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Ken Hoffman on why Astros fans deserve a better broadcast team

Ken Hoffman on why Astros fans deserve a better broadcast team
Composite photo by Brandon Strange

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

David Barron, TV-sports columnist for the HoustonChronicle, explained it to me. "The national networks pay a lot of money for broadcast rights, and they want a telecast that appeals to the largest possible audience. Partisan broadcasters aren't paid to appeal to the largest possible audience.

They're paid to telecast a game from the standpoint of the team that pays them and of the viewers watching them. Why would a Rays fan want to hear a broadcast from the standpoint of an announcer paid by the Astros, and vice-versa?"

That's why we're stuck with the Fox broadcast team of Kenny Albert, Joe Girardi, A.J. Pierzynski, and J.P. Morosi for the Astros' American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. I'm not saying the Fox team is biased against Houston, or unfair in any way. I don't like when Houston fans constantly scream that. I am saying the Fox team is lame. And Houston fans, also Tampa Bay fans, deserve better.

Also not saying that Fox should have hired the Astros broadcast team of Todd Kalas, Geoff Blum, and Julia Morales to do the ALDS nationally. But technology exists for Fox to have a separate audio channel just for Kalas and Co. in the Houston market. And vice-versa for the Rays announcers in Tampa.

The Fox announce team comes up short for interest, analysis, entertainment, and just plain fun. They're making the games boring. Definitely for Houston fans, probably for the rest of the country.

Kenny Albert is so singularly focused on the Astros-Rays series that he did play-by-play for the Texans-Falcons NFL game on Sunday. Girardi is so focused on the Astros-Rays series that more than once his partners made him swear he'd be around for Game 3 and 4 and 5 if necessary.

Girardi is rumored to be a candidate for several baseball managers jobs. Pierzynski is a lightweight. Earlier this season, Fox did an Astros-Yankees game where Aaron Judge was awarded first base due to catcher's interference. Pierzynski, thinking that Judge would be charged an at bat, said he hoped Judge didn't wind up with a .299 batting average, which would be .300 if not for the catcher's interference.

Uh, anybody who ever flipped a baseball card into a trash can knows that players don't get charged an at bat due to catcher's interference. Pierzynski was a catcher for 19 years in the big leagues … and didn't know the rule about catcher's interference.

J.P. Morosi interviewed Alex Bregman after he hit a critical home run in Game 2 of the ALDS and asked Bregman what advice he had for young players. Nine innings to think that up? What is this, high school career day? Flyweight.

Continue on CultureMap for Ken Hoffman's thoughts on how they should improve the broadcast.

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Will the Astros ever give Joey Loperfido a chance to fix the black hole at first base? Composite Getty Image.

So how long do you suppose the Astros will cling to the ludicrous notion that Jose Abreu will return to being a sustainably decent hitter (much less a good hitter)? The All-Star break? The trade deadline July 30? The day the Astros are eliminated from the playoff race? End of the season? End of his contract at the end of next season? Maybe they sign him to a two-year extension?

Since rejoining the team Abreu has played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He has seven hits in 42 at bats for a .167 batting average. That’s only not horrible in comparison to the sub-pathetic .099 mark Abreu had when hiatus time arrived. Since returning, Abreu has walked once. If you remember or are familiar with Susan Powter you know what comes next. STOP THE INSANITY!

Kyle Tucker’s absence obviously punches a big hole in the Astros’ lineup. Still, that regularly running out Jeremy Pena in the cleanup or fifth spot in the lineup doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, is ridiculous! Pena has been abysmal for the last month. May 11 he put up his fourth consecutive multi-hit game. In 29 games since, Pena has added one more homer with an anemic on-base percentage of .238. Not batting average, OBP. Yuck. All teams solicit All-Star votes for non-worthy guys. Pena plays in the same league as Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Corey Seager, and Anthony Volpe. Hyping Pena for the All-Star game is plain ol’ silly.

Jon Singleton ever slotting in the lineup fourth or fifth, sigh. He of one homer and 28 strikeouts in his last 79 at bats. It’s just a sad state of affairs that no one below Pena or Singleton in the lineup should obviously be higher in the lineup. Mauricio Dubon, Victor Caratini, Trey Cabbage are all bottom third of the lineup if in the lineup type guys. Chas McCormick seemingly losing almost all of his hitting ability has hurt. Yainer Diaz stinking for much more of the season to date than he’s been good has hurt.

The refusal to try Joey Loperfido at first base is somewhere from perplexing to stupid. Look, Loperfido is not an elite prospect. His poor contact skills may doom him from becoming a quality regular. But find out! He struck out a bunch in his first taste but also hit .333. The low upside of the Abreu-Singleton combo is obvious. Evidently to just about all but Astros’ decision makers. Going with Trey Cabbage over Loperfido in the outfield also underwhelms.

Chasing down the Mariners?

It could all still turn for the better, but the Astros are at increasing risk of fading to oblivion behind Seattle in the American League West race. They deserve to be 31-38. They have a losing record at home, they have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record in day games, they have a losing record in night games. They are 7-14 in games against left-handed starting pitchers, they are 24-24 (hey, .500, yippee!) vs. right-handed starters. It would take a serious collapse to fall entirely out of the Wild Card race before the trade deadline, but the Astros are flirting with danger there too. They have to leapfrog several teams to get to the third Wild Card position, currently held by the Minnesota Twins. This doesn’t seem to be a good weekend to gain ground on them. Not that A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers visiting Minute Maid Park this weekend are anything special, though in Friday night’s series opener the Astros face the arguably best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season (Tarik Skubal). But the Twins have four games at home against the lowly Oakland A’s.

If Minnesota is not to overtake Kansas City and Cleveland to win the AL Central, you know Carlos Correa would love to make the playoffs at his ex-team’s expense. Wednesday Correa banged out the first five-hit game of his career. It’s pretty amazing that Jose Altuve has never had a five-hit game given how great a hitter he’s been and the relatively few walks he’s drawn. Sunday in Anaheim, Altuve racked up his 39th four-hit game. Remember, last September, Altuve hit five home runs over seven innings that overlapped two games against the Texas Rangers.

George Springer is the lone Astro ever to rack up six hits in a game, doing so at Oakland in 2018. So far this month, Springer is six for 40. Springer has two seasons left after this one on the six-year 150 million dollar contract he signed with Toronto. At 34 years old he is playing as if washed up. 2023 was the worst season of Springer’s career and he has fallen off a cliff from there thus far in 2024. Springer is batting .198 with his OPS at a sickly .582.

There is only one player in the modern era (1900 forward) of Major League Baseball to amass seven hits in a nine-inning game. In 1975 Rennie Stennett went seven for seven at Wrigley Field in a Pittsburgh Pirates 22-0 obliteration of the Chicago Cubs. The “Bleacher Bums” must have had fun that day.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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