Wheels and Sarge Out on Phillies Broadcasts

Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press is reporting on Twitter from both his verified personal account and his AP account that Chris Wheeler and Gary “Sarge” Matthews have been relieved of their duties as part of the Phillies broadcast team.

[Update: The report has been verified by the Phillies, per Matt Gelb.] If true, it will be interesting to see who replaces the duo to team up with Tom McCarthy. Obviously, there are a ton of ex-Phillies in the broadcast world who could step into the booth at Citizens Bank Park such as Mitch Williams or Ricky Bottalico. Given that Tom McCarthy is still around, it is hard to see the Scott Franzke/Larry Andersen radio team being broken up [Update: it won't, per Todd Zolecki], with Andersen moving to the TV.

Emblematic of the franchise as a whole, the Phillies’ broadcast was consistently one of the least informative. National broadcasts have implemented Sabermetrics — or, at the very least, on-base percentage — for years, and many local broadcasts were including it as well. For example, thanks to Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, Chicago’s WGN was helping fans get better informed. The subject of analytics was routinely brushed off or ignored on Phillies broadcasts, as they repeatedly went to the well of old, disproven baseball tropes. Hopefully, as the new team is assembled, they make some sort of effort to be more inclusive of modern statistics.

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48 comments

  1. Matt

    January 08, 2014 01:00 PM

    The analytics indictment, while certainly accurate, goes all the way up the chain, though, not just the on-air personnel. The producer could certainly work it in if they wanted to (with expected pushback from on-air).

  2. joecatz

    January 08, 2014 01:02 PM

    get ready for the Ricky Bo era folks (though Brad Lidge would be my personal choice. this certainly has to do with the comcast deal, and the change in broadcast rights starting this season, and purely speculating here, but its quite likely that someone from the comcast team ends up here, and Ricky Bo is probably the guy.

  3. Pete

    January 08, 2014 01:03 PM

    Franzke and Anderson in the booth.

    Jackson and whoever on radio.

    T-Mac, SAFE AND SECURE!!!, to the sun.

  4. sweatingisnormal

    January 08, 2014 01:26 PM

    That Cubs guy is a bit insufferable….he doesn’t just use advanced stats, but he’s got to make a point that it’s advanced stats EVERY game. I hope philly brings in someone mature w/o the need to keep treating stats as a novelty and focus of the discussion instead of as just a useful tool.

  5. Bubba0101

    January 08, 2014 01:30 PM

    Long live LA and Franzke! Death to tyranny! Wait, I got carried away. This has needed to happen since before Wheels got the lead. Kalas never like Wheels and Richie Ashburn despised him. He’s very weaselly and not trust worthy. And hes a terrible announcer to boot. Im more happy about this than I would be if they magically signed Tanaka.

  6. Sainthubbins

    January 08, 2014 01:44 PM

    CHARLIE FOR COLOR COMMENTATOR

  7. JDS

    January 08, 2014 01:48 PM

    Get Harry Kalas’ kid in here!

  8. Jeff

    January 08, 2014 01:52 PM

    I am glad to see them go! It is unfortunate to hear McCarthy will be staying.

    Franzke and Anderson are the best.

  9. Major Malfunction

    January 08, 2014 02:13 PM

    Sabermetrics? In the booth? Not when we have delightful insights from Sarge like “the pitcher got up in his kitchen” or Wheels saying, I don’t know, about 10 minutes that “the batter is in a mixup rather than a slump since that’s what Jim Fergosi called them 30 years ago”.

    My tears of sorrow are falling only slight faster than last year’s ratings.

  10. Ginner207

    January 08, 2014 02:14 PM

    This is awesome, I couldn’t stand Sarge’s raspy voice. I wouldn’t mind Ricky Bo getting in there. He’s a straight shooter on the post game show. Larry Anderson and Scott Franzke would be awesome but I know it’s not happening. To go from Harry Kalas to what we had the past few years was a huge fall off.

  11. bill

    January 08, 2014 02:32 PM

    I could see them move greg murphy into the booth and have ricky bo take his place.

  12. jonny 5

    January 08, 2014 02:44 PM

    I will miss Sarge, I just liked him but not sure why… But this includes Wheels being relieved of his duties so, WOOT WOOT! Don’t let the door hitcha in da a$$e$ fellas!!

  13. Rob78

    January 08, 2014 03:08 PM

    Gelb says it will be a comcast employee, not phillies.

  14. Tim

    January 08, 2014 03:11 PM

    Sarge was ridiculous, but at least in an entertaining manner. I always enjoyed his odd speaking cadences and strange turns of phrase (Cadillac Time was always a favorite). Wheels, on the other hand, will not be missed by me at all.

  15. Greggo

    January 08, 2014 03:16 PM

    Sooo without Wheels, how am I going to know when either team goes into that “No doubles, don’t-hit-it-over-my-head defense” ?

