To work for 55 years in one profession shows fortitude, consistency, professionalism, and some amount of quality. Think about it, 55 years; a person born in 1958 was born in the same year that current Fox broadcaster and former Major League catcher Tim McCarver first began his first career in baseball, as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Following his retirement as a receiver, McCarver ambitiously began his second baseball-related vocation as a color commentator for WPHL-TV in Philadelphia. He partnered with baseball legends Harry Kalas and Richie "Whitey" Ashburn.
McCarver went on to work for all four major networks, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox, partnering alongside greats such as Don Drysdale, Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Jack Buck. Like his playing career, McCarver acted as the second in command, the man behind the voice, but a prominent one at that. Pitchers are remembered for their dazzling performances, for recording the last out in a World Series clincher, and for stymieing offenses loaded with power, while catchers often remain their loyal sidekicks. The relationship catchers have with the great pitchers mimics those that McCarver had with his broadcasting counterparts.
On Wednesday, Fox announced that 2013 would be McCarver's final season broadcasting baseball games. McCarver has spent the last few decades working alongside Jack Buck's son Joe Buck, calling more World Series and All-Star games than any tandem in history. Although McCarver has been a staple of nationally televised baseball broadcasts for years, it has not been without scrutiny and objection. Many have criticized McCarver for long-winded explanations, rambling on, and going off on far too many tangents. Moreover, he has always had an affinity for he team he once played for, the St. Louis Cardinals.
As far as this writer is concerned, while McCarver performed his job, a difficult one at that, admirably, he had his faults, and is not deserving of 100 percent praise. I respect Tim McCarver for his service, and for continually getting back to the microphone and performing his responsibilities dutifully, without utilizing his position as a bully pulpit opinionated rhetoric. McCarver called a game like an old-timer, and as a younger member of the baseball community, many of his colloquialisms, mannerisms, and theories concerning baseball annoyed me. On the other hand the man won three Emmy awards, so no matter my personal thoughts, he gets the last laugh. In fact, McCarver won the Ford C. Frick award in 2012, enshrining his name in baseball's Hall of Fame for baseball eternity.
In a piece on Sports Illustrated's MLB page concerning McCarver's recent announcement, Richard Deitsch pointed out that someone will need to replace McCarver in the booth alongside Joe Buck:
"Speculation will begin on a replacement for McCarver with Turner Sports analysts Ron Darling and John Smoltz surely to be among the frontrunners."
As someone who is a critic of all sports broadcasting, I'm curious as to the choices mentioned by Deitsch.
Ron Darling constitutes a member of the media I would find palatable in the booth for national broadcasts, but not necessarily enthused. Darling is a graduate of Yale University and pitched for the Mets, Expos, and A's in the 1980's and 1990's. He now serves as a color commentator for TBS broadcasts and for SNY and WPIX, the television and radio broadcast stations for the New York Mets. Darling speaks well, doesn't ramble nearly as much as McCarver, and has gravitas both as a former player and commentator. I wouldn't be opposed to Fox adding Darling to the booth, but he wouldn't be my first choice.
John Smoltz pitched in the Major Leagues for 21 years, foremost for the Atlanta Braves. He traversed both sides of pitching, switching from incredibly effective starting pitcher to lights out reliever with ease. He is surely destined to join fellow Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in Cooperstown. On the other hand, as a broadcaster, Smoltz is very much a neophyte. He has only been behind the microphone since 2008, assisting Joe Simpson in calling Braves games, serving as a third analyst for TBS games, and most recently appearing on MLB Network as an analyst and commentator. Smoltz neither impresses me nor does he make me want to vomit.
Before I give my suggestions for McCarver's replacement, here are a few other names I would despise: Mitch Williams, Billy Ripken, Harold Reynolds, Jim Kaat, and Eric Karros.
Were he not currently employed by the New York Yankees, I would love to see Joe Girardi return to the booth, he wasn't perfect, but he added exceptional insight, spoke well, and refrained from going off on unnecessary tangents. In addition, the newest Cleveland Indian, manager Terry Francona, would be a good selection to wear the FOX headset alongside Joe Buck. Unfortunately neither man would ever willingly relinquish his current position, so they are off the table.
One realistic choice is Dave Winfield, who has been an analyst for ESPN's Baseball Tonight since 2009 and has guest broadcasted for Fox in the past. He has a deep baritone voice meant to be heard by millions of viewers and listeners, and with some practice could become the Morgan Freeman of baseball broadcasts.
The only other name that comes to mind is a wildcard. I think Deion Sanders would make a great analyst. He'd be colorful, funny, witty, crazy, and unique. He may be working for NFL Network, but Sanders played baseball as well as football, performing at high levels in both sports, allowing him to offer a special and different perspective. He's upbeat, not afraid to speak freely on matters many commentators shy away from, and if you've heard his induction speech into the NFL Hall of Fame, an emotional man with a big heart.
So, the time is now to begin the selection process for Tim McCarvers replacement. Some feel blue to see McCarver step down, while others celebrate the change. For a position that holds considerable power in the baseball world, Fox should choose someone who will appeal to the younger generation while still understanding what baseball was like, say, before the steroid era. This is one of those issues where everyone and their mother have a different opinion, so let's hear them. Who should sit next to Joe Buck for the next 10 or more years as the color commentator for baseball's biggest games?