Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 MLB NETWORK TOP 10 RIGHT NOW: Hosts

As inspired by MLB Network's Top 10 Right Now Series on the best players at each position in the game today, my version of the MLB Network Top 10 Right Now Series is back once again ranking the on-air talent as broken down by  each specific category of the MLB Network employees based on their respective job descriptions of Hosts, Analysts, and Insiders and Contributors.  Following the model of the real Top 10 Right Now series, the first installment will focus on the Top 10 Hosts of MLB Network Right Now.

2-Time MLB Network Top 10 Right Now Champion Lauren Shehadi.

Photo Courtesy of:
Wikimedia
and
Cbssports under CC BY-SA 3.0 License. 

1. Lauren Shehadi-For the second year in a row, Lauren Shehadi has claimed the top spot in my MLB Network Top 10 Right Now hosts' rankings.  Since her debut at the network in 2012, Shehadi has been a model of consistency showcasing her hosting talents across a variety of the network's regular season programming such as MLB Central during the regular season and Hot Stove in the offseason.  In her four years at the network, Shehadi's hosting resume includes MLB Central, The Rundown, Hot Stove, Quick Pitch and MLB Network Countdown for a record five shows hosted during her continuing MLB Network hosting career.

Perhaps the greatest example of this repeat champion's overall performance is her consecutive hosting streak on MLB Central, where since the 2015 season, she has never missed an appearance.  Such a streak is reminiscent of Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive games played streak of 2,632 games that lasted for a span of 16 years from May 30, 1982 to September 19, 1998.  Now the only question with respect to Shehadi's current MLB Central streak is just how long will it last? At this rate, loyal MLB Network viewers like myself will likely have to wait for year three of MLB Central to find out our answer.  If her streak continues through the end of the 2016 regular season, it should be up to exactly 602 consecutive hosting appearances.  Even though she still has a ways to go to catch Ripken Jr., the streak is still pretty impressive.

For the record, it should be noted that Shehadi does take time off during the offseason when the network switches its focus from the regular season to the proverbial Hot Stove season of free agent signings and trades.  That means the consecutive hosting streak does not include any hosting appearances during the offseason.

For all other MLB Network hosts looking to move up to the top spot in next year's rankings, all I can say is good luck and bring your 'A' game, because even though her consecutive hosting streak on MLB Central is still intact as of this writing, that doesn't necessarily mean she'll be at the top for a third straight year.  Then again, what sports fan doesn't love a three-peat and the makings of a dynasty?

2. Matt Vasgersian-The other member of the three-headed monster hosting team of MLB Central alongside Lauren Shehadi and Mark DeRosa, Matt Vasgersian lands safely in the number two spot on this year's countdown of the top 10 MLB Network hosts right now.  Vasgersian also serves as a host on MLB Network's offseason show Hot Stove.  On both shows, Vasgersian brings a comedic touch to the proceedings in addition to maintaining a professionalism for the more hard-hitting news and stories of the network's coverage of Major League Baseball.  Extra points for Vasgersian this year for poking fun at the Chris Sale throwback jersey incident by making an appearance on MLB Central in a cut-up suit and tie.  Another memorable moment for Vasgersian came on the 39th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death when Vasgersian dressed up in full King of Rock and Roll garb during the program's musical jukebox segment.  It should be noted that Vasgersian came through for MLB Central viewers by singing a few songs from The King during the segment.

Vasgersian also gets kudos on the countdown for serving as a play-by-play commentator for a select number of MLB Network Showcase games and with Fox Sports in the same role of play-by-play.  In MLB Network's seven years of being on the air, Vasgersian has hosted a record-tying five shows just like this year's repeat champion mentioned above with appearances on MLB Central, Hot Stove, MLB Tonight, MLB Network Showcase and the short-lived Baseball IQ.

