Sunday, September 27, 2015

Boston Baked: The Departure of Don Orsillo

From NESN/Twitter

Things will look and sound different in the TV booth of the Boston Red Sox in 2016.

Don Orsillo, their play-by-play voice, has been let go.

Orsillo, who has been hanging around the Sox since 1989, when he was an intern, will do his last game today (Michael Silverman, Boston Herald), likely step away with the same class and decency that he has exhibited all along, and move on.

Oh don't cry for him too much. There are rampant rumors that he is on his way to San Diego to take over the Padres job, especially as the legendary Dick Enberg enters his final year as TV voice out there*.

* A quick aside: I told Chris Erway this yesterday, and I'll say it here. With Enberg stepping down and/or backing down to a very reduced schedule and...gulp...Vin Scully projecting 2016 as his 67th and final year, you might want to invest in stock for tissues purchased in the metro-Mahopac, NY area.

The decision to dump Orsillo is the responsibility of NESN, the regional cable network that carries the Red Sox. Of course, the team gets a say in that also, and don't think otherwise. Like it or not, here in New York, there are people who approve the return of John Sterling, Michael Kay, Suzyn Waldman, and yes, Ryan Ruocco. The YES Network, WFAN, and the Yankees are in cahoots in these choices.

Like it or not.

Orsillo and his partner, Jerry Remy, the former Red Sox second baseman, have become a very popular pairing. Orsillo plays the straight man, the honest play-by-play voice who calls the game (and does it very well) while playing along with the goofier, New England-accented "RemDawg." Together they became appointment TV. When Remy stepped away a few times (various reasons abounded), it was Orsillo, acting as the glue and working with other analysts who continued to entertain the Boston faithful.

Yet it just wasn't the same.

Yes, we as fans largely tune in for the game. Generally, we hope the broadcaster doesn't get in the way (as in the recent times that I've muted YES and it seems I will have reason to in 2016), or even enhances and gets us to watch/listen (a rarity of course. I call this "The Vin Impact.'")

If Sox fans aren't tuning in, it's simply because the team stinks.

And let's be honest, it's been an awful year in Beantown.

It's no secret to those who read this little corner of the world that I am a passionate Yankees fan. It's also no secret I have plenty to say when it comes to broadcasting. Yet I must also add I've always enjoyed a pleasant relationship with the fans of the team from Boston. I like their history. They've had plenty of players worth admiring. They've often, as an organization, done so many first class things, from the Jimmy Fund to the 1999 All-Star Game to the way they treated both Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

But the Red Sox, and NESN, dropped the ball here.

As I said, it appears Don will be just fine. The Padres, networks, and so on will come calling. He will weigh his options. Will he move his family (he's a New England native)?

It's a lot to consider, and it's the Red Sox fans who come out the loser.

Broadcasters move on. Believe me. I know. Time moves forward.

Fans, overall, don't truly forget. They get over it, but they don't forget, and with the likely move of Dave O'Brien to the Boston TV booth, the Sox will recover from the PR hit.

For the departure of the ultra-popular Red Barber in Brooklyn brought on that kid named Scully full-time. Mel Allen's messy divorce from the Yankees moved Phil Rizzuto to prominence. You get the idea.

Boston better do the same.

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