Thursday, September 27, 2012

Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler: Not That Bad

By
The sky is blue. The sun is yellow. Edwin Encarnacion mashes home runs. Hawk Harrelson is the biggest homer in all of baseball. By now, these statements shouldn't surprise anyone.

As an outsider with no vested interest in the Chicago White Sox, watching a White Sox game with Hawk Harrelson's play-by-play is nearly insufferable. So I can only imagine what it must sound like for a White Sox fan.

I mean, I appreciate Hawk's enthusiasm for the hometown team ... because the last thing you want is your television play-by-play guy to call a walk-off home run as if it were a routine ground out. But I guess that's the fine line TV broadcasters must ride.

For as much flack as Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler catch from time to time, they're actually not the worst TV broadcast team in baseball. In fact, that Wall Street Journal article discovered the Sportsnet team was actually one of the least biased in baseball.

That's not to say they were one of the best, but it's nice to know that Buck and Pat are at least looking at the Blue Jays subjectively. I've never heard Buck and Pat use the phrase "us" or "we" ... unlike other team's broadcasters.

In recent years, Pat Tabler has gotten better at weaning off the "so strong" phrase and generally approaches the game sounding less like a fan and more like a professional. Buck Martinez still has his quirks of course (his pronounciation of "Encarnacion" for one), but overall he's not that bad.

I guess my only point of contention with Buck and Pat is they occasionally tend to fixate on a certain opposing player during a broadcast; Derek Jeter and Michael Young are prime examples. There's being unbiased, and then there's being biased towards the competition.

So in that aspect, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler aren't really guilty of being homer broadcasters. The odd time they'll fawn over Brett Lawrie, but then again I'd probably do the same thing if given the opportunity.

As former players, I also find that Buck and Pat don't really add too much to the game in the form of personal experiences. Being a catcher by trade, there isn't really much into the way of insight from Martinez in the way of the pitcher/catcher relationship.

Buck will reflect on his playing time with some self-deprecating humour, which I can always appreciate. Because there's nothing like having a broadcast team which speaks like they're on a high horse and that much better than any player on the field.

By comparison, I find Alan Ashby on the radio broadcast does a tremendous job of dissecting the battery fellowship. In fact, Ashby isn't afraid to criticize a Blue Jays player if they commit  a baserunning blunder, fan on a particularly bad pitch or boot a routine ground ball.

That kind of honesty in a broadcaster is refreshing and something I wish we'd see more in the Blue Jays broadcast team. I'd rather have the commentators call it like it is rather than sugarcoat things, even if it does criticize the hometown Blue Jays.

For all intents and purposes, being a play-by-play or colour commentator for a Major League baseball team is not an easy job. Covering a team every night for 162 games a year requires a lot of patience. Night-in and night-out, you're being asked to fill 3-4 hours of programming, which is no easy task.

And sure, after all those games, commentators will develop certain crutches and catchphrases ... it's just the nature of the beast. Watching a Blue Jays game, you will surely hear plenty of baseball cliches. But as Drew indicated over Getting Blanked, less really is more.

Vin Scully has undoubtedly perfected the art of calling a game. Scully could read the phonebook from front to back and still have a captivated audience by the time he got to "Zobrist".

What Vin Scully does so well is that he doesn't fade into the background, but at the same time he's a great companion during a broadcast. The same can be said for Jerry Howarth; every time he opens the game with his greeting of "Hello, friends" ... I feel like Howarth's genuine friend.

A radio baseball broadcast is a bit of a different animal though, as Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby are tasked with presenting "theatre of the mind". The radio broadcasters have to paint a picture with their words; something Buck and Pat don't have to worry about.

That's why less is more in TV; dead air may be a detriment in radio, but in television, occasionally it isn't the worst thing in the world to have brief moments of silence and let the magic of the game unfold all by itself.

Here's where I'm torn as a fan; on one hand, I want the commentators to care about the team just as much as I do. I want their thoughts to echo mine during the TV broadcast. After all, what's so wrong about getting excited about a walk-off home run?

However, being a fan doesn't necessarily equate to a great broadcasting experience. I think a clear divide provides some perspective and allows a broadcaster to call a game subjectively. Most broadcasters try to keep the fans on an even keel rather than send them on a roller-coaster ride from first to last pitch.

