The World Series will have new voices in 2016.
Fox confirmed on Tuesday that Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci (who is a senior baseball writer for Sports Illustrated) will no longer serve as the lead analysts on its baseball broadcast package, which includes the All-Star Game MLB postseason and World Series. The new team will consist of longtime play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News was the first to report the news.
“I think the opportunity to add someone with the credentials of John Smoltz was just something too hard to pass up,” said Fox Sports executive producer John Entz. “He's been doing broadcasting for the past four to five years and to see his growth trajectory has been remarkable. To hear John Smoltz calling the World Series, a guy who has played in many World Series games, we think this will be a great fit for viewers.”
Smoltz and Fox came to an agreement last Wednesday, with the pitcher being in a very advantageous situation. Fox would not confirm who Smoltz was negotiating with along with them but industry sources said ESPN was prepared to give Smoltz a role on its Sunday Night Baseball coverage.
Verducci and Reynolds ended up serving just two years each as part of Fox's game broadcast team, with both taking over as Buck's partners after the retirement of Tim McCarver following the 2013 season. Reynolds, who has worked for Fox since 2012, has also worked as a studio analyst for the MLB Network since its launch in 2009 and previously was as a studio analyst for ESPN's baseball coverage from 1996 to 2006. Verducci has been writing for SI since 1993 and, like Reynolds, has been a studio analyst for the MLB Network since 2009. Entz said Verducci will continue on as a game analyst, working next season with a still-to-be-determined announcer.
The news of their departure is not surprising, given that the three-person booth received mixed reviews both for the number of voices and for Reynolds being miscast as a No. 1 game analyst. Entz said that a potential role for Reynolds was still being worked out. “We think Harold has a lot of fantastic qualities and has been a true professional,” Entz said. “We hope the relationship continues.”
Smoltz was hired by Fox in 2014—he has worked for the MLB Network as a game and studio analyst since 2010—and had mostly been paired with play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian. That duo called this year’s World Series for the MLB International feed, which ended up being the United States' main broadcast feed for during the fourth inning of Game 1 after an electronics failure for Fox, with both the primary and backup generators inside the Fox Sports production compound losing power. After about five minutes of broadcast confusion—viewers missed the Royals' Kendrys Morales striking out before play was held up—Fox picked up the MLB International feed. Eventually, Buck, Reynolds and Verducci took over the MLB International broadcast booth, which was located next to Fox’s at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, taking the mics from Vasgersian and Smoltz.
“I am extremely excited to be able to continue my broadcasting career with Fox Sports, and I am honored to be named lead analyst alongside Joe Buck,” Smoltz said, in a statement. “Joe is a good friend of mine and the best in the business. He's someone I have known and respected for a long time, and I am really looking forward to getting to work with him on a more regular basis. This is a tremendous opportunity, and I couldn't be happier.”
On the studio front, Entz confirmed that he expects Pete Rose to return to the set in 2016. "Pete wants to come back and we want him back," Entz said. "We expect him to be with us."