I did this two years ago, and it’s time to revisit. Baseball has some wonderful announcers, and some downright awful ones. Homer-ism will not be tolerated, nor will the inability to adequately bring the user to the level of excitement of the game. Without further ado, here you go:
31. St. Louis Cardinals (Dan McLaughlin)
Ladies and gentleman, meet your new resident Hawk Harrelson. A man with a highly questionable off-field life (not one but two DWI arrests), McLaughlin has what I like to call regular “TV-gasms” over his hometown Cards. I will give him that he is generally in tune with the game itself, but his antics keep him firmly cemented at the bottom of this list. He has deferred calls of opposing teams’ hits to the hometown crowd to tell the story; he has screamed “you bet!” to toot his own horn of accurate prognostications too many times to count; and he downright refuses to change his tone of voice whenever the Cardinals’ opponent does something remotely positive. McLaughlin is not elevating himself from 31 anytime soon.
30. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball (Matt Vasgersian)
How far has Sunday Night Baseball fallen? Once the crown jewel of broadcasts with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, it has been relegated to bottom-feeding status with Vasgersian botching just about every call imaginable. This past Sunday night was Matty V at his finest: unenthusiastic, lost, and off-track. Leave it to rookie color commentator Alex Rodriguez to have to bring Vasgersian back to a point he was trying to make about why the Indians had more pressure that the Astros this year to succeed. A few weeks ago, he did not realize Dexter Fowler’s game-winning homer against the Cubs was gone until it had bounced six rows deep, but tried to save face by yelling his patented “Santa Maria!” catchphrase which, of course, makes little to no sense. Vasgersian is all-or-nothing, and never seems to be in tune with the pulse of a game. He has gotten by to this point on his name and experience. Shame on ESPN for not thinking outside the box to replace Dan Shulman, a very strong play-by-play man.
29. Colorado Rockies (Jenny Cavnar, Drew Goodman)
Okay, before you get bent out of shape in true 2018 fashion that I put baseball’s first female play-by-play announcer on this list, take a look at the name next to hers. This isn’t a woman problem; this is a Rockies problem. Cavnar, in fairness, should be commended for being the first female play-by-play announcer in MLB. She is struggling mightily in my opinion, but this has nothing to do with her gender. A number of female play-by-play announcers in other sports have done tremendous jobs — Doris Burke is very solid calling basketball — but Cavnar needs some serious polishing. Then again, so does Goodman. Neither announcer, just like Matty V, seems in tune with the pulse of the game. Goodman used to be in my good graces with his “take a good look, you won’t see it for long” home run call, but now he seems too distracted to remember to use it most times. The final play of Monday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, an usual play at first base involving Matt Kemp, seemed to thoroughly confuse Cavnar.
28. Cincinnati Reds (Marty Brennaman)
Talk about coasting on name recognition. Brennaman has been doing this for ages, and it sure as hell sounds like it, too. No longer enthusiastic (and who could be calling Reds games?), Brennaman errs on way too many calls. He barely flinched when the Reds drew a walk-off walk against the Cubs, assuming, like many of us, that the Reds would simply go back to losing in the next game of the doubleheader. Cincinnati doesn’t spend money on much in sports, so why would it be any different when it comes to broadcasters?
27. Washington Nationals (Bob Carpenter)
There is not a more poorly-matched, smug duo than Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo. It feels like they might be better suited to call golf, or perhaps dodgeball, with Santangelo akin to Jason Bateman’s Pepper Brooks. There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they’re funny when they’re not, and that would suit Santangelo to a tee. Carpenter’s enthusiasm feels somewhat reserved and when it does come out, it’s disingenuous.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (Steve Berthiaume)
If not for the delightful charm of Bob Brenly, the Dbacks might be bringing up the rear here. Berthiaume has improved very slightly over the years, but that ain’t saying much. The former SportsCenter anchor gets too caught up in trying to be clever and drop pop culture references that calling the game feels secondary. Brenly can be very funny, however, with great lines like “he ran hard… he just didn’t run fast.” At least, I think that one was Brenly. It’s easy to confuse the former Cubs color commentator with the man currently in the role, Jim DeShaies.
