Game: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Date: July 11
Network: New England Sports Network (NESN)
Play-by-Play: Don Orsillo
Color Commentator: Jerry Remy
Hotter'n 100 Hazel Maes: Heidi Watney
About 20 years ago, the rivalry between the Red Sox and my A's was about as fierce as any in baseball. Longtime Oakland fans like me have heard about (or maybe even watched) the nationally televised Monday Night Baseball game in 1986 in which Dave Stewart – a bargain-basement reclamation project – defeated eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. Stew would go on to compile a 9-1 record in head-to-head contests vs. Clemens, including the postseason. I miss those Sox teams. Where have you gone Carlos Quintana, Tom Brunansky and Mike Smithson?
Chemistry: Orsillo and Remy have been together since 2001 and theirs is a fine two-man balancing act. Remy, the former Red Sox second baseman, has been in the NESN booth for 20 years and with his New England accent, disheveled posture and jowly countenance, it's no wonder he's held in such high regard, locally. At least once a game, Orsillo and Remy spin an anecdote about a personal experience in some random nearby suburb (in this game, it had to do with Orsillo's commute to Fenway from Smithfield, Rhode Island) and all of its "great Red Sox fans". Considering how television broadcasts are merely a means of (eventually) marketing as much moolah out of the fans as possible, the pandering here at least serves a purpose. Grade: 8/10
Knowledge: There are a lot of ex-player/color commentators who half-ass their role, collect a paycheck and offer nothing in the way of relevant or interesting analysis. In the case of Remy, someone would need to spot him half an ass to reach this embarrassingly low bar. He had some salient points about Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz and the unrealistic expectations after Buchholz's 2007 no hitter, but for most of the game, he was reading right from pre-game press stat sheets and media guides. I get that he's there to mostly lend some local credibility to the proceedings and that Sox fans would just as soon watch a walrus in Remy's role (hey, separated at birth!), but it was still a disappointment. Orsillo is way too reverent to Remy and he spent the game feeding Remy set-ups to simply regurgitate over an instant replay. Grade: 3/10
Enthusiasm: In Remy's defense, he is capable of getting spun up as well as any other middle-aged white man. There was a grotesquely blown call at first base involving SS Julio Lugo that had Remy moaning in agony and loudly lamenting, "…if only we had replay." His "fan's passion" is evident just about every time he opens his mouth, whether he's dropping his deadpan SAP catchphrase ("Buenos noches, amigos!") or reading one of the million in-game NESN promos. Orsillo is nicely measured and, thankfully, won't give in to hyperbolic calls or contrived drama. Grade: 7/10
Bar Stool Q: I spent one night in Boston back in 2005 and I'd put their bar scene right up there with anyone's in the nation. Can't say that I'd want to kill an entire evening with Orsillo and (sigh) "RemDawg", though. Then again, Remy was elected (no, seriously…) as the first president of Red Sox Nation. I assume that comes with a Secret Service detail ("Aren't you Mo Vaughn?") and immediate VIP access within, oh, let's say…the Electric Blue Café. And, Mr. President, can you look into overturning this recent decision by the local government? We, as a society, should be bringing business together, not pushing them apart. Grade: 2.5/10
Camera/Production: NESN uses an odd, elevated centerfield camera angle from pitch-to-pitch. I remember that ESPN used a more exaggerated version of this in 2001 for baseball and, after numerous complaints, switched back to the standard CF camera. It took an inning or two to get used to, but NESN's approach gives better perspective to breaking balls and a truer look into what the hitter sees. They had lots of replays, from all sorts of angles, on a fan interference non-call off a Sean Casey double and, as mentioned, the Lugo blown call at first got the same thorough treatment. My favorite moment came during an in-game segment with Heidi Watney, though. Two women in the seats behind her saw themselves on camera and immediately started kissing. Giggedy. Grade: 9/10
Homerism: Remy's about what you'd expect from someone with such strong ties to the Red Sox. He knows who butters his bread, but, like Orsillo, his leanings are usually woven well within the context of the fact that there are two teams on the field. As a result, the compliments and criticisms flow back and forth for both teams, if not always in equal amounts. Grade: -5.5
Commerciality: Hoo boy, where to begin?! Remy's awesomely awful "air guitar/I'm not a rock stah" spot for Sovereign Bank had me reaching for the rewind button. My new best friends at something called Stop & Shop were giving away ten 32-ounce Gatorades for only $10, while I'm guessing that Xtra Mart moved a lot more of their pre-made sandwiches in their commercial than anyone would ever eat in real life. The Yankees/Red Sox scratch game with the dueling bobbleheads on either shoulder was kind of clever, but all of the in-house spots for Sox Appeal were, well…whatever the opposite of "clever" is. Multiplied by, like, a jillion.
AFLAC Trivia Question: There wasn't one! C'mon, NESN. You'll sell ad time to the dual sponsored "Olympia Sports Presents the Boston Globe Pre-Game Show", but nothing for the duck? You know the drill.