Radio: New York Mets

Flagship: WFAN

PxP: Howie Rose (since 2004)
Josh Lewin (since 2012)

Color: Both (split duties)

Reviewer: Bryan Soderholm-Difatte

Category: Play by Play
Grade: 60

Rose does the play-by-play in the first two innings, Lewin the next two, Rose the fifth and sixth innings, Lewin the seventh, and Rose the eighth and ninth. Once the game goes into extra-innings, Lewin and Rose alternate innings.

As PxP announcers, each is on top of the action, making it easy to score the game at home. After describing complex plays involving multiple players as they happen, they clarify the scoring using scorebook notations—such as when David Wright was picked off first base in one game giving the scoring as “1-3-6, caught stealing.”

Rose and Lewin keep their radio audience up-to-date on lineup and position changes that take place during commercial breaks. Both broadcasters are clear and succinct, even in games that are well into extra-innings and four or five hours old. Their accounts of scoring opportunities by either side convey a sense of anticipation about what might happen next. Neither is over the top in describing dramatic plays, including great defensive plays or home runs by the Mets.

Both Rosen and Lewin are professional play-by-play broadcasters with a solid command of the game, able to discuss the nuances of strategy and in-game moves.

Category: Color Commentary
Grade: 55

In his role as color commentator, each announcer gracefully provides relevant commentary after virtually every play, either discussing the actual play or making a relevant point about the players involved or the situation. Rose, who does the play-by-play for six innings, is typically more anecdotal in his commentary; having been a Mets broadcaster for more than a decade, he has more personal Mets history to draw on. Lewin tends to be more analytical, but is also capable of delivering historical Mets anecdotes.

Although neither played professional baseball, their insights in explaining plays and situations are informative and display an astute understanding of the game. In one game, for example, with Lewin calling the play-by-play, when Mets’ third baseman David Wright raced in to field a sacrifice bunt, leaving him far off the bag at third, Rose in his role of color commentator informed listeners that the shortstop, left fielder, and catcher were all racing to cover third base to ensure the runner just sacrificed to second would not try to continue on to third—or would be thrown out if he tried to so do.

Both Rose and Lewin are very clear about when they are relying on video feeds of the play to inform their commentary, and call it as they see it. While they are not averse to questioning umpires’ calls, but neither makes personal digs at them or dwell on the egregiousness of it all. More likely are subtle comments like, “This is not one of [the ump’s] best days behind the plate,” “[both pitchers] are wondering where his strike zone went,” or “the Mets got a huge break on the call.”

Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Grade: 65

Theirs is a very professional broadcast without annoying Mets favoritism. Both announcers are very informative while describing the action, anticipating what might happen next, verbally painting a vivid picture of where everyone who is relevant in a given situation is on the field of play (especially defensive alignments when runners are on base and in the extra innings), explaining immediately after a play anything that would illuminate the action, and providing atmospherics and context. Rose keeps Mets’ listeners informed about the scores of other games throughout the game without excessive detail.

A particular strength of their broadcast is using the first several innings to identify narrative storylines that are likely to be relevant during the game. This includes providing context for the game by explaining the recent history that brought the Mets and their opponent to this point in the season and highlighting key players for the other team. Examples include noting that Mets’ ace Matt Harvey had been having command issues in recent games; that the Giants had been struggling defensively all season and at the plate, particularly with runners on base, in recent games; and that the Nationals had not measured up to pre-season expectations, leading to tension between players and executive management. Rose and Lewin also use the early innings to develop narrative arcs based on the action, such as observing that a particular umpire’s strike zone appears problematic for the day’s pitcher.

game. Another nice touch in many of their road broadcasts is providing historical baseball or cultural context of the city and teams the Mets are visiting, such as Giants and Dodgers histories and relevant local issues during west coast broadcasts, or noting the architecture visible from Nationals Park as a launching pad for deeper discussion of the history of Washington, DC.

