In this day and age of seemingly interchangeable broadcasters and network style Ken Dolls that know more about the holding power of hair spray than the importance of holding a runner, the classics are slowly disappearing. It's actually a tough situation for many teams to be in; what do you do with a broadcasting legend as he nears the end of his career?
If you listen to Harry Kalas, you can tell that he's not quite the broadcaster that he used to be. That's not to say that he's "lost it", but there are some rough edges that weren't there years ago. Same with the Dodgers Vin Scully. And, it was the same with Ernie Harwell a few years ago in Detroit. They're legends, but they've slipped a notch or two. Plus, there is the ever increasing pressure to go with the new style broadcaster who brings a more polished delivery. Still, they deserve better.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers looked past any mild slippage that Scully may experience and signed him to a contract that will carry him through the 2008 season, his 59th with the franchise. Scully, in his usual humble manner looked past the importance of what he's done. "All my career, all I have ever really done, all I ever have accomplished, is to talk about the accomplishments of others," Scully said. "We can't all be heroes. Somebody has to stand on the curb and applaud as the parade goes by." If baseball is a parade, Scully certainly hasn't been a mere spectator. He's been a part of the game, as have Harwell and Kalas.
The Tigers tried to force Harwell out before he was ready to go and fans rebelled. The team and their flagship station were deluged by angry fans wanting Harwell back. "Sometimes you just don't realize how much people care," said Harwell at the time. The Phillies don't realize it either.
While Scully was inking a new deal, the Phillies bounced a new broadcasting lineup off the wall. It teams Kalas with Chris Wheeler. The two are known to be less than friendly outside of the booth and Kalas made a point of not wanting to work with Wheeler more than he absolutely had to when he signed his previous contract. Now, the Phillies are looking to pair Kalas with Wheeler more and with Larry Andersen, who he has grown fond of working with, less. Plus, they're looking at putting the less polished Andersen on more innings of radio work and less on television.
Kalas should be able to near dictate who he works with, where and when. He should be able to pick his spots and decide which innings he'll do on radio and which he'll do on television. He and Andersen have developed a good chemistry and there's no sense pulling it apart.
This could be Kalas' last year as a broadcaster, or at least his last with the Phillies. His contract is up after this season and while the Dodgers took steps to make sure Scully would be hanging around, the Phillies haven't. There is some speculation that Kalas will retire, but he says he'll stick around "as long as I enjoy it." Knowing of the relationship between he and Wheeler, it's likely that the enjoyment of his job by Kalas and the frequency of his pairing with Wheeler could have a direct correlation. The Phillies should be taking that into account.
Nothing is written in stone for the Phillies broadcast schedule this coming season and certainly, things are up in the air after that. Still, the Phillies should work to guarantee that a Hall of Fame broadcaster sticks around as long as possible. The team should do all they can to guarantee his enjoyment of the game and shouldn't make his contract an issue.
The Dodgers get it and the Phillies simply don't realize how much people care.