Monday, October 12, 2015

Orsillo Will Be Missed

            It’s never a good thing to end a season on a low note, but this year the Red Sox didn’t have much of a choice. Sunday’s game—the final home game of the season—felt more than a little bit like a somber event, and it was one of the Red Sox’s own making.
            The game wasn’t just disheartening because the Red Sox had an absolutely terrible season this year, but also because this it marked the end of an era in the broadcast booth atop Fenway Park. Unfortunately, the era didn’t end because one member of the team is retiring, but instead because one of them was terminated by his employer. Don Orsillo, the beloved TV voice of the team, won’t be returning in 2016 due to The New England Sports Network not renewing his contract.
            It can’t have taken more than a few hours for NESN to realize just how bad of a decision this was. From the minute the news was broken by WEEI’s Gerry Callahan, there was a tsunami of fan pushback. Orsillo supporters flooded the comment sections of articles relating to the story, and an online petition garnered more than 60,000 signatures asking NESN to change their mind, and bring Orsillo back.
            Of course, the TV home of the Red Sox and the Boston Bruins did not opt to bring Don back, and the reasons for that are beyond me. However, that won’t stop me from making a few guesses. I have two theories as to why this might have happened.
            The first one is the idea that is widely spread as the reason for his ouster, and it makes some sense. NESN requires its baseball broadcasters to take a vacation in the middle of the season. This seems like something that would be fairly popular with the broadcasters, but that isn’t the case with Orsillo due to a certain catch in the clause.
            An in-season vacation requires Orsillo and his broadcast partner Jerry Remy to make their missed time up in the offseason—something that is extremely unusual for a baseball play-by-play man. The MLB season is a grueling one to cover. There are 162 games, 80 of which are on the road. Forcing someone who has to cope with that calendar to make up time that they didn’t want to take off is flat out ridiculous.
            Having met him several times, I can honestly say that Orsillo is one of the most mild-mannered, kind individuals in the industry, but I can definitely see him putting up a stink about something like that. After all, who wouldn’t? According to industry sources of The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn, Orsillo “was never a favorite” of Joseph Maar, the Vice President of Programing at NESN, and I think that the in-season vacation policy is the reason why. Maar implemented the mandatory vacation at NESN when he signed on as an executive, and has done the same at other regional sports networks that he has worked at. According to other sources of Finn and the Globe, Orsillo was “resistant” to the policy, and it makes a whole lot of sense that that resistance may have played a role in his canning.
            Theory number two is, well, a complete conspiracy. Eighty percent of NESN is owned by the Fenway Sports Group, which effectively means that the Red Sox own a majority share of the network. Nothing this big at any network would happen without the stamp of approval of the owners, and in this case those owners just so happen to be the owners of the Sox. There’s no evidence that I have found that indicates that the ownership group didn’t like Orsillo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them may have had it in for him. I know it’s crazy, because who would ever have it in for Don Orsillo, but between Maar and one of the Red Sox owners, there had to have been enough bad blood to want sack the most popular telecaster in New England.
            The last thing that should be mentioned on this topic is the legacy that Orsillo leaves behind. And it’s a damn good one. His professional on-air nature is something that all broadcasters should strive for, and his ability to make big moments exciting will long be missed on the airwaves in Boston. But in all honesty, those qualities aren’t really what we’ll miss the most about Don Orsillo. It will be the funny moments during games, like the infamous pizza throwing incident, and his everlasting chemistry with Remy, that will be irreplaceable.
            Don’t get me wrong, Dave O’Brien, his successor—who since 2007 has been doing the radio broadcasts on WEEI-FM—is also great, but he just isn’t Orsillo. Like almost every Red Sox fan, I wish him luck in what lies ahead, but his presence will be missed on summer nights in my home, as it will countless others across New England.

Contact Jasper Goodman at Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman

Changes Likely With Dombrowski Taking Over

            The Boston Red Sox have been able to put on quite a show for us lately, at least offensively, but lets be honest—This is nothing to be overly excited about.
            I can’t imagine this is new news to anyone, but the 2015 season has been virtually over for Boston since shortly after the All-Star Break. Instead of getting caught up on what this year could have been had the Red Sox signed some real pitchers, I think it’s more appropriate to start thinking about offseason priorities.
            MLB pennant races haven’t even been decided yet, but the Sox have already made what is likely to be the most important move of all regarding the 2016 team. That was to bring in Dave Dombrowski, the new President of Baseball Operations.
            Dombrowski has an excellent track record. He started his career just north of us up in Montreal, where he built the Expos’ farm system. Dombrowski then moved on and worked as the General Manager of the Florida Marlins in the 1990s, and won them the World Series in 1997. During that time, he worked under John Henry, who was the owner of the Marlins at the time, and is currently the principle owner of the Sox. After his time with in Florida, Dombrowski moved to Detroit, and built what is now the baseball empire that is the Tigers.
            In his time in the Motor City, Dombrowski oversaw five playoff appearances and two pennants. Everywhere Dombrowski has gone, success has gone with him, and I don’t see any reason why it won’t be more of the same in Boston.
            There’s no question that Dombrowski will be making some big changes with the team, the question is going to be who stays and who goes.
            Priority number one for him in the offseason has to be the pitching staff. From the bullpen to the rotation, there needs to be some drastic turnover. And when I say drastic, I mean it. If you to go the Red Sox website right now and look at the team’s depth chart, you’ll see that Rick Porcello is listed as their number one starter. Porcello is 8-12 on the year with a 5.06 ERA. Those numbers don’t sound to me like ones that can lead a starting rotation for an MLB contender, and I suspect Dombrowski feels the same way.
            David Price will be a free agent at the end of the season, and I would be very surprised if the Red Sox weren’t in contention for him.
            In the bullpen, it is more of the same. The Sox are going to need a total revamp of the ‘pen if they want to contend in ’16.
            Perhaps the most likely candidate to be traded at this point is outfielder and soon-to-be-first baseman Hanley Ramirez. Hanley has ben nothing short of a disaster defensively, and isn’t exactly tearing the cover off of the ball at the plate. He’s hit .249 so far this year, which is well below is career mark of .296. It’s a sure bet that Ramirez is being shopped around right now, but with the contract that the Sox gave him in the offseason—$88 million over four years—finding a home for him will be no easy task.
            The other question that remains up in the air right now is whether or not John Farrell will remain the manager of the ball club in 2016. The past few seasons have been ugly, and Farrell has made some very noticeable in-game mistakes. I’m not saying that the demise of the Red Sox is his fault, but he certainly hasn’t helped the cause.
            With Dombrowski coming in, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants his own guy to manage the team. It may be a long shot, but Jim Leyland is the first person who comes to mind. Leyland managed under Dombrowski in Florida and in Detroit. It’s hard to picture, considering Leyland is 70 years old and a chain smoker, but I wouldn’t count it out.
            While it’s likely that the Red Sox are looking for other options to lead the team, this isn’t an easy time for them to fire Farrell. The pitching-coach turned skipper, who has one year left on his contract, is currently going through radiation treatment for cancer. Firing someone who is in the middle of getting cancer treatment is a horrible thing to do—in any industry—and the Red Sox are looking at a potential public relations disaster if they do so.
            With that factor playing against the fact from a win-at-all-costs perspective the Sox probably need a managerial change; will make it very interesting to see what they do. Dombrowski will have his hands full in fixing this team, but I’m confident that with his experience and proven success, he can be the man for the job.

