The World Series would be better without John Smoltz

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

John Smoltz hates baseball, which wouldn’t be much of an issue if he was just grumbling about the state of the game in 2018 on his couch while thinking about the next morning’s tee time. No, instead, Smoltz gets to do that from the comfort of the announcers’ booth broadcasting World Series games on national television.

It actively makes the World Series worse, which seems counterintuitive!

There’s the little stuff, like calling players by the wrong name — Smoltz called Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes “Hembree” twice in one inning in Game 1, even though Hembree had not appeared in the game nor had been mentioned in any other context — and the bigger stuff, like spending the entirety of the replays of a key Yasiel Puig home run complaining about how he’s too energetic and it annoys everyone around him. Smoltz was also giving this speech while the Dodgers’ dugout was losing their minds celebrating said homer with Puig. Reading the room isn’t exactly a Smoltz trait.

He’s a living, breathing Back in My Day, which would be fine if he had retired more than a decade ago — Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Ryan Madson, David Freese, Justin Turner, Matt Kemp, Steve Pearce, Ian Kinsler, Rick Porcello, and David Price are all on the World Series rosters and were active the year Smoltz retired, and so were Chase Utley and Daniel Hudson, two more Dodgers who contributed through much of 2018. Dustin Pedroia was once Smoltz’s teammate! Baseball was a different game even nine years ago, yes, but it can’t be that hard to find an analyst who understands the game on a deep level while not actively hating what they see in front of them during the series where MLB should be making brand new fans and appealing to current ones.

Instead, we get a curmudgeon paired with Joe Buck, who is good, but sometimes can’t escape the event horizon of Smoltz’s crankiness singularity. It’s not Buck’s fault: he can’t openly yell at Smoltz for using most up most of the oxygen in the booth to complain.

He should, though, that’d help the broadcast out.

Smoltz complains about excessive celebrations, which for him is any celebration beyond a stoic nod or reserved fist pump. He complains about shifts. He came up with various ways to discredit Matt Kemp for hitting a homer early in Game 1 by saying that some other hits the Dodgers had were good examples of good hitting, while Kemp was simply lucky for being good enough to capitalize on a mistake by hitting a home run off of Chris Sale, who by the way just does not give up home runs. Grudges carried across innings that didn’t make sense when they started, and God help us all if Fox shows a replay of something that annoyed him earlier.

Remember Dennis Eckersley’s genuine, impossible-to-contain enthusiasm during the ALDS? Remember David Cone’s run this postseason as a former MLB starter who knew how to talk about the game? I get that television network contracts are a thing so Fox can’t just use whoever does a good job for TBS or MLB, but it’s just a reminder that it doesn’t have to be Smoltz during the World Series.

Smoltz had real promise as an announcer once. I commented last October that he often got so close to actually being good, but then he’d just keep talking. This year, he occasionally flashes reminders he does know the game he’s paid to announce, but he’s time and time again showed a preference for using his mic time to complain instead. The World Series deserves better, and so do the people watching it.

Comments

He’s still not Tim McCarver or Jason Witten.

Joe Buck

Is usually really great…last night however wasn’t one of his finest games. He had a few very weird moments, even for him.

Never understood the hate for Buck

I think most people are just to easily bothered and its more their problem than it is Bucks. Guys been my favorite broadcast for forever because he usually speaks his mind, good or bad.

Narrative

It’s the old narrative that he was only hired because of his dad. Which was 25 years ago. People just formed an opinion forever ago and have never really changed. He isn’t my favorite in regards to football (he’s still good, I just prefer others) but he is really really good at baseball.

I agree with this

It’s been hard for many to shake that feeling even though he’s proved to do more than enough to hold the job. I don’t like him at all in football, but he’s great in baseball. I’m a Cubs fan and when they won, I personally couldn’t have asked for someone to call that any better. He didn’t say much, but I felt that was great as he just let the moment speak for itself.

As a self-admitted Buck hater

I think is because it feels like he picks a side in whatever game he is commenting on. I will not say he is actually doing that, but it is the perception. The Sox-Yankees series from the early 2000’s immediately come to mind, where Buck would incessantly reference "The Curse" and Bucky Dent. It was a dead-horse storyline between those teams, but it came off as trolling.

