Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back to You, in the Booth

Tom McCarthy
Gary Matthews Sr.

Last night, on the Phillies television broadcast, Tom McCarthy, the Phillies play-by-play commentator mentioned that the Phillies had reached agreements with their the team's top draft picks.  In response, Gary Matthews, one of McCarthy's co-commentator, mentioned that Major League Baseball had recently changed the rules regarding the signing of players from the first year draft.  The two went on to acknowledge that the changes made to the collective bargaining agreement, altering teams' ability to sign players from the draft, would help teams in signing these players.

MLB's new collective bargaining agreement gives teams a maximum amount of money they are allowed to spend on a given draft pick.  This new rule severely limits a team's ability to sign a given player.  Prior to this year's draft, teams were allowed to offer a player any amount of money, in signing bonus form, in order to convince said player to join their club.  Now, teams will be penalized if they exceed the maximum amount that MLB has decided upon.  This significantly affects which players are drafted in which spots.  In addition, the new CBA, creates serious roadblocks for teams attempting to acquire and sign international players, who are not subjected to the first-year player draft.  Recently, many teams have spent large sums of money in scouting international talent, but due to the new CBA, their ventures in Latin American will be curtailed.

Overall, one thing is certain.  No one actually knows how the new collective bargaining agreement will shape the draft, "signability" of players, or the game as a whole.  On the other hand, most pundits agree that, for the time being, the CBA seems to constrict teams, giving them less choice and freedom to exploit the system in order to gain an advantage.  Major League Baseball wants to create as much parity as possible, but, as long as MLB goes without a salary cap, some teams will always have more money than others.  This truism means that smaller market teams like the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays will always look for holes in the system, in order to compete with the larger market teams.  As long as Major League Baseball remains salary capless, complete equality amongst teams will never exist.

So, back to the statements made by McCarthy and Matthews.  Without even touching on any of the more important details concerning the new CBA, the draft, or MLB's decision behind changing the rules, Tom McCarthy and Gary Matthews gave millions of viewers misinformation.  The new CBA will not make it easier for teams to sign players, it only restricts their ability to choose a fitting contract for draft picks.  In the far off distant land of economics, we learn first that choice is better than no choice.  MLB is taking away the freedom of teams in negotiating with draft picks.  So, while players may sign contracts quickly, the new CBA does not guarantee that signing players will be easier.

Darling, Cohen, and Hernandez from left to right
McCarthy and Matthews have the bully pulpit at their disposal.  Most fans do not know what the collective bargaining agreement is let alone read about its affects on the game.  Although, based on the views of both McCarthy and Matthews, I'm unsure if either broadcaster read the document themselves. These two men are supposed to represent the knowledgeable baseball elite, but instead they fall very short.  Often, Gary Matthews will give an explanation as follows: "The reason that ball went so far is because he put a good swing on the ball."  I think we can all agree that this comment offers absolutely nothing towards the analysis of the game.  These types of comments are ubiquitous throughout the Phillies broadcasts as well as many others around the country.  Although I think teams could and should find better announcers, such as Ron Darling, Gary Cohen, and Keith Hernandez for the NY Mets, these asinine comments are the norm.  The Mets television announcers provide such eloquence and in depth analysis that the New York Times often publishes transcripts of their broadcasts.

The issue remains that announcers cannot be allowed to say things that are incorrect.  If McCarthy and Matthews do not completely understand new CBA and how it might affect the draft, then the Phillies should have a guest, with knowledge on the subject, come and explain it to viewers.  In addition to speaking without knowing, the Phillies announcing crew will almost never question Major League Baseball's decisions.  I understand that the Phillies are part of MLB and in turn that the commentators work for the Phillies, but to never dispute or doubt anything handed down from Major League Baseball is a travesty to the system.  Instead of actually commenting and analyzing, announcers, at least in the Phillies' case, have lost the ability to share original thoughts.  These supposed experts should use their time on the air to speak intelligently about the issues facing Major League Baseball and explain how it affects their respective team.  Instead announcers like Matthews and McCarthy shy away from criticizing or even questioning the validity of Major League Baseball, thus showing their viewers no perspective, and providing all Phillies fans with banality.

Vin Scully, Dodgers Hall of Fame Announcer
Recently I found myself watching the LA Dodgers broadcast.  Through the TV came the unmistakable voice of Dodgers play-by-play announcer Vin Scully.  Scully not only announces the game with a great voice, he knows everything about the players,  keeping track of the day-to-day business of the Dodgers and Major League Baseball.  He admits when he does not know an answer, and speaks intelligently when calling the game.  Younger commentators should take note of the hall-of-fame announcer and attempt to emulate his conduct.

Often times I will mute the television during Phillies broadcasts because I become so frustrated with the level of broadcasting, but rarely do I actually yell at the TV.  Last night, when Gary Matthews and Tom McCarthy attempted to pass themselves off as experts of the new CBA and its affects on the draft, I lost it.  These men possess a lot of power given their visibility in the Phillies organization, but they choose to spoil it by making incorrect statements and not providing factual evidence to back up their claims.  Even ranked the Phillies TV broadcasters near the bottom in their broadcaster rankings.

Lao Tzu famously said, "Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know."  I don't profess to know about the business of announcing and commentating on games, but from a baseball fan's perspective, announcers like Gary Matthews and Tom McCarthy need to be replaced.  Misinformation, ignorance, and stupidity should never be tolerated, especially from those with so much power.  I challenge the Phillies to realize this problem, and do something to fix it because my frustration level towards the Phillies announcers has reached its limit.


  1. I agree that the state of broadcasting, especially in Philadelphia, has something of a reduced quality. I grew up with Harry, Whitey, and Andy, and I'm biased towards the voices of my childhood. Thinking back, they didn't really add all that much to my understanding of the game, but they infinitely enhanced my enjoyment of it. Current broadcasters, excluding the Mets' tv trio and radio duo, and a select few from other teams, are either vapid and generic or shameless homers. That said, I do like Franske and Andersen on the radio for the Phils. On tv, T-Mac gives me a headache (why say in one sentence what you could say in twelve); T-Mac and Sarge (count how many times he says 'actually' during a comment) paired together have helped reduce my interest in watching the team of my childhood.

  2. Thank you for the comment Mr. McLaughlin. I agree that since the passing of Harry kalas the Phillies broadcasting has been sorely lacking. In addition, I agree that the radio broadcasters provide greater insight as well as good humor. It's refreshing to gain the perspective of someone who has been a Phillies fan for longer than I.