Having listened to Tim McCarver a lot back in the 80s, I agree with almost every word of this from the indispensable Joe Posnanski, with the caveat that I was never as enamored of McCarver as a storyteller:
You know, I’ve been listening to Tim McCarver call baseball games for almost 30 years now. One of my best friends in high school, Robert, was the first person I knew who had a satellite dish – this was in the days when you had to be one of those guys in the Apollo 13 room to figure out how to operate the thing. I remember there were a lot of vectors involved. Anyway, Robert was and is a huge Mets fan, and so we watched a lot of Mets games with McCarver calling them.
And I loved McCarver. Absolutely loved the guy. Every at-bat, it seemed, he taught me baseball. It was that way for a long time. I honestly believe that McCarver was one of the great pioneers in baseball commentary, the John Madden of his sport in many ways. He was the first I knew who could really break down what the pitcher was trying to do, why he was trying to do it, how the hitter was trying to counter it, and so on. He broke down the game in a way I can never remember any other color commentator doing it. And he was a good story teller too. If I’m listening the greatest color commentators in baseball history, he’s right up at the top.
Trouble is, McCarver has been doing this a long time. And one of the sad truths is that sports color commentary tends to have an expiration date (and, I’ll admit, sportswriting often does too). There comes a time when everyone has heard the stories, when the insights have become cliches, when the game just changes on you. And if we’re being realistic – and I’m not saying this is true for McCarver because I don’t know – there usually comes a time when longtime color commentators stop doing the prep work, stop working the clubhouses, stop keeping up with the latest news. They rely on their experience, their history. That’s just human nature. I thought it was telling when Terry Francona, who was so refreshing in part because he was so up to date, made the point that Kinsler is one of the best young players in the game. Two days later, McCarver said: “I had never thought of him that way.”
McCarver can still wow you now and again. There was a moment on Sunday when he picked up that Yadier Molina had called a full-count pitch verbally against Nelson Cruz, and McCarver brilliantly deduced that Edwin Jackson was going to throw a slider and it probably was not going to be in the strike zone. Sure enough, Jackson threw a slider out of the strike zone. McCarver still understands the pitcher-catcher relationship better than just about anybody in the business.
But, all in all, he has become a hard listen. Al Michaels*, in explaining the art of broadcasting, explained that he sees the game as the music and the announcing as the lyrics. And by that he means that the lyrics need to fit the music, they need to enhance the music, it must blend together. The worst thing an announcer can do is jolt the viewer out of the moment, stop them cold, take them away from the moment. McCarver does that to me way too often now. I find myself 20 times a game taken away from the ballgame and wondering if what I just heard was (1) True; (2) True but misleading; (3) Significant in any way.
And of course, I endorse his concluding paragraph as well. Read the whole thing.