Fans of the Boston Red Sox are not happy that the team’s NESN network has decided to part ways with longtime play-by-play voice Don Orsillo after 15 seasons.
No one denies this.
The aggrieved fans have taken to the Internet to change NESN’s mind, starting a Change.org petition that has garnered more than 11,000 electronic signatures as of mid-Wednesday morning.
Jerry Remy, Orsillo’s partner in the booth for 15 years, choked up as he talked to reporters about Orsillo’s ouster on Tuesday night.
“For the last 15 years, it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Don,” said Remy, meeting with a small group of reporters in the visitors’ broadcast booth at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night. “I can remember him sitting in the booth when the job became available. He was asking me if there was any chance he could get it. I said a few things to a few people. He’s been an outstanding partner for 15 years, and I’m truly going to miss him on a work-related side and I’m going to miss him on a personal side because he also has become a very, very close friend of mine.
“I know that he’s going to land on his feet and he’s going to be in great shape. I’m sure they’re going to be lining up for his services. I really mean that. He’s terrific at what he does, he’s been absolutely fabulous to work with. I love him, and he’s going to do just fine. I’m not worried about that part of it.”
In a statement issued late Tuesday night — well after the furor had started — NESN praised Orsillio as “an outstanding broadcaster” and extended “our sincere appreciation to Don.” But the network has yet to give a concrete explanation for its decision not to renew Orsillo’s contract, which expires at the end of the season.
With no explanation given, and none seemingly forthcoming, all we have is speculation and “sources.” The hosts of the “Dennis and Callahan” show on Boston sports-talk radio postulated that disappointing ratings — which totally aren’t the result of the Red Sox’ dreadful season — are the reason.
The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn, meanwhile, has sources chalking it up to network politics:
The news, which was first revealed on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” program Tuesday morning, is disheartening for those who appreciate his polished and often humorous approach. But it is not a shock to those in the industry.
Orsillo signed a contract in November 2011 that included an option for 2015. NESN showed no urgency in picking up the option last summer, making Orsillo wait out his fate. The deal was quietly picked up late in the season, without any fanfare. …
According to industry sources, Orsillo was never a favorite of Joseph Maar, NESN’s vice president of programming and production/executive producer who arrived at the network in July 2012. Last year, Maar implemented the policy of having its broadcasters — Orsillo and Remy, in this case — take in-season breaks.
A NESN spokesman said last year that the policy was implemented to keep broadcasters fresh, but it also serves another purpose: A week off during the season for its broadcasters means they must make up the week of work outside of baseball season, which is unusual given their grueling schedule from April through at least September. Orsillo, known as a team player among his colleagues at NESN, was resistant to this approach.
Finn reports that NESN was not planning to announce Orsillo’s departure until January, and that “consideration was given to removing him from broadcasts immediately.”
Dave O’Brien, who has called games on the Red Sox’ radio network for the past nine years, will take over for Orsillo.