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Opinion: Baseball? Not Tonight

Passion

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With the Indians just rolling, winning every which way, its time to go a little off-topic to address something thats been bothering me since Opening Day of 2007. The bothersome development is the sad state of ESPNs Baseball Tonight.

Has an institution that was so revered and loved ever fallen so far so fast?

Perhaps its a byproduct of the overall decline of ESPN, which I feel started with Craig Kilborns stint on SportsCenter. You wont find a bigger fan of Kilborn from those days than yours truly, but what he started was a movement by the ESPN “personalities” to become a bigger draws than the games and highlights themselves. A trend exacerbated by Kenny Mayne, then Stuart Scott, SportsCenter became half stand-up, and half anchors “taglines”. Lost in the mix was the actual coverage of games and insight and analysis that intelligent sports fans appreciated on a daily basis.

When ESPN made the movement to bring in loud-mouthed newspapermen, trying to make a name for themselves (Mike Wilbon being the exception), it only added air under ESPNs jump over the shark.
Dont get me started on how ESPN Classic went from a fantastic concept to a joke of a network, airing “Classic” bowling tournaments, World Series of Poker tournaments, and drag races.

Sadly, included in this decline is our beloved Baseball Tonight, which for years was a revolutionary concept a nightly show of highlights of every game, inside information from Peter Gammons, insight and opinion from Harold Reynolds, and an occasional visit from well-spoken, intelligent baseball men (like Bobby Valentine or Buck Showalter) who took the opportunity to stay involved in the game while between jobs.

Baseball Tonight was a nightly fixture for any intelligent, interested baseball fan. Between Gammons genius and infinite knowledge of seemingly every player in every organization in MLB (yes, his contacts are that good) and Reynolds calling like he saw it (regardless of whether you agreed with him, it was at least articulate and had opinions based in logic and MLB experience) the show was relevant every night. Some segments worked (Web Gems), while others didnt (remember the “Name the Flying Baseball” that introduced the HR of the night), but you had to watch it because you didnt want to miss Gammons slyly intimating that a trade was afoot or Reynolds hilariously pretending to swing a bat about 3 times in a telecast to show what a player was doing wrong.

Well, as with most good things, it has come to an end.
Maybe it was Gammons health scare that convinced him to not stay on the nightly show, or Reynolds unceremonious firing from ESPN, but the show has devolved into a 3-ring circus. With the addition of John Kruk and Steve Phillips to the everyday lineup with Karl Ravech (who must just sit there every night wondering what the hell happened), the show has lost all credibility and fails to even be interesting. I cant tell you the last time I sat through a whole show, which would be simply unheard of a mere 2 years ago, when my post-game viewing revolved around it.

The problem with the show in its current incarnation is that it seemingly tries to be like The Best Damn Sports Show Period or TNTs NBA Studio Crew (a bunch of guys who enjoy each other and talk sports while having fun); the difference is that theres nothing fun about the show, and the personalities couldnt be less compelling (unlike Chuck and Magic). To pass the show off as anything remotely insightful or “insider” is irresponsible.

Blame John Kruk and the ridiculous comments that he makes and the rest of the studio for letting him skate on his nightly inaccuracies and bombast just because he talks the loudest. Kruks exchange with Orel Hershiser about Chris Young and Kruks absurd ideas about how Young should pitch smarter because hes from the Ivy League, which were challenged by Orel, lends only a microcosm as to why Kruk is the wrong analyst for this show as he just yelled louder than Orel to make his “point”. He may know something about baseball, but it certainly doesnt come across as he appears lazy or misinformed for not knowing things about MLB that even casual fans do. Kruk is a personality and a meathead, who has a place in TV but please, not commandeering the Baseball Tonight set, bullying his patently false information and ill-formed opinions on the dwindling viewership.

But Kruk comes across as Stephen Hawking when compared to the embarrassment that is Steve Phillips. Phillips once famously said that Cliff Lee was the best LHP in the AL (over Santana, Francisco Liriano, C.C., Zito, Buerhle, Kenny Rogers, etc.), leading Reynolds to scoff (correctly) that Lee wasnt even the best LHP on his team. The problem now (among many, many others related to Phillips) is that nobody challenges Phillips as he makes observations and opinions that are regularly about 95% crazy talk. He provides no inside information (shocking for a former MLB GM) and deals mainly in generalities, which should basically be vanilla, except that those generalities are ALWAYS wrong. I never thought Id be able to completely tune out a man who spent time as a Minor League Player and a MLB GM who SHOULD know something about baseball. But every time that Phillips appears on my TV, my radio, or my computer, I rush to get his ignorance and misinformation as far away from my brain as possible so as to avoid any possible osmosis from the Village Idiot.