3.  Brian Kenny-Climbing up to the third spot on this year's countdown is Brian Kenny.  After making a name for himself at ESPN, Kenny has brought the new-school Sabermetric view of thinking to MLB Network with shows like Clubhouse Confidential and MLB Now.  The introduction of shows dedicated to the new-school of Sabermetrics is a clear example that the network itself isn't afraid to embrace what the future of Major League Baseball has become with a greater emphasis on digging deeper and looking into the statistical numbers to evaluate the greatness of a certain player or team.  Looking to 2017's countdown, Kenny has a good shot at claiming the top spot, particularly if the Sabermetrics movement continues to grow and becomes more widely accepted in the sport.  On top of all that, Kenny serves as the main host of the offseason show that serves as the inspiration and model for this countdown in the Top 10 Right Now series.

Kenny has not only done great work on MLB Network as a host, but he has also branched out in 2016 as an author of the book Ahead of the Curve, which expands on his Sabermetric views on America's National Pasttime.  For anybody who considers themselves as an uber baseball fan, I highly recommend adding it to your reading collection.

4. Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo-Dropping a couple spots on the 2016 countdown is perhaps the biggest of MLB Network's "old-school" hosts in Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo.  Even though he dipped a little in this year's rankings, Russo's performance is still fairly consistent to when he debuted as the host of his own show of High Heat on MLB Network in 2014.

The greatest strengths of Russo's old-school hosting talents are his unabashed enthusiasm for baseball and his overall consistency in terms of his thoughts and opinions on the game.  When Russo offers a thought or opinion, there is no doubt at all how passionate he is when offering his two cents on the daily news stories in Major League Baseball, which is still good for fourth place in the countdown.

5. Fran Charles-For the 2016 edition of the countdown, Fran Charles jumps all the way to the number five spot.  Since his debut with the network in 2014, Charles has put together a good resume of work on MLB Tonight and Hot Stove.  He is also one of the main hosts the network has used as a substitute off the bench to host MLB Central in the mornings whenever Matt Vasgersian has been absent, which has been a common theme during the 2016 regular season.  Charles also gets extra kudos for hosting the network's coverage of the passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez from a boating accident on September 25, 2016.  Anytime a news story like that happens, the job of a network or news anchor becomes even more difficult than it already is.  All things considered under the circumstances, Charles did a very good job in covering such a tragic story for the network.  

With all the work he has done on MLB Tonight, MLB Central and Hot Stove over the past year, Fran Charles has solidified his place on the fifth spot in the host countdown for 2016

6. Scott Braun-Scott Braun lands the number six spot on this year's countdown thanks to his body of work during the second half of the 2016 season while hosting The Rundown alongside Kelly Nash. Braun has done an excellent with the hosting duties for The Rundown while filling in for regular host Matt Yallof during the second half of the 2016 season.  Matt Yallof has been absent from MLB Network's programming in the second half of the 2016 season due to a stroke he suffered towards the end of July according to a report from Awful Announcing.  Braun also gets credit for hosting weekend editions of MLB Tonight during the daytime as well as hosting select editions of MLB Network's Strike Zone channel on Tuesday and Friday nights.  Braun's hosting abilities even extend to Spring Training when he serves as a play-by-play commentator on select New York Mets telecasts on SportsNet New York-the regional sports network for the New York Mets.

7. Kelly Nash-In her second year with MLB Network, Kelly Nash moves up a few spots on this year's countdown to number seven.  In her second full year with the network, Nash has showcased her hosting abilities since taking over hosting duties on The Rundown from Lauren Shehadi in 2015.  At the end of each week during the regular season Nash also serves as the main host of Plays of the Week.  She also gets bonus points for appearing on NHL Network from time to time in addition to the work she does on MLB Network.

8. Greg Amsinger-Having been with the network since its beginning in 2009, Greg Amsinger falls a few spots in the countdown for 2016.  That is mainly due to the increasing amount of overall competition that MLB Network has among its roster of hosting talent.  Even though he dropped a few spots on 2016's countdown. Amsinger has maintained quite a presence across a majority of MLB Network's programming.  Amsinger's MLB Network hosting resume includes appearances on MLB Tonight as well as hosting the network's coverage from the All Star Game, the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from Cooperstown in New York, the draft that takes place during June and the postseason.

