The 2016 World Series MVP goes to…
Regardless of what happens tonight, there is one man’s performance that has stood above the rest. Think what you want to think about Joe Buck, but there is one man in the booth that has not opted for hair plugs and is putting on a performance that rivals his 1996 run at the Cy Young. John Smoltz’s performance has helped chisel his name in the pantheon of true pros in the booth. Despite being in the booth and working as an analyst for a couple years now, it’s been this historic series where he has made his presence known.
At the age of 32, bald, and 25 lbs overweight I have nothing to offer as an athlete, but I still consider myself a student of the game. I like to hear about pitch selection and listen to commentary on whether or not the runner will be on the move. The way John Smoltz teaches the game while providing critical and real-time analysis is unparalleled. Smoltzie does an unbelievable job talking the viewers through what might be going through a managers mind in a particular situation. 75% of the time, it’s like he’s reading from a script and the other 25%, the manager or player is wishing they had listed to John. The best example of this came last night when Addison Russell worked the count 2-0 with the bases loaded in the top of the 3rd. Here’s the call:
I think this a decent matchup for Russell. Otero likes to pitch right handers in. Russell, of course, struggles with the ball away and breaking balls.
Joe Buck chimes in just enough to get out of the way, “Drove in 95 runs during the regular season. Takes it, down. The count 2-0.”
So now he’s just looking in one spot and one spot only. This is where you think about lift. Get the ball in the air. If nothing else, a sac fly. Look in the gaps.
Otero proceeds to deliver an inside fastball, up in the zone, and Russell lifts one about 420-feet to the left center gap. This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t by chance. John Smoltz has been doing this every inning for the entire postseason. He knows the pitchers, the hitters, and coaches, and you know what? The most incredible part of it, he seems to have insight both managers should be firing their staff for not getting. I’m not sure there has been a better analyst in the booth with as much knowledge and ability to tell a story as John Smoltz.
Uncommon ground for Smoltz
He talks the viewer through pitch counts, batting orders, and action in the bullpen. He puts us in the mind of players as they react to missed calls an umpire or mistakes in the field. He tells us what a manager is going to do an inning and a half before it actually happens. And as an analyst, he knows when to take a backseat to the play-by-play guy and get right back in there to tell us what a pitcher should be looking to throw in a 2-2 count. He’s consistent and unwavering. He has a smooth tone and has a great pace to his commentary. He’s a true pro.
Players don’t always make a smooth transition to the booth. It didn’t take long to figure out how unbearable Cal Ripken is with a microphone in his hand. TBS has resorted to shoving him down into a camera well on the field, but he still finds way to make us forget he even wore the uniform, let alone bares the name “Iron Man.” He’s like a wildly less interesting Tony Sarigusa.
I’m not sure where people stand on Ron Darling, but I’m not a fan. He doesn’t seem to add anything of value to the broadcast. Orel Hershiser, well, he’s fine…I guess. That said, and it may be because it’s what I grew up on, but I did love Joe Morgan in the booth with Jon Miller.1)ESPN muffed that one up, as we’ve come to expect from them, click to read the New York Times article from 2010 But I like Morgan for different reasons
Most often though, networks are smart and they keep their former athlete-talent in the studio, where they can keep tabs on them…a “controlled environment.” After all, you can always shut off Pete Rose’s mic as he meanders down a path of incoherent thought, as only a degenerate gambling and vial old man can.
So, bravo Mr. Smoltz. You’ve done a helluva job in what will go down as the most watched World Series of the last 20 years, perhaps of all time. Fox made a sound investment last year when they made you the lead analyst, but the real beneficiary of this year’s World Series performance are the viewers at home. I don’t care who they hand the MVP trophy to tonight, you’re the hero of this series.
Get us through one more and take a few months for yourself to work on your golf game.
Enjoy the game tonight. You’re watching history!
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||ESPN muffed that one up, as we’ve come to expect from them, click to read the New York Times article from 2010|