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Don Orsillo was the first domino

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If we forgot who was in charge, this is when we were first reminded.

Boston Red Sox Victory Parade
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Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images

It was a screw-up from the start. One day Don Orsillo was the play-by-play guy for the Red Sox for the foreseeable future and the next day he was not, and we were all worse off for it. Whatever else you think about it, you probably at least think that. You are wise, after all.

But if you are, say, Chad Finn, you’ve heard enough of it to last a lifetime. Finn is our true north; he shows us the way, even in the rare cases the way is dangerous, like now, and his way here is out the “It’s been five years! Enough!” door. Which probably isn’t a trap but I don’t know because I’m stuck back in the Orsillo era.

Or to put it plainly: I disagree.

If we are going to chart the three turning points in the relationship between the Red Sox brass and its fans, the first one is in August 2015, when the Red Sox didn’t only decide to cut Orsillo loose, they (allegedly) had to be convinced not to do it mid-year. They were ostensibly shocked when the move to Dave O’Brien temporarily blew up in their faces, having underestimated the fanbase’s admiration for Orsillo, which is palpable even now.

Is he a martyr of sorts? Sure. He’s the first of three big ones, and the second most beloved, in the last few years. The next domino to fall, four seasons later, was Dave Dombrowksi, whose main claim to shame was building one of the best 10 teams of all time without bothering to look too far ahead. Between Orsillo and Mookie Betts, the obvious capstone of this troika, Dombo is emphatically the least missed person, but he arguably did as good a job as either of the other two.

This argument isn’t about him, however, nor is it about Betts, upon whom we wish the greatest success. This is about Orsillo, and why he stays top of mind while everything else about the Red Sox changes, drastically, beneath our feet. It is not because O’Brien is bad, or because the current Red Sox booth is overly boring — the three-man booth of O’Brien, Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley is certified gold, even if it’s the latter two that do the heavy lifting. It’s not a bad setup by any means, and sometimes it can even be great.

But it could be better. We’ve seen it be better. It’s not about nostalgia, either. We knew it was good at the time. As much as I have complained about the Mookie trade, I understand that even the best baseball teams are going to have ups and downs, be they self-inflicted or otherwise, on the field. Off the field is a different story. That’s what makes the Orsillo affair so galling: There’s never a guarantee your announcers or good or even great. It’s alchemy, and the Red Sox hit gold only to sell the formula for nothing.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that Orsillo and San Diego go together like San Diego and rap-rock, and they’ve had a wonderful time together, blessed with the coolest young star in the game in Fernando Tatís Jr. That his team is facing off with Mookie’s Dodgers is something else, but it’s hard not to root for both of them, so why fight it?

Its also hard to pretend that the reason the Orsillo firing has been resonant is anything other than not only what a massive betrayal it was, but how it set the table for future betrayals. The key difference between the ones since then, Dombo and Mookie and such, is that they can fix those. I’m not sure we will see Orsillo’s kind again. They’re too serious and he’s too goofy for them. It’s their loss, and ours, then and now, and it’s natural to feel it still.