Fox' MLB Coverage Plans In Flux As McCarver Set To Exit, Andrews' Role Expanding
Fox' MLB coverage, which starts Saturday, is "in a transition season" with analyst Tim McCarver in his final season and reporter Erin Andrews getting an "expanded role," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Moreover, big-market West Coast teams might have to "step up and become bigger TV draws if the usual national TV attractions -- the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- have less than stellar seasons." Fox' coverage this season will "try to have a more national feel." Meanwhile, ESPN's MLB changes "include trying to assign analysts to games involving teams they played for or managed" (USA TODAY, 4/5). SI's Stephen Cannella writes McCarver is the "gold standard of television baseball analysis." Yet he has "long drawn the ire of viewers who see his wordy style as pedantic at best, condescending at worst." There is "merit to the anti-McCarver movement" because his "love of puns too often leads to tortured wordplay." But the criticism also is a "reminder of how high McCarver raised the bar on what we now expect from a baseball analyst." The ex-jocks in the booth before him were "there to tell folksy stories, play fast and loose with the language and generally lighten the mood." When McCarver "jumped from the field to the booth in 1979, he revolutionized the job." He "complemented his intelligence and behind-the-curtain knowledge with an unabashed love for the game and journalistic instincts that made him incapable of stifling his critical urges." In the latter part of his career, McCarver's "edginess has been blunted by his reluctance to embrace the expanding influence of statistical analysis." Perhaps the game did "pass him by." McCarver's audience may be "smarter now than when he started," and for that, he "has himself to thank" (SI, 4/8 issue).
BIRD FEED: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes Cardinals-Giants on Saturday will be televised regionally by Fox as the "first of eight contests they are scheduled to show on that network -- one fewer the maximum allowed for any team." But the Cards are "not yet scheduled for any appearances in August or September, so if they are in contention for the postseason Fox most likely would snatch another Saturday game away" from FS Midwest. Fox' Justin Kutcher, a "baseball newcomer," has the play-by-play assignment for Cards-Giants, with Eric Karros "providing analysis." Kutcher has "done college football for Fox and also has worked for the Big Ten Network, NCAA Productions, what now is CBS Sports Network and MLB.com." He was with Joe Buck and McCarver "several seasons ago to provide statistical information" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5).
FOOT IN MOUTH: YAHOO SPORTS' David Brown noted Astros broadcaster Alan Ashby "issued a conditional apology Wednesday," a day after he jokingly suggested Rangers P Yu Darvish losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning should "force a guy to learn some of the language here in America" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4).
STRONG STARTS ON TV: MLB Network's Q1 primetime viewership grew by 149% over the same period in '12, which marks the most growth of any cable network in the first period of this year. March also was the net's most-watched month ever with an average of 254,000 primetime viewers (MLB). Meanwhile, Rogers' Sportsnet had its largest audience ever for a Blue Jays game on Tuesday. The game against the Indians averaged 1.4 million viewers, up 13% jump over the net's previous high of 1.3 million for the opener versus the Red Sox in '12 (Sportsnet).