Reviewing the Tom McCarthy, Ben Davis, Matt Stairs Phillies Announcing Crew


If it feels like an annual review of the new Philadelphia Phillies television announcing crew is becoming a thing, it’s because it is.

Around this time last year, I reviewed the additions of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer to the Phillies’ booth, replacing Gary “Sarge” Matthews and Chris Wheeler. Though they were improvements over their predecessors, I wrote that the two paired with Tom McCarthy didn’t feel like a long-term announcing crew.

Sure enough, Moyer resigned this past off-season to spend more time with his family, opening up the door for the Phillies to search for a second color-commentator again. Why CSN Philly feels that they need a third announcer, when Gregg Murphy is still on broadcasts as well, is beyond me. But they did, and stayed in-house this time, selecting former CSN Philly studio analyst and big-league Catcher Ben Davis to fill Moyer’s void.

Here are some of my early season takeaways from the Phillies’ third announcing crew in as many seasons.

1. Tom McCarthy is still Tom McCarthy

Though I like the current set-up much better than I did two years ago, specifically the one with Davis, nothing is going to make McCarthy any less corny. It feels as though this crew — again, specifically with Davis —  sticks more to announcing a baseball game, and less to telling corny jokes that make the listeners roll their eyes while McCarthy cackles. That’s a plus.

The definitive conclusion that I’ve come to with McCarthy is that he’s really good at calling games. I actually enjoy hearing him call football and basketball games quite a bit, because there’s no down-time for him to interject his personality into the game. In baseball, there’s too much down-time, especially given the team he’s announcing for, and not enough action-focused calls to make his style worth it. He has a very good homerun call, but when your best call rarely happens because of the team you work for, it takes away from you as an announcer.

The Booth is probably better off without Matt Stairs

Though some have enjoyed the combination thus far of Stairs and Ben Davis, I really could do without it. I don’t dislike Stairs, he’s a good guy. He knows the game and there are time where he proves his knowledge of the game. But he can’t analyze well. He isn’t at the level that Sarge was, but he’s the type of guy that you would think fits in more as a coach than an announcer. And that’s fine.

Stairs still seems to have awkwardly long pauses during some innings with McCarthy, and it isn’t simply because those two don’t work well, it’s because McCarthy is trying to call the game and carry Stairs, who doesn’t seem to have a good enough knowledge of when to speak up at times.

Also, he seems to have replaced his slew of Canadian jokes this year with awkward mentions of the no-longer present Jamie Moyer, including his recent roller coaster affair and reminding fans that Moyer would get upset when players didn’t use both hands to make a catch. 

More from Section 215

Overall, Stairs in the booth doesn’t bother me. They could do much worse, but if they want him to improve, keeping him in the booth for every series, rather than sometimes having him and McCarthy, sometimes having him, McCarthy and Davis and sometimes having just Davis and McCarthy, might go a long way in doing so. Or just making it a McCarthy/Davis duo for all 162 games could be an alternate option.

Ben Davis is better than Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs, Chris Wheeler or Gary Matthews

I get it: this isn’t saying much. Moyer was dry, Stairs is mentioned above, Sarge was brutal and Chris Wheeler is that older family member that it took your family years to force into an assisted living home.But Davis has handled moving out of the studio and into the broadcast booth, which is a drastic change for those who have never done it before, very well.

I think there have been times where he tries to force corny stories and things of that nature, but that happens when you are announcing nine-inning games 162 times a year for a bad team. I think of all the pairings that McCarthy has had in either of his tenures announcing for the Phillies, this one has been the best.

And I don’t know why, but Davis feels like someone who is invested in doing this as a job for as long as he’s permitted to do so. I never got that sense with Moyer and don’t really feel that way about Stairs.

The long-term future of Gregg Murphy

Many have echoed this over the past few years, but Gregg Murphy proved late last year when filling in for Tom McCarthy that he can handle being a play-by-play announcer. He’s going to eventually get that shot, be it in Philadelphia or somewhere else.

Some feel that his role on broadcasts in unnecessary. I’m not saying that I love the Major League notebook, but having someone to talk about different features around the park and things of that nature is a nice part of the broadcast. It’s especially nice when you think of how overqualified Murphy is to be doing it and that it keeps him as a part off the broadcasts.

Keep in mind, Tom McCarthy is in year three of a five-year deal to be the Phillies play-by-play announcer that was signed by the Phillies, prior to the new CSN Philly television deal. Since that deal went into place, CSN Philly has become the one that makes the decisions on who is in the booth, not the Phillies per say, and they disposed of Wheeler and Matthews.

I’m not saying they feel the same way about McCarthy that they did about the other two, but it’s not a secret that he isn’t loved by the fanbase. It will be interesting, assuming he doesn’t leave for another role, to see if Murphy would get consideration after the 2017 season to be the Phillies full-time play-by-play announcer.

He worked on Sportsnet Central (or whatever it was called at that time) prior to joining the broadcasts, and has done a nice job in various roles on broadcasts since joining the broadcasts prior to the 2012 season. He’d also probably be cheaper than McCarthy.

Next: Philadelphia Phillies Franchise Four