The MLB Network is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale television sports universe. For those of you who actually get the channel and have watched it at length on an evening when your favorite team is off, you know what I mean. From 6PM to midnight, the good folks in Secaucus, New Jersey show us live look-ins, highlights, and full recaps in their MLB Tonight studio show. It is pretty much ego-free and none of the hosts puff out their feathers with wacky producer-fed theories simply to generate contention in the studio. The hosts are capable, the highlights are well-produced, and the segues have been seamless.
It's not hard to succeed with a news-y show when the content provided is so outrageously good, but I salute the network for not completely screwing up such a great opportunity to bring six hours of pure baseball to American (sorry, Canada) households.
But for those of us old enough to remember watching SportsCenter in the early 90s, we know that sometimes egos get inflated and feelings get hurt and new people show up to screw up good things. When will our honeymoon period with the MLB Network end? And if it does end, how will it all go down? Perhaps my worst nightmare will come true and each of the new on-air talent team will devolve into an ESPN anchor, hastening my inevitable displeasure with the net.
So I ask, if an MLB Network host falters and gets worse, which ESPN personality will they become? And I answer in listicle form:
Matt Vasgersian: He's the one most likely to put on an extra 125 pounds of weight, start revealing his passion for adult-oriented rock from the 1970s and 80s, become an unapologetic drunk and chauvinistic manslut, and become a new Chris Berman. The other sad possibility is, thanks to Vasgersian's past stint as host of the Battlebots show on Comedy Central, he becomes a latter-day baseball version of Sean Salisbury.
Barry Larkin: He's a former Reds middle infielder who had a stellar glove and hit well, he was very successful stealing bases and even won a World Series with the Reds. In his post-baseball life he has coached a bit but found his comfort zone on television. The comparisons with Joe Morgan are uncanny. I fully expect that once Larkin tires of demonstrating good fielding stances on the faux infield of Studio 42, he'll demand to become the color commentator for the MLB Network weekly game and espouse the theory that computers are ruining the game.
Dan Plesac:When I heard that Dan Plesac was hired by the MLB Network, I tried to remember anything he ever did besides play for the 80s Brewers. I thought he dropped out of the game in 1991 and retreated to a solitary life of recluse somewhere in the Himalaya Mountains. Untrue! He played until 2003 and then did some broadcast work for the Cubs. Now, he's showing off his smart personality in the MLB Network studio and is unafraid to poke fun at himself, like the time he recalled giving up a tater tot to Cecil Fielder that completely left County Stadium. Unfortunately, another MLB TV personality who was unafraid to poke fun at himself was Rob Dibble, who somehow combined self-deprecation with utter stupidity.
Mitch Williams: He's a former Phillie, he's outspoken, he's got a body type that lends itself to corpulence if workouts are ignored, and he might be slightly insane when dealing with authority figures from the opposite gender. This smells just like what John Kruk has cooking over at Baseball Tonight on ESPN. Mitch, if you want to avoid your alternative Krukian future, don't make your opinions reflect an exact duplicate to the little tinny voice in your ear.
Harold Reynolds: If we, as viewers, are lucky, Harold Reynolds will always be Harold Reynolds, the sweet, folksy, somewhat oblivious commentator we've always known and loved throughout his ESPN career, his sad forced departure from the network, and his phoenix-like rise from the ashes of sexual harassment at the new MLB Network. Welcome back, Harold Reynolds! We missed you! Don't ever change! Or invite me to Boston Market!