TBS has its postseason baseball coverage underway and they're trying to turn "Inside MLB" into a new "Inside the NBA," which is one of the best things on sports television.
Ernie Johnson is also host of this MLB version with Hall of Famers Cal Ripken (wearing a Oriole-esque-orange tie for Tuesday night's White Sox-Twins game) and Dennis Eckersley (wearing a National Baseball Hall of Fame pin, in case we forgot he had been inducted). The show is trying some of the same gags that are make the NBA show fun, like Ernie's Neat-o Stat of the Night and computer-altered still shots (like one showing what Ripken would look like if he was part of a 2008 champagne-spraying celebration -- with goggles wrapped around his bald head).
It's a tough pitch to try and turn a new postgame show into one of the best in a couple of innings, and it would be impossible for them to attain the chemistry of an established show like "Inside the NBA," but they showed some flashes.
Eckersley is more comfortable on camera and seems like he'll have the fun, loosey-goosey style that Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley have nailed on the NBA show.
Of course, "Inside the NBA" is outstanding because of its balance of humor and great analysis. Ripken got things off to a good start -- the show twice re-ran Ripken's pregame prediction that Jim Thome would be the hero of the night. Eckersley picked Ken Griffey Jr., and he had a great assist on a play at the plate.
Ripken provided some awkward TV when he started answering a question by Johnson and then simply stalled and said, "I lost my train of thought." But he rebounded a bit later with a few one-liners. He self-deprecated that he and Eckersley's pregame picks were of guys that were around when they played. He also chimed in with a nice line when the show put up a goofy graphic of Eckersley, quoting a line that the former pitcher used earlier in the show when he described what a hitter was hoping for at the plate: "he's looking for a low piece of cheese."
TBS does have one big thing going for it: between Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and impersonator Frank Caliendo, their commercials are some funny stuff.
It all just might make keep viewers like me from flipping to ESPN right after the game, which is what TBS has to be hoping for.
P.S. Check out a related post about SportsNet NY finally showing up on Time Warner at the new Sports, Ink blog.