25. Miami Marlins (Paul Severino)
I don’t know anything about Severino, nor do I want to. I was a big Rich Waltz fan, but Waltz was yet another casualty of one of the biggest jokes of an organization in pro sports. Severino is mediocre at best and viewers are losing Waltz’s sometimes-conversational, usually-humorous style that brightened Marlins games that were otherwise often quite boring.
24. San Diego Padres (Don Orsillo)
Orsillo has tumbled mightily from his days with the Red Sox, and I personally wonder if he’s just lost some love for the gig after being banished from Boston to the baseball outhouse that is San Diego (although he must love the weather). In the rare times when Orsillo gets fired up, it seems completely forced. I guess it did with the Red Sox too, but he had plenty more to scream about in those days. Padres broadcasts, as one would imagine, are extremely bland.
23. Toronto Blue Jays (Buck Martinez, Dan Shulman)
Let me make this disclaimer: Shulman is one of the best in the biz. As you know from my Vasgersian rant, ESPN is nothing without Shulman, who almost (almost) could make you forget about Miller/Morgan. But he isn’t the primary guy, and Martinez is, meaning the Jays should continue to sit near the bottom of this list. Don’t get me wrong — there are times when ol’ Bucko isn’t too awful, but it’s hard to get on board with an announcer who A) urges home run balls to leave the park and B) didn’t even come up with that on his own (St. Louis radio announcer Mike Shannon uses it all the time). Martinez used to be a color commentator and is best suited for that role.
22. Minnesota Twins (Dick Bremer)
Bremer seems to have lost his mojo. He used to be much more highly regarded by me, but he seems to have lost a lot of enthusiasm (and who can blame him?). Twins broadcasts aren’t very lively to begin with, and Bremer isn’t pulling his weight. His style has become much more bland and conversational.
21. Texas Rangers (Dave Raymond)
Raymond falls right into the same category as Severino. There is nothing really wrong with him, but he pales in comparison to his predecessor. Steve Busby had an odd voice but there was something very likable about him, and he had great chemistry with Tom Grieve, who is still in the booth. Raymond doesn’t seem to have any pizzazz. Maybe in time he will creep a few spots up this list.
20. Seattle Mariners (Aaron Goldsmith, Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims)
What exactly is going on in the Pacific Northwest? Sims and Rizzs both got injured in the same basketball game, leaving Goldsmith to pick up the slack. Goldsmith is alright on Fox broadcasts, but the carousel in Seattle is nothing spectacular. Even Sims’ act has gotten a bit old, with his yelling and such and dead silence for the opposition’s success. He seems to enjoy himself, which is worth a few brownie points, but this trio is average at best right now.
19. Houston Astros (Todd Kalas)
Kalas really isn’t that bad, and he and Geoff Blum, aka “Blummer,” have a good time together. But something just feels a little off with Kalas, the son of late legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas. It’s almost as if you can feel some awkwardness through his microphone, a guy that doesn’t know the appropriate levels of optimism or humility. He seems to overdo his big calls, and it’s hard to get comfortable with him after he spent the majority of his career as primarily a field reporter for the Rays.
18. Detroit Tigers (Mario Impemba)
Impemba is rather likable, but comes off a bit too tame for my taste. He does have an inviting voice, and Rod Allen is also rather enjoyable to listen to; however, Allen sometimes holds back on things when he could go further into detail. Kirk Gibson really does not contribute much to the broadcast booth, which is a shame considering he seems like the kind of guy with a fiery competitor burning from within that would be a little more opinionated.
17. Baltimore Orioles (Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter)
Talk about a polarizing force — does anyone fit that bill more aptly than Thorne? He is a fun and likable as any broadcast perhaps in all of sports, but there is one caveat — he botches tons of calls. There is even a Twitter page dedicated to said follies (@DrunkGaryThorne); at one point this year when Baltimore was playing in the Bronx, I kid you not, Thorne referred to the Orioles as the Red Sox. The other problem here is that Hunter just can’t keep his homer-ism in; fortunately for those who dislike that about him, the Orioles are just about mathematically eliminated, hence Hunter’s excitement levels have been effectively zapped.
