THE CHICAGOTRIBUNE demanded a change in personnel (MEMO TO TBS: BRING ON BARKLEY). The NewYork Daily News offered a marketing campaign (TBS: TOTALLY BLAND SNOOZEFEST).Perturbed by, among other things, the error-plagued work of play-by-play manChip Caray (note to Caray: No matter how often you say it, the Yankees did not"lead the world" in home runs this year; the Brewers did) andcliché-happy studio analysts Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken, critics rightlyeviscerated TBS's work in the network's first year as an MLB postseasonbroadcaster. "Everyone is certainly welcome to their opinion," TurnerSports executive producer Jeff Behnke says. "Have there been some things weneed to look at? Of course. Overall, we are proud."
TBS, which hasthe rights to the Division Series and one of the League Championship Seriesuntil 2014, can crow about one thing. It averaged 5.7 million viewers duringthe Division Series, 26% more than Fox, ESPN and ESPN2 drew in '06. But ratingstumbled during the NLCS because of late East Coast start times and theanonymity of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Game 1 had the lowest nationalrating (3.6) in LCS history.
Ratings aside,the network must improve several elements—starting with its studio show. HostErnie Johnson couldn't engage Thomas or Ripken; the on-set chemistry was tepid,and TBS did bring in Charles Barkley, a star of TNT's NBA pregame show, tojuice things up for Game 3 of the NLCS. TBS would be wise to give more airtimeto Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson, who was funny and insightful, the lonebright spot in the studio lineup.
TBS says it iscommitted to Caray—a mistake. Caray, a Braves announcer, sounded ill-prepared;as just one example, he incorrectly declared that Indians closer Joe Borowski(above) played for the Brewers and the Reds. And he did little to draw outrookie analyst Tony Gwynn. If TBS is to be one of baseball's signaturenetworks, it needs a more compelling voice.
The Pop CultureGrid
How do sports stars fit in?
Bruce Springsteen is ...
I'm most likely to lie about ...
Who is the luckiest man in the world?
For Halloween, I'd dress up as ...
Pamela Anderson just married ...
BRIAN ROBISKIE Buckeyes, RB
A singer, I think
My cooking; I can't
Old Otis (from the TV show Martin)
A guy from a Paris Hilton video
PAUL STASTNY Avalanche, C
Paris Hilton's ex?
DARA TORRES Swimmer
What I eat
One of the girls on Deal or No Deal
BRANDON MARSHALL Broncos, WR
Some horrible actor
Dennis Rodman ... or was it Kid Rock?
TONY DEJAK/AP (BOROWSKI)
TURNER SPORTS (ANNOUNCERS)
GREGG DEGUIRE/WIREIMAGE (ANDERSON)
TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/US PRESSWIRE (ROBISKIE)
DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (STASTNY)
ROBERT BECK (RODRIGUEZ)
BRENT SMITH/REUTERS (TORRES)
BILL KOSTROUN/AP (SPRINGSTEEN)
BYRON HETZLER/US PRESSWIRE (MARSHALL)
WARNER BROS/PHOTOFEST (MARTIAN)