Boston Red Sox co-owner, and former TV sitcom producer, Tom Werner believes that the team’s television broadcasts needed to be “re-energized,” and that’s why he lowered the ax on widely beloved, 15-year play-by-play man Don Orsillo, in a move that the Red Sox organization had planned to keep quiet until well after the 2015 season concluded — but which, nonetheless, leaked earlier this week.
The news that Orsillo would no longer be calling Red Sox broadcasts on NESN, the team-owned cable station that carries almost all of the team’s games, left Red Sox fans both angered and bewildered. But Werner told a reporter Saturday that booting Orsillo from the booth was “the right decision to make.”
“I understand it has created some controversy,” Werner told the Boston Herald. “But we felt that starting next year it was worth going in a different direction reenergizing the broadcast.”
But as longtime Herald Red Sox columnist Steve Buckley noted, Red Sox fans never complained that the NESN broadcasts featuring Orsillo and former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy — who has now seen four play-by-play announcers come and go in his 27 seasons in the Boston broadcast booth — lacked energy.
“Werner used the wrong word there,” Buckley wrote. “If anything, they sometimes have too much energy when Orsillo and color analyst Jerry Remy stray from the game action.”
Orsillo became known for his humorous in-game banter with Remy that often veered into absurd but nonetheless memorable directions, such as in the notorious “Pizza Incident,” in which NESN cameras caught one Red Sox fan hurling a slice of pizza at another, causing Orsillo and Remy to break into fits of laughter.
The entire “Pizza” episode can be viewed in the video at this link.
Werner also denied the rumor that circulated through Boston media, which said that Orsillo was scapegoated for slipping TV ratings for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN over the past two years. The 2015 Red Sox appear destined for the team’s third last-place finish in four years — albeit sandwiched around a 2014 World Series championship — which would appear to be a far more likely cause of ratings decline.
Werner said that the team’s owners and NESN management simply wanted to add current radio play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien to the Red Sox broadcast team, and that meant Orsillo had to go.
O’Brien, said Werner, is “well known for bringing out the nuances of baseball strategy, sharing insights about players. It was nothing against Don. It was the opportunity to bring on Dave.”
Nonetheless, while the Boston organization may have “nothing against” Don Orsillo, the 46-year-old New England native will likely be calling games when the 2016 season opens, thanks to Werner’s decision, for some team other than the Red Sox.
[Image: Frederick M. Brown / Gail Oskin / Getty Images]