Flagship: AM 570 Fox Sports Los Angeles
PxP: Vin Scully
Color: Rick Monday
Reviewer: Alan Anthony
Category: Play by Play
Vin Scully’s voice is synonymous with baseball broadcasting. He is able to easily carry an entire broadcast on his own and in fact he has been doing just that for many years. He has accumulated countless stories about baseball in his over six decades as a broadcaster and he seamlessly intertwines them within the game commentary. He has a truly remarkable ability to tell these stories without ever neglecting even one pitch of action that is occurring on the field. One of his best qualities is that he always finishes a story that he begins, even if he needs to resume it after a commercial break. The combination of his voice, easy going manner, and treasure trove of baseball knowledge make Scully arguably the greatest sports broadcaster – baseball or otherwise – of all time. That Scully has decided to return for the 2014 season is a great gift to Dodger (and baseball) fans everywhere.
By contrast, Charley Steiner has an exuberant broadcasting style. This can be a detrimental characteristic for many baseball PxP announcers, however it works well for Charley. It is apparent that he is ready to describe exciting or important plays with enthusiasm, but conversely does not exaggerate plays that do not merit such a description. This attribute translates very well for a radio broadcaster where the audience cannot see for themselves what is occurring. He uses the same inflection for plays involving the opposition as he does for the Dodgers. In fact, in one of the games under review, high quality plays that were turned in by the second baseman for each team in consecutive half innings both received an equally positive descriptive treatment. He does tend to stumble over words on occasion and refers to players by the wrong name more than once (i.e. Scott Van Slyke being called Andy Van Slyke) however other than that, he does a good job and listening to his broadcast is an enjoyable and informative experience.
The score of 55 is a rounding off of the average of the 80 Vin Scully earns in the approximately 20% of innings he works on radio, and the 50 Charley Steiner receives for his remaining 80%. Taken together, these two PxP veterans provide Dodger fans an above-average radio listening experience.
Category: Color Commentary
Rick Monday is the more reserved of the Steiner-Monday team, which in terms of stereotype is the opposite of the norm (usually the color commentator is the more, well, colorful). He is a former major leaguer who had a reasonably long and successful playing career (1966-1984), the final eight seasons as a member of the Dodgers In fact, it was as a Dodger that Monday famously rescued an American flag from being burned by protesters who’d run onto the field during a 1976 game. As a result, not only is he able to provide relevant insight but he also has a natural and long term affiliation and affinity for with the team.
Monday injects appropriate analysis and comments in support of the play-by-play commentary at the right time and in the right amount (i.e., not too much and not too little). He speaks in a smooth tone and flowing manner and is obviously at ease in front of the microphone. His style is well suited to the reputation of the laid back southern California audience, not surprising considering he is a native of SoCal.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
The broadcast team commentary is solid, if unremarkable. The focus is entirely on the game, including the tangential remarks. There was a tendency on occasion to leave silent gaps that were long enough so as to be noticeable. This would be less of an issue if they were commentating on a television broadcast but it is somewhat problematic on the radio. Monday appears more than willing to defer to Steiner, adding his comments when asked or when the opportunity arises. Monday could solve the dead air problem by being more proactive with his input after a few seconds of silence have passed. While they were positively gushing in their recounting of Yasiel Puig’s hugely impressive first two games in the big leagues, they could hardly be accused of unprofessionalism or bias considering Puig’s performance and impact. At the same time they were not hesitant to criticize poor play, including that of the Dodgers.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
The sum of the Steiner-Monday team is greater than its parts, so to speak. They have been working together for the past nine years and have obviously been able to develop a good rapport during that time. They complimente each other’s comments and insights very well and while they did not do so often, they joke together so well that in one instance their banter is of such high quality, it sounds as though it had been polished by a comedy writing team and rehearsed. One example: they were discussing the opposing starting pitcher, Edinson Volquez and his multiple name changes (born Julio Reyes, then changed to Edison Volquez, then added an additional ‘n’ to his first name) and referred to him using the common baseball phrase as a “player to be named later”. I laughed out loud.
Statistics and trivia were both used to complement game action, as well as season and/or career trends/tendencies. For example, several of Carlos Quentin’s career hit by pitch statistics were used to effectively prove the point that his reaction and post-game comments after being hit by Zack Greinke was incongruous. As with their declarations about Puig, their reasoning was not out of place and did not come across as being unnecessarily in favor of the “home” team (i.e. their employer).
Analysis was not a large component of the broadcast which primarily consisted of game description and discussion. This is not necessarily a negative feature, however fans new to baseball may benefit from injecting some additional analysis at selected moments during the game and conversely more seasoned fans may find themselves wishing for more analysis. The quality of the analysis was competent however the quantity was somewhat lacking.
Category: Production Values
The decision to allow listeners to hear Vin Scully for at least a portion of the games which he works is one that is to be commended, and relevant for inclusion in this Production Values evaluation. Not only is Scully a broadcasting icon, but older Dodgers fans who either prefer a radio broadcast to one on television or who may only have access to a radio broadcast would experience a great deal of comfort in hearing Scully’s familiar voice. Considering that the Detroit Tigers at one point infamously fired Ernie Harwell, Dodger fans should not take for granted the gift that is Vin Scully being offered to as wide an audience as possible until he decides to retire.
From a technical production standpoint, the sonic quality of the broadcast was clear and contained no problems that I could detect. The station identifications were quite a bit louder than the rest of the broadcast and while mildly annoying, that is certainly not atypical.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
The mention of sponsors and reading of advertisements was by no means intrusive. The broadcasters used appropriate opportunities in which to inject these necessary components without distracting from the game accounts (for example, with 2 outs and nobody on base). There were no interviews conducted during the broadcast (which is a good thing).
There was one promotion in particular that was truly informative with respect to the Dodgers franchise and baseball in general. I learned only by way of this sponsored promotion that the Dodgers’ Spanish language radio broadcaster, Jaime Jarrin, is celebrating his 55th anniversary in the booth which means that he has served in that role for the entire duration of the Dodgers tenure in Los Angeles which also means that the Dodgers have the same English and Spanish voice associated with their broadcasts since their move from Brooklyn. It is impressive to have one broadcaster remain with the team that long but to have two who meet that criteria is truly remarkable.
The Dodgers radio broadcast can be categorized as polished and as a presentation of good quality. The experience and virtues of each announcer adds to the overall impact. It is suitable for both the casual and diehard baseball fan. The broadcast achieves a standard to which all teams would do well to aspire. It would be difficult not to be satisfied listening to a game broadcast in this manner by these individuals, regardless of the teams involved. Well done.
About the author:
Alan Anthony – SABR member since 2009. He reviews abstracts annually for the convention and serves as a presentation judge when in attendance. Also has been a fact checker for the Emerald Guide since 2012.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this evaluation are solely those of the author. As such, the views expressed by the author should not be interpreted as representing the opinions of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), its board, or anyone otherwise affiliated with SABR. Likewise, the conclusions included in these evaluations are not to be viewed or interpreted as official endorsements (or lack thereof) by SABR, or of anyone affiliated with SABR, of any particular broadcasters or broadcast organizations.