|Photos courtesy of Arizona Diamondbacks|
"To lose one commentator, Mr. Hall, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness."
- Oscar Wilde (almost)
In two months, the Diamondbacks' TV broadcast booth has gone from supreme stability to absolute uncertainty. The regular team of Daron Sutton and Mark Grace, who had been in their sixth season as a broadcast combination, are both now currently persona non grata. Sutton has been suspended, for reasons which remain unknown but the subject of much speculation, two months later; Grace was arrested last week for a DUI, his second such incident in 15 months. Much though it pains me to say this, the odds of either returning to the booth seem increasingly long at the current point - so, if the team does decide to look for a permanent replacement, who might be chosen?
Greg Schulte has been the main play-by-play guy used by the team to replace Sutton, and certainly isn't lacking in experience. He has been with the team since the very start, and is one of the few broadcasters to be honored with his own bobblehead (for his 2,000th game called, in July 2010). However, I'm really not certain that his style, which works well on radio, translates to television - and after more than 14 years on the air, would he be capable of changing? The general consensus is that television needs a less descriptive and more colorful approach, and Schulte may be best served returning to his strength.
Tom Candiotti, however, might be a good choice as a color analyst. He was one for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2002-2005, and has occasionally filled in for Grace on previous occasions. What I've particularly enjoyed about these occasions is his ability to offer insight in to the pitching side of things at the major-league level. That was an aspect where Daron (professional pitching experience: 10 games for the Low-A affiliate of the Angels) and Mark (professional pitching experience.... Well, I trust we all remember that) did seem a bit deficient: their strengths seemed more in discussing batters.
Fox Sports Arizona
There aren't many candidates in terms of play-by-play; that's a position where the team will likely look for someone with more experience than most of the other TV presenters have. One exception might be Todd Walsh, who did play-by-play back in the late eighties and early nineties, first for the Tucson Toros, and then for the Phoenix Firebirds, who were the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants at the time. But of late, he seems to have been more often seen on the Coyotes broadcasts than the Diamondbacks ones, and one wonders if that's where his ambitions lie [* non-relocation permitting. Is that still a thing?]
The color analyst position could be a better shot. Joe Borowski, like Candiotti, would bring a wealth of pitching experience to the role, and had done solid work with his analysis on both the pre- and post-game shows. He has the pro background which would seem to give hm an advantage over the other presenters - but if the D-backs really wanted to shake things up, what about Jody Jackson becoming the first female color commentator to cover the game full-time? There's no denying, she knows her stuff - but as soco pointed out in a recent GDT, such a radical step would require a pretty thick skin, to handle reactions from the Neanderthal end of the viewing audience. .
There are a few possibilities outside the ranks of those currently wearing the red polo shirt of FSAZ. Doing the bulk of the color commentary for the rest of the season will be Luis Gonzalez. In terms of a Diamondbacks icon, there are likely none bigger, or better suited to heal the PR scars left by the fiascoes which have unfolded this season. But would he be interested in the position full-time? Additionally, from what I've seen, he comes across as a bit bland, though that could be remedied with the right play-by-play guy: you want personalities who complement each other, rather than reinforce. Think hot wings and ranch dressing...
If the team are looking to promote from within, they could reach down to the minor-leagues and bring up someone like Donny Baarns. He already did some work for the Diamondbacks during spring training, covering games streamed on mlb.com alongside Jeff Munn, and seems to have acquitted himself quite honorably in the role. A little closer to Phoenix, Ryan Radtke has been doing the play-by-play for the Aces, even before they were the Aces, since 2006 in Tucson. He has also been doing PBP for the (limited schedule) TV broadcasts in Reno, and in his mid-30s, is one of the younger broadcasters in Triple-A.
Of course, the team may decide to go seriously external, as they did when bringing Sutton over from Milwaukee during the winter after the 2006 season. There, perhaps the most obvious candidate is former Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, who is in the final year of his current contract with WGN, doing color commentary for the Cubs. He still has some connections here in Arizona, though he is reported to be among the highest paid in the majors for his position, earning close to a million dollars a year. It'd be kinda amusing if the booth next year is earning more than the majority of Arizona's starting rotation...
Bring back Sutton and Grace
Finally, here's a radical idea - it'd likely be harder for the latter, because what this has shown is that the public understands there can sometimes be good reasons why a broadcaster should be taken off the air. Any such have been entirely missing in the case of Sutton, whose suspension remains devoid, two months later, of any official explanation, beyond the oft-repeated mantra of "sensitive personnel issue." While legitimate cause may certainly exist, until one is provided, that suspension can only be seen as unjustified, and will continue to damage the team's hard-won (and otherwise, largely justified) reputation for openness and fan-friendliness.
Bringing Sutton back would be simple. Grace....not so much. There would certainly need to be strong caveats attached to any return. Treatment and rehabilitation certainly, above and beyond anything which might be required by the courts, as well as a public acknowledgement from Grace of his problems. The team should also make it absolutely clear that this is the final chance. But this is an organization which has long prided itself on treating its employees as family, not just labor, and showing compassion for a worker's personal problems would seem in line with that corporate ethos.
So, 'Pitters: what do you reckon? Who do you want to see calling Diamondbacks games in 2013?