Fox Sports will drop Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci as color analysts alongside Joe Buck on its national broadcasts, replacing them with John Smoltz, the network confirmed Tuesday. Reynolds and Verducci will continue to have an undefined role with the broadcasts, but will no longer be in the booth. The news was first reported by the New York Daily News.
“It is rare in this business that you’re presented the opportunity to have a Hall of Fame-level player who is also one of the sport’s top broadcasters,” said Fox Sports executive producer John Entz in a statement. “Having been able to work with John each of the last two seasons, we’ve gained an even greater appreciation for his insight into the game and what he brings to the booth.”
This is excellent news for baseball fans. Smoltz, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer after a 21-year pitching career spent mostly with the Atlanta Braves, has proven to be an insightful, informed and self-deprecating analyst during his contributions as a color analyst on MLB Network broadcasts the past few years.
He was a candidate for the Fox lead analyst job when Tim McCarver departed after the 2013 World Series, but Fox instead chose Reynolds and Verducci. Smoltz has been part of Fox Sports’s baseball coverage since 2014, but not as a member of the lead team.
Reynolds is an affable and enthusiastic personality, but he’s prone to inaccurate or bewildering statements, and his old-school view of baseball strategy and stubbornness in attempting to comprehend even the most basic analytics often made listening to his commentary an exercise in exasperation. Verducci, perhaps the best baseball writer of his generation, never seemed especially comfortable in the booth. He was capable of dispensing astute observations and information, but struggled to have his say in a three-man booth.
With the unexpected but welcome news, it’s hard not to wonder whether a technical blunder during the World Series contributed to Fox’s decision. During the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series between the Mets and Royals, an electronics failure led to a power outage in the Fox Sports production compound. The video returned before the audio, so for a time Fox carried the simulcast of the MLB international feed called by Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian. That was a more enjoyable tandem than the trio Fox had calling the game, something Fox executives might have noticed given Tuesday’s good news.