Its a sad state of affairs when I go out of my way to NOT watch Baseball Tonight and its not because they show Red Sox and Yankees highlights for 20 minutes, analyze those two teams for the next 20 minutes, THEN get into the other highlights of the night sometimes not even showing ONE highlight from a game. In an hour, they wont show ONE highlight from an MLB game, but can talk about Darrell Rasners injury and what it means to a team 10 games out of 1st (in mid-May) going forward. I was able to get over that fact (BBTN has always been Red Sox/Yankees Central) because the rest of the show was so chock full of highlights, so informative and compelling.

Is BBTN too far gone to save?
I dont think so, but it needs to return to its roots, to become the source for baseball information for intelligent baseball fans everywhere. Send Kruk back to BDSSP or send him to the locker rooms of different games where Kruk is most comfortable, enjoying some post-game pops with the boys. It would certainly be an improvement over having the players call in, which in this age of technology is frankly embarrassing. As for Phillips, I dont caregive him the Old Yeller treatment or do whatever is needed to make him disappear from the baseball broadcasting landscape forever.

Then what can be done with Baseball Tonight?
Its likely that Gammons wont return to the nightly gig, but Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney (or how about Rob Neyer) need to make up a rotation for a permanent spot on the set, where they can impart their passion and knowledge about the inner workings of the front offices around MLB. For former players to join the desk to provide insight and analysis, why not have Hershiser to talk about pitching and Tony Gwynn (who now has a contract with TBS) to talk about hitting? Those two would be able to explain why a player would be mired in a prolonged slump or why a reliever may be experiencing some recent difficulties.

Its telling that Id rather watch the one-hour show on FOX (with Zelasco, Karros, and Kennedy) on Saturday than watch any episode of BBTN at any point during the week. Its because the FOX show focuses on baseball and offers the opinions of informed broadcasters, while BBTN has become a shell of its former self.

Years ago, a good trivia question was what the E in ESPN stood for (its Entertainment).
Now, the better question is what the S stands for.

Baseball Tonight, in its current form, is just one example of that disturbing trend.
It is the example that disappoints me most as the summer nights continue.
http://clevelandtribeblog.blogspot.com/200...ot-tonight.html

I thought this was a very, very well done editorial on the sad state that was one of my nightly favorite and like the author notes and near required television viewing - Baseball Tonight.

I've been here long enough that a lot of the vets and regulars no my positions on a variety of subjects including my opinion of crappy television which I have control over - I simply don't watch. I am of the opinion that you can complain all you want about a product but if you keep using the product your words/feelings mean nothing.

Anyways, I though this piece was nearly verbatim of my views on the subject down to him even throwing a bone over the greatness that was once the team of Ravech, Reynolds, Valentine, and Gammons to pimping Orel Hershiser who I thought was fantastic the first time I heard him do color alongside Dan Shulman (best mainstream pbp man going) along with him blasting the noise that is Steve Phillips.

I sent an E-Mail to the author commending him for voicing his opinion in such a great way.

Thoughts?
 

Markickass21

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Baseball Tonight is only worth watching so that you can see every team's highlight.

I didn't read the entire article, but I agree that it is on the steady decline and to tell you the truth i really don't care what Steve Phillips thinks. I don't care what John Kruk thinks. I don't care what Dusty Baker thinks. Just because those guys used to be within a baseball organization doesn't mean they know a lot about the current sport and what is going on. Granted, if people are able to recognize names, it could definitely give it some more views, but bring in the guys who know what they're talking about half the time.
 

FutureGM

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Well, I could have told them some time ago that Steve Phillips was a moron. Same goes with someone like John Kruk.

I say they should have Buster Olney, Peter Gammons, and Tony Gwynn on the set nightly if it was up to me.
 

farmer_fran

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Pretty much the exact same way I feel. Kruk and Phillips are terrible, and I basically don't watch when those two are on the show, unless maybe if Gammons is there too. Hershiser is pretty good, but Kruk and Phillips pretty much cancel out any positives he brings to the show.

I don't care what Dusty Baker thinks
I forgot about him, he's even worse than Kruk and Phillips.
 

