Jul 31 2008
By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch
Manny Mania reached epic levels on Thursday and the most blatant example of the Man Love came when the Globe’s Amalie Benjamin posted at 10:52 a.m. that nothing new had developed, followed nine minutes later by teammate Nick Cafardo confirming that indeed, nothing new had developed. (“Talks Still Ongoing” was Benjamin’s hed choice, while Cafardo went with “Still Working on Manny Deal.”) We eagerly awaited Gordon Edes’s “Still, We Still Wait, Still” post, but alas, it never came.
Cafardo got a bit tongue-tied when trying to relay the trade specifics to NESN’s afternoon audience, but overalll the network’s “Trade Deadline Special” benefited from both his presence and that of rapidly rising Lou Merloni. When Tom Caron (in the role of Brian Williams on election night) asked Cafardo what Ramirez’s legacy will be in Boston, the spot-on response from Cafardo was: “A very confusing one.”
There was a great Cafardo-wears-multiple-hats scene just after 4:30 p.m. when Cafardo the newspaper reporter went off stage right to work the phone and discovered as he took a cell call that he needed a pen. Caron, live and in mid-question to Merloni, instructed Loquacious Lou to hand Cafardo the writing utensil as Cafardo then came back on-camera briefly to grab pen and paper. Moments later, Cafardo the TV analyst was sharing the specifics with the NESN viewers.
Immediately Merloni said, “To me that sounds like an awful lot.”
But it was Peter Gammons’ take on ESPN 890 AM which was filled with what 890 co-host Kevin Winter called “venom” and had co-host Mike Salk warning listeners to “consider the source” despite calling himself a part of the “Gammons Youth.”
Gammons said, “I think (Ramirez) is a disgrace to the game. . . he hates the game and has no respect. . .I get sick of people in Boston adoring a guy who didn’t play hard. . . he blackmailed the Red Sox and he went on a sit down strike. He doesn’t care about anything but the next contract. . . He is an affront and an embarrassment to the game. . . What about the integrity of playing the game right and showing up and honoring your contract? When it comes to the Hall of Fame, there will be a lot of people who have more a lot more question about Manny Ramriez than they do about Mark McGwire.”
Salk and Winters gave the impression that Gammons had gotten into an especially frothy lather because of Gammons’ relationship with many in the Red Sox front office. “It was a complete rip job,” said Salk as he simultaneously praised the legend and career of Gammons. “The spin starts early (after the story breaks).”
Audio of the interview was not yet available on Radio Rewind at the clunky 890 website, but it likely will be on Friday.) HERE IT IS WITHIN THE 6-7 p.m. SHOW FROM THURSDAY, STARTS AROUND 27:00 and lasts three minutes.
. . . Gammons toned it down considerably for his appearance on SportsCenter with Linda Cohn. “The happiest guy in America right now is Terry Francona,” Gammons said (with about 2:35 left in the clip below).
. . . Gerry Callahan submits an instant classic Cal column on Monsieur Manny. My goodness can Cranky Callahan still churn out a doozy when the event merits or what?
. . . For all the bashing we’ve done of the Dimdog, Steve Silva, we do need to acknowledge that his posting of Schilling’s Thursday WEEI 850 AM rant was both timely and newsy.
. . . One afternoon report had news that Manny was napping when he was informed of the trade. Perfect, isn’t it?
. . . Not sure who the writer has been, but ESPNDeportes.com had a banner week with all its Manny coverage and exclusive talks.
. . . Free of charge to the Herald for back page use upon the new guy’s first big day as a Red Sox: “Bay State of Mind.” “Bay Day” will also work and so will “Bay Watch.”
• Say this for 890 ESPN’s general manager and founder, Jessamy Tang: She’s a battler. Faced with losing Mike Felger, her lone local talent presence AND the attractive programming block of “Patriots Friday,” Tang’s Gang forges on and readjusts at the Little Station That Can’t.
890 ESPN is in the process of creating a new local afternoon line-up that will eventually stretch from Noon to 2 p.m. and then again from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Felger’s show was the lone local block, from 3 to 6 p.m., followed by an hour of local-themed pre-game chatter which will continue.)
Hosts have not been confirmed for either of the two slots, but the most interesting name being bandied about is that of Ron Borges, the ex-Boston Globe rabble rouser who has never truly impressed on-radio or TV. An inconsistent blogger (zero posts in over six weeks and just two since May, making for a pretty weak “back and forth”), Borges has likewise been inconsistent on his frequent CN8 “Out of Bounds” appearances and was always an inconsistent and uncooperative radio yakker during his Globe days. [Shots, it should be noted, is also a frequent contributor to CN8.]
