We'll be ready — a report from your Phillies production team

We'll be ready — a report from your Phillies production team

Jeff Halikman is the senior producer of Phillies telecasts for the NBC Sports Philadelphia family of networks.

I sit in my family room on what would have been opening day of the 2020 baseball season. Typically it's panic time for the producer, director and associate producer of the Phillies broadcast. A season of 162 games lies ahead and none more anticipated than the first.

The producer and the highly talented editor (person who makes the producers ideas look much better than what was originally planned) are adding the final touches to the “tease,” which is the first thing that hits the air on a television broadcast and sets the scene for the game ahead with drama and excitement. The opening day tease starts the path for the season-long journey and needs to capture the energy of you, the Phillies fans, and what so many of you have anticipated since the final pitch of the previous campaign.

The director (the person during the broadcast who selects the cameras from a chair that doesn’t say director on it) oversees most of the technical needs for a broadcast. While spring training ends and we ramp up toward opening day, the producer and director are making sure everything in Miami will be ready for when we arrive at 9 a.m. for the 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch. 

The television production truck (a 72-foot tractor-trailer that weighs 80,000 pounds and treks all across the nation for sporting events) will be there ready for a crew of 25-plus people to unload every piece of equipment, from cameras to cables and wireless mics. The wireless mic allows everyone to hear Gregg Murphy no matter where he will be roaming in his nomadic ways around Marlins Park and the other ballparks all season long. 

Endless emails, texts and calls have been directed to the crewer (the person who organizes a crew of 25-plus freelance workers for each broadcast no matter where the games are being played) to make sure our crews are set for the first two road series in Miami and New York.  

The associate producer (third and final member of our traveling production team who during the game handles all graphics and statistical information that you see when viewing at home) has been working on a plethora of graphics/statistics since the end of last season. He does so with the support of a multitude of statistic-based companies in our industry that we partner with to be able to acquire every current trend and historical fact to then provide to you to tell each story throughout the year.  

The producer also constantly communicates with the broadcasters. Let’s define “communicates with the broadcasters.” Each day, usually in the morning, the producer sends a rough draft of plans for the game-day ahead. It usually includes simple notes about what time each broadcaster is needed for specific pregame/postgame needs, what will be in the “open” (the first formatted three to four minutes of the broadcast) that consists of the “tease” (highlights and statistical graphics detailing the game ahead or the previous day’s game).  

Emails and texts fly back and forth about the topics and other things. The other things are probably the most vital parts of the day. Other things consist of many discussions and decisions. The most difficult decision of the day is what shirt they will all wear on the broadcast. Tom McCarthy (Phillies play-by-play broadcaster and senior clothing administrator) takes the lead and puts a schedule together of what shirts will be worn by his colleagues Ben Davis, John Kruk and Murph. You wouldn’t believe me on how many quarrels I’ve witnessed about what was meant by dark blue on the schedule and not dark blue with a collar. Yep, like a husband and wife’s daily back and forth, “You think this is dark blue?” Add the greatest third baseman in the history of baseball to the rotation on Sundays at home and you a have shirt schedule labyrinth never to be solved. I won’t even get into the days when Sarge and Wheels were in the mix and keeping track of who wore the wrong shirt the most in a season was part of our broadcast statistics. That’s just the shirts. 

Then we have deliberations about who is eating dinner with who, what’s for dinner, why someone didn’t wait for the other when they went to dinner and what is charcuterie. 

Finally, my favorite part of the day — when one of them says at 6 p.m., “I couldn’t open your email this morning, what are we doing?” But I would never want to be working with any other group. They motivate me, inspire me, challenge me and make coming to work every day from February to October rewarding at a mark of 10 levels above awesome. They bring a wealth of baseball knowledge that elevates our broadcast every night, year after year.    

The final days always wind down way too quickly and the season will be upon us, and once baseball starts, it doesn’t stop. Like an ocean, it just keeps moving, wave after wave of games as we move from winter, to spring, summer and finally the Fall Classic. Baseball waits for no one. You are part of the momentum and it just takes you along for the ride once opening day ceremonies conclude and the first pitch is thrown. I can’t wait … (screeching brakes).

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and baseball isn’t happening just yet. Baseball is on hold, school is on hold, the world is on hold, work is different, life is different, and we all wait. For what, I’m not sure, but I hope we will all get through this the best we can. I know baseball will return, but like everything else, we don’t know when.

Instead of watching spring baseball highlight recaps early in the morning while my kids get ready for school, we discuss what a shortened or adjusted 2020 schedule will be like, which teams will benefit from the changes and which teams are already burdened with injuries. One son, always the optimist, is planning the Phillies’ march to the postseason and is detailing his parade location. The other son, always the skeptic, purses his lips, shakes his head and questions every part of the roster. No matter the breakfast “hot takes,” every discussion ends with, “When can we go to a game?”