I can't recall where I heard this (might have even been the DJF podcast) but I remember Jerry Howarth said something to the effect that he tries not to get too emotional and ride the highs and lows that come with a Blue Jays season, rather he just calls it right down the middle.

So keeping all this information in mind, it seems like Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler aren't nearly as bad a broadcast team as some would believe. Just remember ... it could always be much, much worse.

13 comments:

  1. A fair account of Buck and Tabby. I quite like them, easy on the ears, humour is good, no arrogance. They can get fixated on something or someone, but a subplot(s) is usually a good thing to cultivate when trying to keep folks engaged for 3.5 hours of blowout baseball.

    Pat's crutch these days is "just a little bit" for, well, just about anything. And I too would like more insight from their playing days. Buck has aged well, and is not as over-the-top as he once was, I expect him to keep getting finer.

    Ashby in an interesting case. Talk about getting fixated - he can go on ad nauseum about a negative, for example, a Ricky Romero outing, to the extent that you just wanna shake him and tell him to get over it. His pet-peeves are predictable, for example, squaring to bunt and taking a strike. Other than that, he is pretty damn good.

    Jerry? Meh, Torontonians were raised on him, so I guess that's a thing. I was raised on Dave Van Horne, and there's a reason why he's won a Ford Frick Award and neither Tom Cheek nor Jerry has, Van Horne was the cat's ass. But if Jerry split, I guess there'd be a void that would be hard to fill with just another yuck yuckin' minor-league announcer, so I grin and bear it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy, Ashby does tend to get downright negative at times, but in the case of Romero I think it was warranted. If a pitcher is having a horrible game, I'd rather the broadcaster tell it like it is rather than feed me rainbows, lollipops and four-leaf clovers.

      Delete
    2. they talk about the opposing team so much i turn the volume off. i don't mind hearing about other players, but i can hear a joy in Bucks voice from time to time when an opposing player gets a hit....like i said, i don't listen to them anymore and hope buck retires so i can hear about our team more often.

      Delete
  2. I agree - it could definitely be worse.

    Regarding the "Less is More", I find it fascinating that I can listen to Jerry & Allan paint that picture in my mind but I wish Buck and especially Tabby would tone it down sometimes. Of course the difference is TV vs Radio, but that balance has to be tricky to find for a broadcaster especially since different listeners will feel different about it.

    I don't watch much hockey or soccer but here is where I think the differences really show (to me, anyway). I love the British guy, whoever it is, who calls the World Cup games, who says so little but says it eloquently, without necessarily detailing what is happening (ie I can *SEE* the pass was made, I don't need to be told). His commentary compliments the game moreso than calls it.

    In sharp contrast, I find hockey an all-out attack on the aural senses. Every pass, shot, check, call, play, etc.. is called. While watching on TV, I don't need that! Just remind me the players and keep up with the momentum, etc...

    Baseball lands in the middle, to me. But, most of the time, while watching TV, I agree that less is more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truer words cannot have been spoken. Less really is more on the TV side ... sometimes it's alright to just let the ambiance of the game fill in the gaps.

      Delete
  3. I dunno, I think they're a little old school for me. I grind my teeth everytime I have to hear about "Big & Strong" or listen to Buck drone on about RBI's and how (apparently) Catchers don't need to be good batters.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Everyone's got their own opinion about how a game should go, how people should act, how things should settle in place but it's not possible to consider every one of the individuals' preferences and so there are inevitable negative feedback sometimes and that's fact. And as for the broadcast teams being that, just be thankful it didn't come out worse than it could have.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did anyone else go to the "it could be much worse" link in the article?? If those two clowns were the Jays commentators, I would never watch the Jays EVER!

    Thank god for Buck and Tabby!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tabler has the personality of a piece of cardboard. He puts me to sleep whenever he talks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I went to the link, Drew. Completely agree. Those guys are AWFUL. They sound like two Grade 8 dropouts having a beer in their trailer. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not good. No fan should have to listen to that. I feel bad for the White Sox.

      Delete
  8. Buck Martinez is a master of saying/repeating, and then once more repeating the obvious. All of his "knowledge" sounds like it comes from the back of a baseball card. He has not in-depth knowledge of any opposing player.

    In truth, he makes Tim McCarver sound like a magician with words.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...