AWFUL ANNOUNCING

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 Houston Chronicle, 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.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

What a week.The Rockets look terrible in losing consecutive games to losing teams, and that doesn't register as the tiniest ripple in the week's pond of Houston sports woe. Pond? More like ocean.

The Astros are irrefutably confirmed for all-time as cheaters and liars over a multi-season period. Jim Crane is no idiot, but specifically on the issue of whether the Astros' 2017 World Series championship is tainted, Jim Crane is an idiot if he really thinks it is not. Astro lackeys, toadies, and homers should stop the "a bunch of other teams did it too!" and "Mike Fiers is an a-hole" lameness. The Astros were guilty, caught, and deserved to get hammered. If/when others are proven as guilty as the Astros, so should they be hammered.

So after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lowering of a rightful boom, and then Jim Crane firing Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, what does it all mean for the 2020 Astros? It's a wow of a story, but really not a crisis. The loss of Gerrit Cole is much more meaningful. Luhnow's shoes are fairly easily filled for this season. Hence for now, Crane himself will head up baseball operations. The Astros weren't and aren't pursuing any meaningful free agents or major trades. Before his demise Luhnow finished the financial corner cutting moves that filled out the roster.

It's not as if Luhnow's personal expertise made all scouting, drafting, and signing decisions. And now the Astros have no first or second round pick to make this June anyway. 30 year old Pete Putila is the ranking baseball guy still employed by the club, but he is a branch of the Luhnow tree. If Crane's goal is the "housecleaning" he termed the Luhnow and Hinch firings as being, how can he promote a Luhnow lieutenant? Every front office in baseball has shrewd analytic minds, looking to move up. Crane can easily hire one of them.

As for field manager, Hinch was a great handler of people (well….with one kind of important exception) but this roster is strong enough to operate on autopilot to a good extent. Bench coach Joe Espada is highly regarded and been a finalist for other managerial gigs. But he was on Hinch's staff when cheating was ongoing in 2018. That seems pretty much disqualifying. Two known interviewees are quality options, though neither has skippered a team to the World Series. Buck Showalter was always extremely highly regarded, John Gibbons steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. Between those two I'd lean Showalter but either would be fine.

Remember The Texans

How thankful are Bill O'Brien and the Texans for the Astros' mess grabbing all the headlines not even 24 hours after the Texans' collapse in Kansas City? It's almost impossible to get blown out of an NFL game in which you lead 24-nothing. Almost. The Texans pulled it off! Won't that cute little AFC South Champion banner be extra cute when it hangs next season? Hangs like a dead man from a noose.

As I put it last week, the Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense, the Chiefs' defense better than the Texans' defense, and the Chiefs' coaching better than the Texans' coaching. But the way the game played out was still preposterous.

If Travis Kelce had beaten Lonnie Johnson any worse than he did Johnson's name should have been legally changed to Rented Mule. J.J. Watt was essentially a zero. No tackles, no assists on tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Are you going to pay 15 and a half million dollars to a 31 year old Watt after his three major injuries in the last four seasons. That's a yes.

At least we have clarity that the Texans must dedicate their first round pick to a pass rusher or a defensive back. Wait, they don't have a first round pick. Well, in 2021 then. Wait. Bill O'Brien traded that away too. Speaking of O'Brien…

Opting for the field goal on fourth and one up 21-0 early second quarter was not indefensible. However, O'Brien's explanation for doing so was pitiful. The fake punt? Most agree, dumb.But not absolutely indefensible. This was the O'Brien Is Not Fit For Command moment of the game: He needed to use a timeout, with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Texans down 17, facing fourth and fourth and four, in Chiefs' territory, to decide to go for the first down rather than punt. A cinder block could have displayed the same game management IQ. O'Brien has three seasons left on his contract. Unless Cal McNair takes a decidedly different tack than his father did, O'Brien's job is as safe as any Supreme Court Justice's.

Speaking of Cal, since the loss he's been spotted as often and been as vocal this week as Alex Bregman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. So, if guaranteed the truth: For a million dollars is your bet Altuve was wearing something or not? 2. Alex Cora should be banned from ever again managing a Major League team. 3. Famous "scandals": Bronze-Teapot Dome Silver-Patty Smyth fronted band, had big hit with Goodbye to You Gold-Kerry Washington and the TV show.

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