Thursday, January 12, 2017

Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now

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 of the MLB Network Top 10 Right Now Series is back once again ranking the on-air talent of MLB Network 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, Part Two will focus on the analysts of MLB Network.

NOTE: Analysts' placement in rankings is based on their completed body of work and overall performance during the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season and postseason as well as the 2017 Hot Stove Off-Season.  

Photo Courtesy of:
Keith Allison on Flickr
CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

1. Mark DeRosa-Occupying the top analyst spot on the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is Mark DeRosa. Since he came on the scene at MLB Network in 2014, DeRosa has shown excellent baseball analysis skills while appearing primarily on MLB Central during the 2015 and 2016 regular seasons. His work during that time has been so good that first off, he was able to  move up six spots from number seven on the last analysts list I did and second, I wanted to include him in the Hosts' countdown list this time around but his official job description according to the network's website is as an analyst so a analyst he shall be.  

On MLB Central DeRosa takes center stage on fun and informative segments of the program such as the D-Train, Doctor DeRo and DeRo Demo.  In these segments DeRosa gives viewers his unique take on the news around the big leagues by breaking down a different aspect of the game in each of these segments.  The D-Train segments seem to focus on the teams and players who have had some degree of success throughout the season.  The Doctor DeRo and DeRo Demo segments on the other hand focus on what needs to be done to fix any problems a certain player might have throughout the season in Doctor DeRo or what a team needs to get done prior to the July 31st trading deadline for future success in DeRo Demo.  These segments are made even more humorous and wacky in that DeRosa is seen during the opening of each segment dressed as either a train conductor, a doctor about to perform some kind of surgery or a construction worker wearing a hard hat who is ready to demolish a building.

In addition to his MLB Central duties, DeRosa also took part in the network's Spring Training coverage in 2016 for the 30 Clubs in 30 Days programming segments interviewing various players and coaches from around Major League Baseball.

He was also a part of the network's pregame and postgame coverage for the 2016 MLB Playoffs and World Series where the Chicago Cubs broke a 108 year championship drought against the Cleveland Indians that included some on-field demos from Chicago and Cleveland at both Wrigley and Progressive Field.  The  best of those World Series on-field demos for DeRosa was his analysis of Wrigley Field's ivy-covered wall and fence basket where baseballs go to get swallowed up.  He also padded his resume in 2016 with his work at 2016 Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort.  The overall body of work throughout the entire baseball calendar year is more than enough for DeRosa to claim the top spot in the countdown for 2016. Looking ahead to 2017, DeRosa should still be at or close to the top of next year's rankings if his overall work and performance remains consistent.

One more thing to think about with regards to DeRosa's potential performance in 2017 and this is totally contingent on how well my favorite team the Angels do in 2017: I hope that we don't have to hear anymore ridiculous DeRo Demo trade proposals involving Mike Trout. I know it might be impossible to fulfill that request given how the team has performed the last few years but it's just something to take into consideration.

Photo Courtesy of:
Craigfnp at the English language Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0 License. 

2. Eric Byrnes-Jumping up three spots in the countdown and coming in at a close second place, and I do mean a close second, on the Analyst countdown is Eric Byrnes! Of all the analysts at MLB Network, Byrnes is probably the most Sabremetrically-inclined in his views on the state of today's game of Major League Baseball. To go along with his Sabremetric views of the game, Byrnes was also not shy when it came to expressing his views in favor of an automated strike zone on both MLB Network and in an episode of Real Sports on HBO.  Regardless of how some fans might feel about the possible future of an automated strike zone, there is something to be said about the simple fact that Byrnes is not afraid to mix it up a little in his views and opinions on the game when it comes to his overall strengths as an analyst.

In addition to his strong Pro-Sabremetric views on baseball, Byrnes was also notable in 2016 for his ongoing regular season morning show political campaign to quote "Make MLB Central fun again!" It should also be noted for the record than whenever Byrnes did make an appearance on any of MLB Network's programming in 2016, there was an Unpredictability Factor Added (UFA) (Sabremetric pun intended), that came into play whenever Byrnes was on air because you just never knew what to expect from his overall performance on any given day.  For entertainment purposes the Unpredictability Factor Added (UFA) of Mr. Byrnes is a good thing.

One more thing that helped solidify Eric's standing in the upper portion of the Analysts rankings was his quest to compete in the 2016 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn in Northern California covering a total of 100.2 miles from end to end.  Byrnes' endurance run efforts are chronicled in the documentary film called Diamond To The Rough.