TheDon

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Excellent article. The big boys at ESPN need to read this and take a good hard look at the show.

I'm still not sure who is more annoying, John Kruk or Steve Philips. Its so hard to decide because they are both so bad at broadcasting.


And god damn do I miss Harold Reynolds.
 

fauowls44

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I completely agree. Baseball Tonight is a shell of what it once was, as is Sportscenter, and just about everything else on ESPN. It was a simple formula...put intelligent people on their shows to talk intelligently about sports. Now it is just morons screaming at you. Until they get away from the likes of Stephen A. Smith and anyone on Around the Horn, I won't watch.
 

Das Texan

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Hopefully TBS really does hte nightly show they have been rumored to do.


Hopefully they hire HR and find a way to lure Ravech to the show.

Then find some insightful guy as a third partner and watch the show blossom.


Its not like that network has no clue about how to find a tandem that is full of chemistry and puts on a truly awesome product.
 

FutureGM

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Well, what probably saved ESPN from being lost forever was the failure of Stephen A. Smith's show on the network. I have seen very little of him lately, except when doing basketball analysis.
 

Passion

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I know I'm in the minority but I like Stephen A. when he is actually doing basketball. I like his opinion/different take/personality when it comes to basketball. He knows about the game and he knows a lot of the players personally from his work as a writer in Philly.

In another realm he is out of place and pointless.

I think ESPN was going for a black Jim Rome and it didn't work at all.
 

EndLine

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DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings package comes with a channel called Strike Zone. Shows you highlights of all the games that are currently in progress. It's quite innovative and it usually airs for 5-6 hours a day. It's been the only highlight show I've watched, but then again, I am paying an extra 10 bucks for it (along with some daily HD baseball and a 8 square split screen that shows you all games in progress).
 

Jim Rome

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I know I'm in the minority but I like Stephen A. when he is actually doing basketball. I like his opinion/different take/personality when it comes to basketball. He knows about the game and he knows a lot of the players personally from his work as a writer in Philly.

In another realm he is out of place and pointless.

I think ESPN was going for a black Jim Rome and it didn't work at all.

Fox, my man - there is only one me.
 

Night Phantom

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My baseball news now comes from the Baseball Today podcast from ESPN. It's not BBTN because there are no visual highlights, and they still do talk a lot about Red Sox/Yankees, but they spread the love around and there are lots of notes made about younger players. I highly recommend it for all baseball fans.

BBTN, I think, may be without saving at this point. Unfortunately, the success of PTI (which is great, I'm not knocking it in the least) has caused the spinoff effect and it has overwhelmed ESPN.
 

Guest

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Excellent article. The big boys at ESPN need to read this and take a good hard look at the show.

I'm still not sure who is more annoying, John Kruk or Steve Philips. Its so hard to decide because they are both so bad at broadcasting.


And god damn do I miss Harold Reynolds.

Id got with Phillips. While Kruk is a loud idiot, hes never tried to hide this or try to pass himself off as a baseball savant.

Phillips is a bigger moron but thinks he is one of the smartest baseball people on the planet.

As far as HR is concerned...yes, him leaving(and he was one of the main reasons I watched the show as he had the best chemistry with whomever he happened to be doing the show with and he made it entertaining) is the straw that broke the camels back.
 

rorod

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true. reynolds, gammons and ravech were awesome. And i liked kruky too because they made fun of him alot and he's got a great laugh. and i love kurkjen's off the wall stats with his awsome voice.

now with vina and young...they are too nervous :thumbdown and remember when eric byrnes was on for a while :lol he was better than these 2 morons


it was a great show back in the day now its pretty eh...
 

Eddie Altamonte

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Vina and Young are more annoying than Philips and Kruk. I like Kruk, he is fun and has a personalty Philips is an arrogant bore
 

furcalchick

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i think the yankees/red sox overhype killed the show. i think it started in 2003, when they gave those two teams big chunks of airtime and pretty much put the rest of the teams in a second tier to be talked about. i stopped watching around that time and haven't watched in years, but from what i hear, it's getting worse.
 

Guest

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The brawl with Philly was one of the main segments of tonights Diamond Cuts. Got about 20 seconds of the overall montage.
 

Madman81

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While Baseball Tonight has been steadily declining, the show died when ESPN fired HR.
 

METSrosexual

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What happened to Orestes?? I thought he was pretty good while he was on. Way better than EY, Vina, and Eduardo Perez.
 

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