PxP: Split between Cory Provus (since 2012) and Dan Gladden (since 2000)
Color: Split between Cory Provus and Dan Gladden
Reviewer: Arnold Bloch
Category: Play by Play
The Twins spilt the PxP duties between Provus and Gladden on a roughly 50-50 basis.
There is one major difference between the two PxP deliveries: Provus almost always tells you when the pitch is being thrown, while Gladden almost never does. Provus may say, “Hanson rocks back”; “And the 0-1”; “Now the 2-2”; “Sets up away and here’s the pitch”; “Now comes home.” This is very engaging and makes the listener feel very much in the game. With Gladden, the first clue that you have that the ball has been pitched is to hear it hit the catcher’s glove or the bat. (In one case, the batter was hit by the pitch and the play sounded like it came out of nowhere – almost as if the pitcher went up to the batter and hit him with his fist.) Gladden gives the count immediately after it is called, but before that the listener has no sense where the hitter is in the at-bat.
Both announcers show an appropriate level of excitement, no matter which team was making the play. However, Provus generally shows excitement at the beginning through the middle of his call, while Gladden raises his voice mostly toward the end of his call. The result: Provus’s reaction sounds right, while Gladden sounds almost alarmed at what happened.
Both announcers give the score often. With Gladden doing PxP, a listener can sometimes forget there are men on base because he doesn’t always talk about them taking a lead (or not). Gladden also seems to have more miscalls, such as during one game in which Gladden called a deep fly ball by saying the fielder “jumps up. Can’t come down with it.” A listener might have no idea that meant it was a home run. (It was.)
To sum up the key style difference between the two: Provus helps you “see” the game live, while Gladden reports on what just happened.
Category: Color Commentary
Unusual for a baseball broadcast, most of the color commentary is done by the PxP announcer, with the other announcer silent for long periods of time (occasionally, almost the entire half inning). Sometimes, with Provus doing PxP, he would go out of his way to engage Gladden; Gladden rarely engages Provus in a similar manner. The infusion of color commentary by the other announcer picks up a great deal, however, in the very late innings. In these cases, Gladden joins in often, without being prompted, and it does not take away from the action on the field.
On some very rare occasions, Gladden can be frank and even a bit brutal (albeit interesting): After a batter was hit by one pitch, Gladden said that in his day, “we hit a guy where it hurt the most. Ricky Henderson in the legs. A good hitter in the hands.” Another time he compared Ryan Braun to Lance Armstrong and suggested that Braun return his 2011 MVP award.
Outside of the very late innings, however, the quality of the commentary by either the PxP or Color announcer often seems quite inadequate. On one occasion, Provus (in PxP role) went into some depth about a great slide by a Twins runner who scored. It was illuminating, but then when invited to comment on it, Gladden not only did not add much insight, but the call on the next pitch was missed while he was talking. Other commentary was more often than not somewhat trite or non-sequiturs– e.g., “Big league hitters are quick to make adjustments”; “Angel pitching hasn’t been real good like it’s been in the past and hasn’t been that bad.” The lack of a true insiders’ insight makes this part of the broadcast feel lacking.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Frequently, commentary focuses more on outside baseball issues and non-baseball topics than the game being played. During games I reviewed, topics included extensive comments about beach balls in the stands; Albert Pujols 2012 contract with the Angels; bearded and long haired players; the origins of the paternity leave rule; and discussions about teams and standings in divisions other than the AL Central. It’s a mixed bag, but these subjects notably outweigh commentary about the game and situation at hand.
When there are the occasional insights about what is happening on the field, they are quite fun for the radio listener: Twins players and the home plate umpire yelling at each other about a called strike; the Twins manager in the dugout turning his back to the field after the Twins reliever walked a batter; and as the Twins manager and trainer returning to the dugout after checking on the runner at first, the manager telling the trainer to slow down to give their runner a chance to breathe. These kinds of insights, coming from former player Gladden, make the listener feel he is at the game.
Both announcers seem very honest about describing the action. Both get excited about good fielding plays no matter which team performed them. Gladden, however, makes occasional remarks that could be seen as hometown cheering, such as, “Popped up – get out of here!” on a Twins hitter’s foul’ or “It would pop their bubble right now if we could score a run.”
During a sponsored trivia segment, the answer led to very long story about a well-known pitcher. The story bordered on being interesting, but its tedious telling took almost a full inning. The commentary was exhaustive without providing enough in the way of insights.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Both announcers have good speaking voices, with Provus’s somewhat more engaging. They seem to get along and like each other, though the banter and interaction is relatively infrequent. Provus goes out of his way to call Gladden “Danny,” while I never heard Gladden call Provus by his name. Sometimes it feels like Provus is calling on Gladden to give his expert baseball opinion or insight, but the response is not very special. While they seem friendly, they don’t seem to be very humorous.
This is not a strong point of this team. They talk very little about how the pitchers were performing. In one low-scoring game, they never mentioned how good both starting pitchers were doing until the 6th inning. When Provus asked Gladden to anticipate strategy, the comments Gladden offered up often felt wrong, perhaps because Gladden was using his own player-based judgment, rather than thinking like a manager.
They make very little use of statistics. They often say things like the pitcher “is good to bunt on,” “They say his defense has suffered,” “Twins give up a lot of 0-2 hits.” None of these statements was backed up by even the most rudimentary statistics.
They also did not provide much of any scouting-type analysis. When one of the opposing team’s marquee players was not in the lineup, one announcer made a point of saying he didn’t know if he was available. His only cited source of information on this was an article in the newspaper that morning. Two innings later the other announcer said he had spoken to a coach who said he wouldn’t be available. This broadcast team could benefit by personally engaging the Twins coaching staff and players to obtain better insights.
Category: Production Values
This part of the broadcast was excellent. Consistently heard crowd noise, though it is never a hindrance to the broadcast; instead it provides a wonderful background, like the listener is at the game. On close pitches, you can hear the crowd react (which the PxP announcer explained). You can clearly hear the ball hitting the catcher’s glove or the hitter’s bat. You can hear the ballpark announcer introduce batters. This team’s producers effectively use techniques to make listeners feel they are truly at the game.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
Nearly all in-game commercials were brief remarks made by the PxP announcer at the very start of the half-inning, and they always ended several seconds before action resumed.
When the announcers do the occasional sponsor drop-in during an inning, they do a good job of first calling the play before doing the drop-in. These commercial drop-ins are very short; the broadcasters read them with interest, but without exaggeration.
On occasion, either at the top of the inning or when there was a break in the action (e.g., pitching change), there is a breakaway to a scoreboard update, with a studio announcer giving a few scores and some radio highlights from a different game. These breaks are short and do not interfere with on-the-field action, although they are broadcast at a much higher volume than the game, which can be startling.
While both announcers have pleasant demeanors and maintain the right level of interest and excitement for the game, there is important element that brings the grade in near the border of average and below average: whenever Gladden is doing PxP, I keep wishing for Provus. What makes this situation worse is that when Gladden is doing color, it does not add much to the broadcast at all, except late in the game. Provus is a young broadcaster and seems to have a bright future before him. While it would be unfair to say that Gladden is “phoning it in”, his tendency is to report to, rather than involve, the listener; to provide strategy commentary that seems out of synch to what the managers are thinking; and to not reflect his homework on the players or teams during the game. One clear positive about this team is that if the game gets exciting in the late innings, they both perform very well, especially with Provus in the PxP role.
About the author:
Arnold Bloch has been a member of SABR for a few years and a baseball fan for nearly 50. While he enjoys going to ballparks, most games take place in his radio and his mind.
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.