Behind The Mic: Ranking The Area Voices, Part 3

Talking the best TV color men in the area, plus Yankees and Jets ratings

We're in the hot, lazy days of August, so it's time to have a little fun. A four-part series, ranking the play-by-play and color men in this area. This is based solely on their local work, since national assignments apply to a lot of these men. Next: A look at the TV color analysts in the area. Enjoy.

(Note: We're only using analysts who work a majority of the games, so Ken Singleton will represent the Yankees, Jim Spanarkel will represent the Nets, while guys like Paul O'Neill, Al Leiter, Mike Fratello and Ralph Kiner will not be included. Since the Islanders fired Billy Jaffe earlier this summer, he will not be included, but please note that he likely would've made the upper echelon if he had been kept on.) 

7. Joe Micheletti (Rangers/MSG)

A perfect example of how, most of the time, analysts are just part of the PR department. Formerly a perfectly competent, above average analyst for the Islanders for a decade, since replacing John Davidson on MSG in 2006 his work has seen a noticeable drop in quality. He has become nearly unlistenable. Spouts cliches, makes excuses, is rarely critical. Sounds like he's working for a midwestern team. You have to be honest in New York, and he's simply not being honest. He's lucky the Rangers have been at least a decent team since he's been there because he would stick out like a sore thumb if they returned to the 1999-2004 era.

6. Walt Frazier (Knicks/MSG)

Frazier's not a bad analyst, but to me, his schtick has worn thin. You can only rhyme so many words with other words when you realize a guy really doesn't have too much to say. But at leat he entertains for an awful Knicks franchise, and does the best that he can in the situation he's in.

5. Chico Resch (Devils/MSG Plus)

Chico's a terrific guy, and a fantastic raconteur and ambassador for the Devils in person. That said, his schtick has grown tired over the years has well. He's become a dominating presence over Doc Emrick in the Devils booth, and his excuse-making for Martin Brodeur has had me screaming during certain games. Still comes up with the occasional good point, and "Chico Eats" is still the best regular feature of any New York local broadcast, and maybe on earth.

4. Ken Singleton (Yankees/YES)

The best thing you can say about Singleton is that you don't notice him too much. A calm man with a pleasant voice and usually even-handed, an anomaly for a Yankees broadcaster. He's prone to saying the occasional inane phrase, but is mostly doing a decent job.

3. Keith Hernandez (Mets/SNY)

The biggest problem with Hernandez, a member of the most-liked and most credible broadcast team for any of the local sports teams, is that you know when he feels the game is over. Not just when he's sleeping, too. Hernandez makes up by being into the game the most when it's an important one, and is able to provide terrific analysis and insight that other baseball color men just aren't giving. More the personality than the brains of the SNY duo, but can still go toe-to-toe with Darling on baseball knowledge.

2. Jim Spanarkel (Nets/YES)

If you're actually willing to watch a Nets game, and on the right night when Mike Fratello isn't waiting for a paycheck, you'll hear Jim Spanarkel doing honest, relevant analysis game in and game out. Rarely ever humdrum, and has great chemistry with Ian Eagle. A throwback to when analysts weren't trying to be the stars of the telecast.

1. Ron Darling (Mets/SNY)

Possibly the smartest man in New York baseball, few can match Darling's insight. Working with Cohen and Hernandez has made Darling a TV star, getting him jobs on TBS for their post-season coverage. He's at his best, however, when talking baseball and life (Cohen, Darling and Hernandez have once-in-a-lifetime chemistry) in the booth during a Mets game. It feels like they should've been fired for having too much fun years ago. On 60% of the games they broadcast, they are the best part of the game, and Darling may be the biggest contributor to that.

Is Yankees-Red Sox Fading Away?

Whether its the less competitive Red Sox, or the loss of some of the more colorful personalities of the rivalry's heyday, or just viewer fatigue, the Yankees battles with Boston are becoming less and less of a television draw, after spending the entire decade being the rivalry in all of sports. Folks seem to finally be discovering some of the other great baseball teams on the earth.

On Friday night, the telecast of the first Red Sox/Yankees game on MLB Network (which did not air in the New York or Boston markets) drew 396,000 viewers, the third most viewed telecast in the network's history. However, the Giants/Braves game that aired on MLB Network the night before drew a surprising 503,000 viewers, topping Boston-New York by 107,000 viewers.

The rest of the weekend saw the more troubling numbers. Saturday's game on FOX drew a 2.1 and 3.25 million viewers. While this is above FOX's 1.9 season average, it is the lowest rating for a Red Sox/Yankees game since at least 2001. The numbers were down 22% in ratings and 18% in viewership from a Boston/New York telecast on the same date last season. The game also drew lower ratings and fewer viewers than the Braves/Reds game that aired on FOX the Saturday before, which scored a 2.2 rating and 3.315 million viewers.

Meanwhile on ESPN, the Sunday Night Baseball edition of Yankees/Red Sox climbed to a 2.3 rating and 3.486 million viewers. While this was a season high for the network's baseball telecasts, it is down a staggering 23% in ratings and 26% in viewership. The game was dominated in the ratings by NBC's telecast of the NFL Hall of Fame Game, which scored a 6.8 rating and 11.3 million viewers. At least things remained sane in the New York area, where the local rating for the baseball game was a 7.8 to football's 2.5. Regardless, it seems to mark a point in the Red Sox/Yankees war that just isn't that compelling.

That doesn't mean the Yankees aren't still baseball's biggest TV draws as visitors. The Yankees visit to Tampa recently drew a 10.7 local rating for the Rays on regional sports network Sun Sports, record for that network. The full three-game series drew an average rating of 9.9 in Tampa, the highest ever for the team on the network, and well above the season average of 5.7

Also, the much-ballyhooed Yankees-Rangers series was eagerly looked forward to in the home team's market. Tuesday's game 1 scored an 8.0 rating in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market. That's a record-breaker for the Rangers last set in 1998 for a game against the Angels which drew a 6.9. The next day, game 2 blew it out of the water with a 9.3 rating in the market, which broke the network's all-time record for ratings in any program/sport. The previous mark was an 8.2 for a 2002 Lakers/Mavericks game. The Rangers are averaging a 3.3 on FSN Southwest, and a 6.1 since the Cliff Lee trade, but the Yanks put them over the top.

(Source: Sports Media Watch)

Jets Score for HBO

HBO chose the Jets for this season of 'Hard Knocks' to go bigger than they ever had before, and the ratings seem to reflect that.

The premiere of the first episode (which you can read a recap of here) scored 837,000 viewers for HBO on Wednesday night. A replay that aired immediately after drew nearly 500,000 viewers. The numbers are up 37% over the first episode of last year's season, which featured the Cincinnati Bengals. The episode drew a 3.9 in New York. 

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