Analysts Off Phillies TV Broadcasts, Decision Reportedly Made By CSN Philadelphia
Phillies TV analysts Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews yesterday were "removed from the Phillies broadcast booth" by CSN Philadelphia, according to Matt Gelb of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Sources said that the decisions were made by CSN Philadelphia "as a result of their 25-year contract agreement last week with the Phillies for the team's TV rights." Comcast "gained some editorial control over the broadcasts under the terms of the new deal." Phillies Senior VP/Marketing & Advertising Sales Dave Buck said that the RSN "will oversee the search for Wheeler's replacement, who will be hired as a Comcast SportsNet employee." The team's TV broadcasters "were previously Phillies employees." Wheeler has been with the team for 37 years and Matthews has been with the team for seven, and both "will remain Phillies employees." They were "sometimes criticized by viewers, which factored into Comcast's decision." In addition, Matthews worked with play-by-play announcer Tom McCarthy "for the fourth, fifth and sixth innings of games." Comcast "wants a consistent two-man booth for the entire game and will replace Wheeler and Matthews with one person." Comcast is "expected to hire a former Phillies player." Gregg Murphy "will return as a TV field reporter." Play-by-play announcer Scott Franzke, analyst Larry Andersen and pre- and postgame host Jim Jackson "will remain on radio," and their status as Phillies employees "will not be affected by the new TV contract" (PHILLY.com, 1/8). The AP's Rob Maaddi wrote Wheeler's "breezy, easygoing personality and familiar voice were a staple for generations of Phillies fans, many of whom immediately expressed their sadness over the move through social media, talk radio and other outlets" (AP, 1/8). ESPN's Keith Olbermann said removing Wheeler and Matthews "is insane" because the "broadcasters you just fired are better than the team you're putting on the field next year" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 1/8).
OUT OF CHARACTER: In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes the history of the Phillies, "for better or worse ... has always been a testament to a certain hidebound consistency." Things "change slowly, if at all." That is why yesterday's announcement was "more than a small surprise." The Phillies "just don't do that kind of thing." Maybe that is "the price of doing business now, but Wheeler won't get the chance to commemorate his long on-air career with a final broadcast." The "old Phillies ... would have announced in spring training that Wheeler had decided this would be his final year and he would have gotten the farewell tour and the decency of a more dignified exit after nearly 40 years in the booth." Comcast execs "ain't that sentimental, apparently" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/9). Also in Philadelphia, Sam Donnellon writes under the header, "Phillies' TV Shake-Up Has All The Markings Of A Comcast Shake-Up" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/9).