Tim McCarver A Refreshing Change On FOX Sports Midwest

Every St. Louis Cardinals fan, or baseball fan for that matter, has an opinion on Tim McCarver as a broadcaster. That meant there were already opinions aplenty about him making his debut on FOX Sports Midwest last night to begin the 30 games he’ll broadcast with Dan McLaughlin this season.

TimMcCarverI’ve never been reluctant to share my feelings about the quality of the broadcasters at FOX Sports Midwest — in a nutshell, as Cardinals fans we deserve better — nor that I take every opportunity possible to listen to optional broadcasts when I can, such as when the Cards play the Cubs or Brewers.

Yet I was curious to hear McCarver last night, willing to forego the chance to listen to FOX Sports Wisconsin. Yes, I too often found him annoying when he did games on FOX all these years. But the games on FOX Midwest are different since they’re local and not national. Would he be different too? (Plus, really, how could he be any worse than what we have to endure with whatever combination of McLaughlin, Al Hrabosky and Ricky Horton is on the air any given night?)

It didn’t take long to notice a difference from the usual broadcast. McCarver impressed me right away when he said that no only did he watch Wacha’s last start against the Mets, but he also picked up the phone and called Bob Gibson to talk more about Wacha’s pitching line from that day as well as his curveball and why he was throwing so many in the game. When the wind is in your face, Gibson said according to McCarver, that’s when your curveball works the best. And the curve worked both to Wacha’s benefit and detriment that day, as he was wild with it also.

Look at that — insightful broadcasting. Beats the heck out of hearing Al read yet again from that day’s media notes. And McCarver mentioned numerous times Cardinals games he’d watched this season and cited specific examples.

In addition, working with McCarver made McLaughlin sound better too. The sixth inning was a good example. As Wacha faced Cards killer Aramis Ramirez with two on and threw the first two pitches for strikes, McLaughlin asked McCarver what Wacha should throw in the situation. “Something out of the strike zone,” he said, although clarified that “it’s not so much pitch selection as it is pitch location when it’s 0-2. You don’t want to pitch a guy like it’s 2-0. You have room to work. Expand the strike zone.” Which Wacha did, with a ball in the dirt, so McCarver said he should do it again. Unfortunately, the next pitch hit Ramirez, the second hit batsmen of the inning, to load the bases. Still, actual game conversation and strategy questioning/talk — not something we’re used to hearing.

One improvement of the FOX Midwest broadcast this year that was noticeable during both Ramirez’s and then Khris Davis’s at-bat to follow in the sixth inning: situational stats on screen, such as batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs. I’ve also noticed on-screen charts showing, for example, the direction in which Jhonny Peralta or Yadier Molina have hit the ball this season. Nice additions.

At times, it just seemed like McCarver was simply enjoying himself — and maybe that’s why it’s such a refreshing change to have him on the broadcast. Yes, we know Al is the “Mad Hungarian” and wants to uphold that type of persona, but it was just entertaining to listen to McCarver following Allen Craig’s home run in the bottom of the sixth. Prior to Craig’s infield hit in the fourth, McCarver and McLaughlin had been discussing his struggles at the plate and McCarver said an infield hit or flare to the outfield could be the type of thing to get him going — with Craig delivering on cue. Then came the homer. McLaughlin’s response was, “Well, you said it,” to which McCarver replied, “This is such a zany game at times. Who knows anything? The more games you see, the less you think you might know.” He then recounted the previous conversation, ending with “it’s just a stupid game at times — but beautifully stupid … that’s part of the fun of the game.”

And it was definitely fun and interesting to listen to the broadcast. Change of pace, change of tone, change of discussions — all good. The game on the field last night — not necessarily beautiful to watch, sometimes stupid and more ugly stupid the longer it went. But that too is all part of the game.

Which is why, in an evening filled with such good and bad and ugly play by the Cardinals, it was nice to have more than the previously typical kind of broadcast to listen to on FOX Midwest.

Nice work in getting McCarver on board — and I’ll definitely be foregoing the FOX Wisconsin broadcast again tonight as a result.

Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like AMF on Facebook if you don’t already.

8 thoughts on “Tim McCarver A Refreshing Change On FOX Sports Midwest

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Christine. I’ve never been a fan of McCarver’s broadcasting prowess at all, but last night felt, well, different. Hard to verbalize a feeling like that.

    The only thing I’d slightly disagree with you on is that I actually very much enjoy Dan McLaughlin when he isn’t with Hrabosky. This is mostly because I tend to find that Hrabosky seems to just suck the life out of the broadcast most games, if that makes any sense. In contrast, I have come to find that when Dan and Rick Horton are together, the chemistry they share is very nice and the broadcasts seem lively and colorful, *especially* when compared to many other television broadcasting duos around the country.

    And after listening to a whole mess of other clubs’ broadcasting teams thanks to the unique opportunity to hear every other team’s on-air personalities by being an MLB.tv subscriber, I’d have to say that as a group, I’ve come to find that the Cardinals’ overall team is actually quite good, with McLaughlin standing out on the TV side and John Rooney on the radio side. (Note: I’m a big fan of Mike Shannon as a Cardinal, but as a radio play by play guy? Not so much. Still better than Hrabosky though. Heh.)

    • My feeling is that Dan manages with what he’s dealt. When he’s got a strong partner, he can up his game. When he’s saddled with Al and Rick, he’s got to hold back because otherwise the disparity is too great.

      The little I heard of McCarver last night (was watching in the main room after the kids went to bed, so mainly had it muted) I enjoyed. Then again, I never held as much contempt for his national work as everyone else did either.

      • Jeff and Daniel, agree with both of you on McLaughlin working to the level of his partners.

        Jeff, my complaint about McLaughlin and Horton together is that it’s just too much hyperactivity for my taste. But, all personal preference I know. I have MLB-TV also so have heard other teams’ announcers and there are definitely some bad ones out there. I enjoy listening to Shannon on the radio — lately, when I do have to listen to the Cards broadcasts (I’m blacked out of them on MLB-TV because I’m in their broadcast area, but also in the broadcast area for the Brewers and Cubs so can get those broadcasts on DirecTV) I’ve been muting the TV and listening to the radio broadcast online. When I listen in the car, though, and Shannon is on, I just know never to expect hearing the score! 🙂

  2. Well, I wasn’t sure which way you were going with your comments but just like most of us have followed the Redbirds for many many years and Tim McCarver has been the reason that I started playing baseball as a child in Little League. My dad took me to many Cardinals games as a child and anytime I can hear Tim, Mike Shannon, Gibby, or Brock it brings me back to my childhood. I think the whole Fox MIDWEST gang is fantastic and we are lucky to have commentators so knowledgeable. Go Cardinals!

    • Thanks for the comment! I did love hearing McCarver talk about calling Gibson last night. What a great research resource he has! Loved seeing a photo from yesterday of McCarver sitting and talking to Red too. Lots of great history there.

  3. The remark you quoted by McLaughlin, currying favor, speaking as an acolyte or sycophant – engaging in in-group patter rather than describing the game – is what causes my irritation with him, and is why I listen to the opponents’ broadcast whenever possible. With Dan & Ricky, it’s “I am the Show” coupled with Pollyanna. Why do the Cardinals not insist Fox hire professional announcers?

  4. It’s bad enough that we have to listen to McCarver and Buck during the post season. But now McCarver for 30 GAMES!!! I can’t stand him as well as the three other Cardinal Fans in my office. Shoot, every Cardinal Fan I know. Please do us all a favor and cut him lose now!!! And, if you need a superstitious baseball reason. We haven’t won since he started!!!

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