Reviewing the combo of Dave Raymond and C.J. Nitkowski
After the heartbreaking end to the 2016 season, the Texas Rangers decided that it was time for a shakeup. I’m not talking about the lineup (although if the second half ends poorly, that shake-up will come to fruition), but about the broadcasting team. Fox Sports Southwest and the Rangers decided that an all around improvement was necessary.
First, play-by-play man Steve Busby, who had been with the broadcast team for 34 years, was let go. According to Busby, he wasn’t given the option of returning. Then, man-in-the-stands Jim Knox revealed he would not be returning for what would have been his 15th year with the club. Both Tom Grieve’s (better known as TAG by the Ranger Faithful) and Emily Jones’ contracts were renewed. However, for a time it was unclear if the beloved Jones would return. She later wrote that it was her mother-in-law and Rougned Odor who convinced her to stay on for the 2017 season.
Executives at Fox and the Rangers Communications Department announced in January that Dave Raymond, who served as a fill-in on the broadcasting team during 2016, would take over Busby’s relinquished role of play-by-play man for the 2017 season. Raymond, a 21-year sportscaster, has an interesting resume. Before spending seven years with the Houston Astros broadcast team, he worked games for several minor league clubs and universities, including Drake, Stanford, and Texas. He also served as a fill-in for the Giants in 2003 and the Orioles in 2005. Before getting into baseball, he was a reporter for Forbes magazine.
They also announced that former Major Leaguer C.J. Nitkowski would join the team as a color analyst. The Rangers decided that TAG would work 60 games during the season as the color commentator, leaving the rest to Nitkowski. Nitkowski, a first-round (9th overall) pick in the 1994 draft, debuted for the Cincinnati Reds in 1995. After spending parts of 10 seasons with 9 major league teams (including your Texas Rangers), he finished out his career in the NPB and the KBO. During his playing career C.J. was interviewed by the FBI during the Roger Clemens investigation and played a role in the biopic of Jackie Robinson, 42. He has also maintained an online diary (cjbaseball.com) ever since his early playing days. After retiring, Nitkowski signed on with Fox Sports and worked several roles with them until being picked up by the Rangers.
It should be noted that passing judgment too soon on a new broadcast duo is extremely unfair. They need time to learn each other’s cues, what works, and what doesn’t. That being said, it is almost halfway through the 2017 season. So how is the duo performing?
I decided to rate the broadcast team on the following metrics: voice, give-and-take, knowledge, modernity, accessibility, and home run calls. In order to keep my opinions in check, I enlisted the help of the diehard fans in the Texas Rangers subreddit.
Voice — F
“Dave is basically listening to paint dry.” /u/ilive4this
I have to agree with this take on Dave, but to his credit, it is extremely difficult to take over for a guy with a voice as distinct as Busby’s. However, it just doesn’t feel like the guy ever gets excited, even on the most exciting of plays. It’s also hard to be lenient on a guy with 21 years of experience. He just has a boring voice.
On the other had, I actually like C.J.’s voice, it just feels warm and inviting. The only problem is that he never ever stops talking during the game. Hopefully, as he gains experience he’ll learn to show some restraint. For our sake, I hope he does.
Give-and-Take — C
“Nitkowski doesn’t give [Raymond] the opportunity to bore you too much because he rarely stops talking.” /u/Major_Square
I was pretty lenient on this one. This is the category that will improve the most as time goes along. It takes a long time to develop that perfect chemistry between the play-by-play and the color commentary. For now, Dave and C.J. are still talking over one another at times.
Knowledge — A
“CJ I actually like a lot, his pitching analysis is excellent and more insightful than any broadcaster we’ve had in years.” /u/reed17
This category plays right into Nitkowski’s wheelhouse. His pitching analysis has brought a lot of new content to the table, from his pitch breakdowns to discussing the differences between the actual mounds in each ballpark. C.J. also knows a fair share of sabermetrics and knows how to relate it to the viewer in layman’s terms.
Modernity — B
“The new team seems to have a more modern take on the game.” /u/Batting-Practice
If there’s one thing FSSW and the Rangers were going for with the new pairing, it was this. Sabermetrics and advanced statistics are taking over the game. Raymond and Nitkowski have enough knowledge of these stats to bring them out during the broadcast. At the same time, they don’t just spout numbers the entire game.
Accessibility — C
“The new guys don’t seem to enjoy the game as much and they seem all business.” /u/Duck28
This category goes hand in hand with the last. While anybody could tune into a Rangers broadcast and learn something new, there isn’t really anything that could reel new fans in, and that could turn into a problem in the future. Raymond and Nitkowski still earn a passing grade because they don’t talk over people, which should be appreciated.
Home Run Calls — B
“And I don’t know but I like Dave Raymond’s home run calls. They are pretty energetic and he kills it.” /u/ifoundyourtoad
The only time Dave gets excited does seem to be home runs. So at least we got that. It may not be iconic (or wholly original), but it’s enough to get me off the couch and riled up every time we go yard.
Overall — C
The verdict: passable with a lot of room for improvement. Raymond and Nitkowski may not be the best duo in baseball, but at least we’re not stuck with Hawk Harrelson. I’m choosing to remain optimistic for the future, but I must say that if I hear that Jose Leclerc’s changeup moves like a slider one more time I might throw my tv out the window. But for now, let’s just pray that Dave gets excited and C.J. learns to keep quiet from time to time.