With the baseball season passing the halfway point in the season, here is my review the broadcasters, writers and media who cover our Kansas City Royals. Please feel free to offer your input in the Comments section that follows.
Denny Matthews, Royals Radio play-by-play voice
Denny is The Voice of the Royals. He is also known as the Voice of Summer by generations of Kansas Citians like me who hear Denny and immediately think baseball. I have been a loud critic of Denny for his grumpy on-air nature and his trademark refusal to express excitement. Denny believes you save the excitement for when it really matters. I believe that is a convenient excuse for a guy who stayed too long in his job and no longer can muster the daily energy it takes to be a MLB play-by-play voice. Denny is now coddled by his audience and boss instead of held to the same standard as the team’s much-maligned GM and manager. I don’t think Denny cares anymore…except if the game is going to be over in less than three hours.
Ryan Lefebvre, Royals TV and Radio play-by-play
Lefebvre replaced Fred White in the Royals radio booth in 1999 and he was awful. I started a “Held Hostage by The Beaver” campaign and updated the growing list of days Beaver was allowed to remain on the Royals air. Ryan took the criticism that I and others leveled at him as blowback from him replacing the popular Fred White. This was not the case. It was time for Fred to go. I was excited that the Royals had hired a young voice to add to Denny’s deep Royals knowledge. But the young Beaver was as bland and forgettable as a drive through West Lenexa. But the Royals are nothing if not loyal. They stuck with Lefebvre through bad and worse, and after 15 years they have themselves a professional if not memorable play-by-play voice. Lefebvre is now my favorite voice on the Royals broadcasts – which should be a big hint as to what I think of the others in this lineup.
Steve Physioc, Royals TV and Radio play-by-play
I was actually excited when the Royals announced they had hired the former Kansas State alum and broadcaster who had spent so many years calling games for the Reds, Giants, Padres and Angels. I was always impressed with Physioc’s innate broadcast-quality pipes. His voice purred like a DJ from the 1950s. It is that same melodic, saccharine-sweet voice that makes me cringe when I tune into a Royals game now. Physioc is definitely a talent that is appreciated from afar – like seven-states-away far. He is a sickeningly sweet glob of gosh-gee-super-dooper-ness that my baseball-loving ears treats like a Billy Butler double play ball. And Physioc’s speech pattern might even be slower than Butler’s gait. It takes him so long to form a thought or complete a sentence that I am sure Denny takes his bathroom breaks during his conversations with Phys.
Rex Hudler, TV color analyst
Rex came with Physioc as part of a package deal from California. The Angels had canned the pair and the Royals picked them up off the wire for the price of whatever out-of-work MLB TV broadcasters are making nowadays. You can bet it was Walmart cheap. And just like that plastic laundry basket you bought for $2 at the local Wally, the Royals got what they paid for – a cheap imitation. Hudler is who he is – a goofy, life-loving man child who fashioned a successful career with his body not his mind. So why place him in front of a live mic and tell him to be informative and entertaining? Rex is about as prepared for his job as @feministstripper is for a job in marketing. There is a portion of the Royals fan base who love Rex’s quirkiness, goofy sayings and his friendly egoless demeanor. But people in the media all have a portion of their audience who loves them. Fescoe even has fans. Having fans is no reason to be a homer of Ruthian proportions. I just think Royals fans deserve so much more than Physioc and Hudler. My wife, who knows less about baseball than Whitlock, hears Hudler’s voice on TV as she passes through the room and says, “That guy just sounds stupid. Who is he?” That’s the guy the Royals think their fans deserve.
Steve Stewart, Royals radio play-by-play
Stewart might be the most forgettable guy in the Royals franchise. And that’s a franchise where I am counting Aaron Brooks. His role on the Royals radio broadcasts is to give score updates during the broadcasts and to fill in for Denny when he doesn’t want to make a road trip to Minnesota, Cleveland or Detroit – you know the teams in the Royals division. Stewart is a decent sounding play-by-play guy who is utterly safe – which is exactly what the Royals like in their broadcasters. Stewart has few opinions and those he does have he keeps to himself. He’s just a guy. He’s that C-minus you got in that math class you had to take. Nothing more than something to step over to get where you’re going.
Joel Goldberg, Royals TV pre- and postgame host and on-field reporter
I like Joel. He seems like an easy-going kind of guy who has never raised his voice in anger. He is perpetually upbeat – even after the Royals get their butts beat. No matter the score, you can bet Joel will find a nugget of positivity to mention to the Royals faithful. I am trying to remember a memorable interview of Goldie’s with a Royals player. They all kind of sound the same, don’t they? “Well, you had a pretty good game tonight, right?” Sideline reporters are all pretty much dreck when it comes to watchability and so Joel’s job is not an easy one. The guy is basically Slugerrr without the costume.
Andy McCollough, Royals beat writer for the Kansas City Star
The new kid on the Royals beat had some big shoes to fill when Bob Dutton retired to Tacoma, Washington to tweet about the Mariners. Dutton had a Bob Newhart sense of humor in how he interacted with his Twitter followers – and I miss that dearly. But McCullough is a capable young writer who I would take far more seriously if he didn’t look like the paper boy. This is Andy’s first season with KC, the Royals and Ned. He is just trying to survive and not get Nate Bukatied by the Royals. He plays it far too safe for my taste but the guy’s got to eat. I am hoping he gets a bit hungrier as this season progresses and starts in on some backside.
Josh Vernier, 610 Sports Royals postgame radio host
Vernier is the guy Nick Wright accused of being a nepotism hire by his old boss when he was brought here from Milwaukee to be the anchor host of 610 Sports afternoon drive show that also included Jayice Pearson and Jay Binkley. That show never worked and Vernier was left hanging when they cut Jayice and moved the football-loving Binkley to midday. To Vernier’s credit, he has found a niche as 610’s Royals insider. Is he any good? Meh… He does show up every night. I will give him that. He’s in a tough spot in that he is a twenty-something nerd who has to go face-to-face with Ned Yost and the players on an almost nightly basis. We are not going to get Bill O’Reilly out of him. Vern is ultra-protective of Ned on his show and readily shouts down callers who criticize the manager’s mistakes. The Royals probably love Vern’s show. I do not.
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