I don’t have an answer for that just yet, but I am 100 percent positive the broadcasters will have on the same shirt and we will be ready to deliver to you every pitch possible of your 2020 Phillies.

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Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

The valuation of the Phillies franchise is up to $2 billion, according to Forbes. It’s an 8 percent increase from last year.

The only teams in the majors to experience a higher percentage year-over-year increase than the Phillies are the Yankees, the World Champion Nationals and the Orioles. Seven teams saw no gain or lost value: the Marlins, Pirates, Royals, Athletics, Indians, Tigers and Diamondbacks.

The Yankees are valued at $5 billion, leading the league for the 22nd straight year.

At $2 billion, the Phils’ valuation is eighth-highest in the majors. They are behind, respectively, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Mets and Cardinals.

The only team with a current valuation below $1 billion is the Marlins at $980 million. Miami was the only team to lose money in 2019, according to Forbes.

MLB’s total revenue in 2019 was $10.5 billion. More than 30 percent of that was from gate receipts, which baseball would not have in 2020 if games are played in empty stadiums. That was the largest chunk, followed by national TV deals, local TV deals and sponsorships.

The Phillies’ 13-year investment in Bryce Harper and the resulting increase in attendance and merchandise sales played an obvious role in the increase but the terms of rights deals are one of the biggest drivers of organizational values.

League-wide, profits have never been higher, which puts MLB in a position to at least withstand the pain of a shortened 2020 season. Forbes estimates that coronavirus concerns will cost U.S. pro sports leagues $5 billion.

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What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

Scott Kingery hit his first major-league home run two years ago today, a solo shot to left-center at Citizens Bank Park against Reds left-hander Cody Reed.

Kingery's first two weeks in the majors went well but his rookie season was a slog after that. He expanded the strike zone a ton, struck out more than you'd like and barely got on base when the hits weren't falling.

Kingery took a big step forward last season at age 25. He missed a month between April 19 and May 19 with a hamstring injury but hit .347 from opening day through June 1. 

In the month of June, he was an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 114 plate appearances.

August was another productive month for Kingery. He hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits and an .825 OPS. 

All told, it was a solid second season from Kingery. His .788 OPS was exactly the league average, and his extra-base hit total increased from 33 to 57 in just 16 additional plate appearances. When you factor in the strong defense he has played at six different positions, the value is easy to see.

Kingery has started games at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. No major-leaguer since 1958 has amassed as many plate appearances in his first two seasons (984) while playing all those positions. That's not just a random fact — it illustrates the rarity of a player being not just a super-utility player but a super-utility starter, and how doubly rare it is for a player to begin his career in that role. 

In 2020, whenever the season begins, Kingery will likely be at second base for the majority of the season. Things can change quickly, though. If Jean Segura suffers an injury, Kingery could shift to third base. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, Kingery or Segura would slide over to short. If there are injuries in center field, Kingery would likely be the next man up after Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley.

Kingery's versatility is a good thing, not a bad thing, though it probably cost him some offensive effectiveness over his first two seasons. Kingery remarked this offseason that by preparing for so many different positions, there have been many nights in his first two big-league seasons that he felt spent by game time.

His biggest issue at the plate is his constant expansion of the strike zone. Kingery knows it. It's a goal of his to be better at laying off of pitches he has no chance of making good contact with.

Through two seasons, Kingery's strikeout-to-walk ratio is ugly. He's whiffed 273 times and taken 58 walks. No Phillie has struck out that many times in his first two seasons since Pat Burrell in 2001 — but Burrell also walked 75 more times than Kingery has.

Last season, 24% of the pitches Kingery saw were low and away off the plate. He swung at those low-and-away pitches nearly 30% of the time and hit just .127. Obviously, that is a zone a hitter would rather leave alone. 

Kingery's selectivity must improve for him to reach a higher offensive level. There are 118 players with as many plate appearances as him the last two seasons and Kingery ranks 108th in walks.

The Phillies are not relying on Kingery to be their offensive centerpiece or even their sixth-best hitter. However, they'd be so much stronger as a lineup if Kingery could maneuver his way closer to the top of the order and produce. If Kingery could provide consistency in the 2-hole, it would allow someone like J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius to move into more of a run-producing role. And even if Kingery does stay in the 7-spot in the lineup for most of the season, he has a chance to lengthen the Phillies' lineup and turn it into one of the NL's best if he can build on his sophomore season.

Kingery had a .315 on-base percentage last season. The league average was .323. Had he reached base just 10 more times in his 500 plate appearances, he'd have been at .334, which is the same as Realmuto's OBP the last three seasons.

It's a realistic target for Kingery, who does not need to become the next Chase Utley to be valuable or to live up to the $24 million contract he signed before ever playing a major-league game.

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