The rivalry between New York and Boston extends a lot further
than the Red Sox and Yankees. Their television networks, YES
and NESN battle every night while broadcasting their respective
When it comes to baseball production, they rank 1 and 1a in the
country. They are the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady of regional
networks, the most powerful and glamorous. It's NESN, YES, and
then everybody else. If one is better, it's not by much. Here's the
tale of the tape.
NESN holds the overwhelming edge in pre-game shows. They
are often imitated, but never duplicated. NESN set the standard
years ago, and everyone else, including YES is trying to catch up.
NESN was the first to have the outdoor set, and if you look at
other pre-game shows around the country on Fox Sports Net and
MASN, they all have sets outside, whether it be on the concourse
of the stadium or outside of it. With Yawkey Way as the backdrop,
and the charm of Fenway Park, NESN has all the ingredients to
make up the best pre-game show in the business.
The men who steer the ship from start to finish, are both top notch.
Tom Caron (NESN) and Bob Lorenz (YES) are true professionals
who never stumble, mess up, and are always accurate. Name
a time when they screwed up on something. Exactly. Caron grew up
in New England and has become part of the fabric of it. He is blue-
collar and dedicated. He's what they call a "gamer" in the sports world.
Meticulously prepared, Caron could tell you the zodiac sign of the
mother of the back-up catcher at Lowell, the Red Sox class 'A'
affiliate in the New York-Penn League. Lorenz, is completely polished
after spending years on the national/world stage of CNN. He's
knowledgeable and easy to listen to and easy to like.
Caron and Lorenz are even across the board on knowledge, presentation,
preparation, and the ability to right the ship when things are frenetic
in the waters below. However, Lorenz gets the slight edge for
his overall experience and polish.
Dennis Eckersley (NESN) is quite simply, the best baseball analyst in
the country, bar none. You can have Tim McCarver, John Kruk,
or anyone else. They can't touch the Eck. This guy is pure as a
person and as a talent. The Hall of Fame pitcher is incredibly
knowledgeable and unfiltered. He says it like it is and doesn't
care about offending players or management. Plus, he, as Stuart
Scott like to say, "is cooler than the other side of the pillow."
Also in NESN's stable of analysts are the incomparable Peter
Gammons and Hall of Famer Jim Rice. Nobody, anywhere in
the country can compete with that.
Jack Curry (YES). Curry covered the Yankees for 20 years
with the New York Times and is as knowledgeable as any writer
covering the game today. As a television analyst, Curry is network
quality and don't be surprised if he shows up on ESPN one day.
He has an all-American look and remarkable camera presence
for a person who has not been in the business that long. He's very
likeable and doesn't bring a pompous, holier than thou demeanor
to the set. John Flaherty sits in on occasion and the former Yankees,
Red Sox, Rays, Padres, and Tigers catcher is very astute. A junior
Tim McCarver, but a lot more likeable.
EDGE-OVERWHELMING TO NESN.
Don Orsillo (NESN) made it to the top the old-fashioned way. He
rolled up his sleeves and worked his ass off. Orsillo paid his dues
with stops in places like Binghamton, Springfield (MA), and Pawtucket.
An incredibly hard-worker, Orsillo is always prepared but isn't
bolted to a dizzying array of stats and information. He isn't some
stat geek who tries to go overboard with a desire to impress people
with numbers and knowledge. He knows the game and has a lot
of fun calling it. Orsillo is not the biggest man in the booth, not
with Jerry Remy at his side. Working with a local legend is not easy,
but Orsillo handles it with ease and always does a great job of setting
the Rem Dawg up. Trademark call: "Down by way of the K".
Michael Kay (YES). Kay is a New Yorker and a Yankee fan, through
and through. After all, he's a Bronx native and went to Fordham. He
covered the Yankees for years as writer for the NY Post and NY
Daily News. He's a former broadcast partner of the immortal John
"thaaaaaaaa-Yankees win" Sterling. Kay, wouldn't fit into the classic
play-by-play mold like his fellow Fordham graduates, Vin Scully or
Mike Breen. Kay is the everyman, a guy happy to be in the seat that
most people would give up their first and second child for. Sometimes
goes overboard on the stats, but so what. It's obvious that Kay loves
the game and loves the Yankees. Goes out of his way to really set
up the analysts in the booth. Trademark call: "Seeeeeee Ya"
No need to spend a lot of time and effort on this one. Jerry Remy
(NESN) has attained cult-hero status. He is Boston through and through,
complete with the thick accent. If he ran for Mayor, he'd beat
Marbles Menino is a landslide. Knowledgeable and funny, Remy
takes his job seriously, but not himself. He has become an institution
and as much a part of Fenway Park as the Green Monster.
YES employs rotating game analysts (David Cone, Paul O'Neill,
John Flaherty, Al Leiter, and Ken Singleton, who also does play-by-play)
They are all very, very good. Leiter and Flaherty can explain the game
and situations as well as anyone in the business. O'Neill and Cone are
brilliant in conveying their experiences to the viewers. If you want one
analyst to depend on every night, then I'm sure you'd favor Remy and
NESN. If variety is your cup of tea, YES is the place for you.
EDGE: NESN, IN A LANDSLIDE.
Does Heidi Watney (NESN) know baseball? Does it matter? She is
the type of eye-candy that makes male viewers between 50 and 70
go into full cardiac arrest. Raised in California and the cousin of
PGA golfer, Watney was hand picked by Tom Werner, former
big-time television producer, and part-owner of the Red Sox. Watney
isn't always buttoned up and prepared with her information, but
she does a good job, and the camera fawns over her like an 8th grader
who suddenly discovers he has a super-hot teacher. Watney is sure to be
on the radar of ESPN, if not Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight,
or TMZ. :)
Kim Jones (YES) is a sports journalist through and through. Earned a degree
from Penn State in journalism and was on the NFL beat for the Star-Ledger for
many years. She continues to write a Sunday NFL column for that paper.
Jones is ALWAYS prepared and is really knowledgeable about the game.
She is not in the same category as Watney when it comes to looks, but not
many people are. However, the camera does like her and she has a nice
way and presence about her. Only drawback is that she sometimes gets
too emotional in her post-game interviews and tends to fall into the
"hero worshipping" category.
GAME BROADCAST/PRODUCTION TEAM.
NESN and YES are in a class of their own when it comes to broadcasting
baseball. They are far and away the best of the regional networks and
can more than hold their own with ESPN and Fox. Ruppert Murdoch's
hack-in-your email network does only one game a week, NESN and
YES broadcasts every night. NESN approaches every game as if it's
the seventh game of the World Series and it shows.
The director/producer tandem of Mike Narracci and Russ Kenn are
outstanding and kind of like Adrian Gonzalez. Everybody knew he could
ball, but until he got on the national stage, nobody really knew he was this
spectacular. If Kenn and Narracci were in New York, they'd be recognized
for their brilliance.
YES is equipped with people behind the scenes that have eye-popping
backgrounds and resumes. John Fillippelli was given the task of starting
the network from scratch, backed with the deep pockets of George
Steinbrenner. Everything about their broadcasts is first class and it's obvious
that no expense has been spared. Their nightly production is network
quality and enjoyable to watch.
NESN and YES have a lot to work with. Teams with great tradition,
historic and new stadiums, die-hard fan bases, and deep pockets. They
both do a great job of maximizing their resources and producing spectacular
broadcasts every night.
Which network is better? As I said before, it's like trying to decide between
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Both are brilliant, always prepared, and
rarely have a bad game. Take your pick.
+Full Disclosure: I worked for NESN from 2004-2006. Had a great
time there but as everyone knows, I'm not biased.