Regarding the forthcoming line-up change, Doug Bailey, a spokesman for the station, told Scott’s Shots this week, “Some people are mulling over decisions, some people have changed their minds, some people have gone on vacation, and the negotiations go on. We hoped to have wrapped it up by now but life isn’t always quite so neat.”
Bailey, an ex-Globe writer and editor himself, confirmed that Borges is in the mix and also indicated that Lew and Mike of 1510 AM WWZN (non-) fame are being discussed as a possible option. Shots is told that unproven duo, which had bought some 890 time during the Celtics playoffs, is being discussed for the afternoon drive gig. Bailey also confirmed that both Andy Gresh and Ryen Russillo have been talked to about the available openings. Current 890 staffers Kevin Winter and ex-Shots Saturday morning co-host, Mike Salk are also thought to be under consideration for new or expanded roles once the new line-up is launched.
Bailey also stressed that Tang’s Gang will be responsible “for marketing and selling advertising for whatever programming is finalized.” Some 890 moles indicated to Shots earlier in the week that the late afternoon show would be a “pay-for-play” or time-buy, but Bailey strongly denied that.
As for Borges, there is no questioning that he can be provocative and he does know how to push buttons – especially of the Pats Apologists and Diehards flooding the region. Those are two marketable qualities for sports talk radio in the 21st century. However, as Felger will surely tell you, it takes hard work, dedication and a heck of a lot of creativity to be able to even register in this market against Entercom’s two-headed sports monster of WEEI and WRKO. You’d have to question whether Borges – who supposedly writing a book on Art Shell – will have that kind of time and vigor.
“Our objective is not to beat ‘EEI in the ratings, or even match them,” said Bailey. “We never will. We strive to be a credible alternative to the sports programming on ‘EEI and other stations and we don’t have to be their size to do that.”
The thinking in the Schrafft Building seems to be that Borges’ would grab attention immediately and that’s a good short term bet for Tang. But the lasting effect and the evidence Borges was less than fully committed to his craft at the end of his Globe stint, would suggest that Radio Ron may not be the best solution for what ails 890.
“The good thing about hiring people who have been put through a public flogging is that they’re virtually scandal proof,” said Bailey in defense of his former Globe colleague. “The ones that haven’t been caught yet keep on spinning and are ticking time bombs.”
. . . The latest strategy for 890 appears to be to try and get more local and offer two Boston-based alternatives to “Dale & Holley” and “The Big Show” at market-leader, WEEI-850 AM (owned by Entercom).
“(Jessamy) had to make the case to ESPN (national) that going more local (and removing midday national programming) is the best option,” said Bailey. “It’s a testimony to Jessamy’s persuasiveness and this is a good thing for the station.” (Although not an Owned and Operated ESPN station, there are still requirements for Tang to carry certain amounts of the national feed.)
. . . In an example that 890 will go to great lengths to try and be provocative, the oddly named, “Prime Time Live” show this week entertained call-in guest, Bob Lobel on air Tuesday afternoon. Lobel – who made a fool of himself with his WEEI 850 AM fill-in a couple of weeks back – was once again throwing spaghetti against the wall for his expert interview with Bob Halloran and Winter. Winter, at least, seemed to know just how sketchy it was to have LobeLucchino on-air and left most of the questioning to Halloran. Unfortunately, Halloran completely ignored the opportunity to ask Lobel to explain himself for his gross over-exaggeration of Manny’s fine on WEEI’s ariwaves.
. . . Bailey admitted that what WEEI is attempting on its website is not something 890 is prepared to compete with. “They’re throwing a lot of money into that and I don’t think we’re in a position to do that now,” he said.
. . . We’ve long-believed 890 was a dead station walking, but as Bailey said, “No one is throwing in the towel,” he said. “Look at the radio ad market everywhere. Look at Entercom.”
To bolster his case, Bailey supplied these numbers in defense of his client’s performance and progression over the Spring Arbitron book of 2007:
– In Men 18-49, for AM Drive (Mike & Mike, national) 890 went from a .5 in Spring, 2007 to a 2.0 in Spring, 2008.
– For that same demo, middays went up from .2 to .6 and the afternoon drive (Felger’s old spot) went from .4 to 2.3.
– The overall M-F, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 18-49 jumped from .4 to 1.6
– The demo of 25-54 year-olds saw similar spikes in the morning (.5 to 1.9) and afternoon (.4 to 2.4) and overall from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (.4 to 1.6).
“Our point is the trend,” said Bailey. “We can demonstrate trendlines in which we have more than doubled our ratings in prime categories over the last year – the categories advertisers care most about.”