9. Bob Costas-Another of MLB Network's hosts from the early days, Bob Costas comes in at the eighth spot among the hosts in 2016.  The hosting duties of Costas consists of being the lead host on the offseason shows of Studio 42 and MLB Network Presents.  Costas also serves as the play-by-play commentator on some of the MLB Network Showcase games.  The ranking for Costas would be higher if he didn't go on assignment for NBC to cover a little sporting event known as the Olympics every four years.

10. Heidi Watney-Rounding out the countdown at number 10 in 2016 is Heidi Watney.  Since coming to the network in 2013, Watney has been the main host of Quick Pitch during the regular season.  She also has had occasional appearances on Intentional Talk alongside Chris Rose and Kevin Millar throughout the season and Hot Stove in the offseason.  In 2016 Watney also contributed to the network's Spring Training coverage by conducting interviews with various players and coaches from a variety of team training camps back in March and coverage during the All Star game during the red carpet arrival show when players and their families made their way to Petco Park in July.

Those Who Missed The Cut In 2016:

Matt Yallof-Yallof's absence from this year's countdown was due in large part to the time he missed on the network in the second half while recovering from a stroke that occurred at the end of July. Here's to hoping for a full recovery for the host of The Rundown and a return appearance somewhere on next year's Top 10 list.

Chris Rose-The main host of Intentional Talk fell out of the Top 10 in 2016 mainly due to the amount of hosting candidates whose performance this year was worthy of a spot in the Top 10.  If the countdown had more than ten available spots, then Chris Rose would probably have had a spot this year, but since this countdown only has 10 slots, some of the hosts on the network had to be left off the list.  Better luck next year.

Paul Severino-Another worthy hosting candidate that was simply another casualty of a numbers crunch in 2016 like Chris Rose.  A regular host on MLB Tonight, Severino also serves as a substitute host across most of the network's programming such as The Rundown and Intentional Talk, but Severino will have to wait until 2017 for a shot in the Top 10.

Sam Ryan-While she had a spot on the countdown in 2015, Sam Ryan's body of work in 2016 wasn't enough to crack a spot in the Top 10 for a second consecutive year.  While she serves as the on-field reporter for some of the network's Showcase games, those assignments have decreased for her in the second half of the 2016 season.  Another comparison to her performance in 2015, Ryan hasn't been seen much as the host of weekend editions of Quick Pitch in the second half of the 2016.

Robert Flores-A newcomer to MLB Network in 2016, Robert Flores needs to build up his hosting resume on the network a little bit more for consideration on next year's countdown.  Up to this point, Flores has served as one of the main hosts on MLB Tonight.  Fill-in hosting duties on High Heat and MLB Central from this past season should help his case for next year's countdown but he needs to be given more of these opportunities.  Flores' chances in the 2017 countdown could also be affected by his time spent working on NHL Network in addition to MLB Network but if Kelly Nash can do it, so can you!

Jamie Hersch-Another newcomer to MLB Network in 2016, Jamie Hersch has made a number of weekend appearances on Quick Pitch.  Like Robert Flores, it would be nice if the bosses at MLB Network would expand Hersch' hosting profile beyond Quick Pitch looking ahead to 2017.  Hersch is another MLB Network employee who does double duty on NHL Network, so it remains to be seen what other hosting opportunities come her way on MLB Network next year.


Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Promoting NFL Referees To Full-Time Status Would Be A Good Starting Point To Fixing League's Officiating Shortcomings

One of the more well-known of the NFL'S officials Ed Hochuli is an attorney off the field.
Photo courtesy of:
Wikimedia 
and
Thinh Nguyen
under
CC BY 2.0 License

Unless you've been living under a rock the last few years or so, I don't need to tell you that the National Football League is the most popular sport in terms of the ratings and viewership numbers it generates.  Fans of the gridiron just can't seem to get enough of for whatever reason.  Maybe it's the overall strategy of the game or the hard hits.

The allure of football would lead you to believe that it's decision makers, such as the Commissioner and the Owners would do everything in their power to ensure that the quality of the officials they employ are the best they can be.  Every professional sports league should strive for greatness from their officials. On the other side of the coin, fans know that not all officials have a perfect track record in their career.  

What football fans may not know is that unlike the other Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) or the National Hockey League (NHL), the officials of the National Football League (NFL) have other jobs and careers in addition to the work they do on the football field.

