It's been five years since Fox's Joe Buck called a St. Louis Cardinals game locally. A report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the World Series broadcaster may return to the Cards booth this year for a limited number of appearances, but not in a traditional play by play role. If Joe Buck does call Cardinals games for Fox Sports Midwest this year and these plans are put into place, it would bring a total transformation to traditional play by play and baseball broadcasting…
"There have been preliminary discussions about him doing play-by-play for a handful of Cards games on Fox Sports Midwest, in a looser fashion than ever has been done for any big-league regular season telecast.
Nothing has been cemented, but possibilities include chatting with players while the game is in progress — perhaps someone on the bench or in the on-deck circle — talking to a relief pitcher who wouldn’t play until later in the game, having a microphone on a fielder or other such innovations beyond even what might take place for an All-Star Game.
“The idea would be to try some fun stuff within a Cardinals game that hasn’t been tried before,’’ Buck said. “I don’t even know what that entails, but we’d be looking for different access to the on-air product. I think it could be cool. It would kind of loosen the reins a little, make the broadcasts a little more compelling. It would be in the category of ‘something different’ (but) how that takes shape I don’t know.’’"
Before you start freaking out and imagining this as Joe Buck Live meets Major League Baseball and a trainwreck of epic proportions with batters sitting on a couch with Joe Buck at the on deck circle… I actually think this could work. We're not talking about Joe Buck trying to show up Justin Timberlake and various All-Star shenanigans. These would be actual interviews that already dot legitimate baseball coverage as it stands, just turning the tables. The discussions with players would be the focus while the play by play would be intermittent instead of the other way around.
If there's any sport that could use some broadcast innovations, it's baseball. The game moves so agonizingly slow these days with a black hole of dead air sucking broadcasts dry, why not try to push the boundaries and experiment? Why not try something new? Why not try a looser broadcast that does something different? I'm all for innovations in broadcasting as long as they put viewers and fans first. Focusing on insights from players during the game could do just that. As long as players would feel free to refrain from tired cliches and offer real, honest opinions, it would be great for fans at home. And, as much as some of our audience would hate to admit it, Buck is the perfect person to run this experiment. He has the personality to carry conversations and do interviews while also filling in details about the game.
This idea would never work in basketball, football, or hockey but the pace of baseball could allow for a broadcast to basically be a nine inning conversation about the game instead of traditional play by play. Maybe there's a swath of hardcore baseball fans that would be aghast at the thought of someone not calling a 2-2 breaking ball at the knees painting the outside corner, but I'm intrigued by these possibilities. Sure it may fail miserably, but at least someone would be trying something to breathe new life into a baseball broadcast. The Post-Dispatch goes on to say if this happens at Fox Sports Midwest, and there are still several hurdles to clear from the nuts and bolts of how it would work to gaining cooperation from the teams and players, the new strategy could even make its way to the Fox national broadcast if it clicks. At that point you would have to ask yourself whether you would rather see a total transformation in baseball broadcasting… or more from Tim McCarver.