• Happy anniversary to one of the most underrated sports programs – TV or radio – ever; NPR’s “Only a Game”, which has a permanent download spot in Shots’ iTunes account. OAG’s egular contributor Boston Globe Magazine’s Charlie Pierce shared this with us earlier this week:
“I’ve been on the show from jump,” said Pierce. “Bill (Littlefield) and I negotiated my appearances in the dugout in Winter Haven. The original executive producer, David Greene, went on to help create Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, hence, my involvement there. It’s a joy to be part of and let’s face it, where else can Boston sports fans hear about belt-sander racing?”
The show is off this week, Pierce informs us, but returns next week to embark on another decade-and-a-half or more or intelligent sports reporting and discussion.
. . . Pierce got off a zinger on Thursday’s “Globe 10.0″ with Eric Frede filling in for Bob Ryan. Asked to discuss the possibility of Rush Limbaugh owning an NFL team, Pierce made an addiction joke about Limbuagh and then theorized his first move as an owner “would be to trade for Nick Kaczur.”
Edgy and funny – Pierced again!
• The sad passing of Jim Thistle has quite a few sports media tie-ins. First and foremost, we send our condolences to Jim’s son, James, Jr. and all the Thistles.
. . . Frank Shorr, long-time sports producer in town and a Boston University colleague of Thistle, Sr.’s, remembered this moment from when he was at Channel 7:
“Jim’s approach to sports was just the same as news,” Shorr wrote in an email. “If it was compelling and interesting he’d run with it.
“Here’s an example: John Dennis and I went to Logan Airport one night at 3 a.m. to try and get Wade Boggs returning from a road trip. Who shows up but Jim Thistle? Boggs said he wouldn’t talk but told John to see him at the ballpark later that day.
“John is sitting in the dugout waiting and Boggs comes up the runway and sits down next to him and says, ‘Okay, go.’ John asks one question and the interview lasts seven and a half minutes. Now, remember, it was formatted for a minute-and-a-half at the top of the show. But Jim saw me screening the tape and said ‘Go with it.’ We ran all seven and a half minutes.
“He was the undisputed king of news managers in this town,” Shorr said.
A Scholarship in Thistle’s name (and that of Natalie Jacobson) has been established.
• In addition to initially leaving out Ian Browne in Tuesday’s list of possible Globe Web writers or beat guys, we also neglected to include Chad Finn, who has already established himself as bloggerific for Boston.com. Finn responded to a question in his recent “Last Word,” thusly:
I’m staying right here, thanks, though some things may be changing soon where I actually get to write more.
So his role could certainly expand as Joe Sullivan re-configures his desk.
• The Tom Casale departure debacle is the kind of bile that doesn’t deserve an iota of attention – and certainly not the mentions it’s already received. However, we did want to point out the comment from a writer identifying herself as the Providence Journal’s Shalise Manza Young, which was posted at patsfans.com:
“Hey all –
I’m going to try not to give my opinion on this too much, just wanted to share with a few things:
The Pats definitely know about this; one of the PFW writers told me about it after practice today and they were just floored at what he had done. Here’s the thing (one of the things) he forgot when he did this: he has likely put Paul Perillo, Andy Hart, Erik Scalavino and now Mike Parente’s jobs in jeopardy. Regardless of what you think of them, they don’t deserve to lose their jobs because of what Casale did. Belichick is going to be none too happy to have that information out there, and he could very well go to Bob Kraft and say they can’t fly on the team plane anymore. So then Kraft has to decide if he wants the extra expense of flying the PFW staff separately all the time, and possibly having them stay in a different hotel all the time. PFW does turn a profit currently, but having to buy (at a minimum) five round-trip plane tickets for every road game will get costly quickly…
I haven’t heard of *anyone* who works in the PFW office or interacts with that group that isn’t happy to have Casale gone. He really was a toxic presence and not at all a nice guy. Personally, I didn’t like him at all and think that his little post is quite possibly one of the most classless things I’ve ever seen.
And for what it’s worth, Tedy has always been nice to me. Can he be moody sometimes? Of course. But if I had people asking me the same questions over and over again I would be too at times. I also had a good relationship with Corey Dillon…
. . . Here’s Casale’s explanation of why his picks will click on his new employer’s gambling site. It’s probably wrong to say, but you kind of hope he loses his shirt, his house and job because of all his “expertise” and “degenerate gambling ways.”
There’s unprofessional exits from a job and then there’s the way Castleton College’s Tommy Rider rode out of town. he didn’t burn bridges, he napalmed them.
• If Leigh Montville writes it, we’ll read it. That’s a hard and fast rule here at The Shanty.
• Shots is scheduled for the 7 p.m. “Out of Bounds” on CN8 on Friday night when the topic of Manny just may come up. Do tune in!
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmediaDOTcom.
Scott’s first book, with Memphis Coach John Calipari, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2009.