White Hat Sports Headlines

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Remy Replacement Rankings

I am not the biggest Jerry Remy fan. I watch every game and the ones I don't want I almost enjoy more because I get to listen to Joe Castiglione. I grew up in a family that every weekend, from mid-May to early October, went to camp. This wasn't the kind of camp that a lot of my friends went to. We had no electricity or running water, but it never seemed that rural to me. We had gas lamps, and had 5 gallon pales of pond water ready to flush the toilet, which is in fact, indoors. What it did though was introduce me at an early age to listening to the Red Sox on radio. In almost a throwback childhood nuance, I grew up with favorite radio shows. Friday night it was the Red Sox game as we went up to camp, Saturday was the Red Sox in the afternoon and Country Gold Saturday Night. We would typically go home on Sunday and on the way back to civilization we would listen to the Red Sox again. If you're doing the math, out of at most 7 games per week, I grew up listening to at least 3 of them. Now this is nothing heroic, my buddy Sam grew up almost never watching the Red Sox and his entire relationship with the team up until college came from him listening to Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano.

Why did I feel the need to share all of this? It's because your relationship with your favorite team is facilitated by the broadcasters whether you know it or not. After a while they become something mixed with a family member and an aging wrestler. The family member because they're always there, in your living room late on school nights and their voice is so familiar they could call you on the phone and give you the "It's me." The aging wrestler because no matter if you hated or loved the old wrestler, or if he was a heel or a baby face, after watching him for a long time you start to like them just because they've always been there for so long. I always liked Remy and thought he was a solid broadcaster. After watching other teams from time to time, I always thought Red Sox fans had it made with a fantastic and nationally underrated radio booth and a solid television booth. The thing that started to get to me is the only thing that gets to me with the Red Sox lately and that is the over exploitation of the team and the region in general. Put a Red Sox logo on it and it'll sell or at least that has been the thinking in the Steinberg and Dee era, which has now gone by. Caught up in the middle of all of this Jerry Remy became the Remdawg, got his own website (not bad, everybody has one) , his own hot dog stand(that's natural, I like the idea that he and Luis Tiant both have food stands on Yawkey Way), but the worst is having a President of Red Sox Nation. Remy won of course because Pink Hatted Red Sox fans don't know any better. Okay, you're named president, take the title with a grain of salt and never mention it again. I feel at times though that Remy takes it a little too seriously and that's where my hint of resentment comes in. It's not out of jealousy, I would never want to be a paying card carrying member of Red Sox Nation, in fact even that term, which I used to enjoy now seems a little played out due to over commercialization.

All of that being said, when I heard that Remy was going to take a leave of absence to recover from lung cancer surgery my heart went out to him. The interesting thing that has come about since his hiatus has been the replacement announcers filling in for Remy. Dennis Eckersley is easily the best, Dave Roberts is improving every game, Coomer was good, Mulliniks was HORRIBLE and Evans I sadly missed. Here is what I'll call the RRR, (Remy Replacement Rankings).

1. Dennis Eckersley.

What sealed Eck being number one besides most of the other replacements being so bad is that he is now traveling on the road with the team. His performance in Detroit last night made me laugh out loud a couple of times just because of his honest vernacular. On that note I also loved Bill Simmons idea to have Lenny Clarke do the games with Don. I look forward to the one inning per year he does and usually Youtube it 20 times after that. Eck gives information and he never pulls punches, he says exactly what he thinks without a filter, even saying shit and masturbate on the air. The best thing about Eckersley is that he make Don seem his age, he will turn 41 this December. Though when he's calling a game with Remy doesn't he seem more like he's 50? I always thought this was just his personality, but with Eck he seems younger because Eck has a fun personality and it brings the same out of Don. That's the true test of a guy being number one on the RRR, he makes those around him better.

2. Rex Hudler

He did only 4 innings when the Red Sox made their first trip out to Anaheim this April, but it was some of the best I have heard this year. He is a professional, he does games for the Angels regularly, but he was terrific. He just kept telling stories and keeping it loose, though he never really talked about the game which on television you're not supposed to do all the time. He was highly entertaining and very complimentary of the Red Sox (take note Mullinicks, nobody wants to hear about the glorious days of Dave Steib.)

3. Dave Roberts

Dave takes home the most improved award. We want to like him and we do. People have made an effort to make his steal the most pivotal moment of the 0-3 comeback (which it was, though Bill Mueller deserves a ton more credit than he receives) and that mixed with the fact that by all reports he is genuinely a nice guy. His broadcasting could use some work and so can his over laughing, (just a sign of nerves) but come on, this is the guy's first year away from playing. Sean Casey is the only guy I have seen make a seamless transition from the field to the studio or booth. The best thing about Roberts is that he is making strides to get better and you can tell he wants to improve all the time. In the future, I can see Roberts as a full time guy, perhaps in Boston or perhaps in San Diego. He is beloved in Boston and I'd love to see him around throughout the season. Hey, I'm okay with anything that reminds me of the 2004 season.

4. Ron Coomer

Only had him for one game, but he was another like Hudler that was very good. He does studio work for the Fox North affiliate that does the Twins games, so he has experience on a mic. He meshed well with Don in just the one game he did. Think of how tough that is, you are an analyst for one team, and suddenly the opposing team is asking you to be the color man for their broadcast. That has to be incredible difficult and the one game he did might be the best single game performance we have seen by a replacement. (Though the game where Eck said shit and masturbate might be the most memorable performance.)

5. Kevin Kennedy

Maybe the most disappointing performance by someone who has broadcasting experience. He has done games for Fox and he is the regular pregame analyst for their Saturday broadcasts and when he did a game with Don, he just didn't bring an A game with him. It was like he wanted to make sure everybody knew that he loved his time with the Red Sox and that he cherished being the Red Sox manager. It just came across as odd, because since 1996 I always thought there had to be bad blood between the team and him because he was only there for 2 years and he won the division in his first season. The best part of Kennedy doing the game was that he dropped names like Wayne Hosey and Archimedes Pozo. Which is always good television.

6. Rance Mulliniks

He was horrible. Pure and simple, I only heard him do one game of the 3 that he did. The first game I watched at the Gin Mill in Augusta and I listened to game 2. My dad watched all three with Rance and the question he kept asking me was "Why the hell is this guy on television?" Not only that but he's in broadcasting! He does Jays game for Rogers Sportsnet games and some CBC games with Jesse Barfield. I don't know about anybody else but I might rather have Jesse Barfield (or as I called him when I was 5, Reggie Jackson) do a game with Don than 3 "encounters with Rance Mulliniks."

Honorable mention, Dwight Evans and any writer that they have had in the booth.

I apologize to Dwight Evans for not ranking him, but I listened to that game up to my camp so I didn't catch it. When I heard that Dewey had done that game I was very disappointed that I missed it. Dewey has always been one of my favorite Sox players and I always imagine him like Keith Hernandez in the two part episode of Seinfeld. I met him once at an autograph signing in Auburn when I was 15, and he was really nice. Though even at the time I thought he was hitting on my mom.

The writers aren't great for the simple reason that they are just there for Don to have someone to talk to. They do have a lot of information about other teams and things going on around the league, but they can't really analyze what's going on or explain a decision or wax philosophical about strategy.

Eck is doing the rest of this series and I would imagine he will do the Rangers series this weekend. Though you can never tell, it has brought a new aspect to watching the games, kind of a surprise to see who's in the booth that night and who knows how long it will last. But in the end, it will be good to have Remy back, if nothing else because it is a return to familiarity and we can get back down to the business of watching the game for the game.

Sterling Pingree

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