He also does this in football. You can’t tell me he was actually horrified by Randy Moss’ fake moon in Green Bay. But it sure felt like he did not care for Moss and was publicly grinding an axe. I get the impression that he creates a theme or story before each game and jams that square peg into that round hole no matter how much it doesn’t fit.

Buck has proven he is a capable announcer. I just think people like Al Michaels do it better. Al augments the play on the field. Buck seeks to supplant it with his signature condescending nonsense. Last night he went to a whole new level by name-dropping celebrities and making unfunny jokes. It was brutal

The biased part is something that always comes up

And frankly it’s ridiculous to even feel like he does. For the 2016 WS, there were numerous comments and articles written in both Cleveland and Chicago about Buck being biased against the Indians and Cubs, respectively. I’m not saying he didn’t show some bias early in his career, because he could have and I just don’t remember, but at this point in his career, if anyone even feels like he’s biased, they are just holding on to old feelings and haven’t actually listened to what he’s currently saying.

I didn’t listen to either of the WS games as the place I was watching them at had other things over the speakers, so I can’t comment on how he has been in this series. However, in the NLCS, he was perfectly fine and called a great series. He’s one of the best national baseball announcers out there.

He has improved a great deal especially with McCarver gone.

In the 05 Series they kept talking about the NYY even though the Astros & White Sox were playing. Plus his call of dramatic White Sox homers and rallies was dull as hell (bias alert). He seems much more into the moment these days and does not try so hard to shoehorn a "clever" line into his call. On the other hand, he still strikes me as kind of a pud.

You have this entirely wrong. Smoltz is pretty good, and Buck is just the worst. Most bland person in the world.

I won't comment on Smoltz...

Because Joe Buck is just the worst and overshadowed for me any annoying thing that Smoltz said.
Joe: "I don’t want you to get nervous, John, but Bruce Springstein is watching right now."
John: "How do you know that?"
Joe: "I just know" Discussion mercifully ends abruptly
What is Smoltz even supposed to say to that? Give me someone who actually loves baseball instead of Buck, Fox, please.
FWIW, in the context of a BASEBALL game, John Smoltz, Hall of Fame Pitcher, is the more famous person! He’s like, the Bruce Springstein of pitching!

Buck was cringeworthy last night

Aside from being his typical NL apologist self, all of his jokes bombed. Then he chastised Benintendi for not sprinting to second on a bloop single, because he was supposed to use ESP to foresee Chris Taylor would mishandle the ball. Lazy bum. Only went 4 out of 5. And then he complained it was "freezing" in Boston. It was 53. Only to cap it with acting like he was the first person to discover Fenway has very little foul territory. Thank, Ponce de Leon.

Buck is atrocious.

FTFY

The World Series would be better without John Smoltz

There aren't many young baseball fans...

So most viewers probably are agreeing with Smoltz.

Why do you think there aren't many young baseball fans?

I think unfortunately it’s because of the gatekeepers who suck the fun out of the game. I am a mid-20’s baseball fan, and a fastidious, decorum-obsessed one at that, but I don’t want to see the game die because of guys who want to watch a group of soulless spartans. We need more Ken Griffey’s, more Puigs, etc. etc. I want to see home run dances like touchdown celebrations! I want to see the shortstop bust a move after making a highlight-reel out!

Totally agreed

The NFL caught heat for years for being the No Fun League, but MLB isn’t much different. I’m not saying they need to start doing those coordinated touchdown dances (although some of those are great) but giving guys the freedom to express themselves would be a big step in keeping fans interested.

I watch sports to be entertained and part of that entertainment is watching players who look like they enjoy being there. Hitting a home run off a major-league pitcher is hard to do, and if a guy manages to do it he’s damn well earned the right to stand and watch it, flip his bat and strut around the bases like Ric Flair if he wants to. You’re free to think he’s an ass for doing it and, frankly, hating players on other teams is part of the fun of sports too.

I thought was great when Aaron Judge played New York, New York in the Red Sox clubhouse after game 2 of the ALDS. I thought it was even better that nobody on the Red Sox pitching staff decided the appropriate response was to throw a baseball at his head – and that they retaliated by winning the series and playing the same song while they celebrated in Yankee Stadium.

