ESPN's expansive coverage is tops, even if draft wasn't

MIAMI — MIAMI -- With the 24th pick in the first round, the Florida Marlins drafted Orioles right-hander Kip Yaughn. Yaughn was the key word for viewers who watched the entire draft yesterday. Make that yawn.

Because few marquee names were plucked, it was easy to doze off after the first hour of ESPN's 6 1/2 -hour telecast.


But don't blame those ESPNers. Despite the lack of excitement, the quality of the telecast was top-rate, mostly because of the strong on-air talent. All nine announcers showered us with information, especially host Keith Olbermann and analyst Peter Gammons.

The good news was that we didn't have to put up with Mel Kiper Jr., Mel Kiper Sr. or any other high-strung draftniks who think their work is as pivotal as the Persian Gulf.


ESPN's Chris Berman, Olbermann's high school classmate in Tarrytown, N.Y., has parlayed his job as NFL draft host into sportscasting stardom. Olbermann may be on the way to doing likewise.

Like Berman, Olbermann was poised, articulate and witty. Most importantly, as a Rotisserie League commissioner, he was able to wax eloquent on each draft choice immediately after the selection.

Gammons, the veteran Boston Globe sportswriter and proverbial insider, displayed considerable knowledge of each team's farm system. He revealed that the Braves had planned to protect David Nied, but that owner Ted Turner demanded that Deion Sanders be added to the protected list.

The supporting cast wasn't reluctant to criticize. Dave Campbell wondered why the Rockies concentrated on hitting early in the draft, rather than acquiring offense through free agency. Joe Morgan questioned the Marlins' emphasis on prospects in the first round.

Some notable remarks from the telecast:

Gammons: "Florida is patterning itself after the Blue Jays. This team will come a lot farther than people think because of pitching. . . . The Rockies are worried about trying to finish fifth or sixth next year."

Ray Knight, after the Marlins drafted White Sox left-hander Greg Hibbard with the 12th pick overall: "I thought he would be the first, second or third choice in the draft."

Morgan: "The Rockies have been more aggressive and that will tell in next season's play."