We knew this day was inevitable – and, as usual, there’s a large faction of baseball viewers who are reveling in delight upon hearing this news – but on Wednesday, Fox Sports made it official: 2013 will be Tim McCarver’s final season in the booth.
The decision was all Tim’s, admitting on a conference call from his California residence that it was “not a tough call… My mind was made up and it had been made up for two years.”
The bottom line: “I wanted to step down while I could still do the job” (he also insists “my health is fine”).
Not to suggest that he could no longer perform or anything. McCarver is one of the few broadcasters to be an analyst on all four major broadcast networks, and was the recipient of last year’s Ford C. Frick baseball broadcaster award. He also won three Sports Emmy Awards for his work, though he had not been nominated for “outstanding sports event analyst” since 2010.
Joe Buck will know how that feels this year. But now, he’ll have more concerning things to worry about – like how to prolong the upcoming baseball season.
“I don’t want to do these games without Tim,” Buck said during a conference call. “But I respect his decision to step aside.”
Not only did Buck deem McCarver “a great teammate,” but he also gave him the ultimate compliment: a comparison to his father, the late Jack Buck. “He’s every bit as important to be as my dad.”
So who’s on the short list to replace T-Mac? Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch believes it’s a toss-up between current Turner Sports employees John Smoltz, the MLB Network figure who is an analyst for baseball contests on TBS, and also previously worked Braves broadcasts on Peachtree TV (or what used to be the Atlanta network previously known as “Superstation TBS”), and Ron Darling, who has been calling Mets games for SportsNet New York since 2006.
The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre agrees, and adds Bob Brenly, who is about to become the new analyst for Arizona Diamondbacks games (departing after one season in baseball is not unheard of; just ask Bobby Valentine).
The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman sees Darling as the favorite to fill McCarver’s shoes in the Fox booth, but also sees current Fox broadcaster Eric Karros, whose previous stops include ESPN and KCAL in Los Angeles, as a viable “in house” option.
USA Today’s Paul White likes Karros, as well as Jim DeShaies (who replaces Brenly in the Chicago Cubs booth effective this season), and the aforementioned Valentine; he also has dark horses in the form of baseball players with little or no broadcasting experience, like Chipper Jones (a teammate of Smoltz on the Braves for many years), Brad Ausmus, and yes, even Manny Ramirez.
The website Awful Announcing (which some argue should be McCarver’s middle name, if not his epitaph) speculates Fox might turn to Karros, Smoltz, or even “poach” a member of ESPN’s baseball analyst staff.
And a couple of Deadspin commenters suggest either former ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst Joe Morgan, as well as Fox play-by-player Gus Johnson, should sit alongside Buck come 2014.
The 2013 season will be McCarver’s thirtieth straight year on network television, and the ensuing postseason will be an unprecedented 29th for the Memphis native.
In addition to his national work on NBC (1980), CBS (1990-93), ABC (1984-89 and again from 1994-95 during the ill-fated, strike-stricken Baseball Network experiment) and Fox (since 1996), he had spent sixteen seasons as a color analyst for Mets broadcasts on New York’s WOR (later WWOR in 1987); he then began working games for the crosstown New York Yankees on Fox O&O WNYW from 1999 to 2001 (incidentally, it was around this time that News Corporation purchased WWOR, making it a sister station to WNYW). He also worked Giants games for a year in 2002 on San Francisco’s KTVU, another Fox O&O.
McCarver first started his broadcasting career on WPHL in Philadelphia, where he spent the better half of his final decade of his professional baseball career as a catcher with the Phillies; the majority of his playing time was with the Cardinals, who signed him in 1959.
He was barely thirty years old by the time current Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks was born.
Now, there’s but less than thirty regular season games, including the 2013 All-Star Game, which will take place at CitiField in Flushing, New York, where McCarver analyzed many Mets games in the old Shea Stadium, before T-Mac calls it a career.
Fox has given him an open invite to be involved with their new cable network, Fox Sports 1, launching this summer, but he’s undecided at this point. “There is no plan right now for that and I don’t want to speculate. This March is not next March, and next March I’ll have a pretty good idea about what I will be doing post-Fox baseball.”
This could be the year of sunset for longtime baseball broadcasters. On the West Coast, Vin Scully is about to start his 64th season in the booth. He’s nearly spent twice as much time working ball games as McCarver – and meanwhile, it’s McCarver who’s planning to hang up the headset.
“Timing is everything and I wanted to step down while I know I can still do the job and be proud of the job I have done.”
Love him or hate him (and there’s quite a few in the latter category that have made it known), it is hard not to be proud of what Tim McCarver’s accomplished in thirty-four years of baseball broadcasting.
And even though, physically, Joe Buck will be teamed with an Eric Karros or a Ron Darling or a Manny Ramirez (!), Tim McCarver – sorry, haters – will be irreplaceable.