Bob Carpenter often sits in the stands with his wife during the Nationals playoff games. Michael Kay is sometimes quietly crammed between the Yankees radio team of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Todd Kalas is watching the Astros take on the Yankees from his couch.
The television voices behind the three remaining teams in the MLB postseason are benched after calling the better part of a grueling 162-game regular-season schedule. They know this beforehand, they accept it, but it does not make it any less awkward when their respective teams are playing the most important games of the season and they are not the ones narrating it.
“I equate it to dating a girl all year and then having someone else take her to the prom and you have to sit in the corner and watch them dance,” Kay said. “It stinks but those are the rules of engagement, and I knew it from the day I took the job at YES. It is what it is but it doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it.”
The start of the postseason can be somewhat chaotic for a viewer, with wild-card and division series games spread out on four different networks — FS1, TBS, MLB Network and ESPN. This is not changing anytime soon. Those networks pay significant money to broadcast the postseason games, and if and when they stop, others will step up and do the same.
“There’s definitely a sense of frustration and bewilderment when you follow a team all season, only to be left on the sidelines for the biggest games of the year,” SNY’s Mets play-by-play man Gary Cohen said.
“But every MLB television announcer understands when they sign up, that that’s the deal.”
During the action, Kay and Carpenter keep score to help them prepare for a postgame show as they have responsibilities to their regional networks (YES for Kay, MASN for Carpenter). It’s an unusual feeling, stuck somewhere between broadcaster and fan.
“You are probably not human as a play-by-play guy if you sit there and you don’t think about how you might call certain situations,” Carpenter said. “I am not sitting there doing the game to myself. That serves no purpose, other than adding frustration on top. I am kind of an easy-going person, so I just roll with it.”
Kalas, who previously did play-by-play for the Rays, traveled for the Astros’ ALDS series at Tampa Bay, where he still has a home. But because the Astros do not have any pre- or postgame coverage on AT&T Sports Network, Kalas is sitting out the ALCS and watching the games at home.
“Just watching from afar, it’s kind of strange when you live and die with a team for 162 games then you get to the postseason and you are not as much a part of it,” Kalas said.
There have been times when they were. All these announcers at one point called postseason games on the radio before moving over to television, so they know the excitement of being behind the mic during classic October moments.
“The postseason games I called with John [Sterling] were awesome,” said Kay, who took over Yankees TV broadcasts when the YES Network was launched in 2002.
“In 1995 it was all so new and exciting. You had butterflies each game. The crowds were wild, it was amazing. Then when they started winning World Series it was an energy like you wouldn’t believe. I remember [Don] Mattingly and the crowds reaction in ’95 and I remember Tino Martinez’s grand slams in ’98. All of it is so fresh in my mind.”