Contact Jasper Goodman at

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lucchino leaves with a mixed Legacy

            As the word came out on Saturday night that Larry Lucchino would be stepping down as the Red Sox President and CEO, it brought about mixed emotions. After all, Lucchino is the man who is ultimately responsible for bringing in the disaster that was Bobby Valentine, who managed the Red Sox to a dismal 69-93 record in 2011. But at the same time, he’s widely thought of as the man who was behind putting together the World Series championship teams of 2004, 2007, and 2013.
            Ultimately, Lucchino’s legacy will probably be remembered as a good one, but while he did deliver three trophies, all in all, his results have varied, and he’s made some very costly decisions.
            Just this year, Luchhino locked Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez into long-term deals, and right now those deals aren’t making him look so good. Sandoval is currently hitting .260, which shouldn’t a surprise. The Panda hasn’t hit for anything better than .280 since 2012, and you should expect him to be producing much more than he is. The Red Sox, however, seemed to think in the offseason that he would be better, and locked him into a five-year, $95 million contract. It seems clear now that Lucchino’s decision to sign Sandoval was based on a knee-jerk reaction that was the result of his 2014 postseason performance.
            Perhaps Lucchino’s greatest failure came in 2011, when he put together what seemed to be a World Series caliber team, and somehow the squad finished in last place. If you’re not familiar with the situation, it was basically the result of one man: Bobby Valentine. The Sox hired Valentine, who, to put it mildly, is a complete idiot, in the offseason per Lucchino’s orders. In fact, Lucchino even overruled newly named general manager Ben Cherington, in the decision to hire Valentine, and has since taken the blame for it.
            Over the past four years, it’s been hard to claim that the Sox front office has really had a plan. While what they did worked in 2013, they have been so bad in the surrounding seasons that you have to put some blame on the folks up top.
            With that said, Lucchino has done some good things for the Red Sox. Principle owner John Henry even went so far as to say in an interview with WBZ that Lucchino “is a Hall of Fame baseball executive who has left an indelible mark on Fenway and the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and New England.”
            About that, he’s right. Lucchino is a marketing genius. He’s the main reason why when you turn on NESN every night, you see a chalk-full Fenway Park. In fact, he’s the reason why you see Fenway Park at all. If Lucchino wasn’t at the helm, there’s a good chance that the Sox would have torn down Fenway, and if that were the case, they’d be playing in some spruced-up modern park right now. Lucchino has to get credit for that.
            The ownership has also used Lucchino has somewhat of a punching bag for fans to use when things don’t go so well. Granted, a lot of that may be warranted, but he’s the only one who seems to take the blame when things aren’t going well for the team.
            On the local front, the Vermont Mountaineers smothered the Laconia Muskrats yesterday afternoon in game one of the opening-round best-of-three series of the NECBL playoffs. It was quite an offensive showing from the Mountaineers, who notched 13 runs in the game.
            The Mountaineers look to be in great shape going into game two of the series, but it hasn’t been an easy road for the Mountaineers to get there. Almost 20 Mountaineers have come and gone due to injuries and coach’s requests, but somehow the team has been able stay on top of it, having to sign new players all the time. “Even though we’ve had so much turnover, it’s been incredible chemistry in the dugout,” Mountaineers GM Brian Gallagher said. “It’s been a roller-coaster season with guys leaving and getting hurt. We were losing key players that I thought we’d never be able to replace, and we’ve had guys come in and really fight hard.
            Gallagher also credits a lot of the success to manager Joe Brown, who coaches a small-ball game that is difficult for some players to pick up mid-season. “It’s been a challenging summer,” Brown said. “I have a certain way that I like to coach the game so I’m not just looking for bodies, I’m looking for the right bodies.”
            The success that the squad has had is a major credit to the recruiting work that Brown and Gallagher put in throughout the winter and into the summer. The ‘Neers look to do it again tonight as they take on Muskrats in Laconia for game two of the series.

Contact Jasper Goodman at Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.