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Broadcast Review: Braves Television

Note: this now features a poll at the bottom. Rate the Braves’ broadcast team yourself.

Chip Caray is the handsomest of the Carays.

On Friday, I submitted for the readership’s consideration, some basic criteria by which one might assess the quality of an MLB broadcast. In what follows, I attempt — perhaps with less modesty than I ought — to apply that criteria to the Atlanta Braves’ television broadcast.

Over the past week, I watched (most of) a pair of Braves games on Atlanta’s SportSouth — first, Julio Teheran‘s debut at Philadelphia on May 7th, and then Friday night’s contest against those same Phillies, but this time at Turner Field.

The broadcast team is composed of play-by-play man Chip Caray and color commentator Joe Simpson. Former Brave Brian Jordan joined the telecast on Friday night, as well.

Simpson is the stronger/-est member of this broadcast team (depending on whether you consider Brian Jordan part of said “team.”) He demonstrates little understanding of statistical analysis — he and Caray made unqualified references, for example, to how many RBIs Brian McCann had at Citizens Bank Ballpark and how Joe Mather was “batting .500” against Cole Hamels (in six at-bats) — but he was helpful, I thought, when discussing pitchers.

In the first game I saw, Simpson made some interesting comments on Julio Teheran and Kyle Kendrick‘s respective arsenals. (I’ll admit now, I don’t have specifics to support this, but it says in my notes “good with pitchers” so I trust that’s how I felt.) In the second game, Simpson had some smart comments on Cristhian Martinez, regarding the quality of that pitcher’s changeup and how he (i.e. Martinez) was able to feature the changeup more in an extended appearance (such as this one, where he was relieving an injured Brandon Beachy).

Simpson and Caray both have nothing but great, almost pornographic-level enthusiasm for sacrifice bunting. Brian Jordan joined them in praise of same.

My friend Madeline will occasionally use the word handsome in a derisive way to describe a type of man who’s superficially handsome but also derives an undeservedly high amount of satisfaction from the words coming out of his mouth. Though she’s almost definitely never seen or heard or knows anything about Chip Caray, she’d very likely describe him as handsome.

So far as Charm goes, he and Simpson are the broadcasting equivalent of Two and a Half Men, making tired, facile jokes that apparently a majority of Americans love. The second of the games I saw, for example, was Girls Night Out at Turner Field, for which promotion (per the Braves’ website), “The Atlanta Braves… donate $5 of every… ticket to the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.” No problems there, obviously. The package, however, also included a pink feather boa, which Caray made a show of wearing for the in-booth camera.

There’s a way this joke — a broadcaster wearing a pink boa, I mean — there’s a way it could work, I think. I don’t possess the exact vocabulary for describing what needs to happen for it to work, but it could. In any case, it didn’t work with Caray. “Look at me, I’m a heterosexual man wearing a woman’s garment” was either what he said aloud or in his head. Either way, that’s what I heard. And that’s not comedy. Vin Scully has too much class to make that joke. Boston’s Jerry Remy might make it — and would make it work, somehow, if he did.

A final note: Caray (and maybe Simpson, too — I don’t remember) refer to a number of players by their first name. This is an acceptable practice when the player in question is Chipper Jones. But Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward — whom Caray referred to as “Dan” and “Jason,” respectively — ought to be “Uggla” and “Heyward,” in that order. The discerning reader will regard this as the Inalienable Truth.

Regional Flavor
MLB.TV broadcsts, as the reader will know, omit local commercials, so there’s little to say here. There was some dicussion of the Civil Rights Game Weekend taking place at Turner Field over (duh) the weekend, and all three members of the broadcast team had something notable to say about that. It was also during this broadcast that I learned about the Negro League team known as the Atlanta Black Crackers.

Final Thoughts
As noted in these same pages, the Turner Field center-field camera is the best in baseball for getting a sense of a pitcher’s entire repertoire. Accordingly, there will always be reasons for watching games at Turner Field. Play-by-play man Caray, however, lacks the charisma of his grandfather Harry. Simpson seems to share Caray’s bland sense of humor, but also provides able analysis of pitchers.

Grade: 2 (out of possible 5)

Image courtesy the Columbia Missourian.

Thanks to Peter Hjort and Sandlapper Spike for their input on Braves’ telecast.