The YES Network gives us endless possibilities. You never know from series to series who the analysts will be. Bob Lorenz has been added to the play by play team so Michael Kay doesn’t have to make so many road trips. And Ken Singleton will do play-by-play from time to time. With a wide variety of color analysts, all made up of former players, there is a general geniality among whatever groupings YES puts together and broadcasts are all generally good. On to the reviews.
Michael Kay. Kay has really grown on me. When he first starting doing Yankee games, his voice grated on me. He was not your typical play-by-play “voice” with a deep vibrato. He is more Rod Stewart than John Lennon. But it works in the long run, perhaps because of familiarity. Kay has a tendency to stick on themes over the course of games, especially when the team is not going well. That tendency will cause him to look for events in a game that can be bent to the theme he has been espousing. The recent struggles with the Yankees scoring with men in scoring position is a case in point. In other words, he is looking for a game to turn out a certain way before the game actually unfolds. But this weakness is not so overwhelming that it cancels out his other strengths. Plus, these themes speak to worries we have as fans anyway.
For one, Kay is not a sickening homer, which bedevils a lot of team broadcasters. His “Seeya” call on homers is signature and he uses it just as much for opponent homers as for the home team. And he does not always look at the team with rose-colored glasses–another serious flaw of many play-by-play guys. Kay is more informed than most play-by-play guys and is generally not sticking with classic themes that national broadcasters fall into. Oh, he may do the “productive out” thing once in a while, but that tendency happens less and less lately. As we shall see, his analysts keep him in line for those kinds of things.
The thing that makes Kay work as a play-by-play guy in the largest stage in baseball is his self-deprecating humor that allows him to be the butt of jokes with his analysts. He is not, and never has been, an athlete, which makes him one of us as an every-man kind of announcer. At least to this observer, he has become a friend on the broadcast which is the best thing you can say as a fan watching the game.
Bob Lorenz. I have never really listened much to Bob Lorenz. But he has been doing the games from Oakland and will probably be the play-by-play guy for the California trip. From what I have heard, he is also not a strong “homer” and has a more pleasant voice than Kay’s. His cadence is nice to listen to and he does not talk too much during the course of a game. He also seems to have a good rapport with his analysts on the broadcast. Though he is still unfamiliar to me, I did not mind him at all. Which is saying a lot, really.
David Cone: Cone is the best of the Yankee analysts. In fact, he may be the best in the game today. He seems the most prepared and the most professional and you can tell he does his homework. Of all the analysts in the Yankee universe, he is the most enriched with sabermetric knowledge and it is uncanny how often he brings up pertinent statistics to match the situation we are watching. He knows how to use his voice to emphasize what he is saying so he is never boring to listen to. And while he may not have the personality that is warm and fuzzy like the others, I feel like I am listening to a real pro when listening to Cone. Cone is the best. That’s all there is to it.
John Flaherty. I sometimes can’t tell him apart from Paul O’Neill vocally and it takes a while into the game to realize that it is Flaherty. Mostly because O’Neill is more off the wall at times and Flaherty is more stolid. But his points are usually valid when he speaks up and he doesn’t rely at all about his former playing days. His voice and delivery are pleasant. He works well with the other analysts and with the play-by-play guys. But he is probably the most bland of the analysts. And if he is the weak link of the regular group, then that is a strong point for the group as a whole. There are many, many other analysts around baseball that are worse. As a former back-up catcher, he tends to focus on “team guys” and is the most prone of the group to fall into some of the cliche memes of the genre. Overall, he is good, not great.
Al Leiter. You could tell when Leiter was playing that he was going to be in television when he was done pitching. He simply is a natural when it comes to talking about the game. His insight on pitching is probably the strongest of all the Yankee analysts and as a former pitcher, that is as it should be. He is not afraid to state that a pitch selection was stupid when it gets clobbered and he tells you precisely why. If there is any knock on Leiter, it is that he is a bit colorless as a personality. His delivery is easy going and easy on the ears. But he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you would want to invite to your barbecue on the weekend. In other words, he seems a bit above his listeners instead of with them. He is not as imperious as Bill White was, but he is more so than the other analysts.
Paul O’Neill. Now here is a guy you would want as a buddy or a guy at your poker game. O’Neill is just fun to have around. I can’t say that he is a great analyst and might really be the weakest when it comes to describing what is going on in the field. But he is great fun. His repartee with Michael Kay might be the best in all of baseball for the sheer listener enjoyment standpoint. O’Neill comes off as just a regular guy that happened to play baseball very well for championship teams. He is the neighbor we’d all like to have. The family guy. Again, he might be the weakest of the analysts, but he is definitely the most fun.
Lou Piniella. Piniella is not on all that often. Which is probably just as well. Of all the analysts, Kay seems the most stiff with him in the booth. And of all the analysts, Piniella is more apt to rely on his playing days or his managing days and talks about them endlessly. Of course, he is a hero from our Yankee past and that makes him tolerable. But just barely.
Ken Singleton. Singleton is just great. In fact, when he and Cone are together, it is nearly nirvana. He has a great voice and is as easy going as you would ever want to listen to from a broadcaster. He fits like an old pair of jeans. Plus, the fact that he had no playing ties to the Yankees like the others make his perspective doubly welcome and different. He has a rich personality and plenty of insight to the game despite the fact that he has been doing this a long time. He seems open to the newer way of looking at statistics than an older man usually is and though he’s not immune to cliche, he is less apt to that than he used to be. He is competent as a play-by-play guy when called upon. He is the old veteran of the team that just keeps learning and getting better.
Overall, the Yankee broadcasters are a delight to the ears and to the mind. Cone is the best in the business. O’Neill is the most fun and the telecasts are always a delight. To this man’s view, Kay is first rate and all the analysts besides probably Lou Piniella, all bring something to the table that makes it work.
First of all, Ralph Kiner is a legend. He is one of those old broadcasters from another era that is fast disappearing. I am glad he is still around.
Gary Cohen. Cohen is a very good play-by-play guy. His personality pales a little to his counterpart in Michael Kay, but Cohen is more in the classic mold of what a play-by-play guy should sound like. He is not a strong homer to the point that it gets in the way of the broadcasts. His voice and the way he speaks reminds me a guy who used to be on my bowling team when I lived in New Jersey. That’s not a knock at all. More, he sounds like a guy you grew up with and not like some guy who is trying to sound like a broadcaster. He is far better than the current guy that calls the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball games. Now there is a guy who tries to sound like a broadcaster. Cohen, in other words, is more natural and that is what you want from a play-by-play guy. He allows his analysts room to breathe and the game he calls is a pleasant experience.
Keith Hernandez. Perhaps it is from those commercials he does with Walt Frazier, but it is hard to like this guy. It is not that he is terrible as an analyst. In fact, he is very good. But this is most definitely a personal bias. I just don’t like the guy. That is a persona thing. Outside of that, he does a fine job in the booth and is pleasant to listen to during the broadcast.
Ron Darling. Darling might be the best analyst in baseball outside of David Cone. As befitting a guy who went to Yale, you just know that he knows what he is talking about. His voice is a little grating at times. But what he says is usually brilliant and to the point and spot on. He comes across as a touch imperious, but it could be worse and seems less so than Al Leiter. He is not an effusive personality which doesn’t draw you to him like a Paul O’Neill. But he is simply brilliant. He does his homework. He keeps you informed. He is not overly biased and he is the best part of the SNY team.
So, that’s my review. Take it for what it is worth. Your opinions may vary. That is to be expected. From a television perspective, the two New York teams are in great hands which is fitting for two teams in the center of the baseball universe.