When Texas makes a season-defining trade, or calls up its top prospect to make his big league debut, the update I send out announcing the move generates dozens of emails, sometimes hundreds, often with wildly divergent opinions but the same level of energy and intensity. Yesterday's midday announcement of John Rhadigan triggered that sort of response, in both volume and vigor. And many asked me to weigh in on the hire.
First things first: I'm a radio guy. Tom Grieve knows it, Josh Lewin knew it. For various reasons I do catch hundreds of innings of the television call each season. But the TV sound is down in my home for probably more than 1,000 innings each year. It's partly because of Eric Nadel, of course, but not only because of Nadel. I'm a radio guy in baseball and I am in football as well. Always have been, always will be.
But I do realize that those hundreds of innings of TV play-by-play I might tune into each season is as many as, if not more than, some segments of the fan base might catch of Rangers baseball all year - fans that the organization would like to convert into thousand-inning consumers. And, of course, I'm intensely interested in seeing the Rangers striving to make themselves better everywhere they can and at every opportunity: in the rotation, in center field, in scouting, in sponsorships, in the television booth. Even where I might not be directly affected, I want this organization to be great.
I have no idea how John Rhadigan will sound calling Rangers games. This I do know: He's a pro's pro. He knows this team and this franchise. He's an extraordinarily good guy, and you'll find nobody who disagrees about that. He's been proficient at worst, tremendous at best, at everything he's done in this market, and he's done a lot.
But calling an eighth-inning 6-4-3 to end an Angels threat and preserve a one-run Rangers lead with the Texas magic number down into the teens? Or reacting (and not overreacting) to what turns out to be a routine, bases-empty Adrian Beltre fly to left center in mid-May? Don't have an opinion on that. Feels sort of wrong to fire one up just yet.
A year ago at this time, what would you have thought if you were told Texas would end up sending Chris Davis back to AAA after just 48 at-bats, would trade Justin Smoak during the season, and would give first base to Mitch Moreland, a recent 17th-round pick who just a year earlier had been told by the organization that it was up to him whether he wanted to convert wholesale to the mound, or remain a position player? Who, in 2010, would be strictly an Oklahoma City outfielder until mid-July, two weeks before he'd be called up to settle in on a first-place Major League team as its starting first baseman?
Last March, Randy Galloway said he asked five Rangers officials who the club's 2012 first baseman would be: Davis or Smoak? The leading answer, said Galloway, was Moreland.
I'd say most of us who heard that, no matter how insane our level of interest in this team was, were pretty skeptical.
Are you as big a fan of Phillies play-by-play man Scott Franzke as I am? Probably not, but if you are, how did you feel about his potential in that role when he was handling Rangers radio pregame and postgame show duties, just a few years ago?
Maybe John Rhadigan is Mitch Moreland. Maybe he's Scott Franzke. Maybe not - but maybe.
Is it fair to say we just don't know yet?
One thing we do know is that the scrutiny will be passionate, as it would be if some well-established, nationally renowned play-by-play man were brought in and loyal Rangers fans expected him to be fluent in how special a defender Davis is, how Alexi Ogando was acquired, the primary reason Craig Gentry didn't make the playoff roster, and the fact that Moreland closed games for Mississippi State in the 2007 College World Series, and to fold all of that information into the broadcast without acting as if it's the same level of revelation to the viewer as it is to him. It's one thing for Jon Miller to relate Josh Hamilton's unique story when he knows he has viewers in New York and San Francisco, or Pittsburgh and Baltimore, or Denver and Cheyenne, but it would be a problem if a new announcer, with rows of trophies on his mantel, came in here and lacked not only a grasp of Rangers history and talking points, but also a sense of what the viewing audience's grasp of those things is.
I don't blame any of you for caring, no matter where you fall on this hire - it fires me up that the interest level is this intense - but for those of you who were disappointed with the announcement, and for those of you who couldn't be happier, wouldn't it make sense to wait at least until March 12, when John Rhadigan first relates the starting spring training lineup that Ron Washington is sending out there to take on the White Sox, to really judge it?
I can assure you right now that I'll prefer the Rangers' TV play-by-play man to Chicago's that Saturday afternoon, but as for any more defined opinion than that, other than to tell you there are few guys in the local media who are more likable than John, it's going to be many months before I'm prepared to, or interested in, giving one.