Flagship: FOX Sports Ohio
PxP: Thom Brennaman (since 2007)
Color: Chris Welsh (since 1994)
Reviewer: RJ Lesch
Category: Play by Play
Thom Brennaman is solid and unspectacular. His voice is noticeably breathy, but not annoyingly so. He gets a fair amount of criticism, but it is hard to see why, at least based upon a sampling of games in late August and September. He is hardly Vin Scully, but neither is he Ken Harrelson. Brennaman made no egregious gaffes, insulted no opposing players, and went on no tirades during the games reviewed. His commentary was restrained and focused, though not particularly noteworthy one way or another.
Category: Color Commentary
Chris Welsh is also solid and unspectacular. His voice is a friendly sort of growly, which grows on a listener after a while. He sounds more animated than Brennaman, or was so during the games reviewed. His observations reflect his background as a pitcher; in discussions with his partner, Welsh will often present the pitcher’s side of the story while Brennaman will comment upon the batter’s.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Compared to the average broadcasting team, the commentary was surprisingly calm and nuanced. In one August game, even when the Reds had a nine-run lead, the focus of the broadcast remained on baseball. When they aren’t discussing the game in front of them, they’re talking about current events in the game or other topics of interest (drafting high-school pitchers versus college pitchers, for example), rather than veering off into non-baseball topics.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
The combination is a little rough around the edges, yet the pieces fit together. Their commentaries relate to each other and one’s comments follow the other’s logically. They are neither fuzzy nor friendly; they interact firmly, but not warmly. There is little to no banter or verbal horseplay. When they disagree, it is businesslike, without rancor. This is, in a sense, refreshing.
The team has a limited range of topics they cover well. The opinions given are thoughtful and nuanced (especially when related to pitching), but without depth. Brennaman has been criticized for having a loose grasp of the facts, (this was especially the case during his days covering the Cubs), but both men seemed to stay within what they knew during the games under review, and perhaps Welsh can be credited as a good influence. Both were free with their opinions, but stated them calmly and without forcing them onto the audience.
Category: Production Values
The Fox Sports channels all follow a pretty standard template for their baseball broadcasts, and this crew does not deviate from the formula. The formula is executed with few flaws and few flashes.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
In-game commercial mentions were not common, but those that were offered were handled smoothly albeit with few distinguishing characteristics.
The team of Thom Brennaman and Chris Welsh gets a fair amount of grief, which does not appear to be warranted. At the risk of making this review repetitive and predictable (much like the broadcasters themselves), they are solid but unspectacular. Perhaps over the course of a full season they will turn in their share of bloopers and blunders, but for the most part they appear to get the job done. In a sense, they deserve credit for staying within their capabilities and for not trying to force or fake anything for the sake of ratings.
About the author:
R. J. Lesch is a business analyst and fencing coach.
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.