Baseball Tonight: Losing Credibility by the Pitch

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IJune 17, 2008

Like many baseball fans, I enjoy kicking back at night after the game is over to watch a little show on ESPN called Baseball Tonight.

It all started back in 1990 when ESPN launched the show to recap the happenings in baseball on a nightly basis. It has become such a staple for baseball fans that MLB allows it to air in-progress games at any time.

I don't remember the days of Gary Miller and Dave Campbell, but Baseball Tonight has had some very talented and knowledgeable journalists come through. They've always had some exciting personalities; despite the fact most of them are former baseball players have gone on to bigger things in their career.

However, nothing will be better than Baseball Tonight.

With the departure of many of those great personalities, and the continued downward spiral in terms of quality programming at ESPN, Baseball Tonight is quickly becoming unwatchable.

From the analysts they are bringing in to the new flashy segments, the show is starting to lose its meaning.

From what I understand, Baseball Tonight is Baseball...Tonight. Not, Steve Phillips duplicated and talking to himself Tonight.

Take a look at some of the analysts and hosts they are currently using.

Fernando Vina, Chris Singleton, and Orestes Destrade

These three are boring. The only one I ever heard of before they were employed at ESPN was Vina, and I'm a pretty knowledgeable fan. All three are rather boring, uninteresting, and just not very good in terms of baseball analysis.

Orestes Destrade has his own show on ESPNRadio with John Seibel. They've single-handedly ruined the 4:00 PM timeslot in which current ESPN journeyman Erik Kuselias used to man. I personally don't care about a guy who played in just 237 major-league games.

Destrade and Chris Singleton don’t have much credibility in my opinion. Fernando Vina, with his recent naming in the Mitchell Report, doesn’t provide much either.

Eric Young, John Kruk, and Eduardo Perez

Eric Young and John Kruk are comic relief and nothing more. Young's entire job is to sit there and yell "Souvenir City" every time they show a home run. Which, by the way, is the call used by Indians' radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton. At first, Young was fresh, but his voice is starting to become annoying.

Kruk is passable if he is with someone to balance him out. It's the reason he worked so well with Harold Reynolds. But now he has become a sideshow, and just there to say something funny. He's Charles Barkley without Kenny Smith. Sometimes he will be brutally honest, while other times he will crack a joke about his playing days. More times than not, it relates to his weight.

Eduardo Perez is a great guy and all, I enjoyed his time with the Indians, but it's hard to get insight from a guy who was always injured. He ventures into that “Thanks for telling me something I already knew” category far too often.

Buck Showalter, Orel Hershiser, and Steve Phillips

Showalter is supposed to be the guy I'm learning the most from, considering he is a successful manager. So far, I've learned nothing that I didn't already know. Showalter is a great guy and all, but so far, he is failing to meet expectations.

Orel Hershiser is probably one of the more insightful minds on the entire show. He always has something interesting to say, and every time he talks, I feel I learn something about pitching that I didn't know before. He explains things very well and is the ultimate professional.

Steve Phillips is the exact opposite. His agenda is to pump up the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers, and be very obvious. He was a better General Manager than he is an analyst, which is saying something, because he wasn't that good of General Manager to begin with.

Buster Olney, Peter Gammons, and Tim Kurkijan

This is the group of reporters that occasionally sit in and provide insight. The sad part is that sometimes they are better than the actual analysts. Buster Olney is passable, but there is a reason he is a reporter and not an analyst.

Peter Gammons has forgotten more baseball than I will ever learn in my lifetime. Since his brain aneurysm, he hasn't been the same in terms of performance. It could be a reason, along with his Sunday night reporting duties, that he isn't on as much as he used to.

Tim Kurkijan is by far the best personality this show has. Once again, it's rather sad though because he is merely a writer. Kurkijan has the fun-loving enthusiasm a baseball fan can appreciate. But he is just that, a fan, even if he has the credibility and professionalism of a journalist.

Kurkijan has followed the game since he was young, copied every box score since he got into the business, and has the appreciation for the game not many reporters have.

Karl Ravech and Steve Berthiaume

If the host of Baseball Tonight is the point-guard position on the basketball court, Karl Ravech would be Jason Kidd or Steve Nash in their prime. He just makes everyone that much better. The way he runs the show is second to none. The problem is that ESPN has opted to make him cover the College World Series.

Only Karl Ravech could take the attack of a fly in stride, not only mentioning it, but continuing the discussion by getting Buster Olney involved.

Steve Berthiaume is the Smush Parker of point guards. Every night, he gets more and more annoying. With his cheesy catchphrases such as "Fill thy horn with oil, and go" and "Alex Rodriguez...Your thoughts?" The most aggravating part of him is when he claims that "That's Nasty" is the "hot, new segment sweeping the nation," when in fact, that segment is a year old now. Get with the times Steve.

If it's not Berthiaume or Ravech, "C-Teamers" Scott Reiss (passable) and Dari Nowkhah (barely able to stomach) take the reigns.

Former Analysts: Harold Reynolds and Jeff Brantley

If it weren't for a lawsuit, Harold Reynolds would still be delighting fans with his wide smile, spot on explanations, and original thoughts. Reynolds was the bread and butter of Baseball Tonight for the longest time, and the show took a huge hit when they lost their best baseball analyst.

Jeff Brantley was very much underrated. The big cowboy reliever was a tamer Rob Dibble. He could break down a pitcher better than most, and he had a rare personality the show did not have.

Baseball Tonight's analyst pool keeps growing, but, with that, it's getting much worse in terms of quality. Along with its decreasing quality in analysts, the quality of its segments is declining as well.

"Chatter Up" is probably the one I dislike the most, and it's all about execution. In theory, the concept is great, but they simply don't choose any intelligent comments. They pick from the bottom of the barrel in terms of what fans submit.

It seems to be a theme, though. If you need any further proof, look no further than the humorous sports blog Deadspin and its daily post on what the ESPN featured comment of the day is. They pick the most generic, radical, and fan-driven thing someone submits. If you can write a complete sentence, and it ends in "YANKEES RULE!!!" chances are they will put it up.

The days of "Touch 'Em All" and "Web Gems" are also gone, as both have become centered on the most popular players and teams. Last week, Ryan Doumit's two home-run performance was not only left out of the highlights, but it was suspiciously absent from the "Touch 'Em All" segment of the show.

However, I must commend them on the year-old segment "That's Nasty." It's the pitcher's equivalent to "Web Gems," and it has become very enjoyable.

I usually am very mum on bashing a network like ESPN; I believe that fans and bloggers alike do it enough. Their quality of work is going down, and I'm not sure what is pushing them in the direction in which they keep on going.

It's one of the few shows I like, but after seeing their "Music Contest" last night, different bands played the infamous "Take me out to the ballgame," I simply cannot put up with it any more.


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