The baseball world is buzzing about ESPN’s recent decision to not renew Joe Morgan’s contract for Sunday Night Baseball after 21 years. Many are wondering if this has anything to do with Morgan’s near-legendary dislike and distrust of modern statistics, as satirized by the now defunct blog “Fire Joe Morgan.”
Joe Morgan was singled out unfairly, perhaps due to his prominent position on the flagship baseball program of the nation’s leading sports network, because there are certainly lots of color commentators throughout baseball who don’t like stats, or are otherwise just not very good, and many of them are much worse than Morgan ever was.
Morgan is a very genial, likeable guy, with a distinctive and warm broadcasting voice, which are two things a good color man needs, and he also happens to be a hall of famer and one of the greatest ballplayers of all time, so he certainly had some credentials.
But while I always liked Joe Morgan personally, I just couldn’t stand listening to him, and it actually didn’t come down to his distrust of stats. The main problem I had with Joe is that he just didn’t prepare enough for his broadcasts. He would routinely stumble over names, or say things about players that just weren’t true.
Sure, he knew a lot about certain players, especially ones on certain teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, but whenever my Dodgers were on Sunday Night Baseball, it was glaringly obvious that Joe Morgan didn’t know anything about any of the Dodgers players at all.
Most professional broadcasters know that they have to prepare for games. Vin Scully famously does about 3 hours of research before every game, familiarizing himself with the opposing team and all of their players, and even reading the local newspaper to see what local sportswriters are saying.
Good broadcasters seem like they know everything about every player in baseball, which of course is impossible, but that’s because they actually study up before the game. Joe Morgan never did that. At least, not very much. And it was obvious.
It’s really too bad, because there are so many extremely competent broadcasters grinding out there in the minor leagues just dying to get a crack at a major league broadcaster job, but these networks always go and give the color jobs to some incompetent former major leaguer, whether it’s Joe Morgan or somebody else. And as I said, Joe was hardly even the worst case.
It’s a shame. They should let professional broadcasters broadcast, and let former major leaguers just be former major leaguers. Like I said, my main problem with Joe was not that he didn’t believe in modern stats, but rather that he was unprofessional. He didn’t prepare for games.