The Daily News’ Bob Raissman raised the spirits of all right-thinking persons this past October when he reported ESPN executives mulled splitting up the “Sunday Night Baseball” announcing duo of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Alas, the WWL’s eventual bold move was something else entirely, as USA Today’s Michael Hiestand explains.
One of the longest-running acts in TV sports is getting a new cast member. ESPN will formally announce Wednesday that Steve Phillips will join Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who’ve called ESPN’s Sunday night baseball for 19 years.
The move, freeing up ESPN’s Peter Gammons for Sunday night studio work rather than reporting from ESPN’s Sunday games, comes as ESPN is beefing up its Major League Baseball coverage for an obvious reason.
It faces new competition from the MLB-owned MLB Network, which began this month with 50 million TV households, by far a record for a cable TV debut.
ESPN’s MLB deal includes its Baseball Tonight having rights to show highlights from games still in progress ” a right MLB has granted to its own channel. After responding to the MLB Network with moves like beefing up its MLB winter-meetings coverage, ESPN is likely to keep shaking up coverage beyond adding Phillips to its Sunday games. One possibility: having MLB studio shows air year-round.
“No question ESPN is taking the MLB Network seriously,” Phillips says. “But competition is always good.”
Phillips is an anomaly, an ex-general manager (with the New York Mets) amidst the former players and coaches who fill the chorus line of TV talking heads. “I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make a career of this,” says Phillips, who joined ESPN in 2004 and expected he’d be replaced by a more “sexy name.”
Names don’t get much sexier than Dan Plesac, Steve. So just keep looking over your shoulder.