehow transitioned from an average color commentator with a strange-sounding voice to the play-by-play man for Toronto. His “swing and a drive!” home run call is occasionally entertaining, but he seems to neglect a lot of major details during games. One thing Sportsnet seems to do well is pick up audible sound from home games better than almost any other network, for what that’s worth.
24. Boston Red Sox (Dave O’Brien, Jerry Remy)
NESN did not renew the contract of popular, long-time broadcaster Don Orsillo, leading to O’Brien moving over from the radio booth. That has not altered the quality of an already-average telecast that NESN delivers. Remy can be funny with his uber-Boston ways from time to time, but O’Brien doesn’t have the same kind of fun-loving chemistry with Remy that Orsillo did. Gary Striewski is energetic as a field reporter/interviewer, though.
23. New York Yankees (Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill)
Kay’s home run call is borderline obnoxious, knocking the YES Network frontman down several pegs. “There it goes…..See ya!” is no fun if you’re not a Yankees fan (and maybe even if you are one). In fairness to Kay, he does deliver a good amount of energy for the opposition, neutralizing his homer status somewhat. Ken Singleton is enjoyable to listen to as a color commentator and even when he steps in for play-by-play, and O’Neill is always entertaining. John Flaherty, however, is quite boring.
22. Cincinnati Reds (Thom Brenneman, Chris Welsh)
Brenneman has been at it a long time, though not as long as his father, Marty, the Reds radio broadcaster. He gets much more air time than most play-by-play guys and though he is enthusiastic for his Reds, he also tends to sound very conversational rather than delivering traditional broadcast descriptions of big plays.
21. Detroit Tigers (Mario Impemba, Rod Allen, Kirk Gibson)
There is nothing these guys really do wrong, and yet they hardly have any pizzazz. Impemba is an intelligent play-by-play man yet somehow his enthusiasm doesn’t always feel genuine. Somehow, on a bases-clearing blast by Jarrod Saltalamacchia just the other night, he never once used the words “grand slam” to refer to the go-ahead home run. Allen has some quirks and Gibson is a familiar voice, but they don’t add much spice for the listeners.
20. Kansas City Royals (Ryan Lefebvre, Rex Hudler)
The Royals’ guys have fallen pretty far down my list. Lefebvre is not so much a massive homer, but comes across as kind of smug and a know-it-all. That isn’t likely to change with the Royals now being defending world champions. His broadcast style is very conversational at times, too. Hudler can be funny with his one-liners (“you can’t sneak a piece of cheese by a hungry rat”) but also tends to overdo his shtick.
19. Seattle Mariners (Dave Sims, Mike Blowers)
There is no happy medium for Sims. He goes crazy for home runs like Nelson Cruz’s “boomstick baby!” blasts, but completely loses interest for anything not involving the Mariners. His lack of consistency with his energy keeps him in the bottom half of this list.
18. Colorado Rockies (Drew Goodman, Jeff Huson)
Goodman could be higher on the list if his rate of using his patented home run call was higher than about 50%. “Take a good look, you won’t see it for long” is a pretty solid call, but he sometimes gets lost in his own translation, even with a highly-talented offensive team in the Rockies. Huson comes across as a bit mundane doing color.
17. Minnesota Twins (Dick Bremer, Bert Blyleven)
Bremer and Blyleven keeps things pretty light and fun, but sometimes too light and fun. Bremer has a good sound, especially when he gets amped about the Twins, but it doesn’t always come through. Blyleven makes some good points, but kind of like I mentioned with the Tigers’ crew, this duo lacks some pizzazz.
16. Houston Astros (Alan Ashby, Geoff Blum)
It’s easy to take note of how the personality of broadcasters change when their team goes from the outhouse to the penthouse the way Houston did last year. Ashby has a friendly sound, but “Blummer” doesn’t add much. There is a little too much fawning over Carlos Correa (granted, they’re not alone), but overall these guys are solid albeit unspectacular.