    Ah geez.

  16. JM

    January 08, 2014 03:21 PM

    I could care less about sabermetrics on the air. I watch a game to see the players play. The fact that Utley has not had a hit on the 5th Sunday in February off of the ice cream delivery guy with prevailing winds from the seasonal nor’easter after midnight in the last decade, doesn’t make my day when he does or doesn’t get a hit. Display the stat, and move on. If you want to deliberate moves made my the GM and manager after the games, by all means, use every tool at your disposal. Construct your roster based on every tool. Leave the 2% chance of scoring a run whenever Howard has a cherry dipped ice-cream cone in the dugout out of the on-air experience.

  17. PapaHanz

    January 08, 2014 03:22 PM

    Or listening to Wheels using the phrase “that pitch was middle in” about twelve times a game.

  18. Matthew

    January 08, 2014 03:27 PM

    “I watch a game to see the players play. The fact that Utley has not had a hit on the 5th Sunday in February off of the ice cream delivery guy with prevailing winds from the seasonal nor’easter after midnight in the last decade, doesn’t make my day when he does or doesn’t get a hit.”

    This is not sabermetrics; it’s useless anecdotal information.

  19. JM

    January 08, 2014 03:27 PM

    ok, so it was a little over the top. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am not relieved when the math works out. It is not why I watch a game. If you want to know that your team has less than 1% chance of winning on any given play, you are more of a defeatist that I would care to be. AFTER the game is when I want to know that stuff, not during. Enjoy the players playing in the moment. That is all…

  20. Bill Baer

    January 08, 2014 03:28 PM

    I imagine your point of view is one shared by a majority of casual viewers, JM, so I don’t expect them to change much, if anything, beyond the names.

  21. JM

    January 08, 2014 03:36 PM

    don’t get me wrong Bill, I love the math. It does drive the game and should be paramount in decisions made on and off the field, I just don’t want to think about it while I am hoping minimart actually hits the ball

  22. Bubba0101

    January 08, 2014 03:44 PM

    I think they could incorporate OPS and WHIP instead of rbi’s and Wins. That would do for advanced statistics now.

  23. Bubba0101

    January 08, 2014 03:45 PM

    Platoon splits and UZR can wait for next year…

  24. SJHaack

    January 08, 2014 03:49 PM

    I would be exceptionally disappointed if the new color guy was one of the way too blustery ex-Phillies guys who’s already worked for the network.

    I hate feeling positive feelings from someone losing their job, so knowing they’ve not been fired is nice. Just… put Chris Wheeler somewhere that I don’t have to listen to him.

  25. edwin

    January 08, 2014 04:02 PM

    In an otherwise lackluster off-season this is good news.

  26. WayneKerrins

    January 08, 2014 04:18 PM

    Wheeler and shadows…gone forever.

  27. PhilsFanSam

    January 08, 2014 04:21 PM

    @Sainthubbins – “Mumbles” Manuel as color commentator – now, that was funny!

  28. Just Bob

    January 08, 2014 05:16 PM

    So a TV broadcast where they have plenty of visuals that can display factual information/numbers should be cluttered up with a bunch of additional numbers too?

    That would definitely make sure for a verbally pleasing product.

  29. hhoran

    January 08, 2014 06:17 PM

    I’m going to miss Wheels in one critical area. The big challenge over a baseball season is that a lot of games aren’t that interesting, especially with teams as mediocre as the Phillies. Wheels could at least talk about Phillies history or go off on other anecdotes to keep the broadcast from totally imploding. Sarge seemed to have a more engaging personality, but no no story-telling ability, and any attempts quickly devolved into pure cliche.
    The problem in many markets is that the cable company paying the bills wants a “modern” broadcaster skilled at delivering the 300 promos and on-air ads required by today’s economics. Which McCarthy can do, but with an overly bombastic tone that quickly grates, and grates quite a lot over the course of a long season. Compare to people like Don Orsillo or Gary Cohen who have to deliver just as many ads without grating (and bring much more baseball knowledge, and mesh better with their colormen). Wheels, Sarge and LA have absolutely no aptitude for promo/ad/plugs, which I suspect is one of the reasons none will be in the TV booth going forward. The new TV person will have quite a challenge–they’ll need to replace Wheel’s knowledge of Phillies history, they’ll have all the color duties (since McCarthy contributes none) plus more of the ad/promo duties to help Comcast recover its fees. I’m not optomistic

  30. Larry

    January 08, 2014 08:13 PM

    Ricky Bo would be a decent choice. McCarthy isn’t bad, he’s just not HK. Growing up listening to HK and Whitey was pretty entertaining. Kalas would give you goosebumps with his enthusiastic voice.

    I’m not a Chris Wheeler hater, but he just doesn’t have the excitement in his commentary.

    I won’t miss Sarge talking about how to square up a baseball.

