Cathedral of baseball for his first day as the voice of the Boston Red Sox some 15 years
ago: with class, dignity, a great work ethic, and a passion for the game.
He is much wiser, more measured, and tougher than he was when he called his first
Red Sox game in 2000. That'll happen when you work in a region obsessed with baseball
and a media market that's the most skeptical and judgemental in the nation.
Orsillo did a great job navigating the landmines in the business, avoiding the political
animals, and working on his craft until he become one of the best play-by-play voices
in the game.
It wasn't good enough.
Sunday's game was the final one Orsillo called at Fenway Park, thanks to the power
brokers with the Red Sox and NESN, who felt the need to "re-energize" the team's broadcasts
despite the fact that Orsillo was extremely popular and universally respected throughout
This was the second time in less than a year the Red Sox had a desire to "re-energize" things.
Over the winter, they felt they felt the need to jazz up the offense and thus, threw out
more than $200 million to sign a pair of dogs in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
How'd that turn out?
It might have been the first time the "re-energizing" explanation was given for dumping
a broadcaster. Let's face it, the Red Sox on the field provided all the excitement of a
mortician at the end of a double-shift. Next time the United States captures some terrorists,
they should bring re-runs of the Red Sox into the interrogation room and force the criminals
to watch them for a 100 hours straight. The pain of it all will surely get them to talk.
Ratings on NESN were down and the broadcasts lacked "energy?" Seriously?
The Red Sox and NESN made Orsillo take the fall for it, which is criminal in itself. Yep,
the team sucked so the voice of the Red Sox has to go! Makes perfect sense!
As an employee, Orsillo was perfect. He was dependable, hard-working, loved by
everybody and fiercely loyal. He never missed anything: a game, a meeting, a public
appearance, or a silly photo op the company asked him to do. Orsillo was a 'yes' man
in a great way. Whatever NESN asked him to do, the answer was always 'yes', 'yes' and
Orsillo represented the Red Sox and NESN like Derek Jeter did with the New York
Yankees. In 15 years there wasn't one bad story or even a bad word about Orsillo. Living
in a fishbowl and the age of social media, nobody could ever come up with a negative
tweet, argument, or a bad situation Orsillo got in. That's because there wasn't a single
one, which is pretty remarkable and just showed the kind of person Orsillo is.
He was fiercely loyal to NESN for giving him his first opportunity to cover a major league
team. Orsillo was a New England native and like most everyone in that region, he lived
and died with the Red Sox. Calling their games was his dream job and he lived it every
single day for the last 15 years.
Orsillo took the hometown discount and there was no way you could knock the smile
off his face even though NESN paid him as much as 50 percent below what the average
play-by-play announcers make working for flagships stations and networks around the
Orsillo could've taken his talents somewhere else over the years to make more money
but he was loyal to the Red Sox and NESN. Loyalty meant something to Orsillo.
It's too bad it doesn't mean much to the Red Sox and NESN.
Several weeks ago, news broke the Red Sox and NESN were not going to re-new
Orsillo's contract. Orsillo had become part of the fabric of Red Sox Nation coming
into every home in the region nearly every single night. He was one of them, a New
England native who loved the Red Sox, worked hard, and had fun. No, he wasn't perfect
but was the perfect man to call Red Sox games.
Like most television executives, the ones in Boston, felt they could always get
something better. A few days after new broke that Orsillo wasn't coming back, the
network and team announced Dave O'Brien would be taking over for Orsillo.
A New England native himself, O'Brien is a supremely talented broadcaster who
has worked for ESPN in addition to being the play-by-play voice for the Mets and
Marlins. He has a golden voice and a wealth of knowledge. He will do well in
his position with the Red Sox and NESN and you can bet O'Brien will get paid
more handsomely than Orsillo ever did by taking the hometown discount.
When the uproar reached a crescendo, NESN asked Orsillo to tweet out to the
world that their parting was by "mutual" agreement. Nice try, Orsillo said, (or
something like that which was more than G-rated)
Orsillo has stayed silent through the ordeal but you know the pain is there. I
first met Orsillo when both of us were covering the Mets AA affiliate in Binghamton
back in 1994. Our paths crossed several times after that and in 2004, we became
co-workers at NESN.
If someone has said something bad about Don Orsillo, I've yet to hear it. And
in the broadcasting business where badmouthing and backstabbing is an art form,
that's pretty remarkable.
Orsillo won't say a bad word about getting a bum deal from NESN, but he is sure
to get the last word and most likely, the last laugh. Orsillo is a talented man and there
are already a number of teams and networks after his services.
Orsillo will land on his feet, that's for sure. And when he does, he'll have that trademark
grin washed across his face. Orsillo was always too good for NESN. He will soon