16. Kansas City Royals (Steve Physioc, Ryan Lefebvre)
I’ve been hearing a lot more of Physioc this year than Lefebvre, and these days that’s a good thing. Physioc brings some excitement and is far less smug than Lefebvre, whose deadpan delivery I used to find more enjoyable when the Royals hadn’t hit the big time yet. I go back and forth on Rex Hudler as the color commentator. “You can’t sneak a piece of cheese by a hungry rat” is a true baseball gem in terms of calls, but Hudler also overdoes his “ol’ ballplayer” shtick a lot of the time.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (Tom McCarthy)
McCarthy has grown on me, perhaps for no other reason than I no longer dislike the Phillies like I did during their glorious half-decade run a few years back. McCarthy is better suited for baseball than his NFL on Fox broadcasts, but he has good energy and a professional sound, even if he is a bit of a homer. Ben Davis doesn’t seem to add much, however.
14. Cleveland Indians (Matt Underwood)
This broadcast team fits well in the middle of the list. Underwood will always tease you with some great calls, then go flat for seemingly the rest of the game. I always loved a couple of his home calls (“Gone to Souvenir City!” and “he’s outta room, it’s outta here!”), but they seem too few and far between these days. Rick Manning is solid if not spectacular as his sidekick.
13. Chicago White Sox (Jason Benetti)
There are basically two reasons to love Benetti. The first is that he has overcome a great deal of adversity, making it in the business despite suffering from cerebral palsy. The second is that his emergence means the end of Hawk Harrelson, a man so obnoxious he makes McLaughlin seem docile. Harrelson is not officially done, but will be after 2018. Benetti is sharp and brings excitement without ever going over the top. Steve Stone is also terrific for the simple fact that he was able to keep sane after all those years working with Harrelson.
12. Tampa Bay Rays (Dewayne Staats)
Staats has a classic, old-school sound even though there are times when he lacks the flair of his peers. It’s hard to believe he once called Yankees games; he isn’t nearly the homer that Michael Kay is, but then again, the Yankees weren’t the Yankees we know now back then. Brian Anderson is pretty solid doing color, and the two have worked together for a long time and have good chemistry.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (Joe Davis)
I’m surprised I find myself ranking the Dodgers this high with whiz kid Davis at the mic, especially considering the shoes he has to fill. The 30-year-old is the lone wolf now with the legendary Vin Scully riding off into the sunset, and he has held his own. There are times when I feel like Davis actually has “too classic” of a sound, which makes it feel a little bit disingenuous. But, as he does with his postseason FS1 broadcasts, his biggest strength is as a game-manager of sorts. He doesn’t overdo it one bit, and that modesty will keep pushing him up the list so long as the Dan McLaughlin’s of the world are still employed.
10. Boston Red Sox (Dave O’Brien)
O’Brien is much better than Orsillo in my opinion, and shockingly isn’t always a homer despite the fact that you would expect any Boston sports broadcaster to be one. He definitely can overdo it, but he has a very classic voice and sound, and I’ll give Jerry Remy — and everything he’s been through off the field — credit for not being afraid to criticize the opposite when it gift-wraps runs for the Sox (it happens quite often, if you hadn’t noticed). Dennis Eckersly surprisingly isn’t terrible either, if only because you can literally almost feel him smiling as he talks. The fact that he doesn’t take things too seriously is a good thing for anyone that can’t stand Boston sports. I’ll actually throw the same compliment Jonny Gomes’ way too.
9. New York Yankees (Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, Ryan Ruocco)
With a pit in my stomach, I’m giving the Yankees the 10th spot on this list. Kay needs to seriously tone it down with his home run call (“there it goes… see ya!”), but he also is very sharp and picks up on a lot of things other broadcasters miss. Singleton is awesome; in many ways he isn’t a great broadcaster, but he seems like such a good guy you can’t help but like him and his (“and THIS one is gone!”) home run call. Paul O’Neill and David Cone do a tremendous job balancing wit and levity as color commentators, and even John Flaherty is tolerable when he fills in a game here and there. Ruocco is the black sheep here; he is flat-out over-the-top and not at the level of his YES Network peers.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates (Greg Brown, Joe Block)
It’s more Brown’s show than Block’s, and Brown makes up for any shortcomings with some great signature calls. “Clear the deck… cannonball!”, “Trip-trip-triple!” and “Raise the Jolly Roger!” for Bucco wins are classics, and Brown seems pretty in tune with the game. Block is average, not doing anything special but usually not doing anything to mess up the telecast.
