Why Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley aren’t calling Red Sox games this postseason

There's a couple of reasons.

Former Boston Red Sox television announcer Don Orsillo gives a thumbs-up to the crowd during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees in Boston, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Former Boston Red Sox television announcer Don Orsillo gives a thumbs-up to the crowd during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees in Boston, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. –AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Since the beginning of the Red Sox’ playoff run, your friendly neighborhood media columnist (me, FYI) has been peppered with three specific questions/comments/pleas regarding TBS’s broadcasting assignments:

1. The Brian Anderson/Ron Darling tandem that has called the Division Series against the Yankees and the ALCS against the Astros is “boring.’’

2. Darling, a former Mets pitcher and current broadcaster, is New York-based and thus loves the Yankees.

3. Why can’t Eck and D.O. — meaning, of course, Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley, the Red Sox-associated tandem that called the Indians-Astros matchup in the division series — call this series too?


Here are the standard answers, all conveniently located in one place, with some elaboration:

1. Anderson and Darling are low-key, unless a big play is in the making, then Anderson amps it up, as he did on Andrew Benintendi’s catch in Game 4. (“Bregman in the air, left field . . . Benintendi dives . . . and . . . HE MAKES THE CATCH! OH, WHAT A PLAY! GAME-SAVER!’’ He didn’t fall out of his chair or anything, but it was an excellent call.) Maybe that’s boring to some, but I don’t think it’s necessarily important or enjoyable for play-by-play broadcasters to be exciting. Exciting is often the inauthentic result of shtick. You want Chip Caray and his trademark “Fisted!’’ calls back, do you? And Darling sounds just like Gene Simmons from KISS. That’s good for a chuckle at least once a game.

2. Yes, Darling was an ’86 Met, and I suppose that is reason enough to despise him for life around here. But at least know his history. He grew up in Millbury, graduated from St. John’s in Shrewsbury, and rooted for the Red Sox, though presumably not during the ’86 World Series. I guarantee you that in his soul he prefers the Red Sox to the Yankees. And since when are the Mets and Yankees allies?


3. It would be great to hear Orsillo and Eckersley call Red Sox playoff games, and not just because it would be a reunion of sorts three years after Orsillo was let go by NESN, but because it’s great to hear both of them call pretty much anything. They’re two of the most popular sports media figures I’ve covered in Boston in my decade on the beat.

So why doesn’t TBS have them work Sox games? A couple of reasons. First, Orsillo isn’t full-time at TBS, like Anderson (who also calls Brewers games) and Ernie Johnson, their No. 1 play-by-play voice who is sitting out the postseason, having scaled back his schedule due to a medical issue. (He is still hosting Inside The NBA.)

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Orsillo was a big part of TBS’s postseason coverage from 2007-13. But when the new rights contract went into effect in 2014, TBS no longer had the broadcast rights to both League Championship Series, and so it cut back on the number of broadcasters it required. It used to use four play-by-play guys in the playoffs during that era, but it doesn’t have enough games to justify even three in the playoffs. Orsillo was a part of the coverage in 2014 and ’15, and he was called in to fill in for Johnson this year, which tells you TBS still thinks highly of him.

The reason TBS did had Anderson and Darling call the Red Sox-Yankees series rather than Orsillo and Eckersley was mostly a logistical one. Anderson and Darling, the No. 1 pairing with Johnson ailing, called the wild card game between the Yankees and A’s. TBS wanted to keep Anderson and Darling with the winner of that game so they would not have to prepare for two other teams in the short turnaround between the wild card game and the ALDS. With the Yankees advancing to play the Red Sox, Anderson and Darling had to prepare only for Boston because they had already done their homework on the Yankees.


TBS hasn’t acknowledged this part, but looking at it objectively, the network also eliminated any charges of favoritism toward the Red Sox by choosing to have a pairing other than Orsillo and Eckersley to do their games. Orsillo has been with the Padres for three years now. But you can bet fans in every market — just like they do here — think of him as a voice of the Red Sox, still.

Martinez remembers Martin

Much respect to TBS to allow Pedro Martinez a few moments on the postgame show to talk poignantly about John Martin, the well-liked former NESN cameraman who died Sunday after a battle with ALS.

Prompted by host Casey Stern during a standup, Martinez, ever the mensch, called Martin a “great man,’’ discussed his relationship with Martin as a player and the time they spent together after Martin’s diagnosis.

He then looked at the camera and spoke directly to the Martin family, telling his widow Adrienne and their two daughters to “stay strong.’’ TBS showed a photo of Martin with a few words of memoriam before going to commercial. All class.

There was no major back story to TBS giving Martinez time to talk about Martin, per a source at the network. The production team, which includes some people who knew Martin, found out about his passing from social media Monday.

Martinez was informed what had happened and quickly said he would like to tell people about Martin on the air. To everyone, the source said, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Ratings and start times

Game 4 got a 4.7 overnight rating on TBS, making it the most-watched show on cable Wednesday night. Boston was the top market with a 20.5 rating. But here’s some evidence that confirms what you’re sleepy eyelids told you this morning — that the game didn’t just run late, it started too late. TBS’s ratings peaked during the broadcast in the 10-10:15 p.m. window, which was roughly three hours before the game ended. That’s not good for anyone. The 8:39 p.m. start time was absurd.