It was just 11 days ago that I wrote this article asking Marquee Sports Network to take Mark Grace off the air. My main criticisms at the time:
Beyond Grace’s sing-songy, raspy voice that can really grate on the listener, there was at least one point in Tuesday night’s broadcast where he simply wasn’t paying attention to the game.
During Saturday’s game, it got worse. A lot worse:
This is why Cubs great Mark Grace is trending pic.twitter.com/5M857OqFfU— tony pierce (@busblog) August 15, 2020
Apparently calling your ex-wife The Dingbat several times gets peoples’ attention. pic.twitter.com/sAohfF4AEx— tony pierce (@busblog) August 15, 2020
If you don’t want to watch the videos above, or can’t stand Grace’s screechy voice, here’s the summary of what he said:
My favorite part of Mark Grace's rambling tirade on @WatchMarquee programming about his ex wife ("Dingbat" Michelle Liotta) was the part where he implied he'd physically abuse ("go Archie bunker on") her for a minor parking mistake— Infield Fly Girl (@infieldflygrl) August 15, 2020
And when “Infield Fly Girl” says “my favorite,” I’m pretty sure she means “the worst.”
It was bad, and Marquee knew it was bad — Grace offered an apology for the remarks on the postgame show:
“During today’s game I referred to my ex-wife in a way that I absolutely should not have,” Grace said in a statement. “I want everyone to know how very sorry I am about that. My remarks were offensive and inappropriate, and I deeply apologize.”
By then it’s way too late, though. Why would Marquee want something like this on their air in the first place? They can’t say they didn’t know what sort of person Mark Grace is, because this tweet, which I posted in my recap to Saturday’s game, sums up the trouble with putting Mark Grace on TV:
“You know who could really add class to our broadcast? The slumpbuster king.”— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) August 15, 2020
All of this has been well known for years. After retiring as a player, Grace was an analyst for Diamondbacks games on Fox Sports Arizona from 2004-12. I watched some of those games via MLB Extra Innings. Grace was just as bad on those games as he’s been on his handful of appearances on Marquee, except D-backs fans had to listen to him for the entire game instead of just the middle innings, as was the case Saturday. The problem can be summed up this way:
He was able to get away with his stuff in the past, and in a smaller market.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) August 15, 2020
Much of his stuff today will not fly (and for good reason), and especially on a major regional network. https://t.co/kcftoX1e8M
And that raises another issue, because Marquee’s problems with game coverage go far beyond this. Here’s a good summary of the biggest one:
Cubs fans want to hear Len and JD on the broadcast. They have been the staple for Cubs baseball on TV for years. No one wants to hear Mark Grace ramble on about his ex wife calling her a “dingbat” while the Cubs are playing.— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) August 15, 2020
Really hope Marquee sticks to Len & JD during games.
Marquee promised Cubs fans “network quality broadcasts.” The trouble with this is that national networks often dumb down their telecasts to try to attract more casual fans. Cubs fans neither want nor need that. Even the most casual Cubs fan is watching the game because they want to watch the game — not all the sideshow nonsense that many times distracts from watching the game. Len Kasper has been the Cubs’ TV play-by-play announcer since 2005 and he’s the best in the business, in my opinion. Jim Deshaies is in his eighth year sharing the booth with Len, and the two have become a strong team, weaving advanced stats and humor into their coverage of the game. When it’s just the two of them, they don’t miss calling plays, as has happened at times when a third person is added.
This might sound harsh, but I cannot think of a single thing Marquee does better during game broadcasts that we had via WGN, NBC Sports Chicago and ABC7 over the last five years. I’ve mentioned previously this scorebox, which in my view is the worst in MLB:
This, in my view, is Marquee trying to reinvent the wheel. The best scoreboxes are in the upper left, like this one (and I also miss having the “pitchcast” box, showing all the pitches from an at-bat, as seen here):
There are just too many bells and whistles in Cubs broadcasts now, seemingly added for “Look at me!” reasons. Just cover the game, Marquee, and leave the booth to Len and JD, with Taylor McGregor occasionally from the field. (Incidentally, Grace insulted McGregor during his rant on Saturday, too. I hope he apologized personally to her.)
Between the completely unnecessary dressing-up of Len and JD in suits and ties — the forced formality puts a distance between Cubs fans and their broadcasters — the bad scorebox graphic and the forcing of a three-person booth (which never, ever works well because there’s never, ever enough time for three people to talk cogently about a game), Marquee has taken seven decades’ worth of Cubs fans’ relationship with their TV broadcasts and pretty much trashed them in just three weeks. So far, the only advantage I’ve seen to Marquee is that all the games are on one channel instead of three.
So I’m calling for Marquee to publicly announce that Mark Grace will no longer appear on their air. As I have previously written, I will grant Grace his status as “beloved former Cub.” Please don’t subject us to this sort of nonsense during game broadcasts again. Further, even though some others (in particular, Ryan Dempster, whose pitching insights have been useful) have been okay joining Len and JD, we really don’t need nor want to hear three voices during the game, and I’d like to see Marquee dump this as well.
I want to like Marquee’s programming, truly I do. Cole Wright does a good job on the pre- and post-game shows and certainly, having other Cubs-centric shows on one channel gives Cubs fans a place for them to turn for almost anything Cubs they’re looking for.
But the game broadcasts leave much to be desired. I’ve noted some of the easy fixes they could do to improve them above. And they can begin by never, ever having Mark Grace on their air again.