Detroit — This week's three-game series between the Tigers and Los Angeles Angels was supposed to be the second installment of Fox Sports Detroit's "players-only" experiment.
But FSD officials called an audible, and instead opted to go with the traditional broadcast booth, with play-by-play man Matt Shepard, for the remainder of the month and most of June.
The next "players-only" broadcast will come sometime in late June, and the format probably will be used as a one-off moving forward, and not for an entire series, as was the original plan — and as was the case when the format debuted for a Tigers-Cleveland Indians series in early April.
FSD originally planned for 17 total "players-only" broadcasts, which were to feature no Shepard, but instead a revolving door of Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Dan Petry and Craig Monroe, all alternating between stints in the booth and places around the ballpark, like in the camera well by the dugout.
That means there were plans to be 14 more, but FSD confirmed it's going to cut that number down a bit. The exact number isn't yet known, however.
The "players-only" format debuted in April to mixed reviews — very strong opinions on both sides, on social-media platforms. The first game of that series was, by all accounts, rough, with Morris even admitting as much the next day on the air. Without a play-by-play man to direct traffic, so to speak, there were awkward silences and also periods of analysts talking on top of each other. There wasn't much flow.
By the end of the series, things definitely had improved and the analysts' comfort level had clearly increased — but the three games still left FSD brass and the analysts re-evaluating the plan moving forward.
Some critics believed the first "players-only" series came too early in the season, awkward, given Shepard is new on the call, and it took him out of the equation so early in his tenure as the new voice of the Tigers, having replaced Mario Impemba.
Petry also is new to the FSD game-day team this season; Monroe, a pregame and postgame staple, is new to getting booth time; and Morris and Gibson, while long-time television analysts, have no prior experience working as a lead personality. It never was clear who was running the show during that April series.
So it's back to the drawing board. Like the Tigers, themselves, FSD is in a little rebuilding mode of its own.