When you put together the entire body of work for Eric Byrnes in 2016, it is somewhat of a shame that the original Top 10 Right Now series doesn't allow for Co-Champions in its Shredder model rankings because the race for the top two spots was that close.  Considering that it was a close call at the top of the rankings, Byrnes has a good chance to claim the top spot next year.        

3. Harold Reynolds-There will be no defending champion in the MLB Network analyst department of this countdown! Also known by the lovable nickname of "HR", Harold Reynolds lands at the number three spot in the latest rankings of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now having dropped two spots from last time.  Known for his more old-school views on the game of baseball, Harold Reynolds has been a mainstay with MLB Network since its first year of existence in 2009.  Ever since his MLB Network broadcasting career began, Reynolds has provided his own brand of analysis and commentary on MLB Tonight during the regular season and Hot Stove in the offseason.

He also played a key part in the network's playoff and World Series coverage in 2016.  At the World Series, he continued his excellence as the King of the Diamond Demo with various on-field demonstrations illustrating various plays and strategic moves during the World Series.

Like John Smoltz who also appears on this list, Reynolds also served as a color analyst for some games on FOX Sports alongside Kenny Albert throughout the 2016 season.

4. Carlos Pena-Another newcomer to the countdown, Carlos Pena has quickly risen through the ranks at MLB Network ever since his debut there in 2014.  In 2016 Pena made numerous appearances on MLB Central as a guest analyst in addition to his regular work on MLB Tonight.  Pena also put his stamp on 2016 by starting the #Plakata craze on Twitter whenever there was a good play in a game such as a home run.  In terms of what the word Plakata actually means, I don't think we the viewer have been given official explanation from Mr. Pena up to this point.

In addition to his excellent hitting analysis skills at MLB Network, Carlos Pena also provided some excellent analysis about the relationship between players and umpires during the 2016 postseason in the 2016 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.  Specifically there was a play in Game 4 where Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs disagreed with a strike call by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.  In his very next at bat, Rizzo apologized to Hernandez for his actions in the previous at bat and both of them moved past that incident without an ejection occurring.  Rizzo even hit a home run later to help his team win the game by a final score of 10 to 2.

For his part in it as an analyst, Pena did an excellent job on putting the spotlight on that particular play in the postseason in a positive way to show that not all interactions between a player and an umpire are bad even if they disagree at times.

Looking ahead to the upcoming 2017 season, Pena's work as an analyst will hopefully still be consistent enough to stay somewhere on the countdown next year.  

5. Al Leiter-Claiming the fifth spot of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is Al Leiter. Leiter is another example of an analyst who made the list this time around after not even being ranked in the previous go around. One of the original analysts for the network since its debut in 2009, Leiter's spot at number five was basically cemented at number five when in addition to his regular work on MLB Tonight and other network programming he was the color analyst for the first Miami Marlins game played after the death of Cuban ace pitcher Jose Fernandez for Fox Sports Florida which was simulcast on MLB Network along with play-by-play commentator Rich Waltz.

In his playing and broadcasting career, Leiter is no stranger to taking part in games that have been played after times of tragedy having been a member of the New York Mets in 2001 when the 9/11 terror attacks took place.  I'm sure that experience helped him with the broadcast on an intangibles level, (which Sabermetrics doesn't measure or account for), considering the circumstances of what happened to Jose Fernandez and Miami Marlins in 2016.

6. Kevin Millar-Dropping three spots, the player who primarily wore number 15 throughout his career and is affectionately nicknamed One-Five because of it is at number six on second ever installment of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now. Having been with MLB Network since 2010, Millar is most well known for appearing on Intentional Talk from his home in Austin, Texas alongside Chris Rose and occasionally on MLB Tonight.

On Intentional Talk, Millar and Rose discuss the events of the day in baseball like only they can with fun segments like Kevin's Highlights and Got Heem.  The entertaining duo of Millar and Rose even go the extra mile throughout the year by taking Intentional Talk on the road for the big events in baseball like the All Star Game, World Series and the Winter Meetings.  This should leave little doubt that Kevin Millar has had a big presence with MLB Network since he arrived there almost seven years ago.

Millar also put his Role Model status to good use in 2016 and earned some very valuable Role Model Points (RMP's for those of you who are Sabermetricians ;))  when he and David Ortiz gave a young Rex Sox fan named Maverick Schutte what was most likely an unforgettable experience at Fenway Park last season for the young man.