Each announcer, Rose in particular, occasionally leaven the broadcast with historical asides about the Mets and sometimes historical analogies to illustrate a point. In a start by Royals’ southpaw Bruce Chen, Rose recalled that he had started for the Mets in the first game played in New York after 9/11 and then discussed his impressions from that day; also, especially to Mets fans of a certain age, Rose describing a catch made by Juan Lagares in center field as reminiscent of one of the great catches made by Tommie Agee in the 1969 World Series surely painted a vivid mind’s-eye picture of the play. Such asides provide a well-rounded insight into the Mets and their opponents, as well as their place in the world.

Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Grade: 50

Rose and Lewin work well together as a team, but perhaps because this is only their second season as broadcast partners, they do not make for as distinctive a radio broadcast duo as some other teams’ play-by-play radio guys. Neither is overbearing, and both are respectful of the other.

Whenever one introduces a particular storyline or narrative arc, the other ably contributes. For example, when Rose took the lead in drawing comparisons between the Mets’ Matt Harvey’s excellence this year and Tim Lincecum’s when he first broke in with the Giants, Lewin not only offered his views on that subject, but also seamlessly raised Tom Seaver as the standard of Mets’ excellence Harvey is aiming for, which every Mets fan will appreciate.

There is no indication that either leaves the booth for very long when the other has play-by-play responsibilities, meaning there are almost always two voices in the booth.

Category: Analysis
Grade: 60

When introducing batters and pitchers, Rose and Lewin rely mostly on the basic statistics that have been used by broadcast commentators for generations. They rarely use “advanced statistics” favored by the sabermetric community. In one broadcast, “WHIP” was the only “advanced stat” to which reference was made, and Rose was explicit in explaining exactly what each letter stood for and the meaning of the stat in a way any listener, even one unversed in stats, could understand. Lewin and Rose always define a “quality start” whenever they first use that term in a given broadcast. The broadcast team does not overwhelm the listener with reams of stats, but rather uses them judiciously in appropriate circumstances—such as how individual hitters or their teams were doing in recent games with runners in scoring position.

In addition to analytical insights in their play-by-play commentary—such as on defensive alignments, what went wrong on a play, or the little things that go unnoticed even by fans at the park— Rose and Lewin provide insightful analysis that anticipates how the game might develop. Rose mentioned at the beginning of one game in San Francisco, for example, that opposing teams seemed to “pick up” on Lincecum very well the third time through the order, which proved both prescient and accurate during that game.

Category: Production Values
Grade: 50

There is not much to comment on one way or the other. The mic sound is good. Fan reactions to the action can be clearly heard but never drown out what the broadcasters are saying. Unlike radio broadcasts by some other teams, there is very little discernible on-field sound—like the clinking of donuts being put on or taken off bats by players in the on-deck circle—to distract from the play-by-play.

Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
Grade: 50

Perhaps surprisingly for a team playing in the country’s biggest city (and commercial market), there are fewer commercial drop-ins during the play-by-play than on many other teams’ radio broadcasts. There are usually at least two an inning, but rarely more than four. The Mets appear to have only one sponsor for extra innings, so Rose and Lewin’s obligatory start to each extra inning having to reference the sponsor seems a bit tedious as the game progresses.

Category: Overall
Grade: 57

Rose and Lewin keep their radio audience fully engaged, identify and follow through on key storylines from the beginning of the game, identify and stay with narrative arcs that develop during the games, and do very well explaining what needs to be explained for a listener who might not be very knowledgeable about baseball. They provide the sort of broadcast that can hook a longtime baseball fan to their play-by-play as easy listening, or entice a novice into the compelling grip of baseball as a sport to engage with.

 

About the author:

Bryan Soderholm-Difatte has published five articles in SABR publications, writes the Baseball Historical Insight blog, has an on-line manuscript, www.thebestbaseballteams.com, and is a contributor to Seamheads.

 

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.

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