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Best: Anderson TBS' best, but Johnson upgrade over Caray

TBS' Ernie Johnson shot a guest spot on

TBS' Ernie Johnson shot a guest spot on LeBron James' show "Survivor's Remorse." Credit: Handout

Brian Anderson is the best baseball play-by-play man in TBS' playoff stable, as he demonstrated again in calling Roy Halladay's no-hitter Wednesday.

Yet the network opted to deploy one of its longtime marquee personalities, Ernie Johnson, to succeed Chip Caray in its No. 1 booth.

Does that mean the decision has been a disservice to viewers, especially given that Johnson will get the plum ALCS assignment after the Yankees are done bisecting the Twins?

It would if he were anything close to the off-key distraction Caray was.

But despite plenty of criticism on talk radio and the Internet - especially after Game 1 - Johnson and his analysts mostly have been fine and certainly have been the best No. 1 booth TBS has offered in four years of playoff coverage.

That Game 2 went more smoothly than Game 1 is a positive sign that Johnson, Ron Darling and John Smoltz will grow as a trio over time.

At least Yankees fans should hope so, given that it now appears they will be hearing these guys a minimum of five more times before Fox takes over for the World Series.

Having said all that, there are some legitimate concerns with TBS' crew worth noting here, because during the playoffs, not only players are scrutinized more closely than usual.

Johnson certainly knows baseball - among other things, his father pitched in the major leagues and was a Braves announcer for 38 years - but his relatively inexperienced play-by-play style is peculiar.

It's OK that he is more low-key than Caray. Who wouldn't be? But there have been times he has been too laid-back in pivotal moments. (In fairness, national announcers always sound less enthused when the visiting team is winning because there is less juice in the building.)

And yes, he botched the call of Curtis Granderson's triple in Game 1; hey, it happens on live TV.

More annoying is an odd hitch in his delivery in which he often seems to be a beat behind calling plays. It is the opposite of Yankees radio man John Sterling, who often calls plays before they occur - often incorrectly.

Smoltz is sharp and has recent playing experience, but he is learning on the job. Darling understandably does not sound as comfortable and quick-witted as he does with his familiar SNY partners.

Another quibble: There have been times when having two pitchers as analysts has produced a one-sided point of view. It generally is better to pair one with a hitter in a three-man booth.

Overall grade so far? B-minus.

There was one criticism heard on the radio this week that is inevitable at this time of year, and is as wrong as it always has been.

Repeat after me: Announcers at TBS, Fox and every national network are not rooting against your favorite team. They do not care who wins, beyond these two admitted biases: They want close games and long series.

It appears they might have to wait until the next round for the Yankees to provide the latter.


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