SBD/March 3, 2014/Media

Reynolds, Verducci Tabbed By Fox To Fill McCarver's Role In MLB Booth

Reynolds largely spent his broadcasting career as an ESPN studio commentator
Fox Sports this afternoon will formally announce the hiring of Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to replace Tim McCarver in its MLB booth (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reported the net also is likely to hire John Smoltz, whose "contract at TBS has expired." The Big Lead first reported the news on Reynolds and Verducci last Thursday. Reynolds and Verducci "are well known in baseball, though not primarily as game analysts." Reynolds "has largely spent his broadcasting career as a studio commentator at ESPN and, more recently, at MLB Network, and he has been in the booth only occasionally." Verducci "has worked as a field reporter at TBS for playoff games and as a reporter for MLB Network, where he called some games." He also "worked for Fox last season as a game analyst, presumably as a kind of a screen test." Verducci "will remain with MLB Network but will not work at TBS" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/1). Meanwhile, SI.com's Richard Deitsch reports Kevin Burkhardt "has been chosen as the main host" for Fox and FS1's MLB pregame show, where he is expected to work with former MLBers Frank Thomas, Gabe Kapler and a "rotation of other analysts." Burkhardt will debut in his new role April 5. Ryan Field "will serve as Burkhardt's backup" (SI.com, 3/3).

SAFE PLAY: SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote "this is a booth that wants you to like it." Reynolds and Verducci "seem chosen specifically to erase all lingering McCarverism." They "carry the aura of youth ... which will come in handy in making people forget McCarver." They also are "both very likable guys who are new enough in the business that they've shown they're willing to adjust and change depending on what's asked of them." One "shouldn't underestimate the likability thing, particularly when it comes to Reynolds." Whatever your "thoughts about Reynolds as an analyst ... it is basically impossible not to like" him. This is a "fundamental axiom of television: People want to like looking at the people on their television" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/28). SI.com's Deitsch wrote Reynolds is the "personification of an establishment, owner-certified television baseball analyst," as both MLB brass and players "love him." Where Reynolds "is excellent is in breaking down plays and explaining the decision-making 'whys' by players and managers, so look for Fox's MLB producers to put him [in] situations to excel on that subject." The booth, "if nothing else, is a much better spot for Reynolds than the studio because it doesn't call for bold at every turn." This "will not be a bad booth but it could have been better" (SI.com, 3/2).
 
PROS & CONS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Sarah Bunting wrote Reynolds is a "great choice for coverage of the World Series," but he is "not a perfect choice; there is no perfect choice, no guy who's going to please everyone." For the World Series, the "biggest series of the year, the one that aims for the broadest nationwide viewing appeal for what has become a regional game, Reynolds is a smart pick, because Reynolds genuinely loves baseball and has fun talking about it." If a network "hopes -- even in vain -- to pick up a casual viewer or excite a fan with no dog in the fight, Reynolds is your guy" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/2). SPORTS ON EARTH's Aaron Gordon wrote he hoped Fox would replace McCarver with someone who "at least understands the concept of advanced statistics," but he "did not get this wish." It is "likely no accident that Reynolds, 53, is the same age as the average 2013 World Series viewer, 54.4." It "says a lot about MLB's perception of age that Reynolds is considered a fairly youthful presence." But Reynolds' "perception of baseball is far more antiquated than his numerical age would suggest" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/2).
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