Moyer, Stairs solid in their booth debuts

Posted: February 28, 2014

ONE OF THE FEW negatives I have discovered in my quarter of a century as a sports journalist is that the job has taken away some of the enjoyment I used to have when I just watched the games for fun.

I grew up listening to legendary Baltimore Orioles and Colts radio voice Chuck Thompson, but left Maryland not too long after he retired in 1987, the same year I graduated from the University of Maryland.

From then on, sports became a career, not so much a source of entertainment. I focused more on the action on the field than who conveyed it to me.

Of course, I like listening to some announcers more than others, but for the most part, it's not that big of a deal who calls a game.

So other than the fact that I think Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews are nice people whom I hated to see lose jobs they loved, I haven't given much thought to the big shake-up in the Phillies' television booth.

But I know a lot of Philadelphia fans do care immensely about who is announcing the games.

So yesterday when the Phillies opened their spring training schedule against the Toronto Blue Jays, a close second to getting a first look at the 2014 squad was the debut of former Phillies players Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs as TV color commentators.

"It's not only a new year for the Phillies, but it's also a new year for us up here in the broadcast booth," play-by-play man Tom McCarthy said. "It's time to put the jerseys away for good."

OK, so Moyer and Stairs had their first workday shortened because rain limited the Blue Jays' 4-3 win to seven innings, and it certainly isn't fair to judge anything or anyone on one game, especially the first of what will be around 180 games during the Grapefruit League and regular season.

But it certainly was an enjoyable listen for a start.

With a three-man booth, timing and cohesion are the most important elements. McCarthy was in control, not only calling the action but directing the booth to keep things smooth.

The trio seemed well-prepared to work together, with no incidents of talking over one another.

I'm not sure they were in there pointing at one another to say, "me next" or "my turn," but each guy got his points in, with no one getting lost in the mix.

If nothing else, it appears obvious that these guys have worked to develop a booth relationship, so they were prepared to get out of the gate running and build from there.

And at this early stage, taking the job seriously and treating it with respect is all you can ask for.

What was immediately clear is that Stairs and Moyer both know the game and will not be afraid to put their 40-some years of combined major league experience on the table.

For the fan looking for a broadcast team that will not only analyze the action but also discuss the psychology and mentality that goes into the game, and will explain current situations and anticipate the next ones, Stairs and Moyer will be a pleasure to listen to.

Both seem to be able to convey their knowledge and experience without beating you over the head with their knowledge and experience.

That is a fine and important line that must be walked.

I think that of the two, Moyer will be more of the straight baseball analyst and Stairs a little more of the comedian and folksy talker.

"The nice thing about being up here in the booth and not down on the field is tomorrow when I wake up I'm not going to be sore - unless I play golf," Stairs quipped early during the broadcast.

The Saint John, New Brunswick, native seems to have some of that dry Canadian sense of humor that made former Flyers winger Keith Jones an instant favorite when he started doing color commentary for the Orange and Black.

But Moyer certainly showed a lighthearted nature that hints he understands that entertaining listeners is just as important as informing them.

Moyer who played at Souderton Area High School and Saint Joseph's University before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round in 1984, has the advantage of understanding what Phillies fans are used to and expect after hearing legendary broadcasters Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn all those years.

"Being a native of the Philadelphia area growing up watching the Phillies, playing for the Phillies and now working coming into the booth, I'm looking forward to it," Moyer told listeners about his feelings for the upcoming season.

Again, this was only the first game, and there will be some missteps as McCarthy, Moyer and Stairs fully develop chemistry and figure out who is best at what role.

Ultimately, Phillies fans will be the ones who determine whether this was a good move that makes the broadcasts enjoyable.

But just one man's point of view: The Phillies look as if they have something that can grow and gain acceptance from the Philadelphia audience.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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