Poor Jon Miller

The Peter Principle holds that, in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Steve Phillips did that long ago, yet somehow keeps rising and rising:

One of the longest-running acts in TV sports is getting a new cast member. ESPN will formally announce Wednesday that Steve Phillips will join Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who’ve called ESPN’s Sunday night baseball for 19 years.

Hiestand suggests that this move is ESPN’s response to competition from the MLB Network. If throwing Steve Phillips at the problem is ESPN’s best response, I foresee a long and prosperous future for the MLB Network.

(thanks to Neate for the heads up)

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  1. Leo said...

    Can’t say I agree with you.  As far as color guys go, the bar is pretty low.  With that said, I think Phillips is damn good.  His perspective as a former GM is so much better than most ex-jocks offer.  It’s 1,000 percent better than the nonsense spewed by Morgan on a weekly basis.

  2. hermitfool said...

    ESPN must have finally thrown in the towel on finding a bigger moron than Joe Morgan. McCarver, under contract with Fox, was unavailable, so ESPN had to settle for Phillips, a top ten moron to be sure, but not quite in Joe’s class.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    My problem with Phillips is that to get to those handful of decent insights, you have to endure 129 observations that are virtually worthless or, in some cases, wrong.  This is not because he’s dumb or necessarily untalented.  It’s because he subscribes to the notion that any second the play by play man isn’t talking, he should be.  To be fair to Phillips, there are many, many other color guys who do this as well.

    Silences in a baseball broadcast are wonderful.  Listen to Vin Scully work alone for a while to appreciate that you don’t need someone to tell you exactly what happened after every single pitch.

    If Scully sets the bar too high, hell, listen to Rick Manning and Matt Underwood doing Indians games on Sports Time Ohio.  Someone must have told them in the past year or two that it’s OK to go a couple of pitches without saying something.  It’s amazing how much better this has made the broadcast.  Manning is no savant, but he comes off 100 times better now that he’s saying something only when it has to be said as opposed to saying something just to say something.

  4. Ron said...

    I’d rather see John Kruk. He might not be the greatest, but at least he understands its a game and would make it fun to listen to.

    Plus, just seeing him and Morgan in the same booth would be a memorable event.

  5. MooseinOhio said...

    I have struggled with Phillips for years largly because he takes a shotgun approach to analysis (i.e. spray enough pellets and a few will have to hit the target) and seems to have fallen in love with being seen – not heard.  In my opinion both are cardinal sins of broadcasting as the best tend to melt into the broadcast and do not stand out and their approach to commentary is that less is more.  In academia – parisomy is one of keys to developing a great theory, the same can be said for news/sports commentary.

  6. Bill said...

    I’ve never heard a “decent insight” from Steve Phillips. The man knows baseball as well as I know Indonesian iguana fighting, and that’s a thing I just made up just now, so I don’t really know it very well at all.

    Morgan and Miller were borderline tolerable by themselves, but this move insures I’ll never hear another word either of them says again (thank God for the mute button and Gameday Radio). Maybe it was orchestrated by a covert operative working FOR the MLB Network?

  7. Kelly said...

    @ Craig

    “My problem with Phillips is that to get to those handful of decent insights, you have to endure 129 observations that are virtually worthless or, in some cases, wrong.”

    Concerning those 129 worthless observations: I’m not sure that they are so worthless. They were helpful to me in learning the game when I was a boy. My dad was not a talker or teacher, and listening to “worthless” or obvious commentary helped me learn the game.

    Of course the observations weren’t my only resource, nor even the largest, but very often they provided that nugget of information that opened up a new level of understanding the game.

    Once someone learns all the nuances of the game, those observations can seem idiotic, obvious or worthless, etc. I think part of any announcer’s job is to answer those questions about the game that can’t be asked in person. Largely, I agree with you that many are wrong and some are worthless, but at least they provide an opportunity for an exercise in critical thinking by someone sifting through all the nonsense to find the truth.

