Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I can't believe ESPN let Jon Miller go

ESPN’s decision to replace Jon Miller as the TV voice of Sunday Night Baseball is a colossal mistake. Other than Vin Scully (who’s in a class by himself), Jon Miller is easily the best baseball announcer in the game. No one else comes close. Having been his partner in Baltimore and having had the privilege to watch him work on a daily basis I was continually in awe of his knowledge of the game, respect for its history, preparation, use of the English language, and showmanship.

His highlights alone can give you chills. And it’s not because he has any bullshit signature home run calls, it’s because he communicates a genuine excitement and joy. Add to that an exquisite voice (although I must admit I hate him for that). And something else very rare to the field – a real sense of humor. In this age of generic, safe, plastic sounding play-by-play guys, Jon truly entertains. And let’s face it – Sunday night baseball in the middle of the season. The Indians at Oakland. Who other than fans of those teams or diehard baseball freaks is going to watch? You’ve got to offer them something more. K-Zones ain’t gonna cut it. Jon Miller gives you a reason to tune in even if you don’t give a crap about the game. His humor, flair for the dramatic, and unique style makes him frankly, not just the perfect choice for that job; the only choice for that job.

I know Dan Shulman and like Dan Shulman. He’s a terrific broadcaster. He’s good on baseball and sensational on basketball. But he’s not Jon Miller.

I don’t understand making a change just for change sake. That’s like NBC booting Johnny Carson because they wanted to try something else. You’ve got the best. Leave it alone.

Jon’s been offered Sunday night baseball on ESPN radio. I don’t know if he’ll accept it. He remains the voice of the World Champion San Francisco Giants, so it’s not like he has to go on Craig’s List to see if there’s anything he can do to make ends meet.

Sooner or later Jon will be back on the national stage. Another network will hire him, and I’m sure when the sports director is applauded for his foresight he’ll just shrug his shoulders and say, “Are you kidding? It was a no-brainer.”

34 comments:

Max Clarke said...

To quote the great Al Rosen of Cheers, "Pretty weenie."

ESPN's loss is the Bay Area's gain, though, I read that he'll call more local games now. Maybe he'll see this as a blessing in disguise. At a point in your career, all those airline miles don't make up for what you lost on the ground.

Vermonter17032 said...

Jon Miller did play-by-play (or was it color) for Red Sox radio for one season and I thought he was terrific. I was sad when he moved on... to Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

It's all about money. It has nothing to do with Jon Miller. It has everything to do with someone in Accounting on the 8th floor. Jon Miller deserves every dollar paid to him and then some. One door closes; another opens. One of the greats and one of the nicest. Did Clear Channel buy ESPN?

shnewsman said...

It's all about money. It has nothing to do with Jon Miller. It has everything to do with someone in Accounting on the 8th floor. Jon Miller deserves every dollar paid to him and then some. One door closes; another opens. One of the greats and one of the nicest. Did Clear Channel buy ESPN?

(sorry; forgot to add name)

Gregg Hersholt said...

I predict a backlash and an ESPN reversal.

Anonymous said...

I predict that everyone will be happier and they don't realize it.

The Guvna said...

Let's be clear about this: ESPN wasn't deep-sixing Jon Miller. They were (finally, mercifully) whacking Joe Morgan. Miller, excepting Vin Scully the best baseball voice in the known universe, was collateral damage.

Now, I'm sure that the bean-counters at ESPN figured that trading down to Dan Shulman was a good deal (financially, that is; as someone who has followed Shulman's career from the Toronto market for pretty much its entirety, I would concur that he is unquestionably a damned good broadcaster, and under better circumstances a natural successor to Miller). But I would bet my life on the fact that this had absolutely nothing to do with Jon Miller and/or his contract and/or his supposed lack of appeal to a younger generation of fans, regardless of what ESPN may say publicly. No sir. This had everything to do with Joe Morgan becoming a goddamned liability for them. He is a laughing stock among a great many fans (particularly those highly-sought-after young'uns who don't recall Joe Morgan the great player, only Joe Morgan the belligerent douche of a broadcaster), and in the wake of the entirely justified bollocking they got for "The Decision" this year, the last thing ESPN needed was to provide us with additional reasons to point and laugh at them. Now, most of us have been pointing and laughing at Joe Morgan for at least a decade by this point, but it's easy to remain willfully ignorant of such things when everything else is going swimmingly. When it isn't...well, those deaf ears suddenly look a damned sight perkier, don't they?

