When Peter Gammons announced that he’d be leaving ESPN to do some work for MLB Network, I thought of Harold Reynolds.
It wasn’t just because Reynolds and Gammons were once colleagues on the Worldwide Leader. It was because of something he said repeatedly when asked about the difference between MLB Network and his former employer.
“You have time,” he said, “to get a full thought out.”
Reynolds never said it explicity, but the suggestion was that MLB Network was a far less annoying place to work as an analyst. ESPN, with its half-hour Baseball Tonight shows crammed in before games and in between other programs, didn’t offer analysts the chance to really expound on anything for any length of time.The new all-baseball network, however, freed analysts to go in-depth without feeling like they had to wrap up a though before heading to commercial.
Watch “Baseball Tonight” sometime (if you can figure out when it’s on) and then compare it to “Hot Stove” on MLB Network. It’s like night and day in terms of pace.
Gammons, in comments to reporters at the Winter meetings in Indianapolis, said he was happy to go to an all-baseball network and hoped to get the chance to report more in-depth on players and their personalities.
“I think we’ve become jaundiced when it comes to the players,” Gammons said, according to BizofBaseball.com. “I love the players and look forward to covering that side of the game.”
With Gammons now gone, MLB Network truly has the lion’s share of top talent when it comes to analysts. ESPN still has John Kruk, who is solid, as well as Eric Young and Fernando Vina. Buster Olney and Jayson Stark are also two of the best in the business. But MLB Network can boast of former players like Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Joe Magrane, Mitch Williams and Dan Plesac, and has relationships with SI.com’s Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Oh, and MLB Network has a guy by the name of Bob Costas.
It would seem that ESPN needs a renewed focus on its baseball coverage. To ignore this trend means risking a descent into irrelevance among fans.