Flagship: FOX Sports Arizona
PxP: Steve Berthiaume (first season as PxP; former ESPN SportsCenter anchor and studio host)
Color: Bob Brenly (returns to the Diamondbacks this season after being their color analyst 1998-2000; worked the booth for the Chicago Cubs for seven seasons, as well as playoff coverage for TBS)
Reviewer: R. J. Lesch
Category: Play by Play
Berthiaume’s style is straightforward and upbeat. His voice is steady, lively, and enthusiastic, not silky, but guy-next-door quality. His energy level is high but not hyper, and he maintains that level through the length of the broadcast, and regardless of the score of the game. He amps it up during the exciting moments, within reason, but is not going to chew up the furniture just to get his call on the national sports news.
Category: Color Commentary
Brenly matches Berthiaume’s energy level and consistency. His voice is also steady and lively. He is especially good at identifying ballplayer skills and finding interesting things to say about them. Many color commentators can talk about relay throws from the outfield, for example, but in the August 10 broadcast, he pointed out specific aspects of footwork and positioning that went beyond the usual “good fundamentals” chatter. It is the sort of thing you expect a color commentator to be able to do, but Brenly adds a layer many in his chair don’t.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
Balance seems to be the team’s watchword. Together and separately, they seem to find a middle ground that is engaging without being cloying, and both maintain their professional demeanor while still having fun with the call.
Both seem to have a good grasp of the history of the game (talking about John McGraw during the July 4 broadcast, for example). Both clearly know and enjoy the game, and this comes through.
In interviews, Brenly talks about wanting to give fans enough information to let them figure out what will happen next in a given game situation, and Berthiaume talks about trying to call the game as a fan, inviting the viewer to watch the game together. Both execute on those goals.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Considering this is their first season together, Berthiaume and Brenly team up very well. Both seem to respect and like each other without being too fawning about it. Berthiaume will prompt Brenly to talk about his playing career on occasion, and can banter about that a bit, but seems to know when to stop. Both will talk about their families on occasion, but that’s usually charming and pleasant. Some broadcast teams will drone on about their golf games or restaurant escapades, at the expense of the game coverage, but if either of these fellows plays golf, this reviewer didn’t happen to listen to a game where they talked about it.
As noted, the analysis is fairly insightful and detailed. Both Berthiaume and Brenly seem focused on the game, and appear to have a staff that is quite good at feeding them interesting things to say (something both broadcasters acknowledge during games). Sometimes they pick up things one wouldn’t expect. They (or one of their staff) noticed on July 5 that the pine tar on Martin Prado’s bat would stick to the shoulder of Prado’s jersey as he waited for the pitch, which is the sort of entertaining detail some broadcasters could either miss or go overboard with. They noted it, had some fun with it, and then moved on. Their focus is on the Diamondbacks, and as one would expect they have a close knowledge of the ballplayers and their individual playing styles, successes, and struggles. They also appear to have done their homework on the opposing team, too, and are appreciative of good baseball and critical of poor play on both sides.
Category: Production Values
Solid and mostly unremarkable. On routine outs, they like to crank up the sound after the ball is put in play and turn it down again after the out is recorded. It is not clear what they gain from doing this. Otherwise, the camera work and production is pretty standard. The blocking, camera selection, and action tracking are what we have come to expect from modern baseball broadcasts. The replays almost never cut into the live action, and are smoothly handled.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
Also solid and unremarkable. The commercial announcements are delivered with the same level of enthusiasm and attention as the rest of the broadcast, and are woven into the discussion without interrupting the flow much. There is always an interview with fans in the stands, which is sometimes entertaining, though, the on-field reporters are so plain-vanilla in their reporting and interviewing that they are indistinguishable from their peers in other ballparks.
In general, the team of Berthiaume and Brenly does a very good job bringing the game to the audience. Balanced in their energy and approach, and knowledgeable about the finer points of baseball, they are a good team to tune in to.
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.