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Tim McCarver not quite ready for