Tag Archives: Don Orsillo

2015 Postmortem: The Weirdest Red Sox Season in Recent Memory

Red Sox rookie day dress up

We don’t know if 2015 will go down as the weirdest season in Red Sox history. But it has to be up there, all things considered. What began as just another season with a modest amount of promise thanks to some high-profile free agent signings and a core of young, budding stars has ended with an organization undoubtedly in a state of flux.

It’s quaint now to think back to spring training and the early portion of the season.

In April, we all have a few chuckles at the not-so-spry Pablo “Panda” Sandoval and the awkward existence maintained by “outfielder” Hanley Ramirez. Mookie Betts makes a memorable catch in the Opening Day win at Fenway and, briefly, things seem to be on track. The team’s electrifying youth will commingle with dependable veterans to win 90-plus games en route to the postseason. The pitching is bad but it could only get better and eventually more of the hitters will hit…right?

Things get a little more suspect in May. Unfortunate suspicions that we conveniently dismissed in April start to be confirmed.

Kung Fu Foul Ball King Pablo Sandoval is slapped on the wrist for looking at racy Instagram photos while using the bathroom during the middle of a game. (Later in the summer, the Sox forge ahead unironically with “Social Media Day.”) *Speaking of Panda, late in the year Sean McAdam very depressingly sums up how Year 1 wentI’ve lost track of the number of games from which Sandoval has been removed this season for either “dehydration” or “lightheadedness. 

The first few weeks of summer bring no additional heat to the lineup. Offense remains anemic. In related news, Brock Holt is the team’s lone All-Star Game participant.

From there, things get weird.

The Shocking

In August, manager John Farrell announces he has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Torey Lovullo takes over manager duties for the rest of the season.

It is both touching and maddening that in the subsequent two games the team scores a combined 37 runs. You can arbitrarily select any number of week-long stretches when the team didn’t manage to crack the 30-run threshold. In May, the team scored 82 runs in 29 games.

The Not-So-Shocking

Larry Lucchino announces he will step down as CEO of the Boston Red Sox at the end of the season.

Shortly thereafter, the Red Sox oust Ben Cherington by hiring Dave Dombrowski – a move that they wind up announcing during the late innings of a weeknight game at Fenway Park in mid-August. The team is taken aback by Cherington’s unwillingness to accept a lesser role in the front office under Dombrowski’s watch.

The Shocking – Part 2

In a move that stuns fans and media alike, NESN announces in late August that Don Orsillo is done after the 2015 season. He will be replaced by Dave O’Brien next year.

During the following homestand, Dan Shaughnessy – of all people – ‘reports’ that fans trying to bring signs into the ballpark in support of Orsillo were forced to relinquish them before going into the game. The Boston Globe posts this fact on its online edition the evening before and then removes that throwaway tidbit from Shank’s column in the following morning’s print edition. The paper cites weak sourcing (it’s definitely weak something…), but it seems more than plausible that John Henry, rumored to have less affection for Orsillo than foot-out-the-door Lucchino, had an associate make a friendly call into the newsroom that Henry technically owns.

Keeping up with its classy reputation, NESN refuses to air a tribute to Orsillo played on the scoreboard at Fenway Park during the team’s final home game of the season. The following week, news leaks that Orsillo will be heading to San Diego to do TV and radio play-by-play for Padres games.

The Unlucky

Knuckleballer Steven Wright, smack in the midst of what may be his most extensive shot to prove himself as a viable major league starter, goes on the 7-day disabled list after getting hit in the neck by an errant flyball while warming up before a game in Miami.

Statistical Weirdness

– In the final home series of the season against the Orioles, the Red Sox pitching staff puts together three straight shutouts. It’s been more than half a century (1958) since the team has pulled off the feat.

– After proclaiming himself a Cy Young candidate in the offseason, then pitching poorly enough to be removed from the rotation at one point in July, Joe Kelly returns to a starting role in late July to reel off wins in eight straight starts–something that was last achieved in the major leagues by Pedro Martinez in 1999. It was during Kelly’s streak, by the way, that Pedro Martinez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Red Sox retired his number.

