Major League Baseball’s New Television Partners
How well do the new shows cover The Show?
This past Saturday, after watching the Red Sox lose another downer, I still had about 45 minutes before it was time to leave for cosmic bowling. I browsed around MLB.TV a bit before landing on the Braves-Brewers game. I thought that The Girl Who Loved Nick Pivetta would enjoy seeing Hunter Renfroe again.
The fellas in the broadcast booth for the Braves are good at what they do, but their back-and-forth left little to be desired.
Red Sox fans are spoiled with NESN. They have a lot of fun on NESN.
As an out-of-market Red Sox fan, I can watch NESN for just about any game they’re broadcasting. So even though I’m not in the Boston area, I spend a lot of my summer with Dave O’Brien, Dennis Eckersley, Kevin Youkilis, and any of the other rotating analysts.
Many Red Sox fans will lament the days of Don Orsillo and the late Jerry Remy, perhaps the very peak of fun in the broadcast booth. And many of those people think that the current broadcasting booth is a downgrade from those partners in crime.
I disagree. You will never be able to convince me that Dave O’Brien is anything but excellent at what he does (“David Ortiz! David Ortiz! David Ortiz!” or “Here comes the kid!”) and Dennis Eckersley is the most colorful color commentator you’ll hear.
*If you’re not aware, the Twitter account The Ecktionary collects all of the Eck-isms. Some of them are unbelievable. Here are a few favorites:
The point is: It may not be the heyday of Here Comes the Pizza, but Red Sox fans still have the best booth in the game.
This past weekend, only one of the three games between the Red Sox and the achromatic White Sox was broadcast on NESN. The Friday game was on Apple TV+, the product of a deal between MLB and Apple worth $85 million a year. The Sunday game was broadcast on Peacock and NBC, the result of a two-year, $30 million a year deal that brings MLB to NBC for the first time since 2000.
That made this past weekend of White vs. Red as good a time as any for this Red Sox fan to watch both broadcasts and report back.
Apple’s Friday Night Baseball features an East Coast/West Coast doubleheader, video-game-like camera angles, and prominent advanced analytics, but we’ll start with the broadcast booth.
The East Coast consists of play-by-play from the Orioles’ Melanie Newman and analysis from former big leaguer Chris Young and writer Hannah Keyser.
I have a soft spot for Melanie Newman. Not only do I see her around Camden Yards and listen to her Orioles radio broadcasts from time to time (since I’m blacked out from Orioles games on TV!), but she came up through my hometown Single-A Salem Red Sox, where she made history as part of the first all-female broadcast team in professional baseball history. In 2021, she made history again as a part of the first all-female broadcast team to call a nationally televised Major League Baseball game.
And all of that success is well deserved. She’s great at what she does and deserves all this success. I’m so happy that she’s getting in front of a regular national audience.
Hannah Keyser was absent from the booth this weekend, so Melanie made a duo with Chris Young. Despite just beginning his broadcasting career last year, CY is a natural in the booth. He’s clever, he’s funny, and he provides interesting commentary.
I also totally forgot that he played for the Red Sox. He played there for TWO YEARS and I just completely forgot. I guess his presence just meant nothing to me. I already like him more as a broadcaster.
It does look like I’m alone in like this team, unfortunately.
The broadcast itself, however, is clean and slick. It’s higher quality than any other broadcast and has some interesting camera angles that no one else uses.
But the most unique part of their broadcast is their use of advanced metrics, outcome probability, and how they display those on the screen:
I’m still split on whether or not I like them being used here. Maybe we should just let nerds be nerds on their own time.
NBC, meanwhile, has a much more traditional broadcast with MLB Sunday Leadoff — which after this first week will stream exclusively on Peacock. They bragged about the fact that they showed Hank Aaron’s home run, Kirk Gibson’s home run, a million iconic moments and they’re ready to bring the same ol’ broadcast to Peacock.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I was never crazy about baseball on Fox, so if NBC can bring us a regular broadcast with a good team — I’m all in.
And although they only have one week-to-week broadcaster, I’m enjoying it so far. Jason Benetti, current play-by-play man for the Chicago White Sox, will call the balls and strikes every Sunday morning. I was a little pissy when I heard that the White Sox guy would be calling a Red Sox-White Sox game, but he played a good middle ground.
It was nothing against Benetti. In fact, I don’t think I had heard him call a game before. He had big shoes to fill in Chicago (I loved listening to Ken Harrelson as a kid — “You can put it on the boooooard! Yes!”) and it seems like the South Side likes him as a strong replacement who is now a few years in. I can see why.
He’ll be joined every week by two color analysts representing each team. Steve Stone is Benetti’s partner in Chicago so they obviously worked out well together. To represent Boston, Kevin Youkilis joined the booth. He just started broadcasting this year and still seems a little uncomfortable, but he’ll get there. It can’t be easy to be the third wheel to a duo that has worked together for years now.
Love Youk, wish it had been Eck. I needed some cheese to go with my Sunday morning omelet.
I can see why baseball fans are upset that their games are being broadcast in three different places in three days. And the cost is rising. But I already get Peacock for free through my internet package and needed an excuse to watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV anyway. It won’t be NESN, but it also won’t be Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay. If we get solid broadcasts with interesting crews every week, then I think it’ll be good for the baseball fan who can’t/won’t shell out for MLB TV.
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