clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

An open letter to John Henry on Don Orsillo

New, 115 comments

In support of a man we Red Sox fans love like family.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dear Mr. Henry,

Early Tuesday morning, Red Sox fans learned that long-time play-by-play announcer Don Orsillo would not return for the 2016 season. At first, the assumption was that Orsillo, who is considered one of the best at his job in the business and made occasional national appearances, would be moving on to bigger opportunities. But as the hours passed, it became harder and harder to believe that was the case. Media columnist Chad Finn was all over the story and made it clear that Don Orsillo was not only forced out, but that there was little cause for his dismissal.

So far, this season has seen the Red Sox pick up 69 losses in 126 games. Their playoff hopes dwindled and died well before the trade deadline as a patchwork rotation crashed and burned, Hanley Ramirez played a historically bad outfield, and over-the-hill veterans continued to sap playing time well into July. And yet, even with a fanbase as notoriously rabid as this one, none of that provoked a reaction nearly so negative as the Orsillo news.

We are sad. We are hurt. We are angry. And we deserve an explanation, to say nothing of what Orsillo himself is owed.

Yesterday, shortly after the news broke, I started pushing a #FireJosephMaar hashtag on Twitter. It was, in hindsight, a reckless decision, with a short line in Finn's report on the situation the only thing even suggesting that Maar--NESN's vice president of programming and production--was directly responsible for effectively firing Orsillo. With Orsillo being his usual classy self and offering no comment, that's likely the closest we'll get to ever knowing for sure who is responsible without intervention from above.

But someone is responsible, and by all indications, it's not Don Orsillo. Someone has made the horrible decision to break up the best broadcasting team in baseball, and in doing so, has done a disservice to every single Red Sox fan who subscribes either to NESN or MLB.tv.

It's probably too late to undo this. Don Orsillo has already been told he is no longer wanted, and it's damn hard to take that back. And that's ignoring how monstrous it would be to hand Dave O'Brien his dream job only to pull it back at the last moment. I don't really believe anything I say here or elsewhere can keep Don Orsillo in the booth with Jerry Remy in 2016.

But I do hope that maybe, between myself and all the other people who publicly write and talk about the Red Sox, we can make enough noise that someone in power takes notice. My hope, Mr. Henry, is that that someone is you. In the past, you have proven willing to respond to the loud voices Boston brings with it. Often it's to do little more than say that you do not make the decisions when it comes to baseball moves, and I expect that largely holds true here as well. You don't make these choices yourself, but hire those with the specialized knowledge and experience necessary in the hopes that they will make far better decisions than they have here.

But if you did not make the decision to fire Don Orsillo, and even if you think it's not in good practice to undermine or overrule those who did, you at least can use Fenway Sports Group's controlling interest in NESN to make sure we get our explanation. And no, I don't mean "we wanted to make a change."

I don't know what comes after that. I doubt, to be honest, that any explanation can really prove satisfactory. While Red Sox fans may not understand all the intricacies involved in running a television station, we do at least know what we like. We like Don Orsillo. Short of an apology to Don for his mistreatment and perhaps a more deserved firing, it's hard to imagine what will come close to making this right. But as it stands, you have a fanbase that will spend 2016 torn between their love for this team, and the idea that watching them will somehow show support or approval for whoever fired Don Orsillo. I don't own any professional sports teams, but I'm fairly certain that dirty is not the feeling anyone wants associated with watching theirs.