After letting go of all their previous radio personalities and losing two-thirds of their TV team, the Astros announced on Wednesday the new hires to fill those shoes. On the radio side, that includes former Kansas City Royals broadcaster Robert Ford on play-by-play and former knuckleballer Steve Sparks as the color analyst.
Ford has been rumored to be the play-by-play choice for a while now, but this will be his first MLB play-by-play gig. Ford worked as a pre- and post-game announcer for the Royals most recently, but also has radio experience calling all manner of sporting events in the Midwest.
Sparks is more familiar to Astros fans, as he was on the Astros pre- and post-game shows himself for the past two seasons. He was briefly an Astros player, as he was brought into camp by Phil Garner in 2005 and 2006, but never pitched with the team and retired shortly after. Sparks had a career record of 59-76 with an ERA of 4.88 in 1,319 innings. His ERA+ was 95 for a career that spanned nine season from 1995 through 2004.
We'll have more in a bit, but as John Royal pointed out the other day at the Houston Press, this is a perplexing move in one aspect. The Astros jettisoned two guys with solid MLB experience in Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond. They weren't universally loved by fans, but they grew to be very competent and entertaining radio guys by the end of their tenure.
Now, the Astros are adding two radio neophytes without the experience of Milo Hamilton to lean upon in the early going. Maybe they think that Ford and Sparks have enough upside that they can live with a year or two of growing pains, but neither of these moves seem to be as earth-shaking as George Postolos suggested they might be when Dolan and Raymond were let go.
What do you think? Have you vetted Ford in the past couple of weeks since his name surfaced? Will he be an acceptable play-by-play man? What about Sparks? Did you like his TV work?