By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

In yet another stunning blow to the battered Boston Herald sports section, general columnist and Red Sox specialist, Tony Massarotti is leaving One Herald Square, crossing over Route 93, will land smack dab on Joe Sullivan’s sports staff at the Boston Globe/Boston.com. Adam Reilly at the Phoenix had the inter-Globe memo announcing the move on Thursday evening and Bruce Allen did a nice follow-up as well (including bumps for Amalie Benjamin and Chad Finn) and so did Dan Kennedy.

Massarotti, who was at Fenway last night for the Herald, spoke of the move to Scott’s Shots in the 9 o’clock hour.

“I gave my notice (Thursday) to Hank Hryniewicz,” said Massarotti. “I’ll still do the Baltimore and New York series for the Herald and should start with the Globe at the beginning of next month.”

Massarotti, who has danced with the Globe before, will fill a mainly on-line role for Boston.com’s Red Sox coverage, but there is also a print element to the job as well.

“The idea is to have a bit of a hybrid position between the web site and the paper with an on-line emphasis,” he said. “It will be largely baseball to start but there’s no real restrictions on this position. There are million things to do with it. There will be a lot of trial and error.

“This issue of what my job title would be came up during (talks with Sullivan),” Massarotti said. “I don’t know if there is one for what I’ll be doing and I don’t care if there isn’t.”

The switch mean that Mazz’s relationship with WEEI 850 AM will have to cease (due to Globe policy forbidding appearances on the station, in place since 1999) and it will also diminish whatever role Mazz had on Comcast SportsNet, as he will now be have to give first dibs to NESN.

Interestingly, Massarotti confirmed to Shots that he had been in “extensive” discussions with WEEI.com as well. “Eventually, I had to look at it and say that WEEI.com is a start up. The Boston Globe is a long-established media outlet and they’re not going anywhere,” he said. “I couldn’t see leaving a place I had been for almost 20 years, to go to what is basically a start-up.”

. . . In one fell swoop, Sullivan continues Wingo Way’s Summer of Discontent by stealing another of Hank Herald’s Top 3 talents AND enhancing his own staff’s recently-diminished Sox coverage. This is the media world’s equivalent of losing a superstar within the division and for Hank Herald it is another is a series of blows that leaves his already-thin staff looking gaunt.

Mazz, a 1989 Tufts alum, has been at the Herald since 1989 and has blossomed during the rise of Boston’s Big Three, frequently appearing on ESPN (which will continue) and somewhat regularly stirring up the masses. In 2001, he was named the best sportswriter in Massachusetts, according to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, becoming the first Herald sportswriter to win the honor over a decade. He covered UMass basketball during the Calipari days and in 1994 slid over to the Red Sox beat for the paper.

“I’ve literally known (Hank Herald) since I was 17 years old,” said Mazz, who grew up in Watertown and Waltham. “The hardest part of this whole thing was leaving the Herald. Hank is a friend of mine, not just my boss. But (the Globe position) was a unique opportunity and I couldn’t say no to it.

“This is a progressive and proactive attempt to integrate the paper and the web,” he said. “Too often at papers, there is a segregation between the two sides. Hopefully this will erase that line.”

. . . One Globe mole summed up the news this way, “It’s nice to be talking about an addition (for a change).”

True dat. In these days of lay-offs, buyouts and paper sales, it is interesting to note that the Boston Globe is finding a way to hire high-level talent by putting them on the web side and simultaneously buoying the print side (and TV) AND weakening the immediate competition.

. . . ANALYSIS OF GLOBE HIRING MASSAROTTI:

Gordon Who? After a prolonged separation from Gordon Edes, Joe Sullivan moved relatively quickly in filling the spot vacated by Edes and turning it into a web/print “hybrid” as Massarotti called it. He also set the wheels in motion to provide a young, eager back-up for Private Benjamin while leaving Nick Cafardo in place to continue his “On Baseball” (and other) role(s).

Mazz hasn’t exactly been a blogging maniac at the Herald, but he has shown glimpses and the enthusiasm in his voice on Thursday night at the Globe opportunity would indicate he’s ready to make the most of his new job. There’s no question he’s got the voice and gumption to make his presence felt.

Sullivan’s enhanced use of Finn is also encouraging and the ambiguity of his new title “sports news reporter” allows for a vast use of his considerable talent – from blogging to storytelling to “list”ing.

Overall, Sully had himself a day and the war between Boston.com and WEEI.com can now be advanced to a combative stage because. . .

• Scott’s Shots has confirmed the emerging rumor that ex-Boston Globe and accused plagiarist Ron Borges will be part of the re-launched effort at WEEI.com.

“I think (it’s) a pretty bold move,” said WEEI’s Gerry Callahan via email. “I know I look forward to reading him.”

“He’ll make the Patriots nervous and I’m sure Bill Belichick will be pissed off having him back around,” said Callahan’s co-host, John Dennis. “(Borges) is someone who compels you to log on and read what he has written. Yeah, he’s stubbed his toe a few times. But he knows what he’s doing and he’s still extremely well connected throughout the league.”

Although neither Dennis nor Callahan were sure on the specific role that Borges will play for the website, a separate WEEI.com source confirmed Borges will be writing a Patriots-centric column, twice weekly for the site (one post-game and one later in the week). Borges and previously-announced acquisition Mike Felger, will anchor the site’s Pats’ coverage. It’s still not clear how much – if any – air time Borges will receive on WEEI.

“I’m not sure how much cross-pollenization there will be,” said Dennis. “But I would have him on our show, sure.”

