When a player gets off to a bad start in front of Philadelphia fans, it's often difficult to gain their affection. The same goes with announcers.

That brings us to a person who has created a firestorm of criticism in a season less than two weeks old: Gary Matthews.

Sarge is on for nine innings a game as an analyst for Phillies television games. Saying that Matthews hasn't captured the imagination of the television public would be one of the grossest understatements of the season.

The problem with pleasing the Philadelphia fans is that a person can get off to a horrid start, then improve, but never be forgiven.

This is a tough group of critics. Remember that Harry Kalas was not initially embraced when he took over for Bill Campbell in the 1971 season. Now, Kalas is a beloved icon and a Hall of Fame announcer.

Matthews showed a great knowledge of the game during the exhibition season and had a nice delivery.

Maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere in Clearwarter that made Matthews feel comfortable, but since the start of the regular season he has been pressing, and that's being kind.

Can he develop?


Will the Phillies fans give him that chance?

That's a good question.

Once a person is in the doghouse with the fans, especially on a subject they feel so passionately about - such as Phillies announcers - it's often hard to get out.

The most difficult job of any analyst is to stay away from stating the obvious. That has been Matthews' biggest fault.

For instance, when Phillies pitcher Brett Myers allowed six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings while taking the loss in Saturday's 8-5 defeat at Florida, Matthews said, "It's a long season, and you aren't going to win every game."

No kidding.

He also needs to work on his delivery. Matthews seems unsure of himself. That is when announcers start to babble.

He keeps insisting that various players are fastball hitters. Well, just about every major leaguer is a fastball hitter. What kind of fastball, inside, near the letters, low ball?

And Matthews has to learn something that Richie Ashburn always tried to adhere to: If you have nothing meaningful to say, don't say anything.

Some inexperienced analysts feel they must fill the airwaves. They end up using lots of words to say nothing.

Just as a player works on his swing, an announcer can work on his delivery, making statements in a self-assured tone. One thing that has hurt Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen over the years is his monotonous delivery.

And while we're at it, the experiment of allowing Andersen to do a few innings of play-by-play each game should cease. It's not fair to Andersen, who has never done it before, and it's not pleasant for listeners.

Kalas, even though he might misjudge a fly ball here and there, is as popular as ever and remains a treat to listen to.

And analyst Chris Wheeler, who has also caught flak from the Phillies fans, is informative and as well prepared as any analyst.

The other day, before Atlanta's Andruw Jones went to the plate, Wheeler said Jones runs well but hits into so many double plays because he hits the ball so hard that it's easier to turn two.

Almost on cue, Jones hit a sharp grounder that just missed being a double play. Wheeler's strength is that he knows the players inside out.

Matthews has this same knowledge of the game. He must now convey that to the viewers.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.