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NESN needs Curt Schilling

NESN needs Curt Schilling

By Kevin Flanagan

BSD Senior Staff Writer

Let’s face it; it has been tough watching the Red Sox broadcasts on NESN recently, and it’s not just because they seem to score more infrequently than a pimple-faced freshman engineering major at MIT. Yes, it is true that they have hit .230 as a team with a god-awful .630 OPS since the All-Star break. It is also a fact that their young stars – Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi, in particular – haven’t shone so bright this summer.

What has compounded the pain of watching an often-boring team struggle to put runs on the board lately, has been the quality of the broadcasts the team owned outlet has provided.

Frankly, they have just plain sucked.

The pregame show has been unwatchable for years. While Tom Caron does a good job as its host, he is often given the equivalent of empty suits to work with. Jim Rice hasn’t had a coherent baseball thought since he got the gig what seems like 100 years ago. His “see the ball, hit the ball” so-called insight is mind-numbing. And while Tim Wakefield and Lenny DiNardo might be great guys, they give you nothing more than team-friendly propaganda (All of which; I’m sure, gets a thumb’s up from David Price.).

With Jerry Remy still sidelined as he recovers from yet another cancer surgery, and Dennis Eckersley on hiatus for the latest road trip and the Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown last weekend; the product on NESN has often reached a fingernails-down-a-chalkboard level of irritation over the past couple of weeks.

As play by play guys go, Dave O’Brien is about as professional as you can get (Just don’t let the ear-worm from 98.5 The Sports Hub Jim Murray discovered get in your head). Even so, not even a guy who has called almost every sport known to man, can get the likes of Mike Timlin and Jonny Gomes to look good. Each played their role as the house organ – which fit right in with Price’s “one band, one sound” view of what team analysts should do – in largely different fashions.

Timlin’s low-key approach, combined with the later West Coast time starts, was great for insomniacs looking forward to getting 40 winks. And Gomes couldn’t have been more of a cheerleader if he was dressed as Wally the Green Monster, with pom-poms in both hands.

What makes Eck such a great guy to listen to is his I-don’t-give-a-crap factor. He tells you what he sees and what he thinks, regardless of the situation and the player(s) involved. He is often times funny and insightful at the same time. He gives it to the viewer straight, which is what most baseball fans – not necessarily the Pink Hats – want when they sit down to watch a ball game.

Remy, on the other hand, is like that old sweatshirt you have had for 20 some-odd years. It is not what it used to be, yet it is comfortable and if your spouse ever tried to throw it out, you would be pissed. However, NESN has made it apparent that they are moving away a bit from the long-time color man, based on his reduced role this year – current health problems, not included – and Eckersley has made it clear that he doesn’t want the full-time gig.

The network already suffered a 20% drop in ratings from last year for Sox games, and churning out ex-players that are afraid to say anything for fear of alienating the current guys in the clubhouse certainly isn’t going to get more viewers.

So, what should NESN’s CEO and President Sean McGrail do to draw some more eyes to the Red Sox broadcasts? Hire Curt Schilling.

I doubt he has the intestinal fortitude to do it, because such a move would be controversial, to say the least. Schilling’s outspokenness cost him his gig with ESPN; which, quite frankly, was more damaging to that network’s game presentation than anything else.

His insights into the game – whether it was in the studio or in the booth – was much watch television, something that McGrail desperately needs. Love him or hate him – you don’t have to tell me what side you are on Pink Hats – he knows the game, and he is great behind a microphone.

After all, he didn’t get the nickname “red light” as a player for nothing.

On Twitter, Schilling showed some interest when presented with the idea, and it is not as if McGrail has much to lose with auditioning the former Sox pitcher. If Schilling skates his lane, and draws the viewers he almost certainly would, it is a stroke of genius. And if he doesn’t, well, there is always Jim Ed and Lenny to bore the tears out of the few that are currently watching their coma-inducing commentary.

NESN needs a boost. This version of the Red Sox – other than the off-field antics of Price, and the pitching of Chris Sale – is about as exciting as cold white toast with no butter. They have a potential part of the solution to their sinking ratings sitting in their backyard, apparently willing to help.

The question is, do they have the guts to let him?

Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at kflan@bostonsportsdesk.com.    

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