  8. Leo said...

    OK, so I agree that some of his comments are worthless, but come on, people.  Considering the options, I still maintain that Phillips is pretty good. 

    Maybe my standards are so low because I’m a Twins fan and forced to listen to Bert Blyleven day in and day out.  His greatest strength is that he’s FANTASTIC at reading vital statistics verbatim from the media guide.

    Fortunately I’ve now moved away from the Twin Cities so when watching my Twinkies on MLB Extra Innings I usually tune into the opposing team’s broadcast.

  9. Max said...

    All listneing to Morgan does is irritate me and make me think (incorrectly) that I’d make a good announcer.  Phillips will probably correct Morgan’s mistakes and then make his own.  No thanks.

    The past 2 years, I’ve turned the sound off on ESPN and FOX broadcasts (I mostly enjoyed TBS last year).  I only turn it on if there’s an injury or something I can’t figure out from the visual.

    Until now I’ve either put music on or watched in silence. But this year, I’m going to experiment with This American Life podcasts.

  10. Bill said...

    That’s funny, because I’m a Twins fan too, and as vapid as Bert can be, I’d take him before Phillips any day of the week and 14 3/4 times on Tuesdays. Bert’s biggest strength is that he’s a goof. He knows he’s not telling most of the audience anything it doesn’t know—he’s just trying to fill some of the dead air and be entertaining. His schtick has gotten a little stale over the years, but at least he’s contributing something. Phillips, notsomuch. He says the same pointless crap Blyleven does (and worse), but treats it like the gospel truth.

  11. nyfunnyman said...

    not a big fan of Morgan or Phillips but they each have their pluses.

    Anytime Morgan starts talking about whether someone had a good season, overall baseball, HOF, or anything not related to an actual play- he sound s like a moron. but when he is breaking down a single play during a game- i.e. where the shortstop should have been on that bunt- he has some decent insight.

    Phillips is the total opposite.

  12. Chipmaker said...

    Conversely, Bill, since you are the founder of the Indonesian Iguana Fighting League earlier this morning, you are the worldwide expert on matters involving IIF.

  13. Bill said...

    @Chipmaker: right, but look at it this way. I’ve been in the IIF game. I’m an Insider. But I might not even recognize an iguana if I saw one (as distinct from, say, a Gila monster), whereas a zoologist who has never worked in IFF probably knows something about iguana physiology, and which iguanas will be better fighters and so forth. In this example, I’m Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips, and the zoologist is Tango or Dipodesta or the THT writers…

  14. APBA Guy said...

    Well, I have to stand up for my Bay Area guys, Miller and Morgan. It is natural as ex players drift from their playing days they lose immediacy in their comments. Even Jim Palmer has lost his ability to stroll the Orioles clubhouse and extract anything more than guarded comments.

    But their are a couple of reasons why the veteran players continue to work, especially with the major networks:

    1) Basic broadcast skills. Try it sometime. They have it, you don’t. It takes practice, and to some extent, talent. But having a voice in your ear while you’re talking and acting like there is no voice is hard at first. Balancing observations, phrasing, and timing with your partner isn’t easy either.

    2) Q Ratings. Networks evaluate their talent on likeability, perceived trustworthiness, etc..Joe skews pretty high on this. Stat oriented observers may cringe with increasing frequency, but casual fans like hearing a Hall of Famer talk about the game, and casual fans are not, shall we say, hyper critical.

    3) Partner Chemistry. Doesn’t matter if it’s real or an act, Joe and Jon appear to get along, as if they really enjoy being there, being with each other, and bringing the game to you.

    Ok, so it’s true Jon Miller is not Vin Scully. Nobody is. But I knew Baltimore was headed for the toilet when Angelos threw Jon Miller out of the radio booth there. They haven’t come close to replacing him.

    Now I get to listen to him do Giants radio. And when I’m in the car, stuck in some crazy traffic on 101, that’s the voice I look for (if I can’t tune in the A’s incredibly weak cross Bay signal.)

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