In two weeks of watching Florida baseball, there is much to be excited about when it comes to baseball down here. The Marlins and the Bay Rays are both exciting young teams. The Bay Rays are probably more talented from top to bottom in their lineup and bench, but the Marlins seem to have better pitching. But watching both the Marlins and the Bay Rays are two different experiences.
Neither team draws well at home. The Bay Rays draw slightly better than the Marlins, whose attendance is down right pitiful. But watching the telecasts for both teams reveals an experience of professionalism for the Bay Rays and a minor league feel for the Marlins. It's hard to pinpoint in just a few words the difference so the Fan will have to figure out a way to get this observation to make sense.
Let's start with the announcers. The Bay Rays' announcers are top notch. Dewayne Staats has been doing play by play for thirty years. He has a full, rich voice with lots of timbre and is excellent in building up a game to its maximum. After being partnered for years with Joe Magrane, Staats is now joined by Kevin Kennedy after Magrane joined the MLB Network. Kennedy is one of those rarities in that he is a former manager who is interesting to listen to. He doesn't spend any time talking about his own career (thankfully and take note Steve Phillips) but he does do an excellent job of describing the nuances of the game.
If those two pros aren't enough, the Bay Rays' in game color guy (and pregame and post game guy) is Todd Kalas. If that last name sounds familiar, yes, he is the son of long time Phillies' announcer, Harry Kalas. Todd is a chip off the old block and is one of the best the Fan has ever seen at doing those in-game cut ins. He dresses professionally and has a rich, interesting voice.
By comparison, the Marlins' broadcast team sounds amateur. The Fan hates to be so negative about a guy like Tommy Hutton, but the difference between someone like Kevin Kennedy and Tommy Hutton is like the difference between Carrie Underwood and Kelly Pickler. Sure, both are paid to be "homers" and they both are. But Hutton just sounds too saccharine and he's like eating pancakes with sugar-free syrup.
The quality difference between Staats and the Marlins' play by play guy, Rich Waltz, is similar. Waltz has been around for a while, but his voice is too high and lacks timbre. In fact, there are often times when the listener can't tell when Waltz is speaking or Hutton. And then there is the Marlins' guy in the stands. He sort of looks like Kenny Rogers and he wears undistinguished clothing. Again, the difference between the Bay Rays' team and the Marlins' is striking.
Hopefully, much of the Marlins' problems will be solved by a new stadium. The Fan liked his one trip to where the Marlins play. But as pretty as the park is, on television, everything looks tacky. Most teams now have those terrible ads behind home plate. They are generally an abomination, but at least most teams have electronic signs. The ones at the Marlins' games look like signs printed on canvas. They are unattractive and add to the minor league feel of the game. Has the Fan mentioned that the Marlins also have scantily clad girls dancing before the game? While a red-blooded man enjoys that kind of show, it does seem to be a bush league sort of thing.
The Fan isn't sure you can do much about this problem, but since there are so little fans in the stands, you can hear individual fans yelling and what they yell is not always flattering or suitable for television. Also, things get so quiet, you can hear the players goofing around in the dugout. And the Fan doesn't know if it's his imagination, but the picture quality at the Bay Rays' games seems much clearer and sharper and more intimate than those at the Marlins' games.
One more difference between the Bay Rays and the Marlins: Joe Madden. The guy looks like a thin version of Drew Carey. He often looks bemused and he is unflappable. Watching him gives the fan and casual observer the feeling that he is totally in control of himself, his team and his situation. He is very impressive. Fredi Gonzalez is a good manager as well, but he doesn't seem to have the personality, presence and polish of Madden.