Miller's only sin here was in being perceived (unfairly, I would suggest) as part of a package deal with the highly expendable Morgan. "The Miller/Morgan team has run its course" is codespeak for, "Joe Morgan is a f***ing boat anchor dragging Jon Miller to the bottom of the sea with him". It isn't about Miller so much as it is the perception of Miller, in so far as being joined at the hip to a public laughing stock. If one of the Smothers Brothers, for instance, had outlived his usefulness, they weren't about to keep one, fire the other and hire a replacement Brother. They'd fire both their asses. Jon Miller, in spite of being a damned sight less reliant on Joe Morgan than Joe Morgan is on him (as far as broadcasting is concerned, anyway), got bounced because in spite of being the *good* Smothers brother, he was still perceived as being one, and that was enough.

"Fire Joe Morgan" ought to become "BLAME Joe Morgan". This one's not on you, Jon. This one's alllllll Joe...

Jack H. said...

"ESPN’s decision to replace Jon Miller as the TV voice of Sunday Night Baseball is a colossal mistake."

But firing Joe Morgan is a stroke of unadulterated genius. I'm sorry about Miller, but if that was the price of finally silencing Morgan, it was worth it.

i could be a bob said...

Since "The Guvna" took a few paragraphs, I'll just concur with him, and say I am looking forward to the change. As someone who grew tired of Morgan, and am weary of Buck/McCarver ... "change for change sake" is a blessing for this baseball fan.

Mike Schryver said...

Canning Morgan - great move

Canning Miller - WTF?!?!?!?!?

Hypothetical canning of Buck and McCarver - we can only hope

Aaron Barnhart said...

You know, I laughed along with Ken Tremendous like everybody else. But now I see the price of that, and I take it back. I don't really care for Joe Morgan except, and that's a big except, EXCEPT as a target of Jon Miller's ribbing and general jolliness.

And if that's what sealed Miller's fate, I'm sorry for them both.

But jeez, can you get any dumber? Note to Anonymous, ESPN has always been this way. If anything, Clear Channel took notes on them.

Craig Russell said...

Fox fires Buck and the oldest former player in History McCarver (he has to be 115..wasn't he on with Mel Allen back in the 60's?)

Fox hires Miller...and NOT Morgan...

Now THAT'S a good call!

rpasini said...

I listened to Jon call the Orioles during his entire stay in Baltimore (including your time, Ken). After all those years (14 of them), I can say one thing for sure: as good as Jon Miller is on TV, he is AMAZING calling the game on radio. He can paint the picture in such a way that you almost feel like you're sitting right behind home plate when listening. Listen to him on TV, then listen to him on the radio, and you'll see the difference. There are many good radio play-by-play announcers, but very few who have mastered that art.

I was stunned when Angelos ditched him after the '96 season. I'm just as stunned to see it happen to him a second time by ESPN. But, if he does go to ESPN Radio, at least he would be perfect for it.

James said...

Agreed. I watched a lot of baseball games on ESPN solely because Miller was calling them.

barnez28 said...

Wow, I never thought Jon Miller would ever be off Sunday Night Baseball. I don't know if I can ever watch another Sunday night game.

John said...

Since Fox is unlikely to dump Joe Buck due to their desire to make sure he's the official voice of the network's sports division, TBS would be smart to hire Miller as the voice of it's Sunday afternoon national baseball broadcasts, which tend to get lost between the Fox Saturday afternoon game and ESPN's Sunday night games (unless TBS blew all their money on that new gosh-it-doesn't-look-like-a-cable-channel set for Coco).

ttv said...

There are many cases like that depending on whatever circumstances between the best artists, reporters, journalists, etc. to be kicked out from the said company. And that's the reality.

Roger Owen Green said...

Jon Miller will find (national) work. Joe Morgan, who I liked as a player, will not.
These things will right themselves.

benson said...

You want to get younger viewers? How about forcing batters to stay in the box and bat. How about umpires calling the strike zone. Watch some of the old b/w footage from back in the day. Games didn't regularly run 3 1/2 hours. Games have become painfully slow.

Didn't Jon go into the Hall of Fame this year? Great timing, "mothership". Jon will be fine. Maybe he'll end up at TBS, as suggested, or maybe on MLB, along side another Hall of Famer, Peter Gammons. And he still calls the defending world champs, too. They figure to be decent for a few more years. Look at the bright side. He wasn't traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mate Famber said...

Without Joe Morgan on the air where will I get my information on the history of Joe Morgan?

Dan Serafini said...

Along with everyone else, I agree this is all about Joe Morgan. He is a belligerent douche.

And Ken, they haven't shown A's - Indians since the early years when they would travel to all MLB ballparks every year: it is mostly big name teams like Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, etc. nowadays.

I wouldn't watch because of Morgan, and couldnt learn to appreciate Miller because of it.

Charles H. Bryan said...