7. Dan Plesac-Another analyst stalwart from the network's first days in 2009, Dan Plesac checks in at number seven on this installment of the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now dropping three spots. The fact that Plesac underwent left hip surgery last June didn't do too much damage to his placing on this list.

Sure enough, Plesac made a nice recovery to take part in the network's on-site coverage of the World Series in Cleveland and Chicago and Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. as well as continuing his regular analyst duties on MLB Tonight.

The former pitcher also makes occasional appearances on MLB Now to mix it up with Brian Kenny and on Intentional Talk frequently filling in as a substitute co-host of the program for Kevin Millar. Looking ahead to the 2017 season, I think it would be neat for the MLB Network bosses to consider using Plesac's  vast inventory of knowledge of the game's international players as shown in his comeback video link above in preparation for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  

8. John Smoltz-Dropping six spots from number two to number eight on the analysts countdown is John Smoltz. The Hall of Famer's overall body of work was still good enough that he didn't get pushed to the Those Who Missed The Cut portion of this countdown list.

Since coming to MLB Network in 2010, John Smoltz has continued to serve as an analyst on MLB Tonight and on select MLB Network Showcase games throughout the regular season.  During the 2016 season, Smoltz was named as the main Color analyst for FOX Sports alongside Joe Buck. Smoltz was lucky enough to be part of the broadcast team for the 2016 World Series on FOX. It is definitely a good thing when certain  MLB Network analysts are allowed to take part in other game broadcasts on other networks to help keep their analysis skills sharp.  

9. Cliff Floyd-Having arrived on the scene at MLB Network in 2013, Cliff Floyd has made it into the top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now with a spot at number nine. During the 2016 regular season, Floyd put in quite a bit of time as a guest analyst on MLB Central alongside Matt Vasgersian, Lauren Shehadi and Mark DeRosa offering his own brand of insight and analysis from a hitters' perspective.

While serving as a guest analyst on MLB Central, Floyd was even given the honor of having his own segment with his name in it called Tough Love With Cornelius Flood.  The Flood surname on the segment is an inside joke that pokes fun at when Floyd was drafted as a player by the Montreal expos and his name was mispronounced as "Flood" when he was selected.  In the Tough Love segments, Floyd took center stage to express his tough love views and opinions on certain teams and players throughout Major League Baseball.

Floyd also spent time on MLB Tonight and also took part in the network's coverage from the 2016 Winter Meetings.  Looking ahead to the 2017 season, Floyd has a very good shot at climbing up a few spots in the future Top 10 edition of analyst rankings.      

10. Sean Casey-Rounding out the Top 10 MLB Network Analysts Right Now is  Sean Casey. Also known as "The Mayor" during his playing career, Casey is one of the original regime of the network's analysts from 2009. Throughout his MLB Network career Sean Casey has provided the loyal viewers with a wide array of funny and entertaining moments.

One such moment from the 2016 season that stands out is when he and Cliff Floyd were doing a fun analysis segment on MLB Tonight called Yearbook Memories in which both analysts were sitting in elementary school desks. During the segment, Casey was trying to get out of the desk and ended up getting stuck in it and fell over onto the studio floor while still in the desk chair.  It's also a good thing that in 2016, there were no incidents reported on involving Casey drilling any of his fellow MLB Network employees in the head while taking batting practice.

Comedic antics aside, Sean Casey also made numerous appearances on MLB Central and MLB Tonight throughout the 2016 season. He also continues to fill in from time to time on Intentional Talk when Kevin Millar is absent.  To top off Casey's slot at number 10 is the fact that he was one of the analysts who took part in the network's 2016 World Series coverage.

Those Who Missed The Cut In 2016-2017:

Bill Ripken
-Bill Ripken was still a steady performer in 2016. In his case, there was just too much competition among the other analysts for him to either retain or improve upon his spot at number six in the inaugural analysts rankings.

Mike Lowell-Like Bill Ripken, Mike Lowell was another MLB Network analyst that fell out of the Top 10 rankings completely who was simply a casualty of stiffer competition among the other analysts at the network who either stepped up their overall analysis game or were good enough in 2016 to claim a spot in the Top 10 this time around after having been previously unranked

Pedro Martinez-Of all the analysts who missed the cut this time around, Pedro Martinez was one of the toughest calls to make. It was so tough that I included him in the rankings when I started making out this year's Top 10 list but in the end, the work of some other analysts was slightly better in 2016. Looking ahead to 2017, based on the work he did while appearing on MLB Tonight in 2016, Martinez has a pretty good chance to go from the those who missed the cut portion of the list to somewhere in the Top 10. It should also be noted that in addition to his appearances on MLB Network, Pedro Martinez also contributes to TBS's coverage of the Major League Baseball posteason.

