Seemingly as far back as baseball has been broadcast across the airwaves, radio and television booths have been occupied by former players employed to explain the action. In rare instances, a former player will handle the play-by-play, as George Kell did for the Tigers TV side for so many years, but most of the time, the radio team and the TV team will each have one former player.
The Wall Street Journal produced an interesting piece today, taking a maximum of two players-turned-broadcasters per team and ranking the duos by career WAR. The Twins, with Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris, ranked well ahead of the field in career WAR, with a good distance separating them from the D-backs pair of Mark Grace and Tom Candiotti.
As you might have guessed, the Tigers, with Rod Allen and Jim Price, ranked dead last. What’s worse, their career combined WAR was -1.4 (according to the WSJ article), the only team with a negative WAR. Some would say that they are below replacement level as broadcasters as well. I’ll agree that Price certainly is, but Allen has grown on me. I’d miss him if he were gone.
If we look at their careers via fangraphs, we get a slightly higher WAR. Allen played a grand total of 31 games in the major leagues with three different clubs over three different seasons. His best “season” came as a member of the 1984 Tigers, where he posted a .296 average in 31 plate appearances. He had his lone career stolen base that season and posted a WAR of 0.1. For his career, Allen’s WAR was -0.3
Price’s career was a bit longer an a shade more distinguished, but not by a lot. Price spent five years as Bill Freehan’s backup with the Tigers in the late 60s and early 70s. Like Allen, Price was a member of a World Championship team with Detroit. His best season came in 1969 when he clubbed half of his 18 career home runs and posted a .234 batting average. He was good for 0.6 WAR that season. His career WAR, according to fangraphs, was that same total: 0.6.
Between Allen and Price, the Tigers might not have the best dup of players-turned-broadcasters in baseball, but Allen has fun catch phrases like “I see ya (insert name here)” or “Stop it” when someone does something amazing. I enjoy how he refuses to ever call a home run a home run, always referring to it as “playing long ball”. Price has a personal trademark on the phrase “the art of pitching” and well, not much else.
No, the rest of baseball might have Hall of Famers behind the mics, but none of them, not one, has a highlight video quite like the one belonging to Rod Allen.