Flagship: Sun Sports
PxP: Dewayne Staats (since the team’s inception in 1998)
Color: Brian Anderson (full-time since 2011)
Reviewer: Jim Turvey
Category: Play by Play
Dewayne Staats has been with the Rays for their entire lifespan, and it shows. Staats is a very natural play by play man, as his classic broadcaster voice along with his ability to call the action on the field is very strong. He also does a good job of not trying to call the game on top of the action. He realizes that working a TV broadcast, he has the luxury of the viewer seeing the game, and will let the sounds of the game have their place in his broadcast. He does not shout over the crowd on a big play, realizing that this can actually add to the viewer feel to the game. He also does a good job of balancing “homer” and “robot” in that he is able to feel excitement for both teams good plays, he just gets a little more excited for the Rays when they succeed.
Category: Color Commentary
Anderson is in the beginning of his career as a color man, and it shows at times. This is not an indictment of Anderson as much as it is an indictment of how difficult the process of becoming a good color commentator is. There’s a reason that so many have been around for nearly two decades or more, and it is because it takes so long to get comfortable as a color commentator that many teams don’t want to go through the process all over again. I believe he will go on to be an above average commentator, but when he does things like use the same analysis of R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball a half dozen times it shows that he isn’t quite there yet. He also would do well do come up with some catch phrases or go to slang seeing as many teams like it if there is something distinct about their broadcasters.
Anderson gives plus analysis of pitchers, but when it comes to evaluating hitters he is often reserved and seems reluctant to give his input. When he does comment it is usually relevant and useful, but it just isn’t frequent enough. As noted, Anderson is new to announcing, and although he sounds confident behind the mic, he often repeats himself throughout the broadcast, which could be a possible quirk that he will be able to work out with more experience. In this same light, his comments tend to mirror those of Staats instead of adding real depth to the commentary. On the occasions that he does add to Staats’s comments, it seems as though Staats can not add on to Anderson’s observations, which makes for a weaker give and take than some of the better baseball broadcast teams.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
This is another aspect the Rays broadcast has to work on. Although it was previously noted that Staats does a good job of letting the sounds of the game have their place in the broadcast, this does not mean honoring each Longoria single with a minute of silence. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but there are noticeable amounts of dead air, especially when the Rays are down big. At one point, in a game in which the Rays trailed 8-0, it became almost difficult to remember that Staats wasn’t announcing the game alone, since Anderson was silent for nearly a whole half-inning.
There are some strong points here to be noted, however. Anderson, as a former pitcher, is able to give good analysis when he mixed it up from what he previously said. Both he and Staats also do a good job of attempting to “foreshadow” situations they think might occur, such as a hit-and-run or a pitcher starting to struggle. They also are very good at telling it like it is. They are balanced enough that if you tuned into the game without knowing what broadcast team it was, you would know it was the Rays, but you would not be annoyed by their homerism. In fact, they heaped as much praise on Mike Trout as any opposing broadcast team could be expected to. They also provide a good amount of trivia with most of it being more current, but this makes sense seeing as the franchise has been around less than twenty years.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
These two men seem to be in the building process of their team chemistry as the amount of dead air combined with the fact that there was minimal humor sprinkled into the broadcast made the viewer aware of a disconnect between the two. They focus on baseball throughout, never straying for more than a minute on any tangential subject. At times, because of this lack of pizzazz, the telecast almost feels like a radio broadcast in the sense that only the game on the field is being portrayed, and not any of the behind the scenes element that TV has made capable. As a result the on-field product is above par, but the feel for the game is certainly below par.
Staats and Anderson also display some inexactitude in their use of statistics. For example, rather than being precise, they use general phrases such as “he throws it around 30% of the time” and “he’s been in the top five or ten in batting average over the last couple weeks.” With the research that goes on behind the scenes these days, this kind of vague statistical analysis really isn’t on par with the other broadcast teams across the MLB.
The same issue is present in their scouting profiles. The team often gives a vague outline of a player, only giving an “on-the-surface” view that easily could be delved into deeper. It sometimes seems that when they give a statistic they are merely reading it off the screen instead of adding to it at all, or giving their perspective on what the statistic means.
There were occasions of good statistics with good analysis, as when they showed the Rays had the best record of any team in baseball against teams under .500. Anderson made the point that since they play in the AL East this was very important to the Rays chances of success. This sort of analysis shows that the team is capable of strong analysis; however, it should be more prevalent throughout their broadcast. The team also did seem to do a good job of at least attempting to anticipate certain events in the game, such as a player breaking out of a slump. These events did not always go on to happen, but the anticipation was often rooted in solid logic.
Category: Production Values
This is one of the strengths of the broadcast, as the camera is always consistently focused on the pitcher before his wind up, and the camera angle shows consistency throughout. They do a good job of framing the action, and never really seem to lose a fly ball in its trajectory. During one game, the crew did mess up once, showing the wrong replay, but the broadcasters handled it well by turning it into an opportunity for a joke. The broadcast does a particularly good job of letting the sounds of baseball have their place, which viewers may find enjoyable. They made good use of their new high-speed camera for the most part, having a little fun with it when showing a high-definition slow-motion high five, which would have seemed over-the-top, but the announcers seemed so gleeful about it that it was more endearing than annoying.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
The sponsorship is never intrusive, as the Rays broadcast team time their commercialism well, never being over-the-top or in-your-face about it. The Rays team used their sideline reporter, Todd Kalas, extremely well throughout, giving him good interview subjects, and allowing him to truly play a role in the team. They do not seem to make a lot of use of the guest interview, but they use their sideline reporter enough that he seems like a third member of the team on occasion. This is always done professionally with the view of the game never losing out to a sideline interview.
Overall, this is not a bad broadcast so much as they seem rather “vanilla”, lacking a real feel for the game. Anderson needs to gets more time in to feel more comfortable, and the research team would do well to give them some more specific statistics to use during the game. Staats is a solid play-by-play man, and when paired with a good color man could make a very good duo. He has been with the team a while and it shows, as he is both very comfortable behind the mic as well as having a feel for anticipating the game. They would make for a better radio team because of the way in which they call the game. A TV broadcast team is able to expand their broadcast technique to include a vaster array of conversational pieces because the viewer is seeing the game in front of them. If this piece is added through a couple years of experience for Anderson, this could become an above average team, but they are not there quite yet.
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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.