Every sport has players you love and players you love to hate – and the easiest way to generate those emotions in your fans (and, in turn, grow your business) is to let players be themselves on the field.

I like Smoltz much more than any of the others they put out there

For all I’ve read about how great Ron Darling is, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him say anything interesting.

Smoltz is dry, but his insight is top notch. I doubt there are too many out there breaking down pitchers and their mechanics as well period, and he knows the players like he’s still in the league.

Smoltz is unbearable

It’s not so much that I disagree with his opinions on things, that happens with many broadcasters. It’s simply that he sounds like a dumbass. It often sounds like he has no idea what words are coming out of his mouth. He either says the most obvious observation possible, like at the end of the game talking about how good it feels to win and how upsetting it is to lose, or he starts on some asinine bit of "analysis" and then puts his foot ever deeper into his mouth.

He does occasionally have good insights on what the pitchers are up to but most of the time his analysis of anything the hitters are doing sounds like he’s doing high school public speaking and didn’t read the material. Just blindly groping in the dark.

All of this would be somewhat tolerable if this was some random Sat afternoon ballgame in June. Let Smoltz get more experience and try to polish his delivery, etc. But having this moron providing color commentary for the entirety of the fucking World Series?? No, thank you.

Smoltz out?

Mark Normandin sounds like a get off my lawn guy.

It's a Catch-22...

Not defending Smoltz, but it’s a Catch-22 for broadcasters.

A common complaint is that the broadcasting crew is too bland or boring, and lends nothing to the game

But if a broadcaster shows too much enthusiasm, then he’s criticized as being too partisan.

You may not agree with Smoltz, but at least he lends a certain point of view. That flavor may not be to your liking, but isn’t it better than bland?

On the other hand, a broadcaster should know the players in the game. We all slip up, but I appreciate those broadcasters who are quick to recognize and correct their mistakes. I would bet that anyone selected to replace Smoltz would also be criticized – but from different corners.

But if a broadcaster shows too much enthusiasm, then he’s criticized as being too partisan

The clear solution here is to employ Jon Gruden to be the announcer on every game. Relentless enthusiasm for everyone on the field regardless of who he is or what he’s doing is the way to go.

So, out of the 2 guys in the Fox booth

You want to fire SMOLTZ? Over Joe Buck? The clown who was making God-awful jokes about office lighting and talking about how frigid the low 50’s are? Yeah, fire Smoltz. Because he’s the problem.

Smoltz talks and talks and talks and he says nothing but cliches

If Smoltz was offering something insightful, the tsunami of words might be tolerable. I’d rather he still say fewer words, but it would at least be more pleasing than the noise pollution he tortured us with in Game 1. I lost count of how many times he rambled on and on before he got so tangled in his words that he kind of just tried to steer his thoughts to the side of the road without embarrassing himself too much.

In Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, Smoltz said a single was better than a home run if a team absolutely needed a run

2017 World Series, Game 2, top of the ninth:

Marwin Gonzalez of the Astros led off against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Astros trailed by one run, 3-2. If they did not score at least one run in the inning, they would lose the game. After Gonzalez fell behind in the count 0-2, Smoltz said this:

"Well, the Astros would love to get a big swing and tie it up, but I think if they can get on base, and create a little more havoc for Jansen, he has to speed up his delivery when there is a runner on. Coming into this game, 52 out of 57 attempted steals have been successful."

Smoltz pitched in the majors for 21 years and is a member of the Hall of Fame. Fox hired him to explain the game of baseball to fans watching at home, to offer insight into what is happening on the field. And he said that if a team absolutely must score at least one run to avoid losing the game, hitting a single is better than hitting a home run. … Seriously. … He said that.

As I wrote at the time: "Yes, yes, I know, a home run would tie the game at 3-3. But a single. A single creates "havoc" for the pitcher, and in Jansen’s case, that "havoc" can get him somewhat out of his usual rhythm on the mound. Smoltz notes that most runners who attempt to steal a base against Jansen are successful. That is true – 91% successful, in fact – but the steal puts the runner only at second base. The home run has him trotting right past second base unmolested and across the plate. … Why am I even explaining this?"

By the way, Gonzalez hit the next pitch over the fence in left-center for a game-tying home run.

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