15. Tampa Bay Rays (Dewayne Staats, Brian Anderson)
Some of Staats’ luster has worn off for me in recent years, and I might even say Anderson has surpassed him. Anderson adds very good analysis, but Staats’ sound has started to feel mundane and uninspired. He has a classic voice that for whatever reason just doesn’t resonate the way it used to. Todd Kalas keeps things light with his field reports, but also needs to watch the “cheese” factor with some of his insight.
14. San Diego Padres (Dick Enberg, Mark Grant)
Enberg is higher on this list than he should be because, well, he’s Dick Enberg. I always get nostalgic for 90’s and early-2000’s NFL classics hearing his voice, and he makes up for his shortcomings with his “touch ’em all!” home run call. Grant is pretty steady doing color commentary.
13. Los Angeles Angels (Victor Rojas, Mark Gubicza)
Rojas is rather underrated for a guy with quite a few catchphrases, because they never feel too cheesy. For Angels victories, he pays homage to the halo with “light that baby up!,” and home runs get the “big fly!” treatment. But Rojas doesn’t get overly loud or annoying with his calls, making him an easy listen. Gubicza is hit or miss, though.
12. Cleveland Indians (Matt Underwood, Rick Manning)
“Gone! To souvenir city” and “he’s outta room, it’s outta HERE” are pretty good catchphrases that, like Rojas, don’t get overdone the way Kay’s calls do. Underwood isn’t going to confuse anyone for Vin Scully or Jon Miller, but he delivers a pretty effective broadcast, and Manning doesn’t do anything to mess it up.
11. Texas Rangers (Steve Busby, Tom Grieve)
I’m not sure what it is exactly that appeals to me about Busby, but I have a feeling it’s his very friendly on-air demeanor. He isn’t over-the-top but always seems to keep viewers engaged with what he’s saying, and Grieve is likable in his color role. Mark McLemore is average when he steps in for Grieve, but overall the Rangers’ team delivers a quality game.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates (Greg Brown, Joe Block, Bob Walk)
I’d prefer to hear more of Brown than Block, but the duo splits television play-by-play duties with Walk providing color. Block is average, but Brown is just the right amount of excited for Pirates successes. He is the only broadcaster I know of who has a catchphrase for three-baggers, referring to them as a “trip, trip, triple.” His home run call — “clear the deck, cannonball!” — pales in comparison for his victory call of “raise the jolly roger!” The Buccos would probably be even higher on this list if Brown was full-time for TV duties.
9. Atlanta Braves (Chip Caray, Joe Simpson)
The Braves’ tandem deserves a top-10 ranking without being punished for the miserable failures of the team. Caray, a third-generation baseball broadcaster, is very astute and on top of things during telecasts, and Simpson is a classic baseball voice with good knowledge to boot. In truth, the Braves’ ineptitude probably penalizes Caray and Simpson a spot or two on the list, but they are always a good listen.
8. Miami Marlins (Rich Waltz, Eduardo Perez, Al Leiter, Preston Wilson)
It’s probably not a shock the Marlins dismissed color man Tommy Hutton, who was arguably the biggest homer among color commentators in the game. At the same time, Hutton always told it like it was for 19 years, and now the team has safer options in three former players taking his place. But the one constant is Waltz, who doesn’t even have the greatest voice yet brings an intangible confidence that viewers can feel. He is very smart but not in your face about it in any way, and has entertaining things to discuss that aren’t directly related to the game.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder)
Anderson might be the second coming of Joe Buck. A versatile broadcaster who deftly handles other sports with the same grace as his baseball broadcasts, Anderson has the perfect balance of enthusiasm and modesty when calling games for the lowly Brewers. Schroeder’s deep voice comes with a good knowledge of the game, and the two have good chemistry in the booth. On the radio side, Bob Uecker is one of a kind, but even his wit has been surpassed by his TV counterparts.
