I was watching the Phillies play the Braves on ESPN Sunday night when I had a profound and wonderful revelation: I was not listening to Joe Morgan speak during the telecast.
I never thought I’d live to see that happen. I figured that Morgan was an inherent part of ESPN’s institutional stupidity. A load-bearing idiot, if you will. I assumed ESPN would keep him around forever much the same way they’ve kept Chris Berman, and Dick Vitale, and any number of horrible broadcasters around forever: So that they can torture you with them until you finally beg for mercy and give in to whatever the network demands of you.
But ESPN, in a shocking move, didn’t keep Morgan -- a former Phillie -- around. No, they kicked him out of the booth, along with Jon Miller. I kind of liked Miller, but I understand why you’d give him the boot as well, just to make sure there’s no Morgan residue left during the telecast. It’s enormous progress for ESPN to make such a rational, obvious move. If anything, I expected them to go in the other direction and make Stuart Scott the play-by-play man. But no, ESPN went and did the right thing, almost certainly by accident.
So any booth that doesn’t feature Morgan, yammering on about how awesome he used to be and how evil math is, is bound to be an improvement. The question is… Is the new Sunday Night Baseball crew of Dan Shulman, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser a marked improvement?
Well look, I again must point out to you that this crew lacks Morgan, which means there’s no real possible way for it to be worse. But that doesn’t mean the new crew is without its faults. As the 700 Level notes, they spent way too much time Sunday throwing it to Buster Olney to show cheesesteaks being made. We get it, ESPN. People in Philly like cheesesteaks. I think that fondness was already well established.
And people have their opinions of Bobby V -- a man whom most fans are already predisposed to not liking. I found Valentine to be shockingly mild during the telecast, the polar opposite of the grating candor he was known for during his manager days. And his voice itself is pretty high-pitched and irritating. But Hershiser and Shulman are perfectly acceptable. The nice thing about watching the Phillies on ESPN is that I barely noticed the announcing crew. They weren’t noticeably good, but they weren’t so terrible that I wanted to throw random pieces of furniture through the window. That counts for something. In fact, given where ESPN came from, I’d say it’s the most shocking news of all.
What do you think? Do you miss hating on Joe Morgan? Let the comments flow below.