Opposing Teams’ TV Coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays
For the 2014 season, weary of Buck Martinez and whoever-does-colour-commentary-that-isn't-Jesse-Barfield, I'm watching opposing teams' coverage of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays.
Tampa Bay Rays Sun Sports
Like: Dewayne Staats' voice and the way he pronounces every syllable of Edwin Encarnación's name. They have the pitcher's name in stye score box. The bases in the score box animate showing where the runner originated and his final position.
Neutral: Dewayne Staats, the Tampa Bay Rays play-by-play guy, looks nothing like I thought he would.
Dislike: how Staats pronounces Ryan Goins’ family name (he rhymes it with "groins") and José Bautista's family name (pronouncing it "Bawtista" or sometimes "B’tista". (I can't recall JB pronouncing his own name now that I think about it. I pronounce it with the first syllable rhyming with "Pow!")
New York Yankees YES
Like: Michael Bay's home run call: "There it goes, see ya!" is a little too cute, but at least he has a trademark call. He says it even during opposing team home runs, which you might not know from highlight packages. Ken Singleton's colour commentary is solid. Over the weekend of April 4-6, they spread the (false) myth that Canadian money smells like maple syrup, and favourably reviewed the new five dollar bill's texture and see-through window in the ten-dollar bill.
Neutral: No PitchTrax whatsoever, not even on replays of close pitches. At least not during the MLB.tv field. Sportsnet shows PitchTrax during play, even showing a 3D replay after a strike (called, swung or foul). They showed the overhead display courtesy Rogers SkyDome.
Dislike: Not much to dislike except, well, everything else about the Yankees.
Houston Astros CSN
Like: Julia Morales, the field reporter for the Astros, was a breath of fresh air. Has it only ever been men on-air for Toronto? She toured CN Tower but wouldn't go out on EdgeWalk.
Neutral: Three guys in the booth was a little weird. No PitchTrax. (I tuned in quickly to Rogers Sportsnet and they have theirs on the MLB.tv feed, so the lack of PitchTrax is not MLB.tv.) My Apple TV wouldn't let me watch the 3rd game of the series, because reasons. Temporary glitch, evidently.
Dislike: One of the guys made a glass ceiling joke when Morales was inside the CN Tower. Groan! Not much else to dislike. Maybe Ashby is a little corny, and making fun of Canadians that one time, but it's good thing we have a sense of humour about ourselves.
Baltimore Orioles MASN
Like: "This is Birdland", where the TV crew would show images of nearby Maryland communities that support the Orioles. I liked this a lot. I could imagine Toronto doing that, but for all of Canada, since baseball is Canada's national sport and the Blue Jays are Canada's only Major League Baseball team.
Neutral PitchTrax during pitches. They do during replays of close pitches.
Dislike: Gary Thorne pronounces José Bautista's name "Bawtista", Brett Lawrie's name is "Lowrie", Edwin Encarnación is something like Un-car-nay-cion.
Minnesota Twins FOX Sports North
Like: Pretty neutral about them. They highlighted Minnesota-born players on the Blue Jays.
Neutral: PitchTrax every now and then, not during pitches.
Dislike: Dick Bremer pronounced Brett Lawrie's name "Lowrie", Anthony Gose's name "Goes". After Josh Thole got a base hit, he mistakenly called the Blue Jays the Mets, but that might have been because they were talking about him and Dickey, both former Mets.
Cleveland Indians SportsTime Ohio
Like: Nothing out of the ordinary to like. The colour man called a long home run that Juan Francisco once hit "a cab ride" and made a nice phrasing about wind (that I since forgot). Katie Witham was a strong presence on the sidelines, and the crew didn't make fun of her for any reason.
Neutral: PitchTrax only every now and then. It was interesting to see a local initiative (to continue a tax funding sports venue maintenance bought ads on the local broadcast. I assume the coalition paid full price for the ads (and the one on the backstop).
