Don Orsillo has effectively been fired by NESN, and it mostly reminds me of the time Mike and the Mad Dog became The Mike Francesa show literally overnight, with no prompting. In that case, there had at least been rumors that they were going to split up since they began, and satellite radio was using venture capital poach jocks from radio stations across the country. It less so reminds me of happy couples announcing to your shocked face that they're splitting up, especially when they both seemed so happy around each other.
No matter what shit product the Red Sox put on the field for most of the last four seasons, Orsillo went out there and did his job well, which is a pretty difficult standard for a play-by-play announcer. A year or so ago, I remember reading a FanGraphs NERD game preview, one which declared that the Tigers broadcast was preferred by the readers to that of the Red Sox, Detroit's opponent that night.
My suspicion is that if you do not have an ear for Jerry Remy, Boston games sound borderline unintelligible. It doesn't make them any less intelligent. I have watched many games featuring the Tigers announcers, and that includes at least half of which I've chosen as my own preferred broadcast. If this is a nicer way of saying I don't think they're terrible, I'm sorry, but the level of broadcast does not reach the level that Orsillo and Remy reach - or simply avoid grasping toward. Both sets of announcers want their home teams to win, but as long as you don't lie about what's happening in service of that end, you're doing a good job.
It has been my experience that nearly every set of local baseball announcers is insufferable in one way or another - it is the nature of sports, if nothing else - but they're not all intolerable, and the intolerable ones are all the same. Vin Scully is not a set, and does not count. The breaks that go against their teams are unjust, the breaks they get are all deserved, and every player is in danger of becoming a cliché with a swing of the bat. These are basically the interchangeables. Sometimes it is better than the alternative: Hawk Harrelson is the prime example of this, and counts very much. Harrelson - who I've loved in the past, don't get me wrong, but c'mon -- is almost certainly in fact the precise reason I've heard the Tigers announcers at all.
So it was a little strange, then, to see NESN's allegedly failed contract talks with Orsillo trickle out days after fired Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski became the President of Baseball Operations in Boston, considering. A part of me still wonders what the hell Orsillo could have done so wrong behind the scenes to warrant a move in such humiliating style, unless that's just how the Red Sox machine wants to roll. The Red Sox won three championships with Orsillo as their announcer and spent a decade-plus distancing themselves from a persistent dickishness that basically started when Harry Frazee sold the team in a year I can't remember, it having not been screaming pounded into my eardrums in the Bronx for so very long.
It's good to know the bad old days are never too far behind.
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Orsillo confused the hell out of me at first because of how much he sounded like the previous lead Sox announcer, Sean McDonough. Things are different now. He has supplanted the radio guys as the voice of the franchise and one of its polar forces of levity. The other is Remy, and Orsillo and Remy made some magical television outside of their perfectly appropriate responses to big Red Sox moments both positive and negative. I can hear Orsillo yelling "Home run!" right now and will be able to do it until the day I die. In that he is not alone, but so what?
I likely do not need to tell you that the reaction on Twitter was not positive, from Bill Simmons on down. NESN and by extension, the Red Sox, earned every bit of it and likely more. For a decade and a half, Orsillo and Remy have been cracking each other up through championship seasons and almost impossibly difficult family tragedy, almost all of it Remy's.
Orsillo brings out the absolute best in Remy, none more so that when they both started laughing and couldn't stop, the apotheosis of which occurred after a second-plus of airborne providence: an overhand-thrown slice of pizza. They are bemused from the outset and act as bored detectives on laughing gas, and why not? This was the Patriots Day game, starting before noon local time, the only baseball game of the year, every year, to do so. It was Monday and it was raining and the game was over, and then history was made:
I could have watched that just now, but I would have been sad, and I do not want to feel sad watching flying pizza. I also do not want to get sad about a baseball announcer leaving a job he has had for a long, long time and might be just as happy to leave as NESN is to see him go. It happens, even in previously healthy business relationships, especially when things go bad, and the Red Sox have gone very, very bad. They get so much less attention now than the Tom Brady scandal that it's preposterous: they are less interesting to the country, region and yeah, me, than literal thin air.
Now, the one guy who could come around and laugh at it all, and could get Remy to laugh and you, yes you, to laugh so hard you cried -- the guy who could do that, even now? He's gone. NESN has taken the guy who really made you feel like you were at the ballpark, and that it was important to use his three-plus hours of airtime to remind you that you were, too, at Fenway Park: If you took yourself too seriously, that was on you. (Hopefully this explains away his Donald Trump thing.) He liked eating food, talking about eating food, laughing, golfing and calling a damn good baseball game, potentially in that order. He liked the good life, and the good life is definitely over now.