Shots has also confirmed two other “gets” for WEEI.com’s editor Rob Bradford: The first is a full-time hire in Alex Speier, the Union-Leader writer and Boston Herald contributor, who will – like Bradford – both edit and write for the site exclusively.

Also joining the roster will be Foxsports.com’s Jeff Goodman who will do for WEEI.com what he had been doing for the Herald during college basketball season, namely providing a national notes column. Goodman is allowed, per the terms of his deal with Foxsports.com, to provide content for another outlet and it appears he will now do so for ‘EEI.com, instead of the Herald. (The move is thus a double-blow to the forever in-flux sports pages of the Little Tabloid That Could.)

More staffing and contributor names are expected to emerge in the coming days. The WEEI.com site will gradually roll out its new elements and design over the coming months and hopes to be fully operational by the end of January 2009.

. . . ANALYSIS OF WEEI.COM TAPPING BORGES:

Well, WEEI.com’s Vice President and General Manager, Tim Murphy, continues to make eye-opening and “sexy” hires as he ramps up his website to do battle with the big boys in Boston sports media. In grabbing Bradford, Murphy immediately gained a popular and New Media-savvy captain to steer his ship content-wise. Felger, too, was a wise and relatively safe move and served the dual purpose of puncturing the (ahem) competition (890 AM ESPN and the Herald) while fortifying the site’s Pats’ analysis and click-worthiness.

As for Borges, Entercom is going to get a quick bang for its buck, but the true test will be whether Borges can be consistent and controversial without going too far over the edge (as he clearly did with the Globe).

Leopards rarely change their spots and Borges has shown almost no commitment to the site that bears his own name. Why should we believe he will “get after it” for a new employer? Better yet, what kind of statement does it make when one of your top five hires is associated with such an inglorious moment in Boston sports media history?

But a lightning rod drives traffic and Muprhy and Bradford apparently believe they can control Borges and use him to their advantage. There’s no question he will draw attention to the site.

We will – as always – reserve full judgment until Borges and WEEI.com have had some time to prove themselves, but for now count us as a skeptical observer at best.

. . . For all the bluster, bullying and bravado that can accompany the Borges hire, it is the full-time position given to Speier that will most likely be the biggest benefit for Entercom. Long-considered a rising star in the market, Speier had maintained a full-time job at a local university in addition to his myriad writing gigs. Like Bradford, he has never been afraid to go outside the box and the pairing of the two on Red Sox coverage puts WEEI.com on near-level footing with almost every outlet in the region, right from jump street.

. . . Foxborough frequenters can’t remember the last time Borges has been seen at Patriots Place, but surely with this new gig (in addition to the other work he has been doing), Borges’ return to The Razor will be forthcoming. That will be must-see video of the HC’s presser when Borges makes an inquiry to B-sqaured. Hope WEEI.com is wise enough to get footage of it!

To paraphrase Rick Pitino, the negativity on this blogs SUCKS!

In recognition of that (but in no way abandoning my inner-bitter), we give to you a brief, final feel-good Scott’s Shots entry for this day in which we urge you to completely ignore us in favor of reading (or re-reading) this from WEEI and the Boston Herald’s Gerry Callahan. And then by filling out this donation form as we did in honor of “Papa,” who was served righteously by the good folks at the Pawtucket Dana Farber facility:

“I deny it if any one asks,” said John Dennis on Thursday afternoon, “but I missed him. I compare it to a double play combination that gets separated because of injury or trade. You lose that comfort level.”

It was last summer around this time and Dennis’s co-host on the 6 a.m. to 10 .m. “Dennis and Callahan” show at WEEI 850 AM was in the midst of dealing with what we now know was a malignant polyp on – of all things – his throat. (It was also during the time that D&C were in a tumultuous negotiation process with Entercom.) From April through September, Dennis’s Joe Morgan had lost his Dave Concepcion in Callahan, and Dennis was one of the few to know the full details of his partner’s absence (which, among other things, resulted in the duo missing what Dennis called, at the time, “the most important thing we do all year long, the Jimmy Fund Telethon.”)

Now, a year removed from the contentiousness and posturing that dominated the ultimate contract renewal for the powerful pair, Dennis realizes he learned more about his sidekick during that four-month hiatus, than he had in ten years on air at ‘EEI.

“More than anything it exposed a human side of Gerry – and I don’t mean this derogatorily, but there is the tough, gruff exterior than accompanies Gerry on the surface,” said Dennis, after just completing an emcee role at Thursday’s “Trophy Talk.” “He was scared to death and was facing mortality and everything that comes with it.”

As for Dennis, he felt the best thing he could do was to shepherd the show through Callahan’s absence. “That was actually a good distraction for me from Gerry’s situation,” said Dennis. “I still had to make sure that no matter who I was on with, that we were doing a good show.”

. . . Dennis acknowledged that this year’s goal of $4 million goal is ambitious but the way the now- two-day event has become a part of the summer in Boston sports is helping – even in a fluctuating economy. “People now expect this event, there’s no need to explain it to people any more. They know it, they look forward to it and they realize what it’s about.

“It will be tough to reach that goal with the gas prices are, the political climate, the on-coming concern of winter heating bills,” said Dennis, who lost his father to the disease in March of 2005. “But this touches EVERYBODY. During the kick-off on Thursday, the phones were ringing off the hook.”

Let’s keep ‘em ringing folks.

Thanks,

Shots

• In celebration of Chad Finn’s promotion, we offer a tribute in the form of a Completely Random Olympic YouTube video, complete with dancing girls in bikinis and trashed Westerners. (Hint to Shots’ Journalist friends in Beijing – Get thee to the beach volleyball venue, QUICKLY):

• Oh, and the end of an era. Best sports talk radio tandem EVER.

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.