Fox should go bold in replacing Tim McCarver
An all-baseball edition of the media notebook while wondering how long those famous beards will survive into the offseason:
■ Fox Sports prides itself on being bold, and there’s a golden opportunity to do just that in replacing the departing-but-not-quite-retiring Tim McCarver as the lead baseball analyst. Unfortunately, there are strong indications it will be anything but in this opportunity to fill the position McCarver has held since 1996.
MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds is the front-runner to replace McCarver, as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch was the first to report several weeks ago, and at this point it seems a fait accompli that he’ll be the choice over candidates such as Tom Verducci and John Smoltz.
It wouldn’t be the worst choice. I mean, I suppose they could go after someone like Rex Hudler or Ken Harrelson or another shrieking homer and really botch it. At least Reynolds is pleasant and his appreciation of the game comes through. It’s just that as a studio analyst, he rarely says much beyond the obvious, and his rejection of advanced analysis in favor of vague intangible concepts suggests a closed-mindedness in the manner of a more affable Joe Morgan.
If Fox Sports were as bold and fun-loving as its cultivated image suggests, it would pursue an analyst with an abundance of charisma and an incurable habit of speaking his mind, consequences be damned. That means Pedro Martinez. Or how about Dennis Eckersley? But Harold Reynolds? That’s not bold. It would be bland.
■ Fox needs to start hitting Erin Andrews lower in its batting order. She’s passable in a sideline reporter role when adequately propped up and prepared by her producer, though even then she’s at high risk for verbal missteps. During an interview with The Souvenir Store co-founder Arthur D’Angelo, she referenced the lucrative and locally iconic baseball merchandise shop as a “convenience store.” And she was no more informed as the emcee of the postgame trophy presentation, appearing uncertain as to who Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino were. It shouldn’t be difficult to find someone for that role who knows whom they’re talking to and what they’re talking about.
■ Astute observation by John Dennis on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan’’ show Thursday morning. During John Farrell’s in-game dugout interview with Joe Buck and McCarver immediately after the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in Game 6, the Red Sox manager made a point to congratulate McCarver on his career. It was a classy gesture, but it also offered a glimpse into the mind-set of the manager at that moment. He offered his kind words to McCarver then, it certainly seemed, because he was already confident that there would be no Game 7 and thus no opportunity to do so then.
■ If Buck’s lifelong link to the Cardinals weren’t such common knowledge, no one would complain that he’s biased in their favor. Buck got the final call so right in 2004 (“Red Sox fans have longed to hear it . . . ) and was pitch-perfect again Wednesday night (“It hasn’t happened at Fenway Park for 95 years . . . the Red Sox are world champions!”). His history and roots have no effect on his professionalism, though he does make light of such a notion in his Twitter profile, which says: “I root FOR all teams except yours.”
■ We’re so used to hearing Joe Castiglione’s memorable calls of the championship-clinching moments from the two previous World Series that it took a moment to grasp that the ninth inning belonged to Dave O’Brien this time around. O’Brien, ever the pro, delivered a call Red Sox fans will savor hearing time and again: “Koji ready. The 2-2 home. Swing and a miss, he struck him out! The 2013 Red Sox are the world champions! And Boston strong!’’
■ According to Eric Fisher at Sports Business Journal, the Red Sox’ 55.2 local rating for Game 6 was the highest for any World Series game in any market since Game 4 in 2007, when the Red Sox completed a sweep of the Rockies. Overall, World Series ratings were up 17 percent from last year’s Giants-Tigers matchup, averaging 14.9 million viewers. Nielsen Media Research said the Series averaged an 8.9 rating and 15 share. The final was seen by 19.2 million viewers, most since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
■ For those of us with late and long postgame commutes from Fenway, WEEI’s replay of the previous night’s game broadcast in the early hours was a welcome companion. I wouldn’t argue if brand manager Kevin Graham decided to make it a habit for regular-season games as well. A nightly Sox replay would be a superior alternative to J.T. The Brick.
■ Caught ESPN’s international television feed a couple of times while in St. Louis — it was the broadcast of choice in the auxiliary press box. With the excellent Gary Thorne on the call with color analyst Rick Sutcliffe, it was an appealing alternative to Fox. The international feed includes a player introduction segment similar to what “Monday Night Football” has long done, except instead of the players saying their name and which college they attended, the Cardinals and Red Sox would say their name and native country.
■ It’s always a bummer here when another baseball season is over, even ones that end with a parade through Boston. But a small blessing for the baseball fan in withdrawal: MLB Network has plenty of quality offseason programming that starts up again soon, including the Brian Kenny-hosted “Clubhouse Confidential.”
■ Finally, a hat tip to all of the beat writers and baseball columnists who chronicled this extraordinary Sox season. The job of covering a major league baseball team can be enviable and fulfilling, but it’s sometimes lost on the audience that it’s an extraordinary and exhausting daily grind (especially with the enhanced online demands) with no real offseason anymore. So many in this market provide thoughtful, outstanding coverage day after day. I hope they enjoy their three days off — maybe two, and hey, can you file a quick notebook tomorrow? — before the hot stove season begins.