7. Los Angeles Angels (Victor Rojas)
Rojas and Mark Gubicza are a very underrated duo. Some of Rojas’ calls are real winners: for Halos’ victories, “Light that baby up!” and for home runs, “Gone! Big fly for Mike Trout!” He has a classic sportscaster voice, but not a phony one, and his excitement feels genuine and not overblown. Gubicza has fun and offers sound insight as his sidekick.
6. Chicago Cubs (Len Kasper)
Kasper is really good, and stays just within the realm of “appropriate homer-ism,” if you will. But make no mistake — it’s Jim DeShaies that has just as much to do with this high ranking as Kasper. If you are a fan of great dad jokes (yes, there is such a thing) and dry wit, then DeShaies is your guy. Sure, he can occasionally be a bit too “punny,” but he is also very smart and in tune with the game. Listening to him feels like you’re sitting at the dinner table with a close friend of your dad’s that loves sports almost as much as you do. Believe me, that’s high praise.
5. Atlanta Braves (Chip Caray)
Caray has done nothing to tarnish the great family name, carrying on the legacy of grandfather Harry and father Skip beautifully. He may be the most astute announcer in the game, always having a feel for the pulse of the game. He gets excited without being obnoxious (what a concept, Michael Kay and Dan McLaughlin!), and has reason to gush over the Braves’ emerging young core. Caray is very underrated, it feels like, but he deserves to be placed right up there with the game’s best.
4. Milwaukee Brewers (Brian Anderson, Matt Lepay)
Call the Brewers a victim of their own success here; really, they could be No. 1 if not for the fact that Anderson doesn’t call all of their games. The reason is that Anderson is tied up with other obligations like the NCAA Tournament and various NBA assignments. But really, Anderson can go toe-to-toe with any voice in the game right now. Bill Schroeder is outstanding doing color, as the former Brewer player has a great mix of wit and wisdom that meshes well with both Anderson and Lepay. Speaking of Lepay, he’s decent, but it just feels like such a drop-off when Anderson is out of action.
3. San Francisco Giants (Duane Kuiper, Jon Miller, Dave Flemming)
The San Francisco Giants have the deepest broadcast lineup in Major League Baseball. Kuiper and Mike Krukow have more fun than any duo in the game. Kuiper has dipped ever so slightly, perhaps mirroring the team on the field, but Krukow always picks up the slack for him. Miller is the game’s very best, but only calls select games on television. And even when Kuiper and Miller are getting a breather, Dave Flemming can more than hold his own. He seems to pale in comparison, but Flemming has done some fine work on ESPN calling other sports.
2. New York Mets (Gary Cohen)
This Mets broadcast team is pretty phenomenal. It starts with Cohen, who has his finger firmly implanted on the pulse of both the game at hand and the Mets team. Ron Darling is terrific and has great range as both a color commentator (which he also does for postseason TBS telecasts) and an in-studio host with MLB Network. Both Cohen and Darling are smarter than most of their peers, and even though he doesn’t add a ton to the broadcast, you can’t help but love Keith Hernandez’s dry wit, especially if you are a Seinfeld junkie like myself.
1. Oakland Athletics (Glen Kuiper)
Surprise, surprise! Glen Kuiper comes away with the top spot here, eclipsing even his own brother, Duane, across the Bay. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I enjoy listening to Kuiper so much, but A’s broadcasts have such a comfortable, homey feel that I have to elevate Kuiper above the rest. His home run call is enthusiastic without being corny (“and THAT baby’s gone”). He and Ray Fosse have great chemistry, even though I would hardly call Fosse the best color guy. They always do fun postgame player interviews after an A’s win, and manage to keep the broadcast lively even when the game isn’t.