One year ago today, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Daron Sutton announced his final game for the Diamondbacks. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance were mysterious, and one of the recurrent themes that came up here on various threads was that eventually we would find out.
Well, eventually has come and gone, and still there has not been any definitive word from Sutton or the organization as to what happened on that fateful Friday afternoon in the pre-game production meeting.
In lieu of evidence to the contrary, I am inclined to believe that the catalyst of the incident, if not the closest thing to a cause, really was a dispute over dress code. Underlying the actual argument, of course, was probably a more fundamental personality conflict and/or philosophical differences, but it ultimately came to a head when the club insisted on polo shirts rather than jacket and tie. That has become something of the urban myth, but one that seems to have merit. For one thing, it was one of the only reports that ever came out that provided any sort of explanation from a source who was reportedly close to the situation. Also, when you see Steve and Bob shivering with cold as they wear their red polo shirts on a windy miserable day at Wrigley, it just seems to be a mocking tribute to the whole situation.
What ultimately became Sutton's firing, combined with the purging of other perceived dissidents on the club - Bauer in particular - caused me to wonder if this was just a coinciding parting of the ways of personnel who for various reasons were no longer a great fit, or whether it was a case of an intolerant management ruling with an iron fist.
Regardless of who was at fault for Daron's dismissal, if in fact such blame could even be apportioned, one thing I remain convinced of is that the situation was not handled well by the club. The void of information was probably due in part to the embarrassment of indefinitely suspending a high profile member of the Diamondbacks "family" - or so the image has always been projected - over something as petty as dress code. I suppose that's how most family squabbles begin, over petty matters; nevertheless, the absence of information was unconscionable to the fans who deserved some sort of explanation. Daron was, after all, the primary interface between baseball team and fan, and his loss more significantly impacted the fans' experience of the game than an injury to a key player.
It's hard to know what Daron's current status is. He calls some games for "Big Fox", as well as Fox College Sports and other assorted gigs, but doesn't seem to have a permanent home just yet. Perhaps due to contractual arrangements with the Dbacks, it's unnecessary or infeasible for him to have a fully contracted position elsewhere. Sooner or later, though, he's going to land somewhere, and I look forward to hearing those calls.
The team of Sutton and Grace was, in my opinion, very strong, and also unique in the personalities they brought to an industry that seems to be trending ever closer to a middle ground of safe, bland announcing. While the hiring of Steve and Bob went a long way towards placating me about the Sutton episode and those unbearable months of television broadcasts last year after his departure, it's still not the same experience watching a Dbacks game as it used to be. Steve is improving, I guess, but his blather simply isn't as engaging as Sutton's, nor does his delivery carry the same conviction that Sutton's did.
Just thinking about the recent brawl with the Dodgers, I can sort of envision how it would have been announced by Sutton and Grace. Grace loves the "boys will be boys" aspect of the game, and would have had a lot of fun with the fighting, bringing some levity to the whole situation as well as genuine enthusiasm. At the same time, both he and Sutton would have, from the outset, taken up the cause of the Dbacks' team, and it would have been out there in no uncertain terms why we were justified in acting as we did, and how the Dodgers overreacted. Whether or not this assessment would have been 100% accurate, or whether it would have stemmed the national tide of reaction that seemed to go completely in favor of the Dodgers, I'm not sure, but at least the case would have been well stated, and probably brought home repeatedly during subsequent broadcasts. Sutton and Grace were very adept at taking the perspective of the Dbacks without being annoying homer announcers.
Steve and Bob are ok. Bob especially is a pro. And as I watch other broadcasts from around the league, there really isn't much to choose between. A lot of big-headed cliche-riddled announcers who might as well be fans in the bleachers, along with a lot of tediously dull announcers carefully measuring each word they say. Hard to find that middle ground. Here and there you'll find a pretty good announcer, sometimes in unexpected places like Toronto with Buck Martinez calling PBP, but nothing spectacular, so in that sense, I guess we're on par with a lot of other telecasts. Sutton and Grace, though, those guys were big league.
[This Fanpost has been promoted to the front-page after some light editing for formatting. The views expressed therein are those of the contributor alone]