Rating the YES Network Yankees Baseball Analysts
Naturally, when you watch about 125-135 New York Yankees telecasts on the YES Network per season, you begin to develop affinities for certain personalities, and aversions to others. Some are comical (in a good way), some are grating on the nerves, others have a cult following. Even more still, one (Meredith Marakovits) has obtained a nickname — in a lighthearted sense — as the bearer of bad news regarding the massive number of injuries suffered by the 2013 Yankees: “The Grim Reaper.” However, at the end of the day, the Yankees have one of the best booths in baseball, with a collective of unique individual talents who each bring a different perspective to the game of baseball.
With that, here are my personal — PERSONAL — ratings of each of the broadcasters, analysts and sideline reporters.
MICHAEL KAY (Play-by-Play).
Kay is spread pretty thin between his ESPN show, hosting CenterStage and other local commitments outside of calling Yankee games for the majority of six months out of the year. It shows, at times. What Kay does well, however, is bring an element of drama (related to his career as a beat writer and sensationalizing stories for good copy) to the booth when painting a picture of the goings-on surrounding the team. Some find his personality abrasive and grating, particularly with his sandpaper voice and sometimes know-it-all condescension at times. However, he is fair and relatively down the middle in criticizing the Yankees, while giving credit to Yankees’ opponents, when it is due. He is also not averse to calling out players (such as Robinson Cano’s unwillingness to leg out ground balls frequently, Curtis Granderson’s woeful stretches of massive strikeouts in short periods of time, and the pitching of Phil Hughes). Overall, he is decent in the booth, but not great. Some people love Kay, many more cannot stand him and wish that he would be replaced. I have accepted him after all these years, personally. One thing that Kay is known to do is give all of the analysts a hard time — whether jokingly (O’Neill) or truly (Flaherty, Leiter, at times), and this creates a modicum of tension in the booth that is palpable at times. His disturbing crush on Paul O’Neill does give many viewers pause. However, he is a professional at what he does — although Singleton is the one analyst that I have noticed that he will not take digs at with regards to his playing career.
KEN SINGLETON (Play-by-Play and Color Analyst).
Kenny plays it down the middle and by the book in terms of broadcasting style. He is not bombastic like Kay, does not make himself the center of attention, and has golden pipes that are perfectly suited for a baseball telecast. Some feel that Singleton is boring, but others feel that he is engaging and versatile; he has called an entire game solo (a la Vin Scully), and does a seamless job of transitioning from play-by-play to color analyst, or one of two analysts in the booth with Kay, when either Al Leiter, David Cone, Paul O’Neill or John Flaherty are in the booth with Singleton and Kay. He is solid, not over the top, nor dull. However, he does lend first-hand insight into the game, notes the subtle nuances and former player insight without living in the past like say… Tim McCarver does — spending an entire half inning talking about things that took place in 1965, and ignoring everything taking place before him on screen.
JACK CURRY (Reporter).
Jack is a long-time local beat writer and brings a wealth of knowledge without making up stories and sensationalizing drama in the name of increased ratings and page clicks. He also conducts interviews with players and personnel on the team with his show on the YES Network outside of Yankee broadcasts. He has worked the studio, booth and the dugout with informational reporting. He is a steady presence on an ever-changing broadcast.
MEREDITH MARAKOVITS (Reporter).
Meredith replaced longtime YES/WFAN reporter Kim Jones as a new (read: younger) face on the broadcast. Meredith is very professional with her role, yet finds a way to bring a jovial presence — while Jones was serious, she was highly respected — even while serving as the bearer of bad news quite often in 2013. She actually provides insightful questions and information when not delivering the long list of injury reports regularly during broadcasts. A welcome addition.
BOB LORENZ (Studio Host).
Bob is a longtime veteran of studio hosting, dating back to his Turner-related network days. He can do it in his sleep. His play-by-play (of which he has done in scant occasions) would PUT you to sleep, however. He provides in-game scores and updates, and does the pregame and postgame shows, as well. Lorenz has become a fixture at YES, as he has been with the network for over 10 years, virtually the entire existence of the YES Network.
PAUL O’NEILL (Color Analyst).
O’Neill brings a folksy attitude to the booth — in stark contrast to his oft-demonstrated temper on the field — but does not allow an opportunity to lend insight as a player pass by during a broadcast. His nonstop stories about his early days with the Cincinnati Reds and decade with the Yankees are always entertaining, especially his banter with Kay and David Cone (or Singleton) when they are in the booth. O’Neill loves to eat, much like Phil Rizzuto did in the booth, yet has managed to not gain a single pound from his playing days, as he is now 50 years old. He does not typically do many games outside of those at Yankee Stadium. O’Neill is a joy to listen to, because he calls a game like he is sitting on the couch in the living room with you; literally with his feet up in the booth, wolfing down food, telling old stories and predicting pitches, situational managing and diagramming replays.
AL LEITER (Color Analyst).
Leiter can really work the nerves. He knows pitching inside and out, and knows the game the same way. However, broadcasting on television is 10% information and 90% effective delivery of that information. Leiter talks in rambling, breathless non-sequitirs at times. A viewer can easily get lost in his diatribes (which can come off as somewhat arrogant in the eyes of some), rather than what insight can be gleaned from what he says. He doesn’t always seem to take well to Kay’s ribbing, which can overshadow the game on the field; particularly if the Yankees are struggling offensively. When in the booth with Singleton, Leiter will talk incessantly, and that is not the best formula for a play-by-play and color analyst duo. I like Al, because he knows the game, and as a sometimes-rambler, I can appreciate his style.
JOHN “FLASH” FLAHERTY (Color Analyst).Flash can be pretty staid overall. As a former catcher — as catchers go, they are involved in every single pitch from delivery to balls in play, so they see the game as a whole (which is why many become managers) — he is pretty standard issue. He has a dry and sarcastic sense of humor which often comes out when paired with Kay. It is absent with Singleton, and he seems to loosen up and call a decent game. He is no Rick Sutcliffe, but he knows the game, even if he has difficulty conveying it in a way that new fans can understand. People who have played the game know exactly what Flash is speaking about, but casual fans will find him boring and lacking insight, when that is not the case.
DAVID CONE (Color Analyst).
Coney is the best of the pack by far. He eats, drinks (emphasis on drinking), breathes and lives baseball in and outside of the booth. He loves being around baseball fans and taking in games even when not in the booth. He knows the nuances of the game inside and out, and conveys them thoroughly to the audience with a vivid vocabulary. His sense of humor is off the charts and unabashed, which is endearing to fans. In other words, he actually says things that straight-laced analysts wouldn’t dare say, and the things that fans sometimes say themselves away from a television broadcast. He even jokingly teases Joe Girardi’s usage of his famous Binder. Cone loves “the numbers” (sabermetrics) and intermingles them — which is the proper way of using metrics, rather than using metrics to explain away everything and substantiate discussions of players’ worth — and also clings to a lot of old school perspectives of the game, having grown up in the 60s and 70s, and played in the 80s, 90s and early 00s, as the game transitioned each decade. A pop culture connoisseur, Cone intertwines his analysis and game notes with song lyrics and pop culture references, and subtly cracks wise with Michael Kay, who seems to love to issue jabs to everyone who he is paired with in the booth (other than Singleton, who clearly won’t stand for it). Cone can go too far with his loose tongue, and has had to explain away a few slips of the tongue over the years (allegedly cursing, literally giving out his phone number to women on air, amongst other incidents), but it is his everyman persona and superior baseball knowledge that makes him a joy to listen to during Yankee broadcasts.