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Chain reaction of whining

The latest Pedro Martinez media uproar is a classic example of a story started by talk radio. On Thursday afternoon, WEEI's "The Big Show" hosts reacted to the news that Pedro had called in sick for that night's pitching assignment and speculated about whether a genuine tough guy would have gutted it out. If there was a line of logic in the speculation, it was that Martinez had taken some media heat for missing the team photo earlier in the week and reacted by calling in sick.

The non-story seemed to have gone away Friday as WEEI held its "no negativity day" during its Jimmy Fund radiothon.

But Martinez revived the furor Sunday, showing his unique mix of machismo and a diva personality in sounding off to WBZ's Jon Miller, a respected fixture on the Boston sports scene.

Martinez, who worked the media masterfully in his first few years in town, now seems like a guy who is tired, bored, or simply worn out from that part of the game, as it's played in Boston.

His quotes to Miller showed that the talk show innuendo indeed had gotten under his skin. Suddenly, the story had taken on new legs, and it was ridden hard by Sunday night's late shows on Channels 4 and 7.

Yesterday morning, it quickly became the subject du jour on WEEI.

In a medium that needs a hot-button topic every day, this was a great gift, especially with a fresh listening audience, most of whom hadn't stayed up for the Sunday shows.

WEEI morning hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan played cuts from last Thursday evening's "Whiner Line" segment, trying to place the Pedro-bashing blame on the callers. Not so. That segment almost always reflects the hot topic (in this case Pedro) of the show.

Dennis and Callahan got Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to address the situation in his weekly "Patriots Monday" segment yesterday. But Brady didn't get into the talk radio aspect of Boston being a tough town, just noting that the fans could be demanding but hadn't been hard on the Patriots during his three years because the team had done well.

The irony in the (non)story is that yesterday's afternoon game -- with Martinez pitching -- put a halt to the talk by preempting much of WEEI's midday programming.

Big league numbers Saturday night's US championship game in the Little League World Series between Saugus and Boynton Beach, Fla., topped the weekend ratings list with a whopping 14.5 rating (29 audience share) on Channel 5. In West Palm Beach, Fla., the game did a 19.1 (30 audience share). Sunday's championship game between Boynton Beach and Japan did an 8.0 rating in Boston. The national ratings on ABC (3.1 Saturday, 4.7 Sunday) were down from a year ago (3.9 and 6.0) . . . Channel 5 also had big ratings Friday night. The rain delay before Sox-Mariners on Channel 38 helped the Channel 5 Patriots pregame show do a 5.6 rating, followed by a 9.8 for the Patriots-Eagles exhibition game and a 4.2 for the postgame "5th Quarter." The beat doesn't stop for Channel 5 this week, with Bears-Patriots tomorrow (8 p.m., plus the 7:30 pregame show and postgame "5th Quarter") . . . Channel 5 also picks up ABC's coverage of Tiger Woods and the Deutsche Bank Open Sunday (4-6 p.m.) and Monday (3-6 p.m.) and plans a "Chronicle" special Thursday from the site, previewing the event. "SportsCenter5" will originate from the course Friday with a special in the 7:30-8 p.m. "Chronicle" time slot, and the "SportsCenter5" team of Mike Lynch, Mike Dowling, and Bob Halloran will have expanded wrapups Saturday (11:50 p.m.) and Sunday (11:20-11:40 p.m.), plus a post-tournament show Monday (7-8 p.m.). The tournament preempts the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon from 3-6 Monday (it will air on both NECN and Manchester's WMUR). USA televises the golf action from Norton Friday (5-7 p.m.) and Saturday (4-6 p.m.) . . . WBZ Radio will be in Norton doing live updates at a quarter to and quarter past the hour from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Show time on ESPN Today is a big day for ESPN, with the debut of the dramatic series "Playmakers" (9 p.m.), based on the off-field lives of people associated with the Cougars, a fictional football team. ESPN is hoping the series will draw more females and casual sports fans to the network. Those who tune in will find interesting but troubled characters such as cocky but drug-addicted running back Demetrius Harris (superbly played by Omar Gooding), but the story lines reflect the dark side of football. It's hard to believe there's so little joy in athletes' lives. The best news: It will air in high-definition, and the first episode is commercial-free . . . ESPN2 kicks off four straight afternoons of coverage of the Track and Field World Championships from Paris today (2-4, then 2:30-4:30 p.m. the next three days). ABC picks up the coverage Sunday from 12:30-4 p.m., leading into the Deutsche Bank coverage . . . Longtime Boston sports producer Andy Sugg (Channel 7, WEEI) has started work as executive producer for "Fox 25 Morning News," the 6-9 a.m. show featuring Gene Lavanchy and Jodi Applegate that will launch Sept. 22 . . . Sox radio voice Joe Castiglione missed the first two innings of yesterday's game while returning from Ken Coleman's funeral . . . USA Network had Pete Sampras's official retirement announcement at the top of last night's evening session at the US Open tennis tournament. The network starts using Anna Kournikova as its "pop culture" reporter during tomorrow's second session (7-11 p.m.). USA is airing the tournament from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. daily this week . . . Melissa Stark, formerly of "Monday Night Football" and now an NBC News national correspondent, had a 7-pound baby boy, Michael Lilley Jr., last Friday evening.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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