The Philadelphia Phillies have made what is perhaps their biggest move of the offseason by deciding not to bring longtime broadcaster Chris Wheeler back to the booth next season. Wheels has never been popular with fans, and it seems like four decades with the team was not enough to entice NBC Universal to keep him around.
The Phillies recently signed a 25-year, $2.5 billion TV contract with NBC Universal and Comcast Sportsnet, and it is believed the network made the decision to show Chris Wheeler and color analyst Gary Matthews the door. Apparently, the network would like to replace them with a current Comcast Sportsnet employee who will work the entire nine innings of a game instead of working a rotation like the Phillies have done for many years.
This move was met with much joy in Philadelphia, especially from Phillies fans who have wanted Chris Wheeler and his predictable analysis gone, but still Wheeler’s absence brings a sense of unfamiliarity with it. Wheeler has been a part of my summers for my entire life and I, surprisingly, am a bit nervous in regards to who the team replaces him with. The logical choice is current Comcast Sportsnet pregame and postgame analyst and former Phillie, Ricky Botallico. He has openly spoken about wanting to become more involved with the in-game aspects of broadcasting and it looks like he may get his chance this season.
The fact the biggest move so far this offseason involves members of the broadcasting team is not lost on anyone in the City of Brotherly Love. General Manager Ruben Amaro is getting more unpopular by the minute, and with the unexpected success of other professional teams in the city, the Phillies are becoming an afterthought. It will be interesting to see how this move impacts the viewing experiences of fans in the Delaware Valley. The Phillies cannot afford to bring in another broadcaster who fans may dislike more than Wheeler. For now, there is no doubt that the team has won some fans over with this move, but the next hire might ultimately be how the team is judged.
Thanks for the memories, Wheels. As much as I could not take you explaining the “no doubles defense” every game, I can honestly say I am going to miss you this season.