Offseason Blunders Start In Sox's Booth
McDonough Farewell Inexcusable
Things were looking so promising, too.
Twenty-eight year old Theo Epstein was hired as the team’s general manager in a gutsy move to buck the “old baseball minds know best” strategy that produces consistent losers. With luck, Epstein will follow in the footsteps of young guns J.P. Riccardi and Billy Beane as revolutionary general managers. The current GMs of the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s, respectively, are known for making cutting-edge trades that infuse productive young talent into their organizations.
With the help of statistics guru Bill James and dozens of other baseball minds, Epstein is taking the George W. Bush strategy of filling his office with proven “smart” guys. Also like Bush, Esptein is a Yale grad. Unlike Bush, Epstein can form a complete sentence. As long as Epstein’s Sox don’t turn out like Bush’s Rangers, things should be ok.
But all this good karma was wasted this week with the horrible, inexcusable, devastating news of Sean McDonough’s imminent departure from the Red Sox broadcast booth.
McDonough is, without a doubt, the best baseball broadcaster in the business. He is witty and intelligent. His voice is clear and his play-by-play sharp. His dry sarcasm is accurate and hilarious, and though it’s clear he’s a Red Sox fan, McDonough tells it, as Howard Cosell would say, “like it is.”
Perhaps this is why McDonough has been asked to take a pay-cut by the Red Sox after 15 years of being “the voice” of Boston Red Sox baseball on television. Instead of ponying up the cash for the best announcer in major league baseball, the Red Sox are opting for the cheaper—and sadly, more boring—Don Orsillo. Perhaps Orsillo was afraid to show his personality last year, his debut season behind the microphone for the 86 games on NESN (McDonough only worked the FOX broadcasts). Maybe he’ll turn out to be charismatic and humorous with more experience and confidence.
But right now, it appears as though the Red Sox are rejecting McDonough because management does not value an announcer with personality or honesty.
This is not the first time McDonough has been ushered out the door. In 1999, CBS decided to hire Dick Enberg away from NBC rather than re-signing McDonough, the son of Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough. CBS’ choice to go with the then-65 year old Enberg rather than McDonough, who is twenty-two years younger, raised eyebrows in the industry.
The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick wrote that “while CBS is naturally attracted to stylish Enberg, his career is clearly in the wind-down stage. McDonough, on the other hand, not only has many good years coming, he’s the rarest of sports television commodities: He’s a practicing, highly credible journalist, unafraid to speak measured but hard truths to his audiences.”
A new TV-schedule this year is shifting Red Sox games from FOX 25 to UPN 38 and Channel 4. The move means that McDonough would have a diminished work load even if the Red Sox decided to give McDonough the money he is asking for.
McDonough is best known for his ability to criticize the Red Sox when warranted while also providing an enjoyable broadcast for fans. His interactions with Sox players about NASCAR predictions along with his playful banter with long-time color commentator and former Sox second-baseman Jerry Remy have made McDonough into a Boston cult icon.
Yet unlike the “Rem-Dog” (McDonough’s nickname for Remy), McDonough has gained a soft-spot in the hearts of Boston fans with demonstrated baseball knowledge, humor, and intelligent game-observations. Remy seems like a nice guy, but his baseball knowledge out side of the American League is questionable at best (he once admitted on-air that he had never heard of many of the reserves on the National League All-Star team).
McDonough has reportedly accepted a job to announce New York Mets games this season, possibly replacing Gary Thorne in the press box. If the Red Sox do not make an eleventh-hour move to save McDonough, it will be just one more blunder in a franchise unfortunately known for errors.
—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.