They say replacing a legend isn't easy, but Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci are about to give it a try.
Though an official announcement has yet to be made, sources told Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead that Reynolds and Verducci will be named the replacements for Tim McCarver in FOX's play-by-play booth for the Word Series. Joe Buck remains as the primary play-by-play announcer.
This news represents something of a marked shift in FOX's baseball coverage. Buck and McCarver were paired together as the network's top team from 1996 through the end of last season, becoming renowned as one of the best duos in the business.
USA Today's Michael Hiestand provided Buck's thoughts on McCarver's retirement in May:
"This is weird," Buck says. "I was probably (on Fox MLB at 27) before I was ready but got through it because of Tim. ... He's someone I treasure as a great teammate."
Buck also said "TV booths are filled with guys worried if the other guy has got your back. It's the complete opposite with the two of us. ... We've never had a cross word or looked at each other sideways.
"I don't want to do these games without Tim. But I respect his decision to step aside."
The 72-year-old McCarver retired from regular broadcasting duty at the end of the World Series, however, leaving FOX with huge shoes to fill and an important decision for its baseball brand.
Going with a three-man booth allows for a subtle revamping while offering two differing perspectives on the game from well-respected voices.
Reynolds has been pegged for the McCarver seat for months. Chad Finn of The Boston Globe reported all the way back in November that Reynolds had a leg up on the competition and would likely join the booth. Still, McIntyre's report says FOX didn't officially offer the job to Reynolds until this month. It's unclear whether there was another secret candidate the network was considering, or if it was just doing its due diligence.
Reynolds, a two-time All-Star second baseman who played more than a decade in MLB, was a well-regarded broadcaster at ESPN from 1996-2006 before being fired after a woman accused him of sexual harassment. Denying the allegations, Reynolds then sued ESPN for wrongful termination. The two sides settled the case in 2008, by which point he was already working for MLB and helping launch its fledgling network.
Joining MLB.com in 2007 and then working with MLB Network since its inception, Reynolds has stayed at the forefront of baseball media and remains respected in the business. He has been nominated for multiple Sports Emmys for his studio work and worked with TBS during its postseason coverage.
Still, one cannot have a lengthy career in this business without enduring some derision. Reynolds is decidedly old-school when it comes to topics like advanced metrics and other new-age movements embraced by the media and organizations. The reaction to this news, as Dan Szymborski of ESPN highlights, isn't exactly all positive:
Bringing in Harold Reynolds is a terrific move for Fox, if the idea is to make us fondly recall Tim McCarver.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 28, 2014
Verducci is the lesser-known commodity—at least when it comes to the broadcast side of media. The 47-year-old is lauded for his MLB reporting work with Sports Illustrated, where he has carved out a niche over the past two decades. In recent years, he has been trying his hand at television, appearing on MLB Network's Hot Stove and MLB Tonight programs, among many others.
Most of his in-game broadcast work has been as a dugout reporter, his role with TBS during the playoffs. He has also handled limited color commentary with FOX on a national level during the regular season.
Like anything new in the sports broadcasting world, it'll likely take time for fans to get used to the different voices—and for the trio to develop chemistry. Buck will find himself in an especially interesting spot, as he'll not only be expected to be the gatekeeper in the booth, but is now tasked with integrating two color commentators.
Working with McCarver for MLB and Troy Aikman for the NFL, much of Buck's broadcasting has been done in a two-man booth. Odds are, it'll work itself out. But FOX is being smart here by announcing the decision far enough in advance to grant this trio some regular-season time together to develop chemistry.