Heading into the 2014 MLB season, Fox has finally announced their #2 broadcasting duo behind the newly-named trio of Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci – long-time MLB Network play-by-play commentator Matt Vasgersian, and rising broadcasting star John Smoltz.
Vasgersian is a veteran of the game, and is an alumnus of the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers broadcasting booths in addition to MLB Network. He also has non-baseball experience, working for NBC during the last three Winter Olympics while mostly calling ski jumping.
Smoltz has been a broadcaster since 2010 following his retirement, and initially gained popularity during local broadcasts with the Atlanta Braves. SInce then, Smoltz has worked in both the studio and booth for TBS and MLB Network, becoming one of the most well-liked MLB analysts in the game. Six months ago, I tabbed Smoltz as the best possible choice to replace McCarver, and while he didn't eventually fill that role, his promotion to Fox's #2 booth isn't a bad landing spot.
Fox's new duo will actually kick off the 2014 season from Australia, where they'll broadcast the two Dodgers-Diamondbacks games for MLB Network.
I'm not sure if Fox could have done better here. They still will have Thom Brennaman and Kenny Albert working for them this season, but Vasgersian is an improvement. As for Smoltz, I think Fox is grooming him for bigger and better things in case their new trio doesn't work out too well this year.
But where does this leave TBS? Honestly, I don't think they're in a bad position at all. Turner still will likely roll out Ron Darling in a color role this year, and they'll also do the same with Cal Ripken Jr., who was very impressive in the booth during last season's playoffs. Throw in the perpetually likable Pedro Martinez in the studio, and TBS won't miss a beat after Smoltz's departure.
All in all, this is another "everyone wins" situation – we get more of the commentators we like and MLB on Fox takes a step forward towards a much needed refresh of the brand.