    An entertaining 3 man team would actually be Mc carthy, Ricky Bo, and……wait for it……Ben Revere. lol

    One day Jimmy Rollins could be a commentator. He did some work during the WS this year, not too shabby.

  31. derekcarstairs

    January 09, 2014 04:06 AM

    Traditional baseball people have talked about hard contact forever, as it applies to both hitters and pitchers. Traditionalists also know the importance of a walk and a strikeout.

    Most of the story about pitcher and hitter effectiveness can be told by focusing just on walks, strikeouts and hard contact.

    The sabermetrics community should do a better job of selling their work to all of baseball. Instead, what we have are some statistical elitists trying to show how smart they are and how dumb a lot of baseball people are.

    In the last few years, Sportsvision has been developing HIT f/x to measure hard contact. HIT f/x data, combined with walk and strikeout stats, can be used to develop a new and better set of stats that would replace (and be more comprehensive than) FIP, xFIP, BABIP and wOBA. Such new stats would be most beneficial because they are easy to understand conceptually and easy to sell to traditionalists.

  32. Oskar

    January 09, 2014 09:44 AM

    I won’t miss Wheels starting in on a five-minute lecture whenever a pitcher fails to get a bunt down or his peculiar crusade against the evils of sliding head first or one of the handful of other personal picadillos he had about how the game should be played that he treated as truisms that that he was personally responsible for teaching, through endless repetition, to every young child who was watching the broadcast and aspired to someday play the game of baseball, THE RIGHT WAY.

    He’d say the same damn thing every damn night. As if the pain of being forced to subscribe to Comcast to watch this poorly constructed team wasn’t insult enough, I had to listen to that doofus drone on and on about the same stupid stuff every night.

    Gaaaah! I’m having flashbacks!!! Just SHUT UP! Wheels, I GET IT! You like bunting and you think someone may hurt a finger by sliding headfirst!!! GREAT! MOOOOVE ON!!!

    AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

    THANK GOD HE’S GONE!

  33. joecatz

    January 09, 2014 10:26 AM

    “I imagine your point of view is one shared by a majority of casual viewers, JM, so I don’t expect them to change much, if anything, beyond the names.”

    I don’t know Bill, I think that view is shared by a good portion of analytical fans as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the broadcast team cite OBP and UZR and FIP and make a few points here and there about wins not being that important to pitchers

    “you know, everyone is down on Hamels right now, becuase he hasn’t won a game since X, but his peripherals are fantastic, and his walks and strikeouts are better than last year… whats different is the defense behind him…”

    that kind of stuff here and there, but its not something I want slammed down my throat every inning of every game. especially if its packed with no emotion and pure analytical discussion. I want smart, passionate broadcasters, who make the game more enjoyable. I want them to bring to the TV the atmosphere at the park so I feel like I’m actually there.

    does that make sense?

  34. Scott G

    January 09, 2014 10:33 AM

    They took down chriswheelerglossary.com ???

    Also, to those complaining about the potential to add sabermetrics/analytics to the broadcast. “Here’s the thing about statistics… you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to.” Don’t pay attention to them if they get incorporated. But I know that me and others who comment here would probably appreciate the more objective side of analysis introduced into Phillies broadcasts so we don’t have to hear people give tired cliches.

  35. Scott G

    January 09, 2014 10:38 AM

    joecatz,

    I don’t think anyone is asking for drones. Maybe just what some here see as elevated level discourse that isn’t riddled with cliche’s that a blatantly untrue.

    Maybe someone who will explain to the more casual viewer that empirical evidence shows that most bunts are detrimental to scoring runs, or that fielding percentage probably isn’t the greatest way to evaluate players defensive abilities.

  36. Just Bob

    January 09, 2014 12:01 PM

    You don’t have time during a TV broadcast to go off on a numerically-oriented diatribe or explain complicated strategy either. It has to be concise and poignant. That isn’t easy to do.

    Color analyst also won’t have a job for long either if he chooses to criticize or second-guess the manager and the team on a regular basis either.

  37. joecatz

    January 09, 2014 12:17 PM

    “Maybe someone who will explain to the more casual viewer that empirical evidence shows that most bunts are detrimental to scoring runs”

    the first time a color guy does that as a local broadcaster, is likely the last time he does it, because it would not be construed as forwarding the mentality of the game, it would be construed as second guessing the organization and the managers ability to do their job.

    there’s a fine line between what you should say and what you CAN say in a public forum.

    look, I’m all for adding analytics everywhere, and shifting the focus from RBI’s and W’s in the booth to more progressive numbers, but theres a point where its just overkill, unecessary, and counter prodcutive to both the on field product, the ratings and other stuff that its literally the last thing they should be worrying about right now in terms of an announcer.

