Last offseason, Fox Sports Detroit announced that it would be changing its broadcast crew for the upcoming season. Mario Impemba would continue to provide play-by-play for every game, but color commentary was to be provided by some combination of Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, and Rod Allen. The latter had been paired with Impemba as the Tigers’ everyday broadcast crew since 2002, and would now be joined by a couple of legends from the 1984 World Series team.
While the original plan was that Gibson would cover roughly a third of the games (with Allen covering significantly more than Morris), he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in April after working only a few games. FSD stated that Gibson would be welcomed back into the booth as his treatment permitted, but Tigers’ fans were still deprived of his commentary for most of the first half of the season. When "Gibby" did return it was slowly at first, but his participation has become much more common in recent weeks.
In Gibson’s absence, Allen covered the vast majority of the games as he had done for years. Fans of Allen enjoy the chemistry that he has with Impemba and the passion he injects into big moments. Known for a plethora of catchphrases and nicknames, he excels in providing cheerful entertainment. But critics are quick to point out a deficiency in meaningful baseball analysis, which may have been the catalyst for the shakeup.
That analysis has been more readily apparent when Gibson joins Impemba in the booth. While many felt that his hard-nosed football mentality as a player and his old-school approach to managing the Diamondbacks (remember that time they injured Andrew McCutchen because of some unwritten rules nonsense?) indicated that he was a bit of a meat-head, they’ve been surprised to hear Gibson discussing concepts like run expectancy and batter’s spray charts on the air. While he may not bring the same merry excitement and light-hearted banter that Allen does -- though he has loosened up considerably of late -- his success as a player and his experience as a manager offer insight that Allen hasn’t provided in years past.
Morris has been a less frequent contributor during games, but has provided his own unique perspective from the booth as well as the studio. Like Gibson, Morris’ experience as a successful player offer a new viewpoint, but his knowledge of pitching presents a number of interesting topics not covered by the other commentators. Discussions of grips and mechanics, as well as the strategy and mental aspect of pitching, have been a fresh addition this season.
While the rotation didn’t quite go according to plan, as the season winds down most fans have become accustomed to what each analyst brings to the table. Which one do you prefer?