Fox Sports is signing two-year contract extensions with Tim McCarver and Darrell Waltrip, its lead TV analysts for baseball and NASCAR coverage, respectively.
The extensions are expected to be announced this week, said Fox spokesman Dan Bell, and will take McCarver through the end of Fox’s seven-year MLB deal in 2013. Waltrip’s extension takes him through the end of Fox’s nine-year NASCAR deal in 2014.
McCarver and Waltrip each had about a year left on their deals, Bell added.
McCarver, a former catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and other clubs, has been with Fox since 1996. Waltrip, a three-time Cup champion, joined Fox in 2001.
This news lead to some indignation among the baseball twitterati, as many wondered how FOX could continue to blatantly disregard the will of the people. No one seems to know anybody who thinks McCarver does a good job, yet the powers that be thought it a good idea to extend his contract and continue to torture intelligent baseball fans with his vapid commentary. The problem with this point of view is that it makes an assumption that I have recently come to see as inaccurate. It assumes that those of us who read and write about baseball on the internet are representative of the masses, that our tight little Twitter circles provide us with a cross section of the baseball fan population. I think the evidence suggests that, on the contrary, the baseball blogosphere and the associated Twitter circles are just a niche group of intense fans, and that the masses are quite content with the Tim McCarvers and John Kruks of the world.
There are a healthy number of analysts on ESPN, MLB Network, and FOX that seem to be universally hated, such that their continued employment is a mystery. While it is possible that executives for the networks have decided to ignore their customers and continually hire people who the fans dislike, I think it exceedingly more likely that the term “universally” is misplaced. We tend to associate with people who have a similar worldview to our own, such that we might argue all time about details but will have a pretty homogenous viewpoint on broader issues. If we endeavored to look outside of our immediate circles, we might find plenty of fans who actually enjoy the work of Tim McCarver. As Craig Calcaterra pointed out to me, FOX is not guessing at McCarver’s popularity when they decide to ink him to a new deal. They perform surveys and do other research to determine McCarver’s impact on viewership, and it seems that the masses have decided that Tim does a fine job. You might point out that you have yet to meet someone who fits that description, but that likely has to do with how tight our circles of association are. I have yet to meet someone who considers Two and a Half Men must-see TV, yet it is the #1 sitcom on television and Charlie Sheen has made enough money off it to revel in coke and goddesses until the end of days.
A perfect example of this disconnect between internet-centric baseball fans and the general fan population can be found in the work of John Sterling, for whom I encounter a lot more animosity online than I do when discussing him with people face-to-face. Harold Reynolds is another analyst for whom my espousal of distaste raises eyebrows, and most of the staffs at Baseball Tonight and MLB Network tend to be a lot more popular with the offline set. Similarly, Mike Francesa infuriates most of the people that I interact with online, yet his show continues to have excellent ratings and crush all competitors.
Raising sabermetric ideas and statistics in offline settings illustrates this point further, as people tend to look at me like I am espousing absurd theories that they have never heard the first thing about. Every time I have one of those conversations, it drives home further the truth that for the most part, those of us who experience much of our fandom through the internet are not representative of the masses. We might just be a minority with an outsized sense of our importance among fans.
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