“We may be looking at the closer of the future for Terry Francona.” – Don Orsillo, referring to pitcher Daniel Bard, 9th inning, OAK at BOS, 5 June 2011.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like Don Orsillo. He’s a very good TV announcer for the Red Sox. Great voice, excellent repartee with Jerry Remy, knows the game – pretty much. I like the guy. I enjoy his broadcasts and watch him and Jerry almost every day – in fact I prefer NESN’s duo over the WEEI radio team. (I never listen to the radio call – Castiglione’s errant calls of fly balls to the outfield piss me off).
But Donny’s becoming very opinionated about the Red Sox lately in a way that I find obtrusive. He’s starting to talk and write like one of the no-minds from SportsTalkRadio. Seeking controversy too much. Finding the Red Sox’ sore spots and then pouring alcohol into the wound. It’s unnecessary, unseemly, and it’s going to come back to hurt him. Worst of all: he’s placing himself between Terry Francona and the team by suggesting that he is privy to inside information that the players may not be aware of yet.
I first noticed this when I was perusing Orsillo’s interesting NESN blog this spring. There was a discordant note present in his commentary that I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe I have been remiss in my attentions to these things, but all of a sudden there they were, like the sudden awareness that some of the bratwurst on your plate aren’t bratwurst at all. They’re turds.
I achieved some clarity on this subject last month when I read Don Orsillo’s blog post “Tim Wakefield, Not Alfredo Aceves, Should Remain in Rotation After John Lackey Returns”.
What caught my attention at first was Dandy Don’s amazing effrontery – essentially telling Terry Francona what he should do with the starting rotation – as if Don Orsillo has the baseball smarts to second guess a man whose teams have won two World Series in the past eight years. Then I was wakened to Don’s backhanded “support” to Tim Wakefield, who, in my not-so-humble opinion, has been as big a reason for the Red Sox’ two World Series victories as any other player on those ’04 and ’07 teams. Wakefield has been the keystone of our pitching staff ‘lo these many years: he drives great hitters crazy with his knuckler – and makes merely good hitters look downright lame. The Red Sox would never have made it to the World Series in ’04 and ’07 if not for Tim Wakefield. If I was Terry Francona, I would have Wakefield start the first game of every series we play – especially against tough teams. I believe that facing Wakefield in the first game of any series would screw up the opposing teams’ hitters for the next 2 games. Going from trying to hit a Tim Wakefield knuckler to trying to hit 95MPH-plus fastballs from Lester or Beckett is enough to knock 20 percentage points off the batting average of any team.
But Don Orsillo obviously has reservations about the value of a pitcher who is, arguably, year-in-and-year-out the MVP of the Red Sox pitching staff.
Here are some of Don Orsillo’s answers to questions from fans (not me), taken from his NESN blog:
[Source: http://www.nesn.com/2011/05/make-no- mistake-the-cleveland-indians-are- contenders.html]
“Will Tim Wakefield remain in the rotation?
–Chris, Concord, N.H.
[D.O.]: “If it were my decision, my answer would be yes. Sadly, I don’t get to make personnel decisions. I like Alfredo Aceves, but in my opinion, he would be more productive from the bullpen, serving as a guy who can give you long outings. I think — good or bad — Tim Wakefield is an innings eater. How many times have we seen him have a bad inning or two, figure it out and then blank a team for five more innings? As we have seen in the past, he can be very streaky. Maybe Sunday night is the beginning of one of those stretches. I would leave him in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s empty spot when John Lackey returns.”
Now this is what you call “damning someone by faint praise”. “I think – good or bad – Tim Wakefield is an innings eater”?
Here is just some biography of Tim Wakefield I ripped off Wikipedia:
“As of 2011, Wakefield is in third place on the Boston Red Sox career wins list with 181, trailing only Cy Young and Roger Clemens who have 192 each; ranks second in all-time wins at Fenway Park with 94, behind Roger Clemens’ 95; and ranks first all-time in innings pitched by a Red Sox pitcher, with 2,881.1, having surpassed Roger Clemens total of 2,777 on June 8, 2010.
“Wakefield has been nominated eight times for the Roberto Clemente Award, winning the award in 2010. He is the first Red Sox player to win the award.
“In the 2003 ALCS, Wakefield allowed three runs over 13 innings against the New York Yankees. He started Games One and Four of the Series against Mike Mussina and won both starts.”
Wakefield’s WHIP through 17 seasons with the Red Sox is a very respectable 1.348. Compare it to the same stat for the following Red Sox starting pitchers:
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 1.397
Jon Lester: 1.303
How about walks per 9 innings?:
How about home runs per 9 innings?
