Yesterday, ESPN released the 2018 Sunday Night Baseball schedule, and for now, won't feature the Chicago White Sox for the first half. Broadcasts for June haven't been decided yet.
ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Schedule
|April 1st||San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers|
|April 8th||New York Mets at Washington Nationals|
|April 15th||Texas Rangers at Houston Astros|
|April 22nd||Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers|
|April 29th||New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels|
|May 6th||Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 13th||Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks|
|May 20th||Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros|
|May 27th||San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs|
|July 1st||Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees|
|July 22nd||New York Mets at New York Yankees|
|July 29th||Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals|
There are some fun matchups like the Yankees at Angels where we could see Shohei Ohtani pitch against Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Returning to call the games will be analyst Jessica Mendoza, and Buster Olney will be reporting from the clubhouses. ESPN has yet to announce a replacement for play-by-play as Dan Shulman decided to step down from the role after last season.
If it's the next man up to replace Shulman, the choice would be Jon Sciambi. Serving as the Wednesday Night Baseball play-by-play announcer since 2014, Sciambi is well regarded throughout the baseball community and has a wealth of experience. For eight seasons he was the radio voice of the Florida Marlins and switched to television for two seasons calling Atlanta Braves games before moving to ESPN in 2010. In addition to his television work, Sciambi calls many games for ESPN Radio.
The fact that Sciambi taking over for Shulman hasn't been official is a bit surprising and may suggest that ESPN wants to go in another direction. If that's the case, Jason Benetti would be an excellent choice.
You can find Benetti calling games for ESPN multiple times a week covering college basketball and football. He has excellent pace describing the action while utilizing his strongest broadcasting skill by setting up for his partner. It's more than just knowing when to shut up and let the ex-player/coach take over. Benetti often asks questions that we as fans would ask watching at home.
A great example is how Benetti interacts with Steve Stone during White Sox telecasts. When Benetti asks why a pitcher would throw a breaking pitch on a 2-1 count, he puts Stone in a position to be incredibly insightful on the art of pitching from a former Cy Young winner. Not only is it entertaining to listen, but it's very educational in a world where fans are hungry to consume more of the game’s nuances. You may think this is a small thing, but the next time you watch a broadcast count the number of times a play-by-play broadcaster asks "Why?" It's not as often as you may think.
In addition to playing up the expert, Benetti's witty personality is handy for games that seem to drag. For White Sox games, there is a sort of Uncle/Nephew dynamic between Benetti and Stone. For a team that only won 67 games last year and went through a terrible stretch in August, I found the patches of humor from Benetti and Stone refreshing. Much more enjoyable than listening to how much Frank Howard ate back in the day.
That personality goes beyond just working with Stone. From Monday's Omaha vs. Kansas basketball game, Benetti had a great exchange with Dan Dakich coming out of halftime. Wearing a Chicago Cubs tie, Benetti introduced Dakich as David Ross and called him a tool.
Every brand wants stronger social media interaction with their fans, and Benetti does a very good job of this as well. While it's blast watching Pnoles dominate Sox Math, a Sunday Night Baseball version would be fun to play with a broader audience. Plus the prize shelf could be a variety of promotional items from the home team and help keep fans tune in from the third to fifth innings. Maybe someone out there can dethrone sss_pnoles (I doubt it).
Again, promoting Sciambi from Wednesday night to Sunday night is the expected outcome and "Boog" no doubt will be great at it. In a lot of ways, it'll feel like Shulman never left. However, Benetti would bring a fresh approach to calling the game and that fits better with ESPN's strategy to Sunday Night Baseball as they are already attempting to be different with Mendoza coming back. As the voice of the White Sox torch passes from Hawk Harrelson to Benetti this season, it would be an excellent opportunity for outside fans to warm up to future White Sox broadcasts. Just in time when the franchise begins to be interesting again.