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Ray Fosse under attack

Scott Hatteberg, Shooty Babbitt, and now Eric Chavez have all taken airtime from the beloved Ray Fosse as the A's color guy. What's the deal?

Tom Sczerbowski

In case you missed it, the A's are close to finalizing a deal with Eric Chavez to be the color analyst on 20 A's broadcasts this season. That marks the third consecutive season that Ray Fosse has been kicked to radio for 20 games. He bristled at the treatment initially and I doubt he's feeling any better about it now. Why is Ray getting the short end of the stick?

The Player

Ray Fosse is an A's legend. He was a world champion with the 1973 and '74 A's. Prior to that he was a young catcher on his way to what might have been a great career with the Cleveland Indians. He made the All-Star team in 1970 (he hit .313 with 16 dingers that year), and was on the wrong end of perhaps the most famous (or infamous) All-Star Game moment of all-time. Pete Rose completely demolished Fosse in a collision at the plate to win the game in the 12th inning. Fosse suffered severe injuries. Although he continued to play for years, he was never the same. Defensively he was still solid but the trajectory of his career was forever altered. He has a hell of a time nowadays trying to walk up stairs. As a fan of Fosse, I take some solace that Pete Rose remains banned from baseball and manages to embarrass himself every couple of years.

Note how Rose doesn't even try to slide, going in upright leading with the forearm. Despicable.

He maintained a reputation as a great game caller and defensive catcher, and eventually retired in 1980 after 12 seasons in baseball.

The Broadcaster

Fosse has been a mainstay on A's television and radio broadcasts since 1986. That's almost 30 years, folks. His main role has been as a color analyst for the A's games on CSN California, paired with Glen Kuiper. He generally has an amiable personality and exudes love for the game; you rarely hear him talk ill of any players, coaches, fans, broadcasters, or catchers. Umpires, though, get it from him on a regular basis.

I generally find him pleasant to listen to and he often points out mistakes and nuances. He roots for the A's as a home broadcaster should, but he is not an absurd homer. He'll give credit and blame where it is due. But if it's a big play for the A's, he can't contain himself:

I find that he really comes to life on radio. Perhaps it's because there's less airtime to fill due to the need to narrate every play, or perhaps it's that Ken Korach knows how to set up Fosse to frame the conversation, but Fosse shines on the dial. He's talkative, emotional, knowledgeable, and friendly.

But he's also got his foibles.

He tends to fall over himself praising catchers, especially on the defensive side. I think the only thing that mollified him after the Kurt Suzuki trade was Oakland regularly rolling out three catcher lineups over the past two seasons. He just never stops talking about catchers.

He does pregame and postgame interviews on radio and TV. His interviews generally feature extremely long-winded, rambling statements that may or may not end up as a question (usually not). It's clear that preparing for interviews and asking questions is not his forte and frankly I doubt he really cares.

He tends to get a lame catch phrase or obsession and never let it go. Things like repeating "Hyundai Sunday" every Sunday game because Seth Smith hit a couple homers on a Sunday once, and his love affair with the mediocre Italian restaurant Francesco's, his constant talk about food, especially Dibs, and his tendency to interrupt a play call with a laugh, groan, yelp or other uncategorizable sound, and...I could go on.

But as longtime AN member greenmachine commented last season:

"Ray represents many things to old time A's fans- the A's in their glory days, a simpler time for all sports and in particular baseball when it was all about hungry players grinding it out day after day without the multi-million dollar contracts up their arses. Yes, Ray may not be as exciting as some of the song and dance guys but he's what baseball is all about."

The New Guy

In the entertainment business unfortunately, that probably isn't much of an asset. It's no secret that the A's and CSN want to appeal to a younger demographic, and I personally don't mind having Eric Chavez sit in on 20 games. Hell, he's a player that most of us actually got to watch and he's an A's legend in his own right, racking up gold gloves and (still) owner of the richest deal in A's history. He was a part of some great A's squads and helped the team to the postseason.

Of course, there are downsides to Chavez. Mainly, that he joined the Yankees. And we saw his near-instant transformation from fun, laid back Chavy to stuck up Mr. Chavez when he criticized the A's in 2012. Chavez said that Oakland's "orchestrated clapping, cheering celebration" was "high schoolish" and "pretty unprofessional."

Jonny Gomes responded: "Listen, we've got 17 rookies in here, you know?"

Perhaps it's those two quotes side by side that contrast the Yankees and the A's better than anything.

Regardless, Chavy (I guess we can call him that again) is probably a fine choice and I don't have a problem with that. As a bonus, I get more Fosse on the radio. And that's a good thing.

Still, is there any reason to do Foss like this? Have a naked audition for his job three years running? If you want to make the change, make it, but I can't have my man disrespected like this. He's earned better than this.

Fosse may be an outdated relic, a throwback. He may have his quirks and downsides. But anyone who listened to Hatteberg or Babbitt over the past couple of years will tell you that they are thankful for Ray. So while I'm looking forward to hearing Chavy's contributions, I just want to ask: Can we give Fosse some love?