With the radio contract between WCBS-880 and the Yankees coming to a close and a bidding war for the radio rights to the Yankees on the horizon,there may be changes to the Yankees’ broadcast team in the near future. RAB touched on this yesterday, and many of the commenters on that post advocated replacing John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, something I suggested months ago. The team here at TYA had a lengthy email discussion on this topic last night, and we came up with 3 general paths that the Yankees can take in regard to their radio broadcast team:
1) Leave things the way they are: The Yankee radio rights are going to be heavily bid upon because they are incredibly valuable as they currently are. It seems unlikely that the Yankees would tamper with the property and make changes in the booth before selling the rights, and it would be equally unexpected to see a company purchase the rights and then make changes that could upset listeners. Whether you like him or not, Sterling has come to be identified as the “Voice of the Yankees,” and many fans have accepted him in that capacity. I find that he does a good job attracting younger listeners, as children tend to enjoy his histrionics and latch onto baseball due to his showmanship. Unless someone decides that his error-filled broadcasts are actually costing the station listeners, Sterling is likely to stay.
2) Replace Suzyn Waldman: Notice that the first path did not mention Waldman, as she does not possess any of the factors that make Sterling likely to retain his job. I have yet to meet someone who loves her work, and most find her to be a poor broadcaster. She does little to cover up Sterling’s flaws, which is the most important function of a “color guy (or gal)” working next to “The Voice.” She should resume doing the pre and postgame shows, which play to her strengths as an interviewer and reporter.
As for replacing her, the team can bring in a younger announcer to be an apprentice to Sterling and eventually take the lead broadcaster role, or they can try and find someone who may not be a long-term solution but can cover up John’s analytical flaws. In the first group, one name I find interesting is Josh Lewin, who formerly called games for the Texas Rangers and currently does work as a play-by-play man for Fox Sports. Lewin is a strong play-by-play man who is fairly knowledgable and will not be afraid to correct or challenge John when he passes along patently incorrect information. Dan Shulman and Boog Sciambi fit in this category as well, but both recently signed long-term deals with ESPN and are unlikely to give those up to play second fiddle in the Yankees’ booth.
One “out of the box” option that was brought up in our conversation was Ryan Ruocco. Ruocco, an ESPN 1050 personality, does play-by-play on college basketball games, is the in-booth stats guy for YES broadcasts, and announces the pregame highlights at Yankee Stadium. He is young and is likely to be a bit raw, but I think he would be an inspired choice who could help bring in listeners in the 18-45 range.
As for people who can cover up John’s flaws but are unlikely to ever take the lead role, Mark Feinsand, Sweeny Murti, and John Giannone were all raised as potential options. All 3 have similar profiles to that of Michael Kay when he took a spot in the Yankees’ radio booth, and all have enough baseball knowledge and broadcasting experience to fill in the blanks left in the broadcast by Sterling’s fairly simplistic presentation of the games. I do not love this idea, but I can see its appeal and believe that it is the most likely outcome, whether with one of these 3 names or with someone similar to them.
3) Replace Sterling and Waldman: If those in charge decide that it is time to put Sterling out to pasture, they would likely look to bring in an established announcer with name recognition so as to soften the blow that comes with pushing someone like Sterling out the door. The ideal situation would be for the Yankees to bring in a veteran announcer and pair him with a younger voice like Lewin or a project like Ruocco who can eventually take the lead role. With Jon Miller no longer at ESPN, it may be possible to lure him away from the San Francisco Giants job. He would be the perfect choice to replace Sterling and mentor an up-and-coming voice, as fans would embrace Miller and could slowly get accustomed to the younger, less recognized announcer who would eventually replace him.
What would you do about the Yankees’ radio broadcast team? Are there other announcers who you think should be considered?
Photo Credit: David Pokress
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