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Behind The Mic: Ranking The Area Voices, Part 1

A look at New York TV play-by-play men and local baseball ratings.

PITTSBURGH - JULY 27:  Mike Emrick addresses the media at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic press conference on July 27 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - JULY 27: Mike Emrick addresses the media at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic press conference on July 27 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Ranking the New York Area Voice, a Behind the Mic Series: Part 1, TV Play-by-Play 

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

8. Michael Kay (Yankees/YES) 

It would be beating a dead horse to repeat all the things that the world loathes about Michael Kay. We even wrote a column praising the YES Network in spite of him. But the fact is, the man comes off as a blowharded, pinstripe-flavored Kool-Aid drinker. No voice in this area distracts from the game as much as Kay's. 

7. Sam Rosen (Rangers/MSG) 

Rosen's work has never really done it for me.  Its not that I'm a Devils fan, I've just never found his voice to be my cup of tea.  I admire the work he does, and all the great moments he's called.  That said, I think he's better on football, and I think his work has gone a long way downhill since John Davidson left, to be replaced by Joe Micheletti.

6. Marv Albert (Nets/YES) 

Is it just me, or is Marv Albert's voice somehow become higher in the past few years? To me, Marv's never been the same since he came back from scandal-plagued years in the late-90's. The fact that he's working for the Nets doesn't help: You can clearly tell he's as bored of the game as the rest of us are. While Eagle manages to keep everyone entertained, Marv will let his voice tell you that he's not into it, and that's a shame.

5. Ian Eagle (Nets/YES) 

Doesn't get to do as many games as he did in the past, and that's a shame, because he appears to be the only person loyal to the New Jersey Nets over the past few years. Catching him calling a game is always a treat, especially if its with the equally insightful Jim Spanarkel. But like the NHL in the early days with OLN, it is like an endangered species. 

4. Howie Rose (Islanders/MSG Plus) 

Would someone please put Howie Rose out of his misery?  Forced to call Islanders and Mets games 300 days a year? That's something out of Dante's Inferno.  However, Rose remains on an even-keel most times, and is nothing if not professional. He'll ask legitimately challenging questions to Charles Wang when doing televised interviews, and very few left in local sports have the guts to do that.  While you always sense the Mets were his first love, and the fact is that the man was a born-and-bred Ranger fan, his Isles work is always top notch.

3. Mike Breen (Knicks/MSG) 

You'd think Mike Breen is the only basketball announcer on earth with how much he's worked in the past few years, from Olympics to ABC/ESPN work to the insipid Knicks.  His stuff's gotten better throughout, and especially in managing to keep the Knickerbockers watchable. I mean, some of the things this team's done have ranged from unprofessional, un-wise in a basketball sense, to downright deplorable. Yet Breen stays, casual, calm and cool, and giving you the idea that everything in Knick-land is too.

2. Mike Emrick (Devils/MSG Plus) 

Maybe five years ago he'd have been on top, but 'Doc' - like all the greats - has lost a few miles per hour on his fastball the past couple of years. His voice is more likely to break. He's done fewer games. He's more likely to cede control of the broadcast to the inane ruminations of Glenn "Chico" Resch. When it comes down to it, Doc's probably getting all his national assignments on reputation than actual remaining skill.

That said, when he's on - which is more often than not the case - he's world-class. The most exciting voice on the business. The man who somehow makes going over-the-top fun and not obnoxious. When he screams "hit the post with the shot!" you can't help but chuckle and acknowledge the fun and enormity of the moment.  He and Resch have some wildly funny banter, and he still knows how to own the moment. Last season, MSG Plus recorded playoff commercials starring Emrick that were more exciting than any of the team's playoff games. That's saying something.

1. Gary Cohen (Mets/SNY) 

Though Cohen is constantly sidled with a below-average to downright disgraceful Mets team, the SNY announcer is always fair and honest while maintaining credibility. When the Mets are inexplicably bad, there's no one better to hear the muted rage of. He always keeps it professional, but you know you're getting the honest feelings of a man who has suffered through this nonsense for 40 years.

When the team is good, he's just as adept.  No one revels in his team's success like Cohen. Without going over-the-top and being a homer, you sense a real joy when the Mets are doing well from Gary, Keith and Ron.  Which brings me to the fact that he has the best chemistry with any of his analysts than anyone else on this list.  Smart, sound and never tiresome, Gary Cohen is currently the best at what he does.

Probably has the best chemistry with his color men than anyone else on this list. 

Yankees and Mets Ratings at the Halfway Mark

The TV ratings of a team, especially in this city, will usually give you an indication of how the team is performing on the field, and mostly that's the case with the Yankees and Mets on TV and radio through the first half of the 2010 MLB season.

The Yankees and Mets lead the pack in the majors as far as viewers/listeners go, despite being middle of the pack in terms of the actual ratings number. However, Yankees and Mets numbers are so big, that you could combined the households watching each game of both Chicago teams and both Los Angeles teams, and they still wouldn't equal even the Mets ratings.

The Mets are the winners in the clubhouse, as SNY has averaged a 3.25 average rating, 16th overall and up 1.9% at this point in 2009. However, the team's 243,540 average households tuning in (up 2.7% from last year) is second only to the Bronx Bombers. The Mets numbers prove my opening theory: up a little bit signifies the cautious optimism the team's fanbase had as the season moved along. One would think that the average will likely be lower for the second half as the Mets continue to fade.

The Yankees are a bit more curious case. The Yanks are averaging a 4.38 rating, 12th overall, and 328,217 households, #1 in the league by a wide margin (as mentioned before, the Mets are 2nd). However, while those numbers seem great, the Yankee telecasts on YES are actually down 5.4% in ratings and 4.6% in viewers from this point in 2009.  So, what gives?

More than likely, its the Yankee faithful returning to the cocksure, manifest destiny days of the late 90's in the wake of the World Series win last year.  Whereas success drives ratings in other markets (the Phillies are up 16.5% over last year after their 2nd straight World Series appearance) the Yankees viewership is driven on drama, and frankly, there's been little to report of this season. Other than the deaths of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, there's een little truly worth tuning into at all so far this season. However, they are still tops in the game.

(Source: SportsBuisness Journal)