Phillies, Comcast have big shoes to fill in broadcast booth

Harry Kalas
With Chris Wheeler leaving the booth, the Phillies also lose a link to legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas.

Who says the Phillies are immune to making big changes in 2014? Longtime Phillie play-by-play man Chris Wheeler and color analyst Gary ‘Sarge’ Matthews were booted from the booth.

Wheeler had been a Phillies broadcaster since 1971. “Back when I played with the Phillies (1996-98), I spent some time with Wheels and he was a great guy,” Kansas City Royals radio broadcaster Rex Hudler said. “He’s a class act and a heck of a guy behind the microphone. I enjoyed my time there. Harry (Kalas) was obviously there at the time and as a baseball broadcaster, I look at him as the standard. It had to be a joy for Wheels to be in the booth with Harry. But Harry’s gone.”

And so is Wheeler Both Wheeler and Matthews will remain in the organization in some capacity.

It’ll be interesting to see who the Phillies add to the booth. Former closer Brad Lidge balked at the chance to return to the Phillies fold at this time.

Ricky Bottalico, who was also a Phillies closer and ex backup catcher Chris Coste are bandied about as possible replacements.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Hudler said. “You just don’t step in off the street and do the job. You have to put in the time but I love it.”

How significant is the role of a baseball broadcaster in Philly? “I think it’s big,” WXPN general manager Roger LeMay said. “Ironically the broadcasters here have had more continuity than the players over the years. They are the conduit between the fans and the team. They’re the trusted source that brings it all together. This (hire) will be significant.”

Apparently Comcast has considerable input regarding, who is in the Phillies broadcast booth. Can Comcast also have an impact on other facets of the Phillies organization? “I don’t think so,” a NL executive said. “But it’s a good idea to have the best person doing a particular job in your organization. Loyalty in baseball doesn’t usually translate to winning. You have to do what’s best for your team. The Phillies have a lot to work with. This is a team that has the resources. They just have to make the right decisions.”

The Phillies have decided to invite Jesse Biddle and Maikel Franco to spring training, along with Sebastian Valle, Mario Hollands and Ken Giles.

Biddle, the organization’s top pitching prospect, is a virtual certainty to return to the minors for more seasoning. But could the raw but talented and powerful Franco actually win the third base gig?

“If Franco has a monster spring training and (Cody Asche) has trouble, why not,” a NL scout said. “They need right handed power hitters. Franco is an intriguing prospect.”

Top Three Broadcasters in the MLB

1. Vin Scully (Dodgers)

It might be heresy in Philadelphia but Scully is the best ever, with apologies to Harry Kalas, Ernie Harwell and anyone else. Scully, who has been broadcasting Dodgers games for over a half-century, is so good that he doesn’t have a partner. Scully is insightful, unobtrusive and entertaining. He is as good as it gets.

2. Bob Uecker (Brewers)

You can’t put a price on humor. Uecker is the funniest baseball broadcaster of all-time. “I knew when my career was over,” Uecker said. “In 1965 my baseball card came out with no picture.” Rimshot, please.

3. Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper (Giants)

It’s all about the game with these understated veterans. They keep it simple but provide clever commentary.

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