The Times They Are a-Changin’.
Legendary songwriter Bob Dylan probably isn’t a Phillies fan but his 60s’ anthem could serve as background music for what’s happening in the Phillies broadcast booth.
When the 2014 season commences Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews will be gone, as part of a new agreement between Phillies and NBCUniversal and Comcast SportsNet that covers 25 seasons and is reportedly worth $2.5 billion. The new deal allows the network increased editorial control of the broadcasts and it was reportedly the network that insisted on the changes.
Published reports indicate that the network dictated the replacement of Wheeler and Matthews, both of whom will remain with the team in other capacities.
Tom McCarthy will remain as the play-by-play man on TV, to be joined by a single analyst to be named. Ex-Phil Ricky Botalico, currently a CSN analyst, would appear to be the favorite for the post, though Ben Davis could be a possibility as well. Gregg Murphy will continue to file reports from the stands.
Scott Franzke, Larry Anderson, and Jim Jackson will stay on radio.
But the news is who will be gone.
The 68-year old Wheeler has been with the Phillies in one capacity or another since 1971 when the club moved into Veterans Stadium. He moved into the broadcast booth in 1977 and in fairly short order became a lightning rod for a sizable portion of the fan base because of his habit of overtalking and a self-aggrandizing approach.
By all accounts a wonderful ambassador for the Phillies organization, Wheeler will be missed by TV viewers the way a dental patient misses a toothache.
The 63-year old Matthews spent seven seasons on TV after a major-league career that spanned 16 seasons. He spent three of those seasons with the Phillies and was the MVP of the 1983 NLCS.
His best seasons however came with the Giants and Braves. He also played for the Cubs and briefly with Toronto.
Matthews retired with a lifetime batting average of .281 with 234 home runs and 978 RBIs.
As part of the new TV deal a portion of the schedule will be televised on NBC10. Comcast SportsNet will carry the bulk of the schedule; WPHL-TV will no longer carry Phillies telecasts.
Bottom line; Phillies telecasts will have a different feel in 2014. McCarthy is a solid play-by-play man. While he has a tendency to overtalk at times, a carryover from his days doing minor-league baseball on radio, he understands the game and how to convey information to his audience.
In the end, television is a visual medium and the broadcast booth is not a bully pulpit. Phillies fans will be re-introduced to those concepts when the new season begins.