When it comes to baseball's TV analysts, former players often make some of the best announcers out there. They not only know the game well, but they are familiar with situations players are going through, can explain the game better and have connections to players and management that can give them a little extra insight.
While not all of the best TV analysts are former ball players and not all former ball players are always good analysts, there is a real connection between the two.
Please note that I am only going with players that had a big league career. That means I am leaving off guys like Rod Allen, who had just 50 career at-bats. I am also leaving off play-by-play guys to go with true analysts, I have included analysts from ESPN and MLB Network who aren't in-game analysts, but still do an excellent job.
Current MLB Network analyst and former ESPN analyst Harold Reynolds has been in the game as a TV analyst for a long time. The former second baseman is good at describing the game and also has a sense of humor to keep fans interested. He also seems to really enjoy his job and in the studio he does a great job when given the opportunity to demonstrate something.
Reynolds is a guy with some critics, but there is a reason that he has been around the game for so long and got a second chance after an incident got him fired from ESPN.
Like John Smoltz, Sean Casey is another recently retired player working for MLB Network. He also works part-time with the team he spent the bulk of his career with, the Cincinnati Reds. Casey was known as a good guy with a great personality when he was a player, and that has continued now that he is an analyst.
Casey's experience with many current players along with a likable personality are reasons why he is among the best TV analysts in the game early on in his broadcasting career.
Orel Hershiser is one of the better announcers on ESPN. His experience in the game has made him very knowledgeable and he has the ability to keep fans engaged with his sense of humor. His bulldog mentality on the mound as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers shows up as an analyst, as he is able to give fans some of the knowledge that helped him to stay in the big leagues for so long.
Another thing about Hershiser that helps him in the booth is the fact that he will use sabermetric stats, something that some traditionalists refuse to do.
Al Leiter actually got into broadcasting before his career ended, just in case you remember the 2003 playoffs on Fox. Since the former left-handed pitcher retired, he has only gone on to continue in that career as a TV analyst.
Today Leiter works for YES Network, covering the Yankees on a part-time basis, as well as for MLB Network in the studio. His playing experience is something that really has helped him become a solid announcer.
Since they work together for the New York Mets, it's easy to put former Mets stars Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez together on this list. The duo works as part of one of the few three-man broadcasting booths, alongside play-by-play man Gary Cohen.
Darling and Hernandez have been covering some pretty weak Mets teams in recent years, but they still find a way to keep fans engaged in the game when the team isn't looking good. There just seems to be excellent chemistry with these guys, and they obviously have good knowledge of the team and the game.
Jim Deshaies is best known for his time pitching for the Houston Astros, among a bunch of other teams, in the 80s and 90s. He began a broadcasting career with the Astros after retiring and quickly became known as one of the best in the business.
In fact, Deshaies was so good with the Astros, the Chicago Cubs brought him in at the start of this season to join their broadcasting team. The move was a great one for the Cubs, as they are bringing in someone with a real talent because of his knowledge, passion for baseball and sense of humor.
John Smoltz hasn't been in the booth as long as some of the other guys at the top of the list, but he's one of the announcers I love to listen to. It could be because I am a Braves fan, but there is more to why I enjoy listening to Smoltz on my TV.
Smoltz obviously knows the game, and he does a great job relating to fans and explaining what is going on. All of his time with the great Braves teams in the 90s and 2000s has led to him spending a great deal of time around some of the recent greats, which helps lead to some interesting stories. He also has a sense of humor that many announcers lack. The fact Smoltz recently retired is also a plus, as he has played alongside many of the players in the game today.
Former Expos and Orioles outfielder Ken Singleton, who hit 246 career home runs, may not be a full-time analyst for YES Network, but he is clearly the best the network has. Singleton is a veteran broadcaster who really knows the game and can handle doing the color analysis as well as the play by play—something that not many announcers are capable of.
What makes Singleton so good at what he does is just a great combination of skills for a broadcaster. He has a voice that doesn't make you want to change the channel, adds to the broadcast without making himself the focus and has a very good knowledge of the game.
When he was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, John Kruk established himself as not only a very good player, but one of the most colorful players in the game.
Kruk was a large man and his personality seemed to loom even larger, as he drew plenty of attention for it. The way he reacted to Randy Johnson throwing the ball over his head during the 1993 All-Star Game remains one of the most memorable moments in the history of the All-Star Game.
Kruk is now with ESPN, and the fun-loving personality he showed on and off the field during his career is still with him today. Kruk is funny, but also knows the game and can talk about baseball as well as keep you interested in a boring game.
The best former player analyst in the game today is former All-Star catcher Tim McCarver, who is set to retire after the 2013 season. McCarver, who spent the bulk of his career with the Phillies and Saint Louis Cardinals, is currently employed by Fox and also hosts the Tim McCarver show.
Tim McCarver is a very smart man who does a great job of explaining the game to all fans, which has led to him calling many of the top games to a national audience. There are some who criticize his over-announcing at times, but it's hard to fault a guy who has such a great knowledge and passion for the game.