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
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