Flagship: FSSD (Fox Sports Sand Diego)
PxP: Dick Enberg (since 2009)
Color: Mark Grant (since 1997)
Reviewer: William Schneider
Category: Play by Play
The Padres scored big when they signed broadcast legend, Dick Enberg, in 2009. Enberg has been in the sportscasting field practically his whole life, and has garnered the respect of his peers in the form of 13 Sports Emmy Awards as well as the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting. The Padres are, however, his first job in baseball broadcasting since he worked with the California Angels in 1985. He also has no real connection to the Padres outside of being their employee now.
All this is very telling in the strengths and weaknesses of Enberg’s play by play. His voice is a very natural fit, as it is calm and never flustered, a result of his comfort level behind the mic. However, he has faced criticisms that he seems to be as excited when the opposing team scores or makes a good play as he is when the Padres do. Enberg has seemed to improve upon that, but he does come across as being in awe of the sport more than the Padres. For example, when the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo made a good play in the field, Enberg was quick to praise it, unlike many other announcers in the game today. For a neutral listener, this can be a refreshing cup of tea, but you can imagine how a local might take issue with it.
Enberg does a good job of being very aware about the game as a whole, and often lends more credence to runs of higher significance (in a close game or when the Padres get off to a quick start) in his broadcast. Enberg also does a good job of not taking himself too seriously, an impressive feat for such an accomplished professional.
Category: Color Commentary
Grant’s color commentary is delightful, blending humor, self-deprecation, ease behind the mic, and an ability to reach his audience in a very rare mixture. His humor tends to be all-inclusive. When he pokes fun at someone it’s usually at himself, and even when it’s not it is easy to tell that it is not malicious. On the rare occasion he misspeaks, he is able to correct himself with a fluidity that never disrupts the flow of the broadcast. His vernacular is perfect for San Diego as he uses many Spanish words such as “guante” for glove, in an effort to engage his southern California audience.
Grant’s strength of analyzing pitchers is impressive, and his only weakness is in his comparative lack of analysis of hitters. For example, he was able to pick up on Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani slowing his arm speed on a curveball, which then cued the viewer to pay attention to this in the future. This type of analysis coming from an actual pitcher in the big leagues is great, and allows the viewer to feel as though they can spot these important facets of the game as well.
Grant is also very aware of his surroundings, noticing entertaining fans in the crowd, and little things on the field that might get by a less astute observer. His knowledge spreads outside of the realm of just Major League Baseball as he seems very informed about the Minor Leagues, and even all the way down to Little League, as he gave his suggestions for tidying the game up a little bit.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
The two men work well together to make sure there is almost no dead air, even during blowout games. For the most part, they stick to baseball almost to the point where one starts hoping for an outside anecdote. The emphasis on baseball is warranted, of course, but a brief anecdote from outside the game, maybe when a pitcher is taking his warm ups, or during a coaching visit to the pitcher’s mound, might also be enjoyable.
The team’s strength lies in their ability to make the broadcast feel natural. They do this by filling up non-play air time with a significant amount of trivia, which they seem to slip into the broadcast as though it were second- nature, and not as if they are not being fed these nuggets of trivia on game notes. They also are a fair-minded team who will note advantages to both teams, such as pointing out that . while the Padres’ Tyson Ross may not have been fairly getting the low fastball strike, neither was the Reds’ Cingrani. A weakness of the team comes in the form of their lack of insight into the organization, which may be a reflection on Enberg’s short tenure to date. Rarely did either member of the team give us the “behind the curtain” view of the Padres that is usually so valuable to a broadcast.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
It’s difficult to give a rating on this attribute without thinking of the awesome chemistry that Enberg’s predecessor, Matt Vasgersian, had with Mark Grant before Vasgersian moved to the MLB network. However, it is also unfair to punish the current team for that, and Grant and Enberg do have good chemistry even if it’s not to the level of the previous Padres TV team. Their chemistry at times thrives from the fact that Grant will make a joke that just completely flies over Enberg’s head, with Enberg either needing a long time to get the joke, or even an explanation to understand it. This might not sound like a positive, but with the two men it comes across as endearing more than annoying. It doesn’t hurt that Enberg has one of the best voices in the sport, and that while Grant doesn’t have a typical broadcast voice, he has worked his way into a solid place on the Padres announcing scene for the last seventeen years, and is second nature to Padres fans at this point.
The broadcast team is very well prepared for their games. Grant and Enberg are stuffed to the gills with information not only on the Padres, but their opponents. In fact, a listener is likely to learn more about the opposing team than the Padres during any given broadcast. For example, during one game Grant pulled out this doozy when one Padres hitter went down 0-1 in the count, “We might see the Padres swinging early in the count. Here’s why – after an 0-2 count, hitters are 1 for 67. That’s a .015 batting average.” The two would also consistently refer to similar scenarios in other ball games throughout the year, and how the action had played out in that case scenario. For example, if the Padres’ Eric Stults were to walk to lead off man, Grant would be likely to note how often that runner comes around to score. They had both anecdotal and statistical backing for their observations.
Category: Production Values
This area is a weakness of the broadcast team, as the camera often cuts back to the pitcher mid-windup, or even worse, switches camera angles in the middle of the windup. They also seem to use the Fox Trax pitch zone tool only to show when the umpire misses a call going against the Padres. This might be typical of many broadcast teams, but given that Enberg and Grant are so good at calling it as they see it, the weak production values doesn’t really come off well. The sounds of the game are also not as audible as they should be, as the crack of the bat or the sound of the crowd are sometimes dulled for the broadcast team instead.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
TV has made it so easy to quickly, and nearly subliminally, have advertisements around every part of the game, and FSSD is no different. The broadcast is never overwhelmed with their sponsorships, with the exception of the fact that they promoted their new TV station heavily during one broadcast. Laura McKeeman, the sideline reporter, is also put to good use, mostly at the beginning of innings so that the game action is not interrupted. If she is still doing her bit, they will overlay the game action so nothing is missed.
This may be among the better broadcast teams in baseball for a neutral viewer to tune into. Between their chemistry, Enberg’s great voice, and their knowledge of the game, a Padres TV broadcast makes for excellent viewing. The team relies on a strong rapport, and the consistent use of relevant and in-depth statistics to create a pleasurable viewing experience. The ease with which the broadcast teams informs the audience of statistics and scouting reports is certainly one of the highlights of the games. Grant brings humor to the drier, more professional feel of Enberg. On those occasions that they bring Tony Gwynn in, the analysis of hitting from Gwynn and pitching from Grant is definitely a treat. The team could use Gwynn more often to increase their analysis of hitting, and they could also “go behind the curtain” to give a more in-depth view of the Padres organization, but even so, this is an superb broadcast team who make watching Padres baseball a pleasure.
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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.