NESN ratings spike along with Red Sox’ performance

Dennis Eckersley in NESN's announcers booth with Dave O'Brien. —John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Red Sox have been on fire . . . well, pretty much all season, given that they won 17 of their first 19 games, owned an 81-34 record entering Thursday night’s game, and have not had a losing streak longer than three games.

They’ve been exceptional since the All-Star break, too, winning 13 of their first 17 games. Their ratings on NESN in that stretch have been just as impressive.

Red Sox broadcasts averaged an 8.56 rating in NESN’s first 16 games since the break, with eight of the 10 highest-rated games of the season (and 10 of the top 15) coming after the midsummer classic. Overall, ratings are up 36 percent in the second half; in 91 NESN broadcasts before the break, the Red Sox averaged a 6.30.

Advertisement

If there ever was any doubt about whether this team would capture the imagination of the fan base, it no longer exists, said the narrator of their nightly performance, Dave O’Brien.

“[The ratings are] indicative of the interest and the passion that fans have in the team,’’ said O’Brien, who is in his third year in the NESN booth and 12th season calling Red Sox games overall.

“I’ve been lucky enough to broadcast for three teams that won it all [1997 Marlins, and 2007 and ’13 Red Sox], and this is the best team that I’ve ever covered. A couple of MVP candidates, a Cy Young candidate, Rick Porcello could win 20 again, and it’s a deeper team now than it was on Opening Day.’’

O’Brien acknowledges that the Red Sox’ remarkable success — they entered Thursday on a 114-win pace — means there will be pressure to deliver the franchise’s fourth championship in 15 seasons come October. But he hopes fans remember to enjoy the team’s achievements along the way.

“I recognize and understand that ultimately it’s about winning the World Series,’’ said O’Brien. “But is that all it’s about? Does that discount six months of terrific baseball if the only enjoyment you get is tied to the playoffs? I think that’s pretty cold.

Advertisement

“That’s not my point of view. And that’s not the vast majority of fans’ point of view, in my opinion. Otherwise you wouldn’t see a million people tuning in every night. You wouldn’t see the ballpark packed every night. Enjoying the ride is part of being a fan. The destination is important too, but it can’t be the only thing.

“I always look at a new season as the opportunity to tell a story. Every day, every week, every month is a piece of that story. This group of guys is giving us an incredible story to tell. Enjoy the story and not just the ending.’’

NESN received rave reviews recently for the way it told the story, putting analysts Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley in a three-man booth with O’Brien.

Remy and Eckersley, teammates for six-plus seasons with the Red Sox, have a rare chemistry.

“I can’t tell you how much fun it was,’’ said O’Brien. “Jerry and Eck are both unique personalities. Together, they became teammates again too. To me, that’s why it clicked.

“The chemistry is still very strong between those guys. They know what the Red Sox fan needs to hear, unvarnished.’’

Unfortunately, Remy’s recurrence of lung cancer will keep him away from the booth for an undetermined length of time.

“Jerry, he’s a guy you trust 100 percent,’’ said O’Brien. “He’s a guy you lean on. You work with somebody just about every day. You travel together for six or seven months. You have dinners together, you talk about things that have nothing to do with baseball, you become friends. I’m missing him already.’’

Right man for job

Advertisement

Mike Giardi, who has done quality work as an anchor and reporter at NBC Sports Boston for nearly a decade, posted on his Facebook page Monday that he was leaving the network for another opportunity. He has yet to reveal his new professional destination, but Giardi would be a perfect fit for the NFL Network’s recently posted opening for a Patriots reporter . . . ESPN shook up its daytime programming lineup Thursday, canceling “SportsNation’’ and moving “High Noon,’’ hosted by Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre, to the 4 p.m. time slot while trimming it from an hour to a half-hour.

Bravely spoken

WEEI host Kirk Minihane revealed in a pair of tweets Thursday that he was recently hospitalized while battling depression.

“I’ve talked a lot about my issues with depression, and I’ve battled it the last three months or so,’’ he wrote.

“Last Thursday night I checked into the ER at Winchester Hospital with suicidal thoughts. I was then moved to McLean, where I was treated and released earlier this week.’’

Minihane, cohost of WEEI’s highly rated “Kirk and Callahan’’ show, followed up with a tweet noting that he would talk about what he has been going through when he returns to the airwaves Friday morning.

“I’ll be back at work tomorrow, and I’m a little nervous about it. But I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. And we’ll do what we do — we’ll talk about it.’’

It’s a blessing that he is talking about it. The more public figures who share their struggles with mental health — such as NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, and Trenni Kusnierek and Remy in our local sports media — the less of a stigma it carries.

Minihane’s candor regarding his need for help is going to help countless others. Hopefully the knowledge of that helps him in his quest for his own well-being. Much respect to him for speaking up.