That’s why we’ve gathered two of our most irritable journalistsdedicated sports fans to debate the merits of two men much less instrumental to the team’s on-field success but who nevertheless play vital roles in the baseball viewing experience. At least on TV.
Here to argue that Chris Welsh’s mustache is the real reason to tune into Fox Sports Net’s Reds coverage is Jason Gargano. Arguing in favor of Jeff Brantley’s general demeanor as his No. 1 reason for leaving the sound on is Danny Cross. Ready? Go.
Cross: First of all, I’m certainly not here to hate on “The Creeper.” Welshy is as likable on the air today as he was to opposing hitters during his playing days (too soon?). Brantley, on the other hand, was and is still a meanie, a closer-turned-commentator whose cowboy persona is as charming on the air as it was threatening on the mound.
Baseball can be a tricky game to call, with ample day-to-day story lines and long hours behind the mic. Sometimes baseball games get boring, and as fun as it is to guess which position player will be the first to take the mound during a blowout loss (Paul Janish), sometimes you need a little added entertainment. And that’s precisely where Brantley shines.
Whether the Reds are winning, losing or doing something in-between, Brantley will fill the breaks in action with his thoughts on just about anything: food, Alabama, good times to eat dinner, Twitter, food, parenting, etc.
He’s not on the air trying to be Jack Buck (cough … cough … Joe Buck sucks...), just a dude watching a ballgame who is absolutely willing to mimic the back and forth spreading of barbecue sauce with an invisible brush on non-existent ribs while wearing that day’s complementary Montgomery Inn apron.
Brantley long ago promised to update his Twitter page with a more authentic photo of “The Cowboy,” and although further investigation has found @RedsCowboy to still be rocking the FSN headshot, the Twitter page is brimming with the personality and enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from him, such as: “For Homer Bailey et.al. Fastball command, ESPECIALLY “IN” means there is a pretty good chance you’re gonna’ win!!” and “I just absolutely crushed a Penn Station chicken philly cheesesteak.”
The Reds are going to be really good this year, and Brantley is going to be excited about it. Whether we’re enjoying a big Reds win or just passing the time laughing at promotions, Twitter and the announcers’ eating habits, it’s going to be fun anytime The Cowboy is involved.
Gargano: First off, I like Jeff Brantley despite the fact that GQ magazine’s embarrassingly under-researched poll named him and Thom Brennaman the second worst TV tandem in Major League Baseball. While Brantley’s unpretentious personality and admirably shameless bad taste (of the six people he’s following on Twitter, Garth Brooks is one of them) might trump Welsh’s stuffier, St. Xavier High School-bred polish (see the “Tech Talk” segments), “The Cowboy” is no “Creeper.” At least not yet. Dude needs to pay his dues.
Chris Welsh has been calling Reds games on TV for 18 years, a tenure that’s seen the team make the playoffs but two times. (He also spent 17 of those years with George “Perpetual Sunshine” Grande, but we won’t go there here.) Yet the team’s lack of success has done little to impact the guy’s genial nature — nor did his subpar major league career (22-31 with a 4.45 ERA) as a left-handed pitcher for four different teams, including a one-year stint with the Reds that ended his career in 1986. In fact, Welsh’s self-deprecating approach might be his best attribute: When analyzing the Reds pitching staff, he and his broadcast mates never hesitate to make reference to his unorthodox pitching motion (thus the moniker “The Crafty Left-hander”) and lack of velocity (thus his better-known nickname “The Creeper,” which refers to the way his fastball would creep up on hitters).
More importantly, the guy knows his stuff, delivering unique insights into the game, many of which were no doubt gleaned from his days at the University of South Florida, where Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts was his coach. Plus, now that Grande is gone, Welsh is a refreshing antidote to the perpetually critical approach of the Brennamans and Brantley. And then there’s Welsh’s swanky Tom Selleck-esque mustache, which clearly trumps The Cowboy’s slicked-back mini-mullet.
Name: Jeffrey Hoke Brantley
Nickname: The Cowboy
Reds career stats: 4 years; 11-11 record; 2.64 ERA; 88 saves
Broadcasting specialty: criticizing Reds pitchers while drinking 64-ounce Cokes; modeling various Reds promotional giveaways
Signature stylistic quirk: slicked-back mini-mullet
Name: Christopher Charles Welsh
Nicknames: The Crafty Lefthander; The Creeper!
Reds career stats: 1 year; 6-9 record; 4.78 ERA, 40 K’s
Broadcasting specialty: smiling; filming Tech Talk segments during the early spring to air all year long
Signature stylistic quirk: Tom Selleck-esque mustache