Radio: New York Yankees

Flagship: WCBS AM 880

PxP: John Sterling

Color: Suzyn Waldman

Reviewer: Sarah Johnson

Category: Play by Play
Grade: 50

John Sterling has been the Yankees radio announcer for about 25 years and, like any announcer, he has developed fans and detractors alike. His game-calling presentation is very professional, as he knows how to smoothly work in all pertinent game related details: score, inning, weather details, etc.

However, Sterling seems to over-enunciate and strains to include catch phrases that detract from his game calling, which can be irritating if you’re not a Yankees fan. As many radio announcers have a tendency to do, he sometimes forgets the medium and asks the audience a question about a replay. (No, we don’t see what you mean—we’re listening on the radio!) Also, while he has developed a professional broadcast style, it almost seems too corporate. One wonders if that is a directive from the Yankees? A listener might expect more unabashed excitement at certain points in the game, but doesn’t really feel the importance or energy of that situation. (It’s like he’s trying to do that with his catch phrases but it seems forced.)

Category: Color Commentary
Grade: 55

Suzyn Waldman provides a different perspective for the average baseball fan simply because of the fact that she is a female announcer. However, she has been a Yankees radio broadcaster for about eight years and works in her knowledgeable comments well enough that you begin to think of her as simply the color commentator, not just a “female baseball announcer.”

However, a listener might sometimes feel the same way about Waldman’s comments as they might about her partner: she never really gets that excited during exciting parts of the game. Again, one wonders if they are a product of their environment in which New Yorkers are supposed to be unimpressed with regular season success? Also, during one game she seemed inexplicably silent for most of the ninth inning until John mentioned in the bottom of the inning that she had gone down to the field to prepare for the post-game interview.

Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Grade: 50

While both broadcasters have a good collection of stories and anecdotes to sprinkle throughout the game, occasionally they seem to run out of commentary in the later innings. Surely they are aware that Yankees games can be long affairs? The information that they shared with the audience was relevant and interesting but they leave us wanting more!

They do a good job of respecting the other team’s players and were complimentary of their opponent’s play, ballpark and city when appropriate. I know Derek Jeter’s injury is a big topic in New York this year, but it practically took over entire innings of one broadcast I listened to. It’s like someone forgot to remind them there was a game going on. At other times, they did a good job staying focused on the game, so focused in fact that it would have been nice to hear either of them display some personality. At one point Waldman called out a “terrible play” by the Yankees, so she does show the ability to criticize her employer’s team when seemingly warranted.

Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Grade: 45

As they have worked together for eight years, they seem comfortable with each other as broadcast partners and mix in the other’s name in their comments (“As you were saying, John…”; “I agree with you, Susan…”). They do a good job of not stepping on the other’s commentary, although at one point John repeatedly pronounced a player’s name wrong while Suzyn pronounced it correctly, so obviously they are not always in total synch! A non-New Yorker might be surprised that they have less noticeable East Coast accents than they might be expected to have. Again, the main complaint about their charisma is that they didn’t seem to have very much of it—the game broadcasts are stuffy affairs at times.

Category: Analysis
Grade: 55

This was another situation where Waldman seems more impressive than Sterling. While she obviously has never played major league baseball, she has a good feel for the Yankee roster and managerial tendencies which helps her anticipate and explain potential game situations and possibilities to fans. She does a good job to avoid the overused clichés Sterling sometimes uses to preface his comments. Even if he has good insight, he may say something before it like, “Want to hear some numbers?” Again, we’re listening on the radio and as we’re digesting that comment (what are we going to say, no?), you might miss what comes after that. They do a good job of giving the basic statistics (batting average, ERA, etc.) but there is little if any in depth conversation about more advanced statistics, or the use of statistics in baseball in general.

Category: Production Values
Grade: 50

The broadcast production is up to Major League standards, which is to say fairly average. The broadcast flowed well and sounded good, although the sound level seemed quiet while listening to it on MLB Gameday Audio. Again, one didn’t really “feel” any game energy, and perhaps an above average level of production values (which you would think shouldn’t be hard for a crew based in New York City to achieve) might have helped that.

Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
Grade: 50

Both the level and quality of commercialism and cutaways are generally unremarkable, although both Sterling and Waldman seem to accomplish their roles in this well. Sterling drops in sponsor mentions with ease, while Waldman gives pertinent out-of-town score updates during breaks in the action.

Category: Overall
Grade: 51

While Sterling and Waldman are both accomplished professionals that fit the Yankee “brand,” the average baseball fan might like to see them sprinkle more personality and enthusiasm into their broadcasts, and provide more stories, history and anecdotes during the game.

 

About the author:

Sarah Johnson is a member of the Minnesota-based Halsey Hall chapter of SABR. In addition to her job as a grant writer, she has authored many freelance articles on history, sports, food and travel for a variety of publications.

 

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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