The uproar over NESN’s decision to replace longtime play-by-play voice Don Orsillo with Dave O’Brien on Red Sox telecasts starting next season began as soon as the news of the decision broke Aug. 25.
The fan backlash to the news has only now begun to wane, after the popular Orsillo’s emotional signoff during the Red Sox’ season finale Sunday in Cleveland. Even now, with Orsillo finding a soft landing in San Diego as Dick Enberg’s eventual successor as the Padres play-by-play voice, there are matters that remain unsettled.
Jerry Remy, who spent much of the final inning Sunday in tears while Orsillo called the final outs solo, has not had his status for next season clarified, though he is expected back in some capacity. Rumors of mutual interest between NESN and Mets/TBS broadcaster Ron Darling refuse to fade despite plausible denials from the latter’s side.
Yet lost in the understandable commotion surrounding NESN’s decision to, as Red Sox chairman Tom Werner put it, “re-energize’’ the television broadcast is how the changes will affect the radio broadcast next year.
O’Brien, a voice of greater national accomplishment than Orsillo, will slide over from the radio booth after nine seasons as Joe Castiglione’s partner on flagship station WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts.
Castiglione is under contract for next season, which will be his 34th year calling Red Sox games. But it remains uncertain who his partner will be.
It is clear, however, who it should be. It’s someone who has spent plenty of time on the Red Sox and WEEI’s rosters: Lou Merloni.
Phil Zachary, Entercom Boston’s vice president and market manager, said via e-mail Thursday that the batch of “well over 100 applicants” has been narrowed to a short list of seven or eight. Zachary said that group includes candidates with a wide range of experience, with some but not all having called MLB games previously. He said the hope is to have a decision finalized by Nov. 1, but such a timeframe may be optimistic.
But the hope here is that the search and the parameters of what WEEI and Entercom are looking for does not preclude them from recognizing an excellent fit who is already in their building five days per week.
Merloni, the son of Framingham who spent six of his nine big-league seasons with the Red Sox, has been a midday host on WEEI since February 2011, the constant in a carousel that has included Mike Mutnansky, Tim Benz, and currently Christian Fauria and Glenn Ordway.
Merloni is a capable host, one who, in a welcome development, has become more anecdotal about his playing days through the years. But he’s truly thrived when he’s been part of the broadcast crew — like Remy at his best, he has that same knack for accurately forecasting what is about to happen — and he was downright exceptional in an inspired three-man booth with Castiglione and O’Brien during the 2013 World Series.
Merloni’s contract is up early in 2016, and while he remains the best thing about a midday show that has struggled in the ratings, the timing seems perfect to slide him into a role in which he has already succeeded and yet retains promise for further improvement.
A wide-ranging search is understandable. It’s a coveted gig. But the answer is already in the building. The choice should be a familiar voice. Lou Merloni has been a superb utility player on the broadcasts. It’s time to make him the regular.
To read the full article visit the Boston Globe where this story was originally published