6. Baltimore Orioles (Gary Thorne, Mike Bordick, Jim Palmer, Jim Hunter)
Let’s be clear: this high ranking is all about the greatness of Thorne. I still think of him as a perfect hockey announcer from my days of playing NHL 99 on Playstation, but he has a tremendous amount of charisma and a unique type of enthusiasm that works for baseball, too. Palmer is an easy listen, and Bordick has improved vastly in his color role. If not for the blatant homer-ism on Hunter’s part when he does play-by-play for select telecasts, the Orioles would probably crack the top five.
5. Oakland Athletics (Glen Kuiper, Ray Fosse)
The first of two Kuipers to crack my top five, Glen makes watching otherwise-boring A’s games a treat. Maybe it’s because often times the A’s are the only show in town in terms of late-night baseball, but Kuiper’s home run call — “and THAT baby’s gone” — is a gem, even if it’s not an original masterpiece. His voice lends itself perfectly to baseball and he never goes overboard in being a homer. Fosse has a friendly vibe and often picks up on the nuances of the game that many color commentators might miss.
4. Chicago Cubs (Len Kasper, Jim Deshaies)
Kasper’s “CUBS win” is always followed by Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go” for Chicago victories at Wrigley Field, a perfect sign-off after a consistently strong broadcast. Kasper is very knowledgable about baseball in general, not just the Cubs, and while he pushes the envelope with his enthusiasm, never overdoes it. He is always engaging with guests in the booth (and there are many at Wrigley) and Deshaies has the brain and wherewithal to keep up with Kasper.
3. New York Mets (Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez)
Arguably the best chemistry among broadcast teams in baseball, you’re always going to get a quality experience watching the Mets on SNY. Cohen’s “it’s outta here!” home run calls as well as “and the ballgame is OVER” victory catchphrase strike just the right chord every time. He is smart, not too much of a homer, and observational about anything and everything going on in the game. Darling is spot-on with his analysis almost all of the time, which is why he has a place on TBS postseason broadcasts. And who doesn’t like Hernandez’s dry wit? He’s always enjoyable, even when he’s not talking about his Seinfeld fame (which is actually almost never, but it can’t be forgottten).
2. San Francisco Giants (Duane Kuiper, Jon Miller, Mike Krukow, Dave Flemming)
The brother of Glen, Duane Kuiper is just as deft and always scores big with his baritone “it…is…OUTTA…here” home run calls. He gets very into the game, yet keeps things in check. He and Krukow are as comfortable with one another as an old married couple, and Krukow rarely misses with his analysis. They are beloved in Giants Nation, and “Amy G” Gutierrez’s field reports shouldn’t be ignored, either. What really separates the Giants is that at times, they can substitute perhaps the second-best broadcaster of all time in for telecasts. Jon Miller is rivaled only by Scully in terms of his voice, delivery, professionalism, and knowledge of the game. He is more often heard on radio, but viewers have the pleasure of hearing him rather often on TV, too. Flemming is a good broadcaster, but compared to his fellow announcers, he gets lost in the shuffle.
1.Los Angeles Dodgers (Vin Scully, Charlie Steiner, Orel Hershiser, Nomar Garciaparra)
Forget the other three names after Scully’s. There is no way that, in his 67th and likely final season, I can’t rank Scully at the top. Scully does not utilize a color commentator because he provides his own color, perhaps better than that of anyone else in such position. With Arizona in town last week, Scully took the opportunity to teach a history lesson from the 400’s B.C. that was lent by Socrates Brito. Scully proceeded to talk about how Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking poison hemlock, something no one in the history of world would think to do during a baseball telecast. Scully has an insightful story on almost everyone, ranging from Cole Hamels’ first date with his now-wife to how bird defecation led to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny staying in school at the University of Michigan. Scully will go down as the greatest baseball broadcaster in history, and rightfully so. He is anything but a homer for his beloved Dodgers, and isn’t afraid to praise an opponent, or criticize them to give a backhanded complement to the Dodgers (last year, he quipped about the hapless Rockies that “last place is last place” after poor play aided L.A.). Steiner is average at best, and he doesn’t get much help from Hershiser or Garciaparra. But even 90 or so games of Scully is better than 162 games of most broadcasters.