According to a published report by Andy Martino of the New York Daily News and confirmation from a FOX spokesman, Joe Buck will have a new broadcast partner next season for the Saturday Game of the Week and the World Series, as Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci will be replaced by Hall of Fame pitcher and MLB Network analyst John Smoltz on the lead play-by-play team for FOX Sports’ coverage of Major League Baseball.
Heavily promoted as the successors to Ford Frick Award winner Tim McCarver, Reynolds and Verducci were met with considerable scrutiny from social media and baseball experts, who believed their analysis was often inaccurate or out of sync with the play-by-play man, creating a disjointed broadcast. The criticism and backlash reached its peak during last October’s ALDS between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays when Reynolds blasted Canadian baseball fans by implying they are not used to playing baseball nor can they catch a baseball thrown to them.
Reynolds’ frequent missteps and the technical difficulties on the FOX broadcast during Game 1 of the World Series opened the door for Smoltz, who shined as a game analyst on the international feed of the Fall Classic with Matt Vasgersian and on the secondary broadcast team during the regular season on both FOX and MLB Network.
Smoltz, 48, immediately joined Turner Sports in the same role after his retirement as an active player in 2010, earning glowing praise from his critics. Buck, 46, who has paired with three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman on FOX’s NFL broadcasts, figures to have a similar dynamic with Smoltz in a more traditional setting reminiscent to his 18 seasons with McCarver.
As for Reynolds and Verducci, FOX will likely find a new role for them either in the studio or as reporters. FOX’s sudden shakeup in the booth leaves a vacancy on Vasgersian’s team as the network surveys their options. One in-house possibility could be Eric Karros, who already teams with Vasgersian in Sony’s MLB: The Show video game series. One potential external option includes former Miami Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton, whose contract was not renewed by the club last month. FOX Sports is entering the third year of an eight-year national television contract, totaling $500 million annually through the 2021 season.