For the past few years, I’ve become big fans of the duo of Jim Powell and Don Sutton. You can also add Ben Ingram and the rest of the Braves Radio Network as well since that crew generally did an excellent job of presenting the game to us fans. Sutton and Powell are very much traditionalists but at the same time, they’ve never come off as old, hokey curmudgeons who longed for an imaginary version of a romanticized version of an era of baseball gone by. They see new developments in the way of watching, following and analyzing baseball as a way to supplement the game that they love — in far contrast of how others would see these new developments as ruining the game.
Plus, the duo of Powell and Sutton are just enjoyable to listen to. They’re affable, they’re humorous and the entire crew just seems like they relish the idea that they get to chat with the entire Southeastern region of the United States for three hours or so about the game that they love so much. They love the game and they want to make sure that they share that love with anybody who happens to be hearing them on the radio at that moment.
Plus, we’re all pretty lucky that Don Sutton is eloquent enough to give us some pristine perspective on the game from the eyes of a guy who made the Hall of Fame. When this guy talks, you know that he knows exactly what he’s talking about and it doesn’t come off as some hack who’s just giving you hot takes. Combine that with Jim Powell just trying to soak in all of that information as if he’s a play-by-play sponge and you have a recipe for what’s a very enjoyable commentating duo.
That was in stark contrast to what we got from the TV crew. It wasn’t always a slog when listening to Chip Caray and Joe Simpson call Braves games on TV for these past years but it sure seemed like it. In between the exciting moments, it really felt like they just filled the time grumpily ranting and raving about whatever they felt was the big issue of the day that may or may not have been killing the sport of baseball as they knew it. Granted, this is not an issue with just this pair of commentators — it’s an epidemic when it comes to the commentary booths across the whole of Major League Baseball. It just so happens that Chip and Joe caught a particularly bad strain of the Baseball Curmudgeon virus.
You’d think that with all of the excitement on the field that happened when it came to the 2018 Atlanta Braves, these guys would at least try to come off as if they enjoyed the game instead of treating it like it was a job. Instead, we had Joe Simpson repeatedly putting the franchise’s television presentation in a poor light and it sure seemed like his dreariness brought Chip down a peg as well. If you’re so worried about making sure that the game is accessible and fun to kids, casual fans and newcomers to the sport who just happen to flip onto your channel for something to watch on a lazy Summer evening, having your two hosts claim that everything was better in the past and the sport basically sucks now is probably the quickest way to turn away the aforementioned demographic.
For me, it basically came down to this: If I wanted to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Braves game from the comfort of my own home, I’d turn on the TV, mute it and put the radio on. The only time I listened to the TV crew was if I had no choice in the matter. Otherwise, I’d listen to the radio crew anytime I got the chance.
The good news is that this might be changing very soon. By now, I’m sure you all have seen the news that Jeff Francoeur is now going to be the new lead color commentator alongside Chip Caray. Joe Simpson is now moving to the radio team and will make occasional appearances on TV. Fox Sports South and the Braves didn’t say that Simpson’s controversial remarks from this past season were the main reason why he’s taking more of a backseat role but I’m sure that it had to have played a big role. With that being said, I can’t imagine that they wanted to have such a dreary duo on commentary when the Braves as a team figure to be young, fresh and exciting for the foreseeable future.
While Jeff Francoeur probably won’t be the guy you go to for pure analytics and numbers, he still did a solid job both on TV and in radio when he got the chance last season. Plus, he delivered one of my favorite moments on commentary last season.
Jim Powell: Did the 91 Braves have a better defense than this year's Braves?— local bIogger (@fergoe) September 27, 2018
Frenchy: "I can't say. I was 7."
Protect Jeff Francoeur at all costs.
That’s the type of humor and wit that you’re looking for from one of your commentators. It’s baseball — everything doesn’t have to be so serious and we’re all trying to have a good time while watching the team that we love do what they do. It’s clear that Frenchy still has a passionate love of the game, he clearly still loves the Braves and now he’ll get a chance to share that love for at least 105 games on TV this season.
Here’s hoping that this will give Chip Caray a bit of a rejuvenation as well and maybe Joe Simpson will get a boost as well from hanging out with the radio crew as well. This isn’t on par with the total rebuild that the Braves went through on the field s a franchise but it’s a refresh that the TV crew sorely needed.