Dislike: On MLB.TV for the Apple TV, we don't get Park Sounds, and that's OK. For this broadcast, for some reason, the background park sounds (behind the play-by-play) were really quiet. While watching baseball games, if I'm doing something else, I like to be able to hear the crack of the bat so I can take a look. Barely audible with the Cleveland feed.
Boston Red Sox NESN
Like: Jerry Remy's voice.
Neutral: Did you know that Jerry Remy, after the notice about pressing the SAP button to get the play-by-play in Spanish, will give you a greeting in Spanish? I didn't!
Dislike: I would recommend against watching NESN coverage with headphones, since all transitions have whooshing sounds. Whoosh! Also, PitchTrax on all pitches. I came up with the idea of taping a piece of paper on the section of the screen where PitchTrax appears.
Kansas City FSKC
Rex Hudler's voice, also has a trademark analysis of "He has got to go" after an opposing team (opposing to the Kansas City Royals, that is) strikes out. They fell deadly silent on Blue Jays home runs, with one of them saying "Uh oh" when Juan Francisco hit his bomb. Ryan Lefebvre really likes Aaron Loup.
They also showed left-on-base (LOB) in the box score. No other coverage I saw this season did that.
Neutral: No overuse of PitchTrax.
Dislike: Long argument in favour of robots calling balls and strikes because of PitchTrax. Uh, no.
Like: Lots of shots of the crowd, with healthy representation of shots of the Blue Jays fans who made it down for the game.
Roots Sports does the coverage for the Pirates, and they use the same assets as Seattle's coverage, so it felt a little like watching a Mariners game. They used PitchTrax, but only on replays. I think the play-by-play guys (and later, the Pirates' manager) were justified in being angry about the Blue Jays getting close strike calls but the Pirates not.
Pittsburgh colour commentator is Steve Blass. I'm glad I found that out before making a joke about the Pirates defence on Twitter. The second game of the series featured three throwing errors, two by third baseman Pedro Álvarez and one by catcher Tony Sanchez. They mentioned that both had been struggling with throwing lately, but didn't mention The Yips, most likely because it's a small sample size and they'll probably correct it as the season progresses. (They would tread carefully because it's also referred to as Steve Blass Disease.)
Steve Blass said he definitely wasn't accusing the Blue Jays of stealing signs but the team did swing aggressively. That's right, they knew what pitch was coming in the visiting ballpark. (Why is it that teams only make sign stealing accusations when they're losing?)
Josh Thole was called safe on a bang-bang play at first, and the Pirates manager challenged the call. It should have been the third out of the inning (in my opinion), but (also my opinion) the replay folks got it wrong. It's a little surprising how wrong replay officials can get a call (especially on pivotal potential third outs, this one leading to a 4-run inning), but Steve Blass and Greg Brown used that as evidence in the case against replay review. They would rather not have the opportunity to get the call right than have the replay officials make mistakes from time to time. I assume they hate replay just as much when reviews go in favour of the Pirates.
Philadelphia Phillies CSN
Like: I like play-by-play man 's home run call: "GONE!" I liked that they were quiet often, and not as a knock on their styles but it's refreshing to hear game sounds (especially for games at Rogers Centre, which doesn't have the Park sounds available on MLB.TV).
Neutral: I forget about whether they used PitchTrax a lot or not.
Dislike: Matt Stairs, bless his Canadian heart, just isn't good at colour commentating. Given a chance to talk about how nice a city Toronto was, he stayed silent, remarking only on the hotel he stayed in.
California Angels FSW
Like: Colour man Mark Gubicza always seems surprised by plays. He has an earnest "you gotta be kidding me" tone on a lot of things.
I'm not really a fan of Victor Rojas's trademark calls ("Light that baby up!" after an Angels win, "Big fly for [player who just hit a home run]"), but at least he has trademark calls. It's better than not having a trademark.
PitchTrax only on close calls.
I went back and forth on Rojas using the player's given name and just his given name. Maybe if you're an Angels fan you want to feel close to the team, so I can't bring myself to dislike it.
Dislike: not much to dislike. Solid crew.