Today is Don Orsillo’s last day behind the mike for the Red Sox. Orsillo has already found a new position with the San Diego Padres organization on their broadcast team and is reported to be replacing Dick Enberg as the voice of the Padres after Enberg’s retirement at the end of next year.
The Padres came looking for Orsillo not just because he was suddenly available but because he is a professional, talented broadcaster who has been the face of the Red Sox and will replace the man who has been the face of Padres Baseball.
Orsillo has been the play by play announcer for Red Sox baseball since 2001 and has been teamed with ex-Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy since 2005. The two have become synonymous with Red Sox television on NESN and have become great favorites with Red Sox fans. In addition to his duties with NESN, Orsillo has been a member of the broadcast team for the MLB Division Series on TBS since 2007 and the voice of Providence College Men’s Basketball.
At Orsillo’s last game broadcasting from Fenway Park, the club showed a video honoring Orsillo for his years with the team and NESN did not show it but, instead, went to their regular commercials. Unfortunately for NESN, the fans in the ballpark began to chant Orsillo’s name after the video and NESN could not screen that demonstration of his popularity from the viewers.
NESN has bungled this matter from Day 1. They allowed the fact that Orsillo’s contract was not being renewed to be leaked before announcing it themselves and then tried to blame the termination on declining ratings. It is common knowledge that Red Sox ownership and management were behind his being let go.
What else could you expect from the group that brought you Bobby Valentine, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez and let Jon Lester get away? What else could you expect from the group that has taken Playoff teams and World Series Champions and turned them into last place teams almost overnight?
This is the group that fired Terry Francona after he had won 744 and lost just 552 games in eight years, brought them their first two World Series wins in 86 years and had won 90 games in the year they fired him. This is the group whose teams had won 121 and lost 155 between winning the World Series in 2013 before installing Torey Lovullo as Manager about the same time they let Orsillo’s firing leak.
Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were a professional, entertaining team who provided a unique mix of expertise, enthusiasm and comedy that the Fenway Faithful grew to love. Although Remy has a year to go on his contract, no one doubts that he will be gone soon.
Dave O’Brien, who is taking Orsillo’s place, is a fine broadcaster who has been the play by play man for Red Sox radio since 2007. I am sure that he will do a great job taking Orsillo’s place. Unfortunately, I am also sure that the fans will get over the loss of and the shabby handling of Orsillo quickly and will find O’Brien interesting and informative as well.
The fact remains, there was no reason for this to have happened in the first place. Is there anyone who doesn’t realize that a last place team is not going to attract as much attention as a first place team and that the Red Sox had been a poor last place team for almost two years until Torey Lovullo came along?
In addition to the poor performance on the field, some of the things NESN has done to improve their ratings have been close to idiotic. Does anyone understand why they trumpet the fact that they are going to stay on the field between innings so you can see what goes on and then shows their commercial with tiny windows on the side that show you nothing but a couple of players moving around?
Why do they think that the fans want to see and hear an endless parade of ex- stars and Hall of Famers talk about the same thing every night? Do they really believe that those inane children’s shows that that they produce every week will improve their ratings? Do they really think that those Mobile opinion polls, where they ask questions like ‘Do you like your coffee hot or cold?’, are helping their ratings?
No, their ratings problems are not caused by Don Orsillo and/or Jerry Remy. The unfortunate thing is that this team they have put together, which closed the season looking like the best team in the American League, has the ability to go all the way next year and give the Red Sox their fourth World Series win of the century or at least be near the top of the Division.
When that happens, the ratings will go up, not because Don Orsillo is gone but because the fans love a winner. If the Sox win it all in 2016, Bobby Valentine, who, if it is possible, may have been a less effective broadcaster than he was a Manager, could be behind the mike and the ratings would go up. Red Sox management will come out of this mess smelling like a rose. This management groups record reminds me of the old saying, ‘ Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.’
So, next year at this time, the ratings will be up and everything will be wonderful in NESN land but it will never be the same as having Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, NESN’s Odd Couple, in the booth, with their unique talent.