Fox surprised many people in 2014 when it replaced Tim McCarver as its top baseball analyst with Tom Verducci and social media lightning rod Harold Reynolds. John Smoltz had seemed like a safer choice.
Two years later, Smoltz finally will get his shot at working a World Series, having replaced Reynolds and Verducci after last season. So far he has received far more positive reviews from most fans and critics than his predecessors did.
“The feedback we’ve gotten on John’s performance in the booth has been spectacular,” president of production John Entz said Monday on a call to promote Fox’s coverage of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. “Going into this time of year John Smoltz is just a name everybody thinks about.
“So to have him to be able to talk about these matchups and these types of situations, it’s really been fantastic for all of us on the production side as well as the viewers. So we couldn’t be happier.”
Smoltz said he has approached his TV assignment with the same single-mindedness he brought to his Hall of Fame pitching career.
“Well, nothing is like the World Series and the playoffs and I treated it like that as a player,” he said. “I tried to win every game I pitched in the regular season but never poured in the energy or the effort that I did in a postseason game. I just couldn’t sustain that over 35, 36 starts.
“So the attention to detail was always there, but I really locked in in the postseason. Broadcasting is kind of the same way. You can only make so much out of a regular-season game.
“I probably have prepared more for this job than any other thing I’ve done in baseball. When you’re pitching you only have to worry about eight or nine guys and you don’t have to make it too complicated and I would not be very good right now with the information that is out there. I would just discard most of it and only take what I need.
“But as a broadcaster you have to look at 18 guys in a playing scenario, then of course the bench, the bullpen. I spend a lot of time looking at data, probably too much of it, and there’s a lot of video. And there’s not a moment that I’ve been through in my career that I don’t believe I can translate to television.
“So I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I enjoyed this past [NLCS] series and I’m really just kind of reacting off of a great quarterback handing it off in Joe Buck. So the biggest thing for me is I want to be as prepared as possible, which I think I’ve done, and at the same time give the audience an easier understanding of why something happened or what a guy is thinking through what just transpired.”
“And make no bones about it: The game’s not easy, and nothing I did was easy, and I never want that [notion] to be translated like that has come across on the broadcast.”