I’m in a bad mood, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the Royals have been outscored 22-3 in just 12 innings against the Indians.
My sour disposition has more to do with how I enjoy (or tolerate) Royals games.
Let’s start with some history. In 2003, the Royals had a red hot start and were in contention throughout most of the season. There was much hope and optimism for the 2004 season, but alas the Royals relapsed into another 100 loss season. 2004 was the final year of their radio broadcast contract with media conglomerate Entercom.
Meanwhile, local media company Union Broadcasting was building its empire. Starting with a small signal sports talk station, Union “grew up” in 1999 by acquiring monster signal 810 AM and moving its sports talk station to that frequency, becoming Sports Radio 810 WHB.
By 2003, WHB was the most listened to station in Kansas City. Entercom tried to grab a piece of that listenership by converting its beloved 61 Country to 610 Sports. Try as they might, 610 still couldn’t compete with 810. As country music lovers left 610, its ratings plummeted and Entercom found that competing with WHB is much harder than they anticipated.
To deliver the radio wars knockout blow, and in anticipation of an improved Royals team, Union made a huge bid for the Royals radio rights. The Royals listened. WHB’s signal is one of the most powerful in the country, but the FCC requires the signal to be reduced at sunset. Union wanted to carry the Royals on WHB, but the Royals were concerned with the reduced nighttime signal. Union agreed to simulcast night games on its struggling all music FM station, 97.3.
With the agreement in place, the Royals had a new radio home on WHB.
On the TV side, the Royals decided to create their own television network called RSTN. The goal was to increase the number of televised games and to create a new revenue stream for the Royals. It was obvious that the television broadcasts were run on a shoestring budget. Poor camera angles, sloppy graphics, and no chance to see any high definition games made for a frustrating viewing experience.
To make matters worse, the Royals forced its fans to endure the wrath of Bob Davis on the television broadcasts. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to ride this horse. Bob Davis is by far the worst baseball broadcaster on the planet. Davis has been a broadcaster for the Kansas Jayhawks for years, and he’s great for those basketball and football games. But for baseball, not so much. Davis is loud, gruff, and simply does not know how to call a baseball game. His voice inflection causes high blood pressure. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve heard Davis describe a “blast to right field!!!!!!” that is then caught by the second baseman. Also, if you listen to Davis, try to count how many times he says “out there.”
But I digress.
Suffice it to say that the television broadcasts on RSTN left much to be desired. Fortunately, the vast majority of games (at least for me) are taken in via radio, not television.
Radio is always there. Whether I’m sitting on the deck, mowing the lawn, painting a bedroom, I can always hear the Royals. My entire life has been accompanied by the Royals on radio.
It’s with that life-long devotion that I write about Royals broadcasting today.
Between 2005 and 2007, WHB created a first class broadcast for the Royals. They produced their own pre- and post-games shows that featured some great former Royals players. Freddie Patek, Brian MacRae, Jeff Montgomery, Mike Boddiker and others joined baseball fanatic Soren Petro for these pre- and post-games shows. They featured great commentary and analysis.
The game broadcasts themselves were a joy to listen to. WHB’s strong signal ensured that the Royals games would come in loud and clear in most areas. In spots where WHB’s night-time signal was difficult to receive, the FM signal produced a clear broadcast for all areas.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Denny Matthews did what he’s done since the Royals inception. His smooth delivery matched well with his partner Ryan Lefebvre who came into his own as a fine broadcaster. Together, their wry humor was a joy to listen to.
After the 2007 season, the radio broadcast rights were back up for bid. Over the previous three seasons, WHB found that the broadcasts did not produce the kind of revenue they had hoped for when they acquired the radio rights. Their proposal reflected that.
Entercom, desperate to boost 610’s fledgling ratings, also bid for the radio rights. After many negotiations, the Royals selected Entercom.
The decision is most definitely based solely on money. According to some sources, the Entercom proposal was only a couple hundred thousand dollars more than WHB’s. WHB hoped that their powerful signal combined with outstanding production would be enough to put them over the top. It wasn’t.
The Royals also dismantled it television network, and turned the television broadcasts over the Fox Sports Net. In turn, FSN created FSN Kansas City, hired Joel Goldberg and Ryan Lefebvre (luring him away from radio), agreed to broadcast select games in HD, and created an enjoyable, high quality broadcast.
With Ryan Lefebvre leaving the radio booth, Entercom hired Steve Stewart presumably to replace Lefebvre. Royals fans rejoice! It seemed Bob Davis’ days as a Royals broadcaster were over.
Then, the bombshell. Davis moved from television to the radio booth to serve as Matthews’ partner. Can somebody please explain why Stewart was hired?
All of this leads to my bad mood today.
So far this season, I’ve tried to listen to the Royals in my car, in my garage, on my deck, and as I mowed my lawn. In all cases, the static on 610 has been unbearable.
I subscribe to the Game Day Audio package on mlb.com, so I have been able to listen to the games as a webcast, but even then, Bob Davis’ scowl has caused me much heartache. (Play this game: while listening to Davis, imagine him saying “goddamn it!” after every sentence. He just sounds so angry when he talks.)
So after enjoying such high quality radio broadcasts for the past three years, I now have to deal with poor broadcast signals and terrible broadcasters. All of this for what? Less than the minimum salary of one player?
And so tonight, the Royals are losing 9-6 and I cannot listen to it.
Perhaps it’s best.