Torborg heads HTS contenders

Media Watch

January 08, 1998|By Milton Kent

Former manager Jeff Torborg has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Mike Flanagan as lead analyst on Orioles television broadcasts this season, though his candidacy could be damaged by his status as an analyst on Fox telecasts, sources said.

Torborg, 56, formerly managed in Cleveland, as well as with the Chicago White Sox and the New York Mets, and has been an analyst for Fox television and CBS Radio broadcasts, and is one of the best color announcers in baseball.

However, sources familiar with the process said Torborg's schedule with Fox, which would require him to miss virtually all weekend games from June, when the network's schedule begins, through the end of the season, might be a major stumbling block to his candidacy, as the Orioles and Home Team Sports would want him to be available for the team's broadcasts.

Torborg could not be reached for comment last night.

Chris Glass, HTS' supervising producer, said the regional sports channel had a list of five candidates to replace Flanagan, who left the booth after last season to become the Orioles' pitching coach, and hoped to complete the process by the end of the month.

Glass said former Oriole John Lowenstein, who was analyst for 11 1/2 years, was a candidate, but not the leading choice. Former Oriole Ken Singleton, who was a finalist for the play-by-play job last season, is under contract to the New York Yankees and is not available to the Orioles.

Glass said play-by-play announcer Michael Reghi and pre-game host Tom Davis will return for 1998. Jim Palmer who called about 50 games as an analyst, also will come back next season, and is expected to work as many as 20 additional games, Glass said.

Mad about Madden

As if there weren't enough drama floating around sports television these days, with the disposition of a new NFL contract to be decided, there's more alleged angst with rumors that John Madden might leave Fox for "Monday Night Football."

Madden, by just about any standard the best NFL analyst working, is at the end of a four-year, $32 million deal he signed with Fox when it wrested NFL rights away from CBS, not so coincidentally, four years ago.

Now that their initial deal is up, Madden and his agent, Barry Frank, of the powerful International Management Group, are doing what most NFL free agents do, namely looking over the landscape to see what deal would be best for them.

Yesterday's USA Today breathlessly reported that Sunday's NFC championship game could be the last that Madden and partner Pat Summerall do together as the former Oakland Raiders coach has one foot in the "MNF" booth to join Al Michaels, either at ABC or at another network, if the Alphabet Gang doesn't hold on to the Monday night package.

On a conference call yesterday, Madden, who didn't deny his interest in "Monday Night Football," called any talk of his relocation "premature" and "speculative."

"Anything can happen, because nothing has happened," said Madden, referring to the current television talks. "Until everything is set, no one knows anything."

Truer words were never spoken. Madden, indeed, isn't going anywhere until a deal gets struck, but when it does, he'll have remarkable negotiating power because he is so darned popular.

Even if you buy the argument of a network sports publicist who said privately that the public tunes in for the games, not the announcer, you'd have to concede that Madden is one of those announcers that people want to hear.

Fox almost certainly will need to keep him because its NFL coverage still hasn't distinguished itself beyond his presence, and it has no one of his stature who could step into his shoes if he left.

ABC would certainly go after Madden because the "MNF" trio of Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf stopped being relevant at least five years ago and Madden's presence would immediately revitalize the Monday night franchise.

All things considered, it's not a bad thing to be John Madden these days.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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