In case you needed another reminder of how good we had it in the years that Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley were the color analysts on NESN’s Red Sox telecasts, consider this:
In the remembrances of Tim McCarver after the Baseball Hall of Fame announced Thursday that the four-decade MLB catcher and three-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster had died at age 81, he was lauded repeatedly as the best baseball color analyst of all time.
On a national scale, that is probably true. I was partial to the thoughtful Tony Kubek on NBC growing up in the ‘80s, and Joe Garagiola was a charismatic storyteller. But I’m not sure who else even comes close to an early-career McCarver in terms of pure insight.
Joe Morgan on ESPN? Only if you needed a pitch identified (“That was a slider, Jon”) or enjoyed hearing someone gripe about analytics. John Smoltz on Fox now? He’s not bad, though he can turn a broadcast into his personal complaint box. Ron Darling (TBS) and David Cone (ESPN) are smart, welcome company, but neither has the magnitude that McCarver had.
Give me Remy or Eck — or better, Remy and Eck together — over all of them.
McCarver, who won the Hall of Fame’s annual Ford C. Frick Award for meritorious baseball broadcasting in 2012, truly was great in the booth . . . but it’s understandable if Red Sox fans of a certain age don’t remember him as such.
His broadcasting career was a long one — it began shortly after his playing career ended in 1980, and lasted long enough for him to call 24 World Series for ABC, CBS, and finally Fox, where he worked with Joe Buck from 1996 until retiring after the Red Sox’ victory over the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series.
Earlier in his career, particularly as a regional broadcaster for the Mets in the 1980s, McCarver earned his reputation as the thinking fan’s favorite color analyst. He was incisive and candid, articulating the nuances of the game from an old catcher’s viewpoint. He had an uncanny knack for anticipating what was about to happen.
It was apparent McCarver would have been a successful manager had he chosen that route. His warm Memphis drawl and willingness to laugh — Sean McDonough always knew how to get a guffaw out of him when they were paired at CBS in the early ‘90s — made him an easy listen.
But later on, particularly during the pinnacle of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in 2003-04, he could be frustrating. He sometimes hammered talking points into a fine powder. His expertise sometimes came across as condescension. And did he ever fawn over Derek Jeter.
McCarver’s career wound down just as social media was amping up. During a conversation in his trailer before a 2013 Red Sox-Tigers American League Championship Series game at Tiger Stadium, he acknowledged that he was aware that his approval rating wasn’t as high as it once was, but said he needed to be able to accept criticism if he was going to dole it out himself.
“It’s escalating. It’s getting worse,” he said. “I don’t read the good or the bad, but we’re all in that boat. Everybody who is a broadcaster is in that boat. Some might be more vitriolic. But everybody who expresses an opinion, you’re going to get your share.”
McCarver was a nice man who, with his ability and willingness to provide real insight, changed baseball broadcasting for the better
I just wish he never felt the need to tell us how calm Jeter’s eyes were.
Free agent pickup
Speaking of Jeter, Fox’s MLB broadcast crew should have an interesting dynamic now that the Yankees legend has signed on.
The network introduced Jeter as a new studio analyst during its Super Bowl pregame show last Sunday. He will join Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Frank Thomas, along with host Kevin Burkhardt, on the studio program, though it appears Jeter will stick primarily to big-event coverage.
Jeter and Rodriguez had a complicated relationship during their time with the Yankees. Though they claim to have mended fences, Jeter is a Hall of Fame-level grudge-holder and A-Rod is an expert at inserting his own shoes in his mouth, so maybe there will be some enjoyably awkward moments there.
The eyes have it
The final viewership numbers for Super Bowl LVII were predictably massive. The Chiefs’ thrilling 38-35 win over the Eagles was watched by 113.1 million viewers across all platforms, including 112.17 million on Fox’s on-air telecast. That was up 1 percent over the viewership for Super Bowl LVI last season.
The most-watched Super Bowl in history remains the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. That game had a viewership of 115.8 million on NBC. That’s an awful lot of people that witnessed Malcolm Butler become an instant Super Bowl legend.
Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.