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The Yankees, the YES booth, and a look at MLB broadcasting

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There was speculation that WEEI was making the Red Sox radio booth more like a talk show. Let’s discuss that and MLB broadcasts as a whole, shall we?

New York Yankees World Series Victory Parade
I love that face
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I hate Boston. There, I said it. Perhaps this does not come as a shock to most readers. Everything closes early, the Red Sox play baseball there in the Revered Hall of Doubles, and Tom Brady has made a career out of humiliating my beloved Buffalo Bills. Sure, the Bills have made a career out of humiliating my Bills, but that’s not the point. The point is that Boston sucks. It’s just science.

This Boston rant is different from my usual Beantown vitriol, as it has nothing to do with the items mentioned above. It has everything to do with this. In case you don’t feel like clicking that link, it talks about WEEI’s reported plan to potentially make their radio broadcast into more of a talk show format. WEEI claims that it’s not what they’re going for.

The discussion around this topic has been centered around extremes. “Albert in Rhode Island” is never going to call in after the 2-1 pitch and yell at Joe Castiglione about Deflategate. Nobody is suggesting that.

But there is room for more opinion. Maybe some discussion around whether Alex Cora should’ve pinch-hit in a specific spot, or if the team is approaching the trade deadline properly.

I mean, congrats that you’re not having fans call in. I would never ever ever want to hear Joe Angryfan from WFAN call up during a Yankee game. This still sounds sketchy though. I’ve listened to a lot of broadcasts and there is already that kind of discussion. Just because you’re not going to the extreme doesn’t mean you’re not going in the wrong direction.

Look, I’m a simple fan. Whether I’m watching on TV or listening via the radio, I want to know what’s going on. I’m looking for basic play-by-play with some quality color commentary. This commentary can be stats or interesting tidbits on players. It’s a pretty easy formula. What I absolutely do not want is something akin to a sports talk show.

We’ll use the YES Booth as a perfect example of this. I mean, I kind of have to since I write for a Yankees blog. Michael Kay gets a lot of flak as the main PBP guy for the Yankees. While I definitely think Ken Singleton is better at PBP, I don’t dislike Michael Kay as much as a lot of Yankee fans. I’ve always been a fan of his “SEE YA” home run call and I like when he shows excitement when the Yankees do something exciting. When you spend five years at MLBAM being paid to watch baseball, you’d be surprised how hard that can be to come by from a lot of broadcast booths.

My biggest criticism of Kay comes when “YES Booth” Kay intersects with “ESPN’s The Michael Kay Show” Kay. Worlds are colliding. They’re killing independent George. I want to know what’s happening in the game. I do not want to hear hot takes while the game is on. If I wanted to listen to his talk show, I’d listen to his talk show. I like when he banters with David Cone, Paul O’Neil, Singleton, etc. They sound like they’re having fun. Fun is good.

And hey, I do understand that a lot of times there’s nothing terribly exciting going on during the game. Vin Scully used that downtime to tell interesting stories about the players playing the game. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Kay, or really any broadcaster, to Vin Scully. Perhaps. I do feel that it’s possible to actually bring in some fascinating tidbits about the players on the field and not be Vin Scully though.

A lot of this bitterness towards trying to change how games are broadcast has to do with my bitterness towards the postseason broadcasters. Just to clarify, this is less about Joe Buck and more about Jon Smoltz. You may have seen this ad during the postseason:

During one game, when Smoltz was complaining about baseball, as he does, an announcer mentioned the Let The Kids Play ad and Smoltz snidely remarked “to an extent.” Riveting.

As I said, I don’t want to hear talk show crap during a game. Another thing I don’t want to hear from broadcasters is their distaste for the current game of baseball. There are things about the current game I don’t like, but the older game is not coming back no matter how much I prefer no Wild Cards or Interleague. I don’t need to hear broadcasters ramble on to appease the “good ‘ol days” crowd when I’m looking forward to watching Aaron Judge crush one.

People are entitled to their opinion, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the person broadcasting the game to actually like the sport being played. Take Ryan Ruocco, for example. He seems to actually like whatever sport he’s broadcasting. What a novel concept. He still has what is probably my favorite Aaron Judge home run call.

Earlier this year I was watching a WNBA playoff game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. I’m not a huge fan of basketball in general, but the excitement of the game plus the joy that he and Rebecca Lobo had watching the game got me into it. Discussing the action, the players in the court, and just a genuine enjoyment of the sport being played. It’s refreshing. It makes the sport more exciting.

Baseball needs more of that. Every sport needs more of that. The year 2019 is right around the corner. MLB’s New Year’s Resolution should be less Smoltz broadcasters and more Ruoccos. Ruocci? Whatever the plural of his last name is! Oh, and please do not make broadcasts into sports talk shows. Just don’t.