As I've mentioned before, if you've been paying close attention, one of the things I really look at when watching sports is the work of the officials in charge of making the calls in addition to watching a game for pure entertainment value.  I know that once I really got interested in all things officiating in all the major sports, I was initially surprised by the fact that NFL officials are not employed on a full-time basis.  I must also point out that those who are among the league's best officials have my utmost respect knowing that they are doing the best job they can do while holding down another occupation.

I don't expect to see any immediate changes to the league's officiating procedures and policies on this matter any time soon but it is something worth keeping an eye on in future seasons.  In the meantime, we can continue getting whatever enjoyment you get from the most popular sport in North America. Just remember that the officials are doing the best job they can the next time you feel the urge to put your hands in your head over a blown call for whatever team you root for.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 29, 2016

January Is The Pinnacle Of Debate For Major League's Baseball's Hall Of Fame

Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia and Keith Allison 
under CC BY-SA 2.0 License


During the beginning of each new year, one of the hot topics of Major League Baseball's Hot Stove offseason is the debate over whether or not a certain player's playing career is worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.  One thing to remember about being elected into baseball's Hall of Fame is a player has to have at least 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) to get elected.  Another is that a player's time has now been shortened from 15 to 10 years.   As a diehard baseball fan, there are the elite group of players who have gotten elected over the years such as Cal Ripken Jr., Pedro Martinez and most recently Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza who are in the No Doubt category without looking at all the Sabermetric numbers from baseball's new-school approach to evaluating current and former players.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would also be in the No Doubt category if it weren't for cloud of Performance Enhancing Drug suspicion over the course of their current run on the Hall of Fame ballot.  Clemens and Bonds entered 2016 having accumulated 4 years on the ballot.  Under the new rules both Bonds and Clemens have six more years on the ballot for eligibility still needing an additional 30% of the vote per Baseball Reference.  For what's it worth, Piazza was under the cloud of steroid suspicion, but since he has already been elected, it would only be appropriate to move past his credentials given that his case for The Hall is now officially closed with the upcoming induction ceremony in July.

The next category of players seem to fall under the Borderline Category in which the Sabermetric numbers either help or hurt a player's chances at enshrinement.  Players in this category include Trevor Hoffman, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez.  The players in this category require a deeper evaluation that the old fashioned eye test doesn't bring.

In the coming years, there's a good chance we will see some of these guys be welcomed into Cooperstown.  By that time, the verdict on the Steroid Era will hopefully become more clear.  For now though, the jury is still out.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.






Monday, December 28, 2015

State Of The Angels: What Will 2016 Bring?


The Angels success in 2016 will depend on how far this man is willing to push payroll for the coming season.

For the Angels, 2015 was a year filled with inconsistency that had its fair share of ups and downs. The early part of Spring Training saw the Josh Hamilton saga come to a conclusion with a return to the Texas Rangers after a reported relapse with drugs.  Then came the inconsistent start that Mike Scioscia's club have become famous for en route to an 85-77 record.



When July rolled around, there were reports of another rift between Scioscia and past General Manager Jerry Dipoto, which led to Dipoto's resignation to find greener pastures in the Pacific Northwest as the new General Manager of the Seattle Mariners.



Fast forward to now and the Halos still have the game's longest tenured manager in the sport working under yet another General Manager in Billy Eppler to go along with owner Arte Moreno who has shown a willingness in the past to loosen the purse strings on the team payroll past the Luxury Tax threshold.  Will Moreno do so once again this off season in pursuit of a coveted World Series championship in 2016 with a Jason Heyward or Yoenis Cespedes signing?  Considering all options, that may be his only chance for true success in 2016.



This fan is still waiting patiently to see what the team looks like when 2016 Spring Training rolls around once all the off season dust is settled.



Tim Musick
Copyright 2015
All Rights Reserved.  

