— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 2, 2017
Somehow, the Braves displeased the baseball gods. The product on the field has been bad enough — the people describing it have become unbearable. Skip’s sarcasm and Pete’s preparation would have no place on Braves broadcasts. Ernie Johnson’s genuine amiability and affection for the franchise never veered into saccharine sentimentality.
How times have changed.
On TV, Chip and his perma-grin defy nuance at every turn. Little moments are treated as big ones. Bombast and hyperbole are his calling cards, and he’s relentless. Bob Rathbun is more subtle. Chip comes off like one of the dads from “Full House,” eager to please and not at all funny.
He brings out the worst in in his broadcast partner, playing to Joe’s impulses to dump on the modern game in favor of the good ‘ol days. It’s not all Joe’s fault — he and Boog Sciambi were top-notch together.
Don used to be one of the best but has become a cliche factory with Jim Powell, offering little analysis but plenty of force-fed folksiness. Don appears to mail it in so often he singlehandedly keeps the U.S. Postal Service in business. Offer a few mostly obvious comments on the game, lament the age of bullpen specialists and pitch counts, spin a hackneyed ode to the simple rural folk and call it a night.
For his part, Powell is the epitome of the company man. Has there ever been a better ballpark than SunTrust? Not according to the radio voice of the Braves. And don’t worry about Dansby, he’s merely a victim of bad luck and generous strike calls. Powell’s the guy at work who immediately buys into every “strategic initiative.” His cloying personality suits the broadcast’s milquetoast sensibility, striving above all not to offend and thus offending anyone with firing synapses and a sense of the absurd.
The supporting players are just as bad. On the radio, a former UGA quarterback offers nothing but the obvious on the pre-game show while TV audiences are stuck with Wacky Paul Byrd. Hey Paul, I got a nickname for you — starts with a P, ends in a D and has an E in the middle. Bring back Tom Hart.
We love Lemmer and Glavine. They are franchise pillars with a permanent place in the hearts of all real Braves fans. But the stoicism that served Tommy G. so well on the hill doesn’t work as well on TV. Lemke offers the occasional funny crack but not much else. And he has too many grammatical lapses. Still, they can talk on my broadcasts as long as they want. They’ve earned the right.
The difference between the team’s Hall of Fame broadcasters and the current crew is like comparing the 2016 team to the ’95 World Champions. Fortunately the product on the field is apt to get better. It may be awhile before we can say the same about those calling the action.