I’ve been meaning to point this out all week, so this is a few days beyond “fresh”, but one of the more underrated aspects of the September schedule featuring almost exclusively NL West opponents is that the Dodgers don’t leave California or Arizona for the rest of the regular season. That means that last Friday’s game in Cincinnati was the final one featuring the “road team” of Eric Collins & Steve Lyons; for the rest of the year we get a whole lot of Vin Scully, and that’s a great thing. (It’d be better if we got him in the playoffs too, but that’s another story entirely.)
But what about next year? We know that Scully will be returning when SNLA gets going, but we also know that Lyons does not have a contract at this point. That doesn’t mean that he definitely won’t be back, just that there’s not a contractual obligation right now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the same situation for Collins.
I find Collins bland if otherwise inoffensive, though I know many don’t agree. On the other hand, my aversion to Lyons is long known, if only because of how much he loves wins and saves and bunts and grit and heart. But it’s also because of things like this, this, this, or especially this from 2011, which was wonderful if only because myself, Eric Stephen, & Jon Weisman all simultaneously found ourselves dumbstruck that Lyons noted the Cardinals were somehow under more pressure to retain Albert Pujols because Stan Musial was going to die soon. Just wonderful.
I recognize that liking or disliking announcers is somewhat subjective, and so that’s a very personal choice. But it should be pointed out that when FanGraphs ran a reader poll last year on each team’s broadcasters, this duo came in ahead of only the insufferable White Sox homer Ken Harrelson, so it’s not just me. The Dodgers can do better, especially if being the road-only guy is seen as being a stepping stone to a full-time gig once the day finally comes that Scully calls it a career. But really, this is less about Collins & Lyons specifically than it is about the type of broadcaster I’d like to see.
Knowing me, you’d expect that I want a guy who is 110% “KILL THE WIN!” and speaks only in terms of WAR and wOBA. But that’s not really true, actually. If doing this blog for so long has taught me anything, it’s that the way we consume baseball — reading blogs, following Twitter, etc — is somewhat in the minority. Most fans don’t watch baseball like we do, and to have someone like that would turn off the masses. I’d love it if those things were included slowly just to gain familiarity, but I’m really not asking for a broadcast where batting average or ERA are never shown. It’s just not realistic.
Really, it’s not so much about an announcer who says “more smart things,” as far as I’m concerned, just “less dumb things”. Get me a guy who merely knows enough to not put emphasis on wins, saves, and RBIs. An announcer who recognizes the foolishness of the bunt, and knows how silly the words “gritty” and “gamer” can sound. Someone who can tell the story of the game while also not getting excited that every short pop to left field is going to be a 700 foot homer. The days of the one-man booth will die with Scully, so I’m fine with the “broadcaster/former player” combination that Collins & Lyons represent… it just has to be the right people.
I don’t know who that is exactly, yet. I know it’s not Lyons, and I’m relatively sure it’s not Collins. But as the new network launches next year, there’s going to be a lot of eyes (and ears) on who is calling the non-Scully games. It’s an opportunity for change, and it’s truly important that the right choices be made.