Ryan Dempster-Ryan Dempster was another MLB Network who did some good work in 2016 who almost made into the Top 10. If he continues to do some more good consistent work in 2017, he and his colorful suits have a good chance to crack into the next Top 10 analyst list of rankings. Hopefully he won't be too busy in 2017 celebrating a World Series championship and working with the Chicago Cubs front office to have a legitimate shot at making the Top 10 list next year.

Tim Flannery-The former third base coach of the San Francisco Giants might have a tough hill to climb with the crowded field of analysts who are already in the rankings and those who are not in the rankings but have a good chance to sneak in and grab a spot next year.

Ron Darling-The case of Ron Darling as an analyst for MLB Network is an intriguing one. While he was included in the last list of analyst rankings at number eight and was given credit for also working as an analyst on TBS's MLB broadcasts and SNY for the Mets, the fact that he works at MLB Network during the off season only did not help him in the rankings this time around. It could also be argued that Pedro Martinez could be penalized as well for working with TBS during the postseason as well, but the advantage for Pedro in future rankings is that he does contribute as an analyst for MLB network during the regular season while Darling does not.

Jim Kaat-Having been with MLB Network since the beginning in 2009, Jim Kaat's main contribution to the network has been as a color analyst for select MLB Network Showcase games. Throughout his time at MLB Network he hasn't appeared on too many of the network's other programs up to this point to merit serious consideration to be in the rankings.

Joe Magrane-Magrane is another MLB Network analyst who has appeared primarily on MLB Tonight since 2009.  He has also done some work for them as a color analyst for some World Baseball Classic games in the past. Where he falls short is the crowded field of competition and the fact that he doesn't contribute all that much to the network's programming during the off season.

Dave Valle-Dave Valle is another of the network's analysts who doesn't really appear and contribute all that much to the network throughout the year.  In 2016, he did appear on MLB Tonight and MLB Now throughout the regular season, but it wasn't enough to be included in the Top 10.

Preston Wilson-Having only been with MLB Network since 2016, Preston Wilson needs to build up his resume of analyst work a little more before being seriously considered for a spot in the Top 10.

Honorable Mention-Darryl Hamilton-R.I.P. to the former MLB Network analyst who tragically passed away suddely on June 21, 2015. After coming in at number ten on the previous analysts rankings countdown, it would have been interesting to see where Hamilton would have ended up on this year's countdown had his life not been cut short at the age of 50.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2017
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Top 10 MLB Network Hosts Right Now

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.

NOTE: Hosts' placement in rankings is based on their completed body of work and overall performance during the 2016 Major League Baseball Regular Season and Postseason as well as the 2017 Hot Stove Off-Season.

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

Photo Courtesy of:
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 off season.  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 start of 2015 season, she has never missed an appearance oln the morning show.  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 600 consecutive hosting appearances.

UPDATE: The streak is still alive after she made her 600th consecutive appearance by my count on the October 5, 2016 broadcast of MLB Central. Even though she still has a ways to go to catch Ripken Jr., the streak is still pretty impressive when you take into consideration that the streak actually started in 2013 when she was the host of The Rundown alongside Matt Yallof.

For the record, it should be noted that Shehadi does take time off during the off season 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 off season.

During the 2016 postseason Shehadi added on to her number one credentials by serving as the field reporter for MLB Network during the National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs and the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs covering the Cubs perspective. After that, she was given the honor and privilege of going back to Chicago to take part in MLB Network's coverage of the Chicago Cubs World Series Victory Parade. To top off Lauren's 2016 performance, she made her first ever Winter Meetings appearance for MLB Network at the 2016 Winter Meetings.

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 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.

Braun's talents and skills were also utilized during the 2016 postseason when he was the MLB Network field reporter during the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals and the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs covering the Dodgers.

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.  During the 2016 off season, Nash also made several appearances on the network's off season Hot Stove morning show.

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 coverage.

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.

Watney was another MLB Network host who was assigned field reporter duties in the 2016 postseason covering the American League Division Series between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox and the American League Championship Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians.

Those Who Missed The Cut:

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:
Thinh Nguyen
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.