The Tigers once upon a time (early 90s) fired Ernie Harwell, so sometimes there is no justice. At least not until Mike Ilitch puts in the winning bid on a team.

Michael said...

Interesting to think about: ESPN hired Miller and Morgan in 1990. At the time, Morgan was a still-recently retired player and showed ability as an analyst, and Miller was the best young pbp announcer around. Two decades later, Miller is the best middle-aged pbp announcer around and Morgan has regressed in a way that would make Darwin ask questions. So, get rid of them both? Meanwhile, Chris Berman still gets to broadcast baseball games ANYWHERE?

mike said...

Add me to the legions of traditionalists who watched/listened solely for Jon Miller. Add me to the hordes who wanted Joe Morgan to just shut up, already.
Amen on the dawdling so prevalent in the game today. Just watch the broadcast of the Red Sox/Twins from 9.30.67, released as a bonus dvd with a Bosox highlight film a couple of years ago. Can you believe the difference? There's no:
replaying of every pitch half a dozen times;
ad clutter on the screen;
ad clutter behind the plate;
commercial breaks between pitches;
batting gloves;
interminable adjustments after every pitch on the part of the batter;
hot-dogging and showboating;
I mean, it's almost unrecognizable as the same game. So much more compelling. I can understand why today's young people wouldn't understand the lack of flash and find it dull, but all this folderol really takes away from the game itself. It seems mlb does not trust their own product nowadays, feeling the need to load up broadcasts and ballparks with diversions and more ways to separate the rubes from their money.

Anonymous said...

--he communicates a genuine excitement and joy-- In every word he speaks and is precisely the reason I watch his games with the sound off.

With all due respect to accomplishments of Jon Miller, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I for one am glad to see the both of them go

b

pat said...

My apologies, but as an Angels fan, I have to say "good riddance" to any and all ESPN broadcasters. Their 2002 World Series team bit the big one. We had to listen to "Giants this" and "Barry that" and the ultimate champions were an after thought the whole way. I found them to be completely uninterested in the Angels the whole series. I don't recall them providing completely correct info on the team or players.

Not that I'm holding a grudge or anything!

benson said...

People, people! It's staring us in the face...

Sunday night baseball with Ken Levine and fill in the blank.

Ken, would you work cheaper than Miller or Morgan? Hired!

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Here's the solution...Hire Jon Miller to do the Fox Saturday baseball games. And the best part...Jon will be in, and Tim McCarver will be out. It IS a no-brainer!!

D. Sinatra said...

Joe Morgan was damn lucky to have such a great gig with such a great partner for so long, and deserved to catch so much crap when he did not measure up on such a big stage.

But, I don't think he's even in the top 10 of worst former players turned broadcasters. If you include football and basketball, he's not in the top 50.

As far as Jon Miller departing, its just another reason to dislike ESPN.

chuckcd said...

I don't think you would see Indians at Oakland since ESPN only shows about 6 teams on Sunday Night.

Chas Cunningham said...

Speaking of MLB announcers, Dave Niehaus of Seattle Mariners fame died today (11/10/10). He was 75.

Dave Mackey said...

Living in the New York area, I full well know what you mean by "bullshit signature home run calls" and I must admit even my boy Gary Cohen is guilty of it with his "IT'S OUTTA HERE!", however spontaneous it may sound. Total agreement on Jon Miller. When I went to AT&T Park a few years ago I took my video camera and zoomed in on the broadcast booth and got just a few seconds of Jon doing his thing. Wish I had a way to record the audio that would have gone with it, but on that vacation I wasn't all that techie.

The Curmudgeon said...

Jon Miller is a treasure and, while I agree he should not have been collateral damage when Morgan got blasted out of the booth, he may be even better on the radio version of the Game of the Week. (Still, I'd like to have seen Miller in the TV booth with Orel Hershiser or Robin Ventura, both of whom have been great in College World Series games.)

P.S. -- in our house we call the game of the week the New York game of the week: To get on a national broadcast (and not just ESPN, but Fox as well) one team playing must be from New York or at least have played in New York at one time (Giants, Dodgers). ESPN is actually somewhat daring in that it sometimes will broaden its outlook to include Boston without a legitimate New York hook (although it does somehow show all 135 epic struggles between the Yankees and the Red Sox each season) or even, gasp, Philadelphia!

Shawn said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the praise you're heaping on Jon Miller. When I moved to San Francisco, I made the decision to be an A's fan instead of a Giants fan because I grew up in Philly. I decided I could allow myself to adopt an AL team, but the Phillies are my NL team for life (and Harry Kalas was no slouch as an announcer). But then I heard Jon Miller on the radio, and although I still tell myself I'm not a Giants fan, I sure like listening to the games he calls.