Saturday, July 9, 2011

TK as a broadcaster

Judging from what I hear, a lot of fans are enjoying Tom Kelly's brief sojourn into the Twins broadcasting booth.

TK in 1987, when the manager
was younger than some
of his players.
I'm among them, although I suspect that a lot of it is Blyleven fatigue. A full season (or more) of Kelly's mumbling would probably grow just as tiresome as Bert's repeated pitch count rants and assertions that "you have to do the little things" "at the major league level" even if you're "the best athlete on the field."

In that sense, just about anybody would do in the booth. ABB -- Anybody But Bert -- would make the broadcasts fresh and different. Whether that's what Fox Sports North, the Twins (who have the final say over the broadcast crew) or the audience want is another matter.

For myself, I want to learn something more about the game, and at risk of bragging, at this stage that's a high bar to set. I can't remember the last truly novel insight to the game I gleaned from Blyleven.

Kelly and his stopwatch (for timing the pitcher's delivery, a means of determining if the base runner can steal) is a dose of real-time scouting in the booth. His thoughts Friday on Gavin Floyd's inconsistent use of the slide step — that Floyd would be better off if he made it his standard stretch delivery — was both common-sensical and delivered with an acknowledgement of the potential trade-off. Kelly's enthusiasm for both Rene Tosoni and Ben Revere belied his reputation as a hard man for young players to please.

There are times when Kelly doesn't go far enough, when he softens or blurs his point, I assume to avoid criticizing somebody. Example: On Thursday, Ron Gardenhire had Jason Repko pinch-hit for Tosoni, and Dick "Richard" Bremer asked Kelly if it might not be wiser to keep Repko available, since the Twins had the lead. Kelly's response focused on the immediate opportunity to add runs against a left-handed pitcher, and didn't mention that the change would also strengthen the outfield defense. (To be fair, Repko went out on the first pitch to end the inning, so Kelly may not have had time to get to the defensive gain from the switch.)

Bremer is clearly amused by Kelly's sarcastic digs at one of  Blyleven's favorite chestnuts, that "best athlete on the field" line. I don't know that he's so amused by Kelly calling him "Richard" all the time. (I had theorized that TK simply doesn't want to say "Dick" on the air, especially when he initially identified 1970s White Sox slugger Dick Allen as "Richard Allen," but then a bit later Kelly called the old player "Dick.")

TK in the booth is clearly not going to be a long-term thing. I'm pretty sure he prefers his scouting/teaching/evaluating role. But I do wonder if the positive reaction to his stint in the booth might lead the organization to ponder the possibility of replacing Blyleven.


  1. I like TK. It reminds of the times Jim Kaat worked the booth with Ted Robinson and I learned a lot about baseball. It seems Blyleven and Bremer figure the hardcore baseball fan will watch no matter what they say, and they tailor the broadcast to 6 year olds. Bert is capable of in depth analysis as demonstrated whenever Rod Carew joins the broadcast, but he'd rather make duckfart jokes and circle fans.

  2. TK was just a refreshing change of pace. I got the impression during his first game that he was uncomfortable, but he seemed to loosen up after that. But it was pretty neat to hear his point of view on things, as a knowledgeable baseball guy, much like when Harmon used to broadcast the games. Neither is a great communicator, but if they can get their point across it makes for an interesting game. (Wish we could get Kitty to come back, if not to broadcast, at least to come and visit us on the Winter Caravan.)