  38. joecatz

    January 09, 2014 12:19 PM

    “Also, to those complaining about the potential to add sabermetrics/analytics to the broadcast. “Here’s the thing about statistics… you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to.” Don’t pay attention to them if they get incorporated. But I know that me and others who comment here would probably appreciate the more objective side of analysis introduced into Phillies broadcasts so we don’t have to hear people give tired cliches.”

    balance is what they need. and intelligence. and passion. all combined into one person.

  39. Scott G

    January 09, 2014 12:31 PM

    Just Bob,

    It is easy to do if all you say is “empirical studies have been done that show that bunting is a poor strategy when it comes to trading advancement of runners for outs. The outs are more important.” If that was said as often as “safe and secure with New York Life”, I’m sure it would start to set in.

    Just Bob and Joecatz,

    How about the announcer mentions it when the opposing team bunts? I don’t think the front office would be smart enough to figure out that the same rules apply for this team, and maybe if they just randomly heard an announcer say it on the broadcast, they’d start thinking.. “hey maybe we should look into this and tell our manager about it.”

    Joecatz,

    I think I completely agree with your last comment.

    I just want more casual fans to start realizing that the things they’ve had hammered into their heads for the last million years through daily game broadcasts a)might not tell the whole story, or b) might not even be true.

  40. Major Malfunction

    January 09, 2014 02:30 PM

    As an example of advanced statistics rather than just saying “don’t throw it middle in” 57 times a game, Wheels could have easily JUST ONCE showed pitch stats showing a batter’t hot zone OPS for different pitches…..or showed the pitcher’s results when pitching middle in.

    See, that’s not getting overly complicated and its easy data that any viewer can see. Instead, you get “don’t through middle in to left handers” over and over and over and over and over and over and over….

    Let’s not even talk about the complete lack of statistics to back up his usual diatribes concerning bunting, sliding head first, when you should or should not steal, no doubles defense, etc.

    All right up there with the RBI being an important benchmark of judging a good hitter.

  41. Joecatz

    January 09, 2014 08:14 PM

    I assume (or at least hope) that your kidding about that. But c’mon. A broadcaster who covered the game for 37 years knows what OPS is. Whether he chooses to cite or believe in its credibility is a different story and his prerogative.

    But to believe Chris Wheeler, or any person playing, managing, working in a front office, reporting on, or broadcasting a baseball game at the major league level wouldn’t know what OPS is is just a silly thing to say.

  42. amarosucks

    January 10, 2014 11:42 AM

    ‘your kidding’. nice

    Glad they are finally making changes. I don’t know one phillies fan who likes wheeler (or mccarthy for that matter…sad to see he’s sticking around).

    I don’t want a caveman ex-player like Ricky Bo or especially mitch williams. I can’t really think of any ex-phillies who would be good fits. Jim Thome maybe?

  43. Ken

    April 05, 2014 04:12 PM

    Yeah – just what we need. More stats. Pretty soon there will only be robots and cameras on the field. No offense, but Tom McCarthy is flat-out annoying. Comcast/NBC, another “I-inherited-it-from-daddy”-owned company that will no doubt screw things up more and more as time goes on.

  44. Ken

    April 05, 2014 04:57 PM

    It’s a friggin’ game, guys. They’re not tryin’ to land a rocket on a comet or calculate the curve of the Universe. Tim McCarver — who if it weren’t for being the personal catcher of Steve Carlton you would have never heard of — Tim McCarver was the first guy I remember to over-analyze the game until it wasn’t fun anymore. For 3/4′s of my life, the only stats anyone cared about were the batting average and what’d the guy do today. The point is the game, and it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. It used to be fun. We live in the age of instantaneous-digital-tsunami-puke-overkill big data. And you what it gets you? More crap to weed through. It counts for zip. For every thing that science or technology brings us, it opens 10,000 back doors which will come and hit us in the butts,. I.e., anti-biotics: at first, good. Then overused, renders them useless. Drones – how long before the Taliban fires one at you? Analytics. What a pile of insignificant crap. I wanna’d see Mickey Mantle hit, not his stats. And I did see him, and Mays, and Musial, Snider, Berra, Aaron. And they didn’t need any analytics, or fancy equipment, etc. Now that Wheels is gone, and Whitey and Harry the K. and Sarge, there is no more continuity remotely resembling a Phillies legacy. Now it’s just numbers, and data, manned by strangers, and it’s all just business. A good announcer paints a picture with words. Larry Andersen is a great announcer. That’s why he’s so great on radio. But he should be the new Harry Kalas, ’cause he’s got the voice, the sense of humor, the smarts, the experience….everything but the anchor job, because he isn’t a perky little brown-nose like McCarthy. You can hear T-Mac speaking in a deeper than normal voice, so he can ‘project’ better. Shades of Joe Buck. But hey: that’s all just my opinion. I guess we’d better defer to whatever the analytics have to say.

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