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ESPN praised for new-look "SNB" booth; skepticism for A-Rod/Kay alternative

Alternate broadcast featuring Alex Rodriguez gets him out of the conventional "SNB" booth after four awkward seasonsESPN IMAGES

ESPN "absolutely got [it] right" with the "reshuffling this past week of its 'Sunday Night Baseball' broadcast," hiring David Cone from YES Network and teaming him with play-by-play voice Karl Ravech and analyst Eduardo Perez in its conventional booth, according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Cone is a "super analyst -- humorous, anecdotal, and astute," while also possessing the "inquisitiveness to have developed a solid grasp of analytics." Perez is "another affable ex-player with the ability to talk analytics in layman’s terms," who has been part of ESPN’s alternative “Statcast” broadcasts, and Ravech is a "more than suitable option." With this trio, ESPN "finally has an appealing broadcast team worthy of what has become the premier MLB broadcast package." Meanwhile, ESPN's newly introduced "Sunday Night Baseball with Kay-Rod," an alternate broadcast featuring Alex Rodriguez and Yankees TV play-by-play voice Michael Kay, serves "one worthwhile purpose: It gets Rodriguez out of the conventional 'Sunday Night' booth after four awkward seasons." Rodriguez "struggled to come across as authentic" during his time in the main booth, and it is "tough to fathom how that will change in the new format." His awkwardness "may be amplified, and not in an appealing way like it is with the Mannings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8).

VARIOUS OPINIONS: In N.Y., Matthew Roberson wrote Cone is "known for being the most statistically-inclined person" in the YES booth with Kay and Paul O’Neill, and Perez comes from a "similar background." Roberson: "The new trio of announcers, on paper, feels like a welcome, modern upgrade" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote he loves the idea that ESPN "now believes that Alex Rodriguez can be part of the kind of ManningCast that we got this season from Peyton and Eli." However, there is "one big difference." Lupica: "People like Peyton and Eli" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). The N.Y. POST's Phil Mushnick wondered how Kay will "make Rodriguez more popular to an audience that knows he’s full of it?" Mushnick: "He can’t." ESPN continues to "employ and indulge" Rodriguez as if he is "wildly popular among viewers" (N.Y. POST, 1/9). The DAILY NEWS' Bob Raissman wrote ESPN's decision to pair Kay and Rodriguez was "no doubt influenced by the scheduled comeback this year of Beavis and Butt-Head" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). 

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