ESPN IS SHAKING THINGS UP

Media execs looking hard at former Texans QB to improve broadcast

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It's hardly shocking that ESPN finally lowered the boom on its Monday Night Football announcing tandem of play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and analyst Booger McFarland. The surprise is, why'd it take so long? Tessitore and McFarland were widely criticized by fans and TV-sports columnists their entire tenure on ESPN – both years. To be fair, they had help stinking up the booth their first year when Jason Witten was part of the team.

Here's what I don't get. It's clear that it was time (overtime) that ESPN fired, or to put it in coronavirus-era terms, laid off, Tessitore and McFarland. But also what needs to be done is boot the person, probably a whole executive floor of persons, who hired those two. Didn't they have Tessitore and McFarland announce rehearsal games at corporate headquarters? What did ESPN see in those two before they got on-air that they didn't deliver after they got on-air? Did Tessitore suddenly stop being interesting? Did McFarland suddenly start making dumb mistakes?

It's like that in local TV news. A station hires new anchors from out-of-town. They make a huge fuss over them, explain how the anchors love Texas, post photos of the anchors at home with their cute dogs, mention how the anchors are looking forward to all the great Houston restaurants they've heard about … and six months later, hoist anchors, you're out of here. Who's to blame here, the anchors who failed to catch on in Houston, or the station execs who hired the anchors?

Each year, awfulannouncing.com asks its readers to rank the NFL announcing duos, all 15 of them. Tessitore and McFarland finished dead last – solid F grades - both years they did Monday Night Football. The people, and now ESPN bosses, have spoken, Tessitore and McFarland are gone from Monday Night Football. They won't be gone from the network, however. Both will stay with ESPN in "high-profile roles." The spelling bee airs in April, right?

Now on to their replacements on Monday night. After failed runs at Al Michaels (NBC wouldn't let him go), Tony Romo (staying with CBS for crazy money), Peyton Manning (said no thank you) and Drew Brees (two-year contract to stick with the Saints), ESPN says it will hire the next Monday night tandem from in-house. Some of the clubhouse leaders appear to be longtime ESPN'er Steve Levy as play-by-play, and Louis Riddick, Brian Griese and former Texans quarterback Dan Orlovsky as color analyst.

Levy and Griese have teamed up before on college games and some NFL action. It's important that announcers' names rhyme.

Things are shaking the rest of the work week at ESPN, too. This week, ESPN rolled out its new, jam-packed daytime lineup that boasts more live broadcasts, but shortened versions of old, let's be kind and call them favorites. Here's the lineup:

7 a.m. – Get Up

9 a.m. – First Take

11 a.m. – SportsCenter

1 p.m. – NFL Live

2 p.m. – The Jump

2:30 a.m. – First Take Extra

3 p.m. – Jalen and Jacoby

3:20 p.m. – Highly Questionable

3:40 p.m. – Around the Horn

4 p.m. – SportsCenter

The 4 p.m. SportsCenter will include a segment of Pardon the Interruption. While the bottom line is more live programming, it's the rare case of subtraction by addition. Highly Questionable is my favorite of the daytime talkers. Dan Le Batard, Papi (miss him) and Mina Kimes are smart, funny and unpredictable. Jalen and Jaboby have grown on me, obviously they're buddies, which is not always the case on TV. Around the Horn is fine when Bill Plaschke's attendance is not required. He's just so full of it. Host Tony Reali and Woody Paige's blackboard are the best things about the "competitive banter" game show.

There's rattling on ESPN's radio side, too. Trey Wingo's contract is up this year and there's speculation that he wants off the Golic and Wingo show that airs 6-10 a.m. on the east coast. One clue is Wingo's bio on Twitter … "Not really a morning person." That's like the county coroner saying "I'm squeamish." Don't count on a reunion of Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, though. Greeny may be adding a show on ESPN radio, where openings appear on the horizon.

Will Cain is rumored to be leaving ESPN any moment to sign a deal with Fox News. Cain, an outspoken conservative voice, has worked for Glenn Beck's "The Blaze" and once debated gun control with Whoopi Goldberg on The View. You don't have to guess which side Cain took. Cain, who graduated from UT Law School, is one of the ESPN hosts, you just get the idea that he doesn't know a whole lot about sports. He will be more comfortable, politically speaking, which is what he'll do, at Fox News.

Le Batard may be on his way out from ESPN, too. He's not exactly teacher's pet at ESPN, where the rule is Keep It Sports, Stupid. Le Batard, brilliantly clever and very loud, likes to stray off the straight and narrow sports lane too much for ESPN's taste. ESPN especially doesn't like when Le Batard dives into political commentary. That's a no-no at ESPN (see Jemele Hill, or more accurately, don't see Jemele Hill).

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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