Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On the television... and the radio

So, the news broke today that longtime NESN play-by-play man Don Orsillo, who grew up just down the road from where I live today, was not returning for the 2016 Red Sox season. This came as a shock to most of the people in New England.
When Orsillo came around 15 years ago, he stepped into the shoes of a beloved local figure in Sean McDonough. There was a period of adjustment for Red Sox fans, but Orsillo's easy-going nature and his great sense of humor, along with his skills as a play-by-play guy, won over fans pretty quickly. He bonded with Jerry Remy, the longtime NESN analyst and over the last 15 years they have developed a fantastic give and take that makes watching Red Sox games easy, even when the team is in the tank, which sadly over the last few years has been more often than not.
Additionally, Orsillo has adjusted pretty well to curveballs thrown his way over the course of the last few years. When Remy was dealing with illness, Orsillo worked with many different partners and handled it incredibly well. When Remy took time off to deal with his son's legal issues, Orsillo again handled it beautifully. This is a tribute to his professionalism and his ability.
The word around social media (which as we know, is never wrong), is that Dave O'Brien, one of the WEEI radio voices of the Red Sox for the last few years, will be taking Orsillo's spot in the NESN booth. O'Brien has a long history in television and in fact, misses all Monday Red Sox games to call television games for ESPN, among his other duties.
Because I spend lots of time in my car and in the office (where there is no television), I end up listening to a lot of games on the radio (or on my iPad on the SiriusXM app). Dave O'Brien is absolutely fantastic, one of the most incredible play-by-play guys I've had the pleasure of listening to. He gets the description right on the money seemingly every time. When he takes the day off, the broadcast suffers, despite the best work of the always-fantastic Joe Castiglione. Lou Merloni is a competent sub as an analyst, but frequent substitute analyst Rob Bradford can't string together three sentences that make sense.
I believe Dave O'Brien will do a fantastic job on television, if that is indeed how things are going to go. I love Don Orsillo and will miss him, but I also love Dave O'Brien and respect his work, so I don't expect a drop-off in the NESN broadcasts.
However, the second play-by-play seat in the WEEI booth is what I am worried about, being as I listen a lot. With Joe Castiglione getting up there (unfortunately he won't be in the booth forever), I think WEEI needs to make sure that the person they hire to replace O'Brien is a proven play-by-play guy, not just someone who can offer analysis. One of the best things about the current radio broadcasts is that O'Brien and Castiglione split the games up, with each taking a few innings at a time, giving listeners analysis when they aren't doing the play-by-play.
While I'm sure Merloni would be able to handle the job, I wonder if he's up for leaving the comfort of a daily radio gig. And while I've never heard Merloni do play-by-play, I think he might be able to do it. I have no confidence in Bradford at all and my sincere hope is that he isn't even remotely considered for this position. Dale Arnold would be a great choice (and he's already working on the network), but like Merloni, wonder if he'd be up for leaving the comfort of a daily radio gig.
This will be an interesting offseason as Red Sox fans look to see just how next year's team will take shape (that's a topic for another day), but it will also be interesting to see how the alleged vacant seat in the WEEI booth is filled.
As long as they don't bring back Glenn Geffner (the fact that he was part of the broadcast team that called a Sox World Series win still bugs me), who was by far the worst full-time broadcaster I've heard on WEEI's Sox broadcast, I think they'll be OK. Oh, and yes, no Bradford either.

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