Broadcast sports: TBS doing solid job in first at-bat

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2007 - 12:17 AM

The network has done good work in its initial year broadcasting the baseball playoffs, providing few frills but excellent insights.

This is the type of work assignment I can embrace.

With TBS carrying the major league playoffs for the first time Wednesday, someone had to plant themselves on the couch and critique more than 10 hours of division series coverage. So here it is, the good, the bad and the worse:

What to like

• Keeping it low key: TBS seems to want to establish itself as the anti-ESPN and anti-Fox. And this isn't a bad thing. Announcing teams offered nothing cute that screamed "look at me." Don Orsillo and Joe Simpson, working the Phillies-Rockies game, provided a straightforward, just-the-facts broadcast. Graphics were introduced with no swooshing sounds and did not overload viewers with information. All in all, a welcome relief.

Steve Stone: How this guy isn't working national telecasts on a regular basis is a complete mystery. He is arguably the best analyst in the business. Paired with Ted Robinson on the Red Sox-Angels, Stone offered a perfect amount of big-picture perspective on the series and inside baseball talk. One example came in the bottom of the first inning when Stone noted Angels left fielder Garret Anderson was positioned too deep and that Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez plays shallow in order to be in a position to best handle balls off the Green Monster in Fenway Park. A good analyst is someone who sees things even hard-core fans don't. Stone consistently does this.

The not so good

• Cutting it close: On more than one occasion TBS came back from break as the first pitch of an inning was being put into play. The network has 2 minutes, 55 seconds from the last out until the next pitch; that should be enough time to take care of ads and promos.

• Got to get it right: The graphics might have been good but they weren't always right. Phillies third baseman Wes Helms was listed as "West" Helms when Philadelphia's lineup was shown during the opening telecast.

The bad

• Too much, too soon: Frank Thomas is a prime example of why it's risky to hire an active player to be in the studio. Working with host Ernie Johnson and Cal Ripken, Thomas appeared uncomfortable in front of the camera and didn't say anything that came close to criticism. It was so bad that Johnson even chided him at times. Ripken's work seemed shaky Monday night when TBS aired the one-game playoff between the Rockies and Padres but he appeared much more at ease Wednesday. One curious move by TBS was putting two position players in the studio. Why not have paired a pitcher with Ripken to provide some balance? Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson will join the studio mix as a guest analyst tonight.

• A little editing would help: TBS is conducting in-game conversation with a manager or pitching coach. Sometimes these can be pretty good but other times, such as when Robinson and Stone talked to Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, they are useless and should never be aired. TBS clearly tapes these conversations and at times would be wise not to play them.

Kamla coming home?

Edina native Rick Kamla has been offered the Timberwolves radio play-by-play job, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Kamla, an Edina native, is currently employed by NBA TV and is thought to be weighing his options. Ted Johnson, the team's senior vice president of marketing and communications, said the team hopes to have an announcement next week but would not elaborate on the candidates.

Fine-tuning

• Wild TV analyst Mike Greenlay worked Thursday's opener against Chicago from between the benches and might be ice-level for a few more telecasts this season. ... WCCO (830 AM) begins broadcasting its weekly hockey show at noon Sunday. ... Wolves executive radio producer Bill Hohenecker has left the organization after 15 years. He will continue working for the NBA and serve in a behind the scenes role on national telecasts. ... Ron Johnson, who was let go by FSN North last week with two months remaining on his contract, said he must decide whether he wants to remain in television. Johnson would like to stay in the Twin Cities.

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Chicago WSox - J. Danks 12:05 PM
Cleveland - T. Bauer
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 12:10 PM
Cincinnati - J. Cueto
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