Do you begin to see why the Red Sox keep bringing Tim Wakefield back into the rotation?
This is not a guy you want to throw under the bus. Obviously, the Red Sox front office recognizes the value of Mr. Wakefield to the team; otherwise he wouldn’t have been in Boston for 17 seasons. The front office – especially THIS John Henry-led front office – knows something about baseball. The way Don Orsillo is writing about Tim Wakefield, I’d have to say that Don would have been tossing Yaz under the team bus back in 1969.
Don hasn’t just been throwing backhanded brickbats disguised as feather pillows at Tim Wakefield, no. Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have recieved a few gift-boxed cow-pies as well:
“Will the Red Sox give up on the Jarrod Saltalamacchhia experiment?
–Marc, Waltham, Mass.
[D.O.]: “I think in some ways they have already by scaling him back and starting Jason Varitek more often over the past couple of weeks. I think the idea floated of signing Bengie Molina, who is a proven winner, is intriguing, and I think it could be done for an affordable amount. You wonder if Varitek, who is in superb shape, can handle the daily grind of catching every day or more regularly as the season moves along.
“What I do know is that the Red Sox need something from the catching tandem and right now are not getting much offensively (combined .185 average, 0 HRs, 10 RBIs in 124 ABs).”
“I think in some ways they have already [given up on the ‘Saltalamacchia experiment’]”? Aside from the fact that the assertion is pure bullshit – a more diplomatic – and rational – response would have been to deny that the signing of Saltalamacchia was ever some kind of wild “experiment”in the first place… and perhaps to inform this correspondent that the job of a catcher is to call a good game from behind the dish, to catch nasty knucklers and curveballs and to keep 98 MPH fastballs from being thrown all the way through the backstop – not to hit like Albert f’ing Pujols!
[Another aside: Do you have a feeling like I do that this quickness to abandon players is part of the “New Paradigm” of capitalism in general, where it’s all about “What Have You Done For Us Lately?” A guy or a woman can work for a company for 35 years, break all sales records, work weekends, come in on vacation days, never miss a day for 25 years, be one of the the pillars of the entire enterprise, and then when they turn 55 and start to show some signs of age it isn’t “We can’t let her go – without her this company wouldn’t be around anymore!” No, it’s “What Has She Done For Us Lately?”]
Here’s Donny throwing dirt on Saltalamacchia:
“Jarrod Saltalamacchhia has been a hot button topic. What will the Sox do?
–Kevin, Weston, Mass.
[D.O.]: “In my opinion, and in listening to Terry Francona, they will catch him less often and use Jason Varitek more. I think we are seeing that already with Varitek catching Tuesday night and scheduled to catch again Wednesday, with Josh Beckett on the mound. I do not think they will give up on Salty entirely, but I just think the roles may reverse here with the catching tandem moving forward. I thought the comments from Mike Scioscia over the weekend were interesting when talking about young catchers and how long they take to mature, perhaps differently than any other position. I also think Salty’s situation was magnified because of the team’s trouble early.”
“In my opinion, AND IN LISTENING TO TERRY FRANCONA…”!!
Someone’s going to have their clubhouse access severely curtailed if this keeps up.
Here is Don putting his 2 cents in re: John Lackey:
“What is up with John Lackey?
“This is a tough one. He really has struggled, allowing 15 Runs in two outings. He got the win in Game 2, but without a Phil Hughes bad performance, he would have received the loss. He is a guy who can give you 200 innings and is going to win double figures but may lose in double figures too. Is the American League East the difference? That’s tough to say, but it can be argued that the AL East is tougher than the AL West, but he allowed nine runs against the Western Division Texas Rangers. Maybe there is the pressure of living up to the contract that has come into play. Regardless, for the Red Sox to be in the postseason, John Lackey needs to better.”
“Maybe there is the pressure of living up to the contract that has come into play. Regardless, for the Red Sox to be in the postseason, John Lackey needs to [sic] better.”
That is nasty in so many ways. Plus, Donny needs to write better and do better on his proofreading as well.
The Red Sox can’t get to the postseason without John Lackey pitching at the top of his form?
While I’d love to see John Lackey come back into the rotation and kick butt for the rest of the year, if it doesn’t happen – as you can see from the way the team has played without Lackey this past month – I think the Red Sox will still do very well, thank you. John Lackey has been an excellent pitcher all his life. He’s an excellent pitcher now. And he will probably continue to be an excellent pitcher until he retires. One thing is certain: If John Lackey isn’t pitching well these days it isn’t because he has given up trying and is just coasting on his laurels. If you believe that B.S. then you can go screw every knothole in the nearest oak tree for all I care. Lackey has given us 100% every time he’s gone out there on the mound and you know, sometimes you do get into a slump. Every great player hits a low point in their career from time to time. Yastrzemski hit low points in his career 5 or 6 times. Great players like Yaz make the necessary adjustments and keep coming back, and I expect John Lackey to do the same. If he can’t do it: hey, he gave it his best shot and that’s all we can ask for. Had a great career and it came to an end, as all good things do. The jury over here is still out on John Lackey for this year, but we’re rooting for him all the way. Our respect for him will not diminish one iota if he has a 1.38 ERA at the end of this season or an 11.38 ERA. He, like Pedro Martinez, was a dominating pitcher in his heyday and it was a pleasure to watch him pitch every time he took the mound. And it will continue to be a pleasure to see JL go out there and give it his best because you know damned well that he wants to live up to the very real promise of this 2011 Red Sox team and nothing but severe physical infirmity will keep him from winning baseball games for us this season. Have some respect for the man for gawd’s sake.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, the “new” owners under John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein (unlike most of their tormentors in the news media) have a long-term view of things. Thank Gawd for that!
In his essays, Don Orsillo sounds like he has a very high opinion of – his own opinion [don’t we all?]; and he repeatedly makes it known that he is talking to Terry Francona on a daily basis – discussions which rarely take place during the broadcast. So they must be taking place somewhere else, right? (wink wink)
The problem is, he’s not an ombudsman writing for the Herald: he’s the team’s own announcer. He should try to be more diplomatic in advancing his opinion – or just keep it to himself – because as the team’s No. 1 cheerleader, he shouldn’t be injecting his personal opinions – or knowledge – into the decision-making process on Yawkey Way.
And it’s much, much worse if he is, in fact – as he himself has intimated repeatedly on his blog – broadcasting information he has overheard during the course of his daily visits to the office of Terry Francona. This is dangerous territory for the team’s #1 P.R. guy.
Today’s closing commentary by D.O. in the game against Oakland was annoying as hell. Daniel Bard (who has been shaky himself on the mound from time to time this year) gets a ringing endorsement from Don Orsillo, speaking (one must assume) with the benefit of Don’s inside information: “We may be looking at the closer of the future for Terry Francona” quoth Donny O. in the 9th as Bard was slamming the door shut on a pesky Oakland offense that kept rising from the dead like horror-movie zombies all weekend.
If Papelbon was a corporation instead of a human being, they’d be selling his shares on Wall St. at the ringing of the bell tomorrow morning, and the S.E.C. would have to open an investigation.
So Papelbon is out the door, Don? Is that just your opinion or do you know something the rest of us (and the pitching staff) don’t?
This kind of commentary can be dismissed lightly if it’s coming from Dan Shaughnessy or some other ‘knight of the pen’ whose access to the team is relatively slight… but not when it comes from someone who is literally a team insider, who flies across country on the team plane, who has, either personally or via the NESN staff, total access to the clubhouse and the manager’s office on a daily basis. In the voice of a Shaughnessy this kind of talk sounds like the jabbering of someone outside looking in who wants to give the impression that he knows more than he does. In the voice of Orsillo, it sounds like someone telling tales out of school.
Orsillo’s meddling is disturbing. It’s obnoxious and if it keeps up it’s going to affect the team adversely. Terry Francona is probably right now trying to explain to Papelbon that he has no clue as to where Don Orsillo got the idea in his head that Daniel Bard is set to replace Papelbon as the team’s closer. That is not the kind of clubhouse controversy whose flames need to be fanned by the team’s own TV announcer. Nothing good can come of this.
So, note to Don Orsillo: Stop trying to inject your opinion, founded or un- as it may be, into these discussions. You can find a way to say the same thing so that it does not appear that you have some inside information as to what is playing out inside the front office and in the clubhouse. You are there to report the news *after* it happens, not to *make it happen*. You are there to help the team win – you’re not a free-lance journalist looking for a scoop. You’re not a paparazzo trying to get a beaver shot up the skirt of the President’s wife. If you keep this shit up you are going to be looking for a job.
Donny: ever hear of a guy named Steve Stone? Another great guy who I admire who didn’t have a clear understanding of his role as a broadcaster for the franchise’s flagship network. Sad story with a Hollywood ending, right?
Well the problem for you is, Don: there’s only one baseball club in Boston.