  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Steve Sarkisian And The NCAA Athletics Quagmire: A Call to Action for Accountability and Transparency

Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia and Bobak Ha'Eri under
CC BY-SA 3.0 License

The Steve Sarkisian saga continues to roll along as we head toward Christmas and New Years.  The latest chapter involves a lawsuit filed by Sarkisian and his legal team against USC asking for $30 million dollars in damages.  How much of that $30 million Sarkisian gets remains to be seen.  My guess is lawyers from both sides will get together and come to some sort of financial agreement that works out for both parties.  Oh and the last time I checked, having a problem with alcohol does not count as having a disability in my book.  This is coming from a person who has an actual disability, so give me a break please!



By now, we're probably all familiar with the speech from four months ago at a USC pep rally that caused trouble for Sarkisian.



The bigger issue I want to focus on here is that going forward, athletic departments at any academic institution, big or small need to do a better job at looking closer at the individuals they hire when conducting background checks.  I realize that having issues with acoholism isn't something that should not keep an individual from being hired for a certain job position, but common sense would probably tell us that it certainly wouldn't look good to prospective employers who no doubt want to hire the best candidates for any job openings.



Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia and Bobak Ha'Eri under
CC BY-SA 3.0 License

In USC's situation, I really have no idea what USC Athletic Director Pat Haden considered as essential job requirements when he ultimately hired Sarkisian for the USC head coaching position two years ago, especially since it's been well publicized by now that Sarkisian's issues with alcohol date back to his time as head coach for the Huskies at the University of Washington.



From Sarkisian's perspective, he will most likely be given a second chance to coach at some other university or possibly the NFL because we've seen coaches come and go in both the College and Professional ranks over the years.  All I know is that if I were in charge of the hiring process, Sark would have to get his personal life in order first before I would even consider gim him that second chance.



Tim Musick
Copyright 2015
All Rights Reserved.  




Monday, December 14, 2015

Will Smith's "Concussion": What Will the NFL Have to Say About the Fresh Prince's Latest Film?



Will Smith's newest movie Concussion is slated to hit theaters on Christmas Day.  In it, the former Fresh Prince of Bel Air star plays Dr. Bennet Omalu.  Omalu's name is most likely not well known in many households across America, but what he discovered throughout years of painstaking research has no doubt had an effect on the way the National Football League does business today.






Dr. Omalu's groundbreaking discovery is what is known today as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.  CTE affects those athletes who have had a history of repetitive brain trauma, such as concussions.  Junior Seau is perhaps among the most well-known former NFL greats who fell victim to the disease in 2012 by committing suicide.  It wasn't until sometime later that it was discovered that Seau had been suffering from CTE.



Photo Courtesy of:Wikimediaand
Angulo otimo under CC BY-SA 3.0 License


Other than the 2013 PBS Documentary entitled League of Denial, there aren't too many works of film or television that have been a real eye-opener to the story of CTE.  The League of Denial documentary was pretty groundbreaking itself in shedding light to years of the National Football League staying quiet on an issue that over the years, greatly effected the safety of its own players. Hopefully with the Christmas Day release of Concussion, the game of football can be even greater than it already is going forward.  Not to mention possible medical advancements for treatment in the field of CTE in the coming years.



Tim Musick
Copyright 2015
All Rights Reserved.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rule 9.0...Whatever: The Take-Out Slide Rule

Caution!-the runner's shoes contain spiky cleats!
Photo Courtesy of:
Wikimedia
and
Stu Steeger and Mattingly23 under CC BY 2.0 License

The Take-Out slide rule seems to be well on its way to becoming reality.  In comparison to my Check-Swing rule proposal that I wrote about in a previous post, the abolishment of the Take-Out slide is of greater importance at this time for the sake of player safety.

I'll admit that I don't even know all the rules in the official Major League Baseball rule book even though it is my favorite of the 4 major professional sports in North America.  There are times when I'll learn about a new rule (new to me), that I didn't know about either during a given game broadcast or on one of MLB Network's numerous programming choices.  For all I know this kind of rule or some other version of it is probably already in the rule book.

From my own viewpoint as a fan, I want to see the best players' each team has to offer throughout the entirety of the regular season with fewer and fewer days spent on the Disabled List each year.  Over the last few years, Major League Baseball has done a good job with implementing Instant Replay and expanding it and eliminating home plate collisions. Next on the rules to-do list-addressing the action of what happens in the second base area of a baseball diamond.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2015
All Rights Reserved.