John Rhadigan relieved of booth duties.

I can’t remember how many years ago I was first struck with the thought that Chris Davis would be an interesting catcher project, but I do recall bouncing if off several baseball people, whose reactions plotted a wide spectrum, with one suggesting mine actually wasn’t an original thought and another submitting that it was an exceedingly terrible idea.

When Alexi Ogando was Argenis Benitez, a power-hitting prospect in the A’s system, someone with the Rangers squinted his eyes and saw a pitcher.

That worked out.

When Jurickson Profar was tripping 92’s on the gun at age 16 and drawing interest from multiple clubs as a pitcher, someone with the Rangers agreed with Profar that he was actually more suited to play shortstop.

That’s working out.

Johan Yan and Macumba and Matt West are further along in their mound experiments than Emmanuel Solis ever got, but each is still a longshot to ever get as far as Pedro Strop has since his own conversion.

The idea of making John Rhadigan a big league television play-by-play man, without any experience in that job at any level, was extraordinary one, akin maybe to introducing West to the mound in Arlington, rather than in Surprise, or the Phillies deciding to slide infielder Wilson Valdez into the rotation after what he did Wednesday night.

The Rhadigan move was Jeff Zimmerman without those 81 innings on the farm.  Ogando without the 30.2 minor league frames he logged stateside.

I wasn’t upset at Zimmerman for getting hurt, didn’t hold Donald Harris accountable for not making it as a baseball player (or football player), didn’t really blame Chris Pegram for that baserunning blunder against Waco Midway in the state playoffs.

I didn’t listen to more than a few at-bats of Rhadigan’s play-by-play this season (I’m a radio guy), so I’m not going to sit here and criticize his work (or defend it) or judge the decision to relieve him of his duties less than a third into the season.  But I got plenty of emails from you all, more than a hundred the day he was hired in January, more than a hundred today after the announcement of his removal, and hundreds in between, so I have a pretty good sense of what those of you who do rely on the television sound thought.

The decisionmakers with the Rangers obviously had as much conviction this winter about Rhadigan’s ability to take his across-the-board knack of getting the job done to the play-by-play booth as I’ve had with my crazy Davis-to-catcher idea (yeah, it’s sort of too late on that since he’ll be out of options at the end of the season), but at the same time this organization has demonstrated that it will promptly make a change if it believes it will improve the product (the Alonzo Highsmith Principle, which I wrote about when Texas traded Jarrod Saltalamacchia 10 months ago).  You can debate whether Rhadigan was given enough time to get better, but I suspect the Rangers came to their conclusion after hearing from enough of the fans – the day-to-day judges of the broadcast quality – to know what they wanted to do.

I thought Tom Grieve said it perfectly in his spot with Bob & Dan on the Ticket this afternoon.  “I’m just so disappointed for John that this didn’t work out.  Because I think so much of him as a person.”

Rhadigan said all the right things on Thursday, too, which is no surprise.  “I wanted to be doing the job for 20 years,” he told ESPN’s Richard Durrett.  “But I’ll look back on this grateful that I took the risk. . . . I enjoyed the challenge.”

He’ll go back to being very good at what he did before, anchoring the television pregame and postgame shows for Fox Sports Southwest.  Steve Busby and Bryan Dolgin will split duties alongside Eric Nadel on the radio broadcast, which is what affects me, and I’m looking forward to that, as both bring plenty to the table.  Dave Barnett moves from radio number two to television play-by-play, a role that suits him better, I think.

Today, trying to figure out what to say in this report since I haven’t really listened to Rhadigan’s play-by-play, I looked back at what I wrote back in January when he was hired to call games.

I’m not backing off of anything I said then, any more than I’d concede the foolishness of my belief that it might have been worthwhile to find out if Chris Davis could have made himself an option behind the plate, other than to admit that those few months of trial that I requested weren’t enough for me to draw my own conclusion on Rhadigan’s work, even if they were enough for many of you, and for the organization.

January 20, 2011

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 are 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.

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