I don’t often take great note of Twitter trends, but as most of you know, I have an opinion about Mark Grace and his television broadcast presence in the booth with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies during recent Cubs games. My opinion basically coincides with these tweets I found Tuesday evening:
I really feel like Mark Grace steals JD’s thunder on these broadcasts. JD can’t spread his wings and be the natural funny guy on the spot. He’s gotta ride backseat as a gracious host to Grace’s God awful attempts at self-depreciating humor.— Cody Hills (@ByCodyHills) August 5, 2020
@WatchMarquee I loved watching Mark Grace play. I love listening to Len and J.D. do the broadcasts. See what I did there?— WPB (@wpb0516) August 5, 2020
Sorry, @WatchMarquee sports, please stop with Mark Grace. Can’t listen to this again, he’s awful and painful to listen to. Completely disrupts the flow between Len and J.D.. If it ain’t broke...— Alan Rubenstein (@UWBigAl) August 5, 2020
Why does Marquee insist on forcing the most awkward Jim Deshaies and Mark Grace interactions ever?— Jody Gage Memorial Tweet Machine (@CerowB) August 5, 2020
I love Mark Grace, but I hate the ESPN model of so many voices in the booth. Maybe a guest for an inning, but the entire game, every game is too much. A Play by play and color man is all they need.— michael (@talentedassclwn) August 5, 2020
The fans love Mark Grace the “broadcaster”! pic.twitter.com/B2rxdFqCp2— Irrational Hawkeye (@IrrationalHawk) August 5, 2020
There were many, many more along those lines, but you get the idea.
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.
These are Grace’s actual words from that clip: “I don’t think Zuber is foolish enough to actually be pitching around a pinch-hitter in Happ.”
Ian Happ started the game in center field and at the time of that comment, in the bottom of the seventh inning, he had already batted twice.
So is Grace just not paying attention to the game? Or is he so focused on adding his “wisdom” — which really wasn’t, he didn’t add anything to Jim Deshaies’ question — that he forgot Happ had been in the game all along? In any event, what he said there added nothing useful to the broadcast.
This has been Grace’s problem all the way back to his time as a Diamondbacks analyst on Fox Sports Arizona. Grace didn’t get much criticism from local media in Phoenix during his time there, likely due to his status as a D-backs 2001 World Series hero, but having listened to him on a few FS Arizona broadcasts, he ... wasn’t good. Most of his “analysis” turned out to be largely irrelevant stories about his own career, something he’s also done quite a bit during his Marquee appearances. Incidentally, Grace is still working for FS Arizona on pre- and post-game shows.
The larger issue, in my view, is the three-person booth. There’s really never enough time for three people to comment on a sports event and get all the commentary to be cogent AND call the game. Add in a fourth field reporter and the broadcast air really gets crowded. Most national sports broadcasts — MLB and NFL — are doing that sort of thing these days, and Marquee has promised us a “network-quality” broadcast. The problem is that this is a bad idea at the national level and local channels shouldn’t be emulating it.
From a Cubs standpoint, Len and JD have been a broadcast team together for seven full seasons coming into 2020 and had developed a real good rapport. Throw someone else in there and it just sounds clunky, as noted in some of the tweets above. I will grant that having Len and JD at Wrigley and Grace at his home in Arizona is awkward, especially for timing purposes, but that doesn’t excuse Grace apparently not paying attention to the game. Grace was with Len and JD in the booth at Sloan Park during some spring-training broadcasts and I felt the same about him then as I do now: Too cluttered in the booth and not enough useful additions to the broadcast to make it worth having him.
For fairness’ sake I will note that I did see some tweets Tuesday evening complimenting Grace on his TV work, though it seemed the negative ones outnumbered the positive by a significant margin. If Marquee really wants Grace on the air to capitalize on his popularity, maybe have him do pre- and post-game shows. There are some people (Alex Rodriguez, for example) who are very good in studio work, but not so much during live games.
Grace spent 13 seasons in a Cubs uniform and was on two Cubs postseason teams, hit .308 as a Cub (13th in franchise history), had 2,201 hits in blue pinstripes (fifth in franchise history) and hit some memorable walkoff home runs, including this one during the 1998 playoff chase [VIDEO].
Look at the happiness on Grace’s face on that clip as he circles the bases. That’s the joy he brought to us as Cubs fans, and I’ll certainly remember moments like that forever. I will absolutely grant Mark Grace his lifetime status as “beloved former Cub.” On the air, though? Grace is just not good. Please, Marquee, spare us from more, and bring back the two-person booth with just Len and JD, and field reporter Taylor McGregor.
Mark Grace in the Cubs broadcast booth...
This poll is closed
Yes! Love him there!
No... he’s not good. Take him out of the booth.
Don’t care either way