It’s hardly a challenge to make the case that the 2018 Red Sox were the greatest single-season team in franchise history. They won a Red Sox-record 108 games in the regular season, then went 11-3 in the postseason while tearing through the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers to win their fourth World Series since 2004. The case on their behalf can pretty much be rested right there.
Joe Castiglione, beginning his 37th season in the Red Sox radio broadcast booth, has seen generations of Red Sox players come and go. And he believes the players on the ’18 Red Sox — the vast majority of whom remain with the ’19 Red Sox — were the best he has seen in another regard.
“I think it’s actually the best group we’ve ever had in terms of not just ability, but how personable they are,’’ said Castiglione, who turns 72 Saturday. “They’re engaging personalities and so unselfish. That hasn’t always been the Red Sox way.
“If you watch Mookie Betts’s reactions, he’s happier when a teammate hits a three-run homer than when he does it himself. Jackie [Bradley Jr.] is a wonderful guy, [Rafael] Devers is a lot of fun to be around.
“They’re not just good, they’re very entertaining. When they can score like they did last year, and it’s probably the most athletic group they’ve ever had. Watching them, they keep you young.’’
Castiglione, whose first season, 1983, was Carl Yastrzemski’s final season and the summer Roger Clemens was drafted, has worked with just five primary partners during his tenure: Ken Coleman (1983-89), Bob Starr (1990-92), Jerry Trupiano (1993-2006), Dave O’Brien (2007-15) and Tim Neverett (2016-18).
While there have been others with whom Castiglione has shared the booth through the years such as Lou Merloni, Sean Grande, Glenn Geffner, Dale Arnold, and Jon Rish, flagship station WEEI’s approach to replacing Neverett (who is now with the Dodgers) offers a new challenge.
WEEI confirmed in mid-February that it will use a rotating cast of play-by-play voices and analysts alongside Castiglione this season, among them Sean McDonough, NESN’s Tom Caron and Dave O’Brien (when the Red Sox are on national television), ESPN’s Chris Berman, former Tigers voice Mario Impemba, former Mets broadcaster Josh Lewin, and more.
Adjusting to different broadcast partners from series to series might seem like something an established play-by-play voice wouldn’t be especially interested in doing. But Castiglione, while acknowledging that it will be different from what he’s used to, said he is looking forward to it.
“It’ll be an adjustment, working with some people I haven’t worked with before,’’ he said, noting that he is especially looking forward to working with McDonough, who called Red Sox games from 1988-2004. “But the couple I haven’t worked with I know well. They’re all friends. So that will be cool. It will be different, but it will be fun. They’re all different personalities, so that will be the biggest thing. But I don’t see any difficulty in it.
“I’ve always believed in a conversational broadcast. The games are so long and there’s so much time between pitches. There’s plenty of opportunity for everyone to get involved. That should work fine. We might be a little more conversational [than in the past], but I think we always have been.’’
The news was lost somewhat in the response to WEEI’s announcement of its rotating-voices approach to the booth, but Castiglione got some added security with a contract extension for the 2020 and ’21 seasons that includes an option for ’22. If he does stay through the option, that will give him an even 40 seasons in the Red Sox booth. “Still loving it, still having fun,’’ he said. “If it were a tanking team it might be a little different. “
He also will take some time off in-season this year, something he did to a lesser degree last year. After the Red Sox’ trip to London to play the Yankees in late June, he will take off the next two series before the All-Star break and remain overseas on vacation.
Overall, he said, he expects to miss approximately 15 to 18 games this year, mostly away from Fenway. He took off 11 games last year. “We were going so well I didn’t want to miss any,’’ he said. “They were so much fun to be around. It will be hard to duplicate what they did last year, but they should be a lot of fun again.’’