Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Buck Hates The Yankees

How many times have you heard someone say something similar to that headline? I've heard it a lot. Why do people think that announcers hate their team? Why Buck specifically?

First, I think it goes without saying that Buck is infinitely more competent than Chip Caray. Or as Craig Calcaterra said during the ALDS, "He's still basically terrible, but he's less offensive than the other terrible announcer who only has his job because of nepotism". Bill Simmons jokingly suggested that HBO create the "Chip Caray Show" and put it on before Buck's to make the latter look better by comparison.

Fro the record, I don't have a problem with Joe Buck and wouldn't say he's "terrible". I think he does an satisfactory job of calling the game and that's something most of us took for granted until Caray came on the scene. Say what you will about Buck, but he doesn't inaccurately describe what's happening on the field very often or repeatedly shove words like "fisted" up our... well, you know.

I think a big part of the reason that people don't like Buck and McCarver (aside from ol' Tim's sometimes nonsensical declarations) is the tone of Joe Buck's voice. He comes across as slightly smug and smarmy. People believe that Joe Buck thinks he's better than them. I don't know whether or not that is actually the case, or to what extent other announcers feel that way, but I think it oozes through the speakers from Buck to a much greater extent.

The other reasons that people dislike Buck are the same for all national broadcasters, especially in baseball. Most teams have home announcers that sound more folksy and are easy on the local nine. When a player fouls up, fans are going to be upset, and therefore much more likely to misdirect their anger towards the announcer. So Buck might point out the same thing that Michael Kay would, but the voice isn't as familiar, the tone a bit sharp. Sometimes it's not the message as much as it is the messenger.

Local broadcasters also know the team inside and out and tailor their calls to fans who know more about their guys. On the weekends during the season and all games in the playoffs, whether we like it or not, the marginal viewers that represent that giant increase in ratings are casual fans or supporters of other teams. We are the ones watching all the games regardless, so why are the networks going to cater to us? So if FOX wants to maximize its ratings, they have to kowtow to people who aren't intimately familiar with Robinson Cano's lack of production with runners in scoring position.

In the end, I think the most telling thing is that a certain section of fans from all over the country think the announcers hate their team. I've heard countless Red Sox fans say that Buck hates the Red Sox. The Angels blog we kept talking about during the ALCS thought Buck had a pro-Yankees bias. Is it possible that Buck and McCarver hate every team? I guess, but isn't it more likely that fans all hate the same announcers? I would have to agree with McCarver when he sad said, “Quite simply, the bias comes not from the voice, but from the ears”.

When it comes right down to it, which announcers are universally liked? Vin Scully. Anyone else? Would Vin Scully have been so widely revered if his career was beginning now and we could all bitch about his calls on Twitter?

Broadcasting is a tough job and due to the duration of time on the air and proximity to the fans, it's the one position in sports that might be more scrutinized than what happens on the field. Maybe there's someone in broadcasting school right now with a killer voice and background in sabermetrics who is going to universally beloved 15 or 20 years from now.

But I kinda doubt it. People are going to find something to hate about that guy too. We hold our announcers to impossibly high standards and sports fans are always going to find something to critique during the countless hours they are on the air. With the lines of communication now available on the internet, I think it's fair to wonder if any national broadcaster will ever be truly loved again.


  1. In a perfect world Jim Kaat would be calling every post season game. Knowledgeable and likable are a rare combination. Kaat is both.

  2. I always wondered why they don't get a color guy from each team, with a neutral play-by-play guy. So for the series we could have Buck along with Kenny and whoever took over the Phillies announcing. Then we would have someone intimately familiar with the guys on the field.

  3. Bobby Murcer along with Jim Kaat were great. Suzyn Waldman best of this generation. Just kidding!

  4. Personally, I think every baseball booth needs a pitcher in there. They add so much more to the analysis and chatter. People say catchers make for the best managers, I say pitchers make for the best booths. Whenever YES has David Cone or (to a lesser extent) Al Leiter, I enjoy the broadcast so much more.

    Or maybe that's all the Fangraphs.com shoutouts going to my head. But the information and on-the-field observations are enriched by a pitcher's comments, for me.

    David's point is spot-on too. Have the national guys there to make things more general and then add a third man for more depth and interest. What viewer doesn't want to hear tidbits on the team that FOX just doesn't have?

  5. Joe Buck IS better than you!

  6. That Hertz commercial Buck's got going doesn't do him any favors in my opinion. "I can pick ANY car in the lot!!"

  7. Having a color guy from each team would bump of the knowledge level with respect to the teams involved, but may increase the claims of bias.

    Kaat is/was great; I think YES made a big mistake by telling him "no thanks" when asked to come back this year. I enjoyed Murcer, but more in the "folksy" sort of Rizzuto tradition than as a great analyst.

    For my money, the best the Yankees have to offer today is Singleton and Cone, but I do like Leiter as well. On a national level I think Ron Darling does a good job for TBS; it's unfortunate he gets paired with Caray.

    As for Buck and McCarver, they annoy me, but perhaps not quite as much as they do others. Rosenthal is the one member of that team I absolutley cannot stand. There was a time, back in his days with the Mets, that I thought McCarver was a pretty good analyst. Maybe that's just because he wasn't as drunk as Ralph Kiner or maybe he's fallen out of touch in his old age.

  8. Boston announcer Jerry Remy is a lifelong Red Sox, yet most Yankee fans like and respect him. It's because he shows respect for the opposition, and has a sense of humor. If he were in the national booth, people would love him a lot more than McCarver/Buck.

    But at least McCarver loves baseball. My problem with Buck is the smarminess you mention, because he comes off too often as somebody who thinks he's above it all. I think he'd rather do his stupid HBO show than cover baseball. And his pennant call was just horrible:


    That link has his call, Sterling's, and the Angels' announcer. Heck, the Angels' guy has more emotion than Buck does. Joe Buck sounded as excited as somebody waiting for a dental appointment.

  9. Lisa - I agree that Buck has gone dead on some big calls. The Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII was a great example.


    "Airs it out down the field, it is... caught by Tyree"

    I think Buck is professional to a fault. He did take some heat for saying he doesn't watch or really baseball not too long ago.


    That's unfortunate, but liking your job isn't a prerequisite of being good at it.

  10. Bert Blylevn should do color for every game

  11. Scooter was the best!! I don't care what anyone says buck and mccarver hate the yanks more than any other team!!

  12. I've been listening to the postseason on ESPN radio with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, which has been surprisingly pleasant. I'm not sure whether that's because the additional time required to describe the action on radio leaves little room for the inanities they spout on Sunday Night Baseball all year, or whether Joe Buck can make a test of the Emergency Broadcast System sound like Vin Scully.

  13. Jerry Remy is a lifelong Red Sox.

    Except that he came up with the Angels.