"Sunday Night" Different Without Jon and Joe
April 11, 2011

After 21 years of successfully doing Sunday Night Baseball, for whatever reason, ESPN decided to make some changes. The most notable is their announcers. No more Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame player turned analyst. Some of you could maybe see that one coming, but also gone, Hall of Fame broadcaster, and one of the best voices in the game Jon Miller.

Morgan, who had a reputation of maybe over-analyzing plays, did not have his contract renewed, but ESPN has never really explained Miller's exit. One ESPN programmer was quoted during the off season as saying only that they were "looking to take the broadcast in a new direction." What, by canning a legendary broadcaster? That would be like the Dodgers firing Vin Scully, or in something that actually happened, the Tigers firing the late Ernie Harwell (after a season, the Tigers acknowledged their mistake and brought him back). Miller was reportedly offered the job of doing the Sunday night games on ESPN Radio, but declined.

Miller is too classy to bash ESPN, or make any comment on the situation, and ESPN is too gutless, so I guess we'll never really know what happened. It could have been a money issue, but again, we'll probably never know.

The new announcers are not new to ESPN, just to Sunday Night. Veteran three-sport man Dan Shulman with the play-by-play, former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, and former major league manager Bobby Valentine take over the booth. Hershiser so far has made a lot of comments about himself, but I think that's what ESPN wants. Hershiser also seems to break down every pitch and Valentine every swing. I suppose if I was a coach I might like that, but it seems a little much.

Other changes include two field reporters instead of just one. Sunday Night had used Peter Gammons, Sam Ryan, and Tim Kurkjian over the years, This season it's Buster Olney and Wendi Nix (Nix much more known for football reporting). Also, the pregame Baseball Tonight crew is live at the park instead of in a Connecticut studio. They do about three cut-ins during the game.

Shulman is solid, but he is no Miller, and we'll give a few more weeks to see how Hershiser and Valentine do, but it just seems like Sunday Night Baseball ain't broke, so why are they trying to fix it.

More Miller: Northern Californians are probably happy with ESPN's changes. It means Miller will do more games with his primary employer, the San Francisco Giants. Miller could still take some time off here and there.

More Giants: As a Dodger fan, it pains me to say this, but the Giants pregame ceremonies this weekend were very cool. On Friday afternoon, they raised their championship banner, first passing it from player to player down the third base line, before handing it to reliever Brian Wilson. Then, in an Olympic torch-like ceremony, Wilson, jogged through the outfield, into the stands, and over to the flagpole where it was raised. Saturday, the championship rings were handed out, and even a presentation to broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow in the TV booth during the game was quite a moment. You don't hear broadcasters speechless very often.

Grumble: Is it okay to complain about something you were getting for free anyway? Major League Baseball provided a free preview of it's cable and satellite package all last week. They can't show network games, or games in local markets, but on Saturday and Sunday, there was only one game each day that they were able to show but didn't. Of course, it was the Dodgers (against the Padres). Grrrrr.

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