Baseball Broadcasting

Ken Levine, screenwriter and former MLB play-by-player, assesses Fox’ coverage of the All-Star Game

 

Judging by this week’s All-Star Game, I’m starting to wonder if MLB’s game plan is “The Producers.” Is the objective to kill the game? Is the goal to eliminate anything that made the “Mid-Summer Classic” special? And this is from a lifelong fan.

The city of Seattle deserved better. A beautiful ballpark that rarely receives national exposure was overshadowed by MLB’s tin-headed presentation of the All-Star Game. (Ken Levine got to know his mentor, Vin Scully.)

Let’s start with PR. As the sport’s popularity continues to wane, so does awareness of its players. All-Star Games drew big numbers because casual fans tuned in — to see All-Stars of the game THAT THEY KNEW. Sandy Koufax pitching to Mickey Mantle. Every player on the field Tuesday night deserved to be there. They are as dazzling as players from any era. But unless you’re a diehard fan, I bet you didn’t know half of them… or more. This is the same problem the Oscars have. No one watches the ceremony because no one has seen the movies or has ever heard of the actors. They want to see Jack Nicholson pitching to Meryl Streep.

This year you had Shohei Ohtani and a bunch of other super talented guys.

Too many playoff games all ending after midnight in the east doesn’t help.

And because of interleague play there’s nothing special about the American League taking on the National League. Same is true with the World Series. But MLB mortgaged that future long ago — to the point where even when the Dodgers play the Yankees it’s no big whoop anymore (much less the Padres vs. A’s).

And what’s the point of those stupid uniforms. Oh, that’s right — to sell merch. One of things that made the All-Star Game so special was you got to see every player in their home uniform. For Mariner fans it would be the only time they could see Yankee pinstripes, or the Gothic D on the Tigers’ uniform. Instead, they watched what looked like a beer league game. Does keeping up with modern times mean throwing any tradition out the window? If nothing else, home uniforms help the fans recognize who’s on the field. I’m sure if you sat in the upper deck Tuesday night you didn’t notice that the guy in left field with the LA on his green cap was replaced by a guy with an ATL on his green cap. As if the fans in the stands mattered.

But at least they got to actually watch the game. They weren’t subjected to ten minutes of inane prattle by Big Papi and A-Rod and Derek Jeter. Why show the game Fox when you can promote your postgame show for half an inning? Big Papi filled half the screen while the game itself was a postage stamp in the corner.

It brings me to Joe Davis. He too deserved better. Let him call the game and not just be ringmaster to introduce Ken Jennings, the Blue Beetle, and check out what snack food A-Rod is eating. If the fans are unfamiliar with the players, this is the chance to introduce them to America. And I guarantee Joe had all the information on all the players to do that. There were times when there would be one out in an inning before Joe could even tell the audience who the new pitcher was. Substitutions were made on the fly and in many cases they didn’t bother to at least put a camera on the new fielder wearing the CWS green cap.

And finally, MLB, remember the expression “Chicks dig the long ball?” You had the gall to overturn a home run call in a bloody exhibition game? Are you kidding me? Who cares?! The kid rounds the bases, it’s his big moment, and you overturn it? Why do you need challenges in an All-Star Game? One of the problems is that the pitching is so good you tend to have low scoring games now (boring to the casual fan). So give the guy second base on a bang-bang attempted steal. And certainly give the guy his home run. The NBA sure understands that. Their All-Star Games have no defense, no foul calls, the final score is usually 165-157, All people care about is that it was entertaining.

Now MLB could say is that they have to preserve the integrity of the game. Well, when you have players including pitchers talking to the announcers during the game it’s hard to make that argument. And by the way, talking to players during the game was the one real highlight of the broadcast. So if you’re going to have the batter and pitcher able to chat with each other during an at-bat, don’t claim that the outcome of this game is important.

Tuesday night’s All-Star Game was the lowest rated in history, down from last year’s, which was then the lowest rated. Just 7,000,000 people watched it. More people watch cats licking themselves on TikTok. MLB needs to make a severe midcourse correction.

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Ken Levine

Ken is a former broadcaster for the Orioles, Mariners and Padres, whose numerous writing and production credits include Frasier, The Simpsons, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Wings, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

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Michael Green
7 months ago

I am sure that I would completely agree with everything Ken Levine said if I had watched the game. But for the reasons he gave, I didn’t.

And it’s good to see him writing here, since he is no longer writing new blog posts. I have missed his writing!

Last edited 7 months ago by Michael Green