mlb postseason

A long and memorable Major League Baseball Postseason is over, with the Houston Astros hoisting the World Series trophy after a thrilling seven-game battle against the Dodgers. The end of the playoffs marks the end of a month of baseball coverage from Fox, FS1, TBS, and even MLB Network and ESPN mixed in. We watched all (ok, fine… almost all) of that coverage to bring you the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2017 MLB playoffs on television.

The good

Joe Buck and John Smoltz, Brian Anderson and Ron Darling

It is easy to complain about the people who call baseball games. They talk off the cuff for four straight hours, reacting to the events in front of them and attempting to appease fans both casual and intense, old-school and new-school. It’s a tough gig. If you want to criticize Brian Anderson and Ron Darling (who worked the NLDS and NLCS for TBS) or Joe Buck and John Smoltz (who handled the ALCS and World Series for Fox), you certainly can.

Dodgers fans will tell you that Darling was biased against their team, analytically inclined fans will tell you Smoltz doesn’t understand advanced stats, and people of all stripes will tell you that Buck is too smug. And maybe all of those people will have a point. But the fact is that both TBS and Fox have settled on highly competent, generally listenable broadcast teams. These guys don’t commit embarrassing gaffes, they don’t lose their trains of thought, they don’t come off as under-informed. We have been subjected to some bad commentators over the years (and even in the Division Series). We should be thankful for the LCS and World Series booths.

Fox scorebug

In the past, viewers have taken issue with overly crowded Fox scorebugs. This year we got a simple, clean, intuitive design. It received more or less positive reviews.

Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal

Verducci and Rosenthal are arguably the two best baseball reporters of their generation, and Fox’s decision to use them as field reporters has transformed that role from extraneous to essential. They asked sharp questions of managers and players, relayed useful information during broadcasts and provided educated analysis the average reporter can’t dream of. Verducci’s stand-up about how Justin Verlander has used data from the Astros’ analytics department to improve himself as a pitcher in Houston, for example, was unlike anything we’re used to seeing from baseball field reporters.

In singling out Rosenthal and Verducci, who worked the ALCS and World Series for Fox, we mean no disrespect to Sam Ryan (TBS), Lauren Shehadi (TBS), and Jon Morosi (Fox, MLB Network), all of whom are capable reporters. But Rosenthal and Verducci (who also worked the ALDS for MLB Network) are the absolute best in the business, and their connections and insight added another dimension to Fox’s World Series coverage.

The bad

Fox and TBS studio shows

Admittedly, this is harsh. Neither the TBS nor Fox studio shows truly belong under the “bad” heading. They belong under a non-existent “just OK” heading.

Last year’s Fox studio show, fronted by Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose, was a revelation. It combined the insight of, say, NFL Matchup, with the entertainment value of Inside the NBA. With Rose gone (for good reason), Fox tried to replicate the dynamic with David Ortiz as A-Rod’s buddy and antagonizer, but the results just weren’t quite the same.

On TBS, Casey Stern hosted a slightly more staid crew that got the job done but didn’t produce too many memorable moments. Neither the Fox nor TBS studio shows were awful, but nor was either particularly exceptional.

TBS scorebug

Unlike Fox’s scorebug, TBS’ graphic was not well received. It wasn’t exactly that the design was poor — it was that the bug was simply way too small.

tbs scorebug

TBS is close to getting this right. They just click to click the corner and drag out a little bit.

Division Series confusion

In the opening days of the postseason, it took some sort of advanced degree in baseball television rights to figure out what channel the games were on. You had two series on FS1 and two series on TBS (neither or which are typically go-to baseball destinations), with matchups on MLB Network thrown in seemingly at random. Oh, and one of the wild-card games was on ESPN, for good measure.

Eventually, the arrangement crystallized — the AL was on FS1, the NL was on TBS, and MLB Network had rights, as usual, to a couple of afternoon games — but it was quite confusing for a minute there. And it will be quite confusing when we do it all again next year.

The ugly

World Series in-game advertising

Obviously, advertising is part of baseball on TV. In fact, from a network’s perspective it’s the entire purpose of baseball on TV. But even so, there comes a point when advertising crosses a line and becomes intrusive to the fan, who is tuning in for the game, not the marketing. The World Series may or may not have crossed that line with the behind-the-plate YouTube ad that resembled a play button. It may or may not have crossed that line with its brief spots in the middle of innings. But it definitely, unquestionably crossed that line when Astros outfielder George Springer was virtually decapitated by a Masterpass ad projected on the outfield wall.

TBS digital streaming

Though this column is specifically about television, we can’t ignore digital streaming, which has become a more and more popular way for viewers to consume these games. And frankly, Turner needs to spend some time honing its streaming platform. The TBS site was glitchy during postseason games, buffering often and sometimes freezing during commercials. For anyone without access to a television, watching the NL half of the playoff bracket was a pain. With linear TV still the dominant medium, maybe Turner can get away with a poor streaming service, but as watching events online continues to grow in popularity, they need to work out some of these kinks.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • mike illingworth

    You forgot Matt Vasgersian and Buck Martinez on the international feed for the WS.only. no one with cband watched FOX.

    • They had an easy chemistry. A solid if unspectacular B+ team.

  • 1. Would be nice if we still lived in a time where more games were on Fox instead of cable, but that ship has sailed.

    2. Would be even nicer if, as a subscriber to MLB TV, I could watch playoff games without also needing a cable subscription. I suspect a lot of people who have MLB TV have it because they don’t have cable in the first place. Of course, the whole approach is designed to make people watch on TV. (It’s especially galling that Fox makes us have cable to watch online when it’s free on TV.)

  • Dale Moog

    What about the weird Spanish rights deals with Fox Depotes and CNN in Spanish. MLB and the broadcast partners need to do a better job of promoting the sport in Spanish with outlets that people will find the game on. Half of the players and about half of the fans would say they are Spanish speakers. They need to have a better Spanish rights deal not just an after thought you are lucky to draw 20,000 views on

    • In several Latin American countries (like mine), both ESPN and Fox Sports aired the whole World Series. The NFL Super Bowl also airs on both channels. As they also air the playoffs, there’s no way to get confused.

      It’s interesting that ESPN2 has been airing Monday Night Football in Spanish, as it has a wider reach than ESPN Deportes. Fox supposedly has secondary audio, but it’s not the same. Perhaps Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 or regional networks could air playoffs games in Spanish.

  • Grumpy Old Man

    2 things.

    1) FOX let Ortiz run amok, diluting the observations of the other 3 analysts. Felt sorry for Burkhardt trying to control him.

    2) Alex, as a graduate of Northwestern, are you saying you had a hard time figuring out which games were on which channel?
    Or are you being a condescending twit saying those without your education got lost?
    It’s one or the other.

  • kca13

    How am I the only one who likes Joe Simpson!

    • James Richards

      Your not I like him to

      • Dale Moog

        So do I I have watched him for years first on Local games in Seattle in the early 1990’s then with the braves on TBS and FOX Sports South he is very good I think he is better than that stiff David Cone who added nothing to that broadcast or the the tired Jim Katt. I mean 25 years ago he might have been good but he needs to go we need someone who played in the last 40 years in the booth not someone living off a 1965 World Series game 7 start

  • Duncan Hirohito

    I get the idea of throwing a handful of ex jocks against the wall and seeing if something sticks but it isn’t enjoyable to watch.

  • BobLee Says

    I normally skip the pre/post studio shows, but I liked the FS1 team especially after Game Five. They were “like fans” in their effusive praise of that game. Frank Thomas comes across as a very nice guy.