– It is reasonable to assume that Kelly’s streak of success will serve as the most remarkable and unexpected of the season. Surely, no one else will put together a Pedro-esque stretch. But of course, in September Rich Hill returns to the team  and starts getting the ball, reeling off three straight 10-strikeout performances. He allows three earned runs in his first 23 innings as a starter since 2009. It is the first time since 1900 a pitcher debuts in September and strikes out 10 batters in three straight games.

The Uncomfortable

In September, David Ortiz hits career home run No. 500 and later reveals via The Players Tribune that he dreams of becoming a porn star. It’s probably for the best that these types of revelations slip through the cracks with little fanfare with the season now five-plus months old and football season is under way.

Runner up: Hanley Ramirez’s left field.

The Shitshow Red Sox Alum

Curt Schilling signs on to host the first ever sleepover at Fenway Park, part of an Airbnb promotion. This is bad enough on its own, but unfortunately there’s much more.

The week prior to the scheduled sleepover on September 2, he is taken off Little League World Series coverage on ESPN for posting images on his Facebook page of Adolf Hitler while talking about Muslim extremists. It is arguable if this chain of events involving the once proud Sox alum is even the most discussed of the year. In the spring, he fought off social media bullies in the name of defending his daughter. This is all a roundabout way of saying Curt Schilling should stay off the goddamn Internet for a while. Schilling is eventually relieved of his sleepover appearance duties.

The Shitshow Red Sox Alum, Runner Up

Jonathan Papelbon. Another former Boston postseason hero further disgraces himself by trying to choke out Bryce Harper, his new teammate on the Nationals and MVP candidate, doesn’t run out a pop-up.

Papelbon and Harper

Media Think Piece

The best piece of investigative reporting related to the Red Sox shows up in the dead zone of late summer in the form of a ridiculously long Grantland.com feature detailing the rise and fall of the low level drug dealers who managed to capitalize the most on the Yankees Suck T-shirt craze circa 1998-2004. The story discusses at length its backdrop–the formerly seedy Fenway/Landsdowne neighborhood, where it was especially fitting that a rogue vulgar T-shirt business could thrive.

Grantland Yankees Suck

It is an especially interesting read, particularly in light of the numerous residential developments and high-end dining establishments that have gentrified the area during the last 15 years. The transformation has been aided in large part by the Red Sox’s ownership and their business ventures and revitalization efforts aimed at keeping the crowds flowing into Fenway.

It only makes sense then, in this season of weirdness, that there is a shooting outside the Fenway ticket office during Labor Day weekend.

 

Steve Horgan Lives…

Mookie Betts’ shutout-saving catch to preserve Rich Hill’s complete game win in the second-to-last game of the season at Fenway Park offers the symbolic hope Red Sox fans need to last the winter. Betts’ highlight reel catches – going toward the bullpen on Opening Day and going into the bullpen in the Fenway Finale – bookend the team’s home schedule and are perfectly suitable takeaway images for the season.

For those in need of something a little more heavy-handed, though, observe the photo below from Sons of Sam Horn’s soxhop411:

Steve Horgan redux Mookie Betts catch

Better days are ahead…

NESN’s Orsillo shows up at camp in the worst shape of his career

NESN play-by-play man Don Orsillo politely refuses to step out of his car in the City of Palms Park parking lot until he’s finished all six of his Boston crème donuts—or, as he likes to call it, “breakfast.”

“Every last crumb. It’s a labor of love. Some days, I like to wash the donuts down with a couple of those Jolt colas,” Orsillo admits with a grin. “On those days, I’d say it’s more like a brunch. Hee hee…”

Once out of his car, Orsillo enlists one of the team’s on-field assistants to pick him up in a golf cart to carry him the remaining 50 yards between the parking lot and the entrance to the press box elevator—lest he risk burning precious calories by walking.

After disembarking from the beleaguered vehicle, several team employees coax Orsillo into flashing the newly acquired gut he worked so hard at achieving during the cold winter months.

Sheepishly, Orsillo obliges, lifting his golf polo up to his chest, revealing his massive abdomen.

Giggling, poking, slapping, tickling and general rough-housing ensue. Orsillo and his NESN teammates clearly enjoy a special camaraderie that defies tangibility or even any description coming close to having a semblance of coherent analysis.

Even at first glance, it is obvious to casual observers that Orsillo did not just stand pat this offseason. Red Sox coaches have already taken notice.

“He clearly rested on his laurels this offseason,” said general manager Theo Epstein. “You have to respect that. He knew he had a job locked up and he didn’t just go about it preparing the same way he always did during the past. He went out there and worked at carving out a new niche for himself this winter. In this game, you have to do that, otherwise you become replaceable.”

“I can’t even imagine he even looked at a treadmill this offseason,” said one hitting instructor. “I hope lethargy isn’t contagious…If it is, keep him away from my players.”

Orsillo, breathing heavily through his mouth, explains why he made changes to his conditioning routine this offseason.

“There’re always younger broadcasters coming up, giving your job the eye, gunning for your livelihood,” he says. “I want to make sure I stand out and I’m pretty sure no one is going to be able to ignore me like this.”

Sponsors have already taken notice. While Orsillo and partner Jerry Remy typically enjoy free Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts during Red Sox home games, other local businesses hope to enter the fray in 2011.

“Papa Gino’s called me this morning,” Orsillo says. “They want me to eat a whole pepperoni pizza every night during the fifth inning. I immediately said ‘yes,’ obviously.”

Meanwhile, Orsillo will eat an entire crock pot of Legal Seafoods clam chowder twice per week during the 7th inning stretch.

Privately, NESN executives couldn’t be more excited or more optimistic about the upcoming 2011 campaign.

“Buckle up, if you can get the seatbelt around your torso,” said one NESN programming director. “This season is going to be one helluva ride.”

That’s enough, Dennis Eckersley

Please. No more. You’ve cussed on air. You’ve jinxed potential no-hitters. You’ve refused to expand your third-grade vocabulary. You’ve made it genuinely difficult to listen to an entire Red Sox game on television.

Even Tim McCarver is laughing at you. Poor Justin Masterson is still waiting for an apology for your confusing his namesake with a well-known verb for autoeroticism.  

Face it. You’re just not cut out to be sitting in a broadcast booth for a full nine innings. The Red Sox play a lot of long games and you lack the requisite stamina. Sure, you’ve gotten some national gigs for TBS in the past, but consistently providing insightful color analysis in a two-man booth isn’t for everybody. Take a cue from your brilliant pitching career and go back to closing out game broadcasts with your short, energized spurts of post-game analysis. Tell your NESN bosses you’re out of gas.

You often become noticeably annoyed by relief pitchers who refuse to throw fastballs down the middle of the plate during mop-up duty and non-save situations. You’ve apparently forgotten that these guys are pitching for their livelihood, facing professional hitters constantly trying to pad their stats. Some of these guys could hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium with half a swing of the bat. (Sorry, we didn’t mean that, bear with us.)

Your chemistry with play-by-play man Don Orsillo is unnatural—if not blatantly rife with unspoken tension. At first you were a novelty. It was cute the way you continuously used words like cheese and paint and salad over and over again. But poor Don has increasingly had to carry you to the finish line, leading you with questions about pitching in which you might respond with something intelligent, all the while keeping a cupped hand close by in case he has to muffle your latest F-bomb.

It must be tiresome for Don to hide his frustration as you struggle through reading mid-inning promotions, often sounding like a high schooler who forgot to take his Ritalin before English class. This is not meant to disparage you. We all get it. Any youngster with a talent to throw a baseball like you did would have had, at best, a casual relationship with phonics.  

Please do not worry about us viewers. As NESN awaits the return of Jerry Remy, Orsillo can do his best Vin Scully and man the booth alone. Orsillo already boasts some experience as a solo act, namely when Remy renders himself speechless during one of his classic, tangential giggle fits. Not that we’ll ever complain about Remy again… 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and Remy’s time off as he recovers from cancer has certainly made us all appreciate his consistent presence over the last 20 years. We long for a five-minute tirade about the inability of today’s players to execute a proper sacrifice bunt. We yearn for an explanation of how middle infielders decide who will cover second base in the event of a steal attempt. Heck, we’d be downright giddy to hear him predict yet another hit-and-run with Jason Varitek at the plate. We simply took for granted those little insights, too often tritely griping about Remy’s forced self-promotion of a persona contrived by publicists and marketing execs.

Now, karmic forces have left us with you, Dennis Eckersley. Please do not take this as ingratitude. Dave Roberts wasn’t exactly Bob Uecker in the booth, either. But let’s just say we won’t be too disappointed if you decide you want to head back to the Oakland A’s should a job opening become available. For old time’s sake, maybe the Coliseum will even blare George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone as you make your return.

Red Sox, Menino teaming up to prevent redux of Patriot’s Day 2007 Pizza Throwing Incident

BOSTON, Mass.—The scene was Patriot’s Day 2007, Fenway Park. A man sitting in box seats along the left-field line hucks a slice of pizza directly into the face of a nearby fan after the victim allegedly chided the chucker and his friends for bringing an entire pie into the ballpark.

 

Video clips on the Worldwide Web were viewed en masse. An estimated 5.3 million hours of productivity was lost, forever, throughout the New England area. It is a moment of team lore that will long live in the memories of Red Sox fans; an action of mass appeal that evoked snickering around office water coolers for weeks afterward and nearly made Don Orsillo wet himself in laughter. And, alas, a painful reminder of how a handful of hooligans can ruin something so simple and appreciated by the masses.

 

After numerous renegade imitators surfaced during last year’s Patriot’s Day, the Red Sox are teaming up with Mayor Thomas Menino and the City of Boston to prevent a repeat of pizza peltings this Monday commemorating the incident’s two-year anniversary.

 

“Full pizza pies will not be sold in the City of Boston until the conclusion of the Red Sox game, after all fans have exited Fenway Park,” a top aide speaking for Menino stated yesterday in clear, decipherable, articulate English. “Inside Fenway Park, city officials will oversee a strict one-slice limit per fan.”

 

In addition to banning full pizza pie sales, the city is considering adding a stipulation to the moratorium that would include a ban on the sale of triangular-shaped slices.

 

“While square-shaped, Sicilian deep-dish styled pizza is generally more aerodynamic, triangular slices often contain sharp edges and shards of crust that could inflict puncture wounds on or around the face and neck area,” said a research analyst hired by the mayor’s office.

 

Red Sox fans with tickets to Monday’s game have already begun forming contingency plans.

“I know a guy who’s going to get us a bulk deal on those Celeste frozen pizzas,” says Fred DiNardo of Haverill. “Me and a few buddies are going to bring a battery-operated microwave with us and heat them up on my tailgate Monday morning before the game. Those things are small enough that we should be able to sneak a few dozen into the park with us…if we don’t eat them all beforehand.”

Informed by Fenway Pastoral about the ban being imposed on fans, Attleboro season ticketholder Jim Robbins had trouble holding back his political views, “Mayor Menino is obviously out to get working class Red Sox fans. It’s unbelievable. First, he refuses to allow beer sales in the stands and now he’s imposed a limit on my pizza intake. Pardon the pun, but this is pure grandstanding run amok.”

Robbins added that he’s planning to bombard “any and all corrupt, agenda-driven politicos” he sees from his first-base-line seats with cola-soaked cotton candy.

Manchester, N.H.’s Meghan McDermott and her friends were so distraught when they heard the news that they opted to post their tickets on StubHub. “I wish we had sold them off before Mayor Menino made his announcement. I’m not sure there’s anyone who’s going to want tickets for this game now that they’re banning pizza sales and pizza throwing. This is a lose-lose decision for everybody.”

Indeed, McDermott’s sentiments are not only shared by thousands of fans who scooped up Patriot’s Day tickets in the hopes of joining a time-honored tradition, they are also backed by the most recent data available to neurologists studying the link between brain waves and laughter. “There’s nothing more stimulating to the laughter-inducing neurons within a normally developed human being’s brain cortex than a pie hitting someone in the face,” says Harvard neuro-physiologist Dr. Barry P. Wolf. “Why do you think WSBK TV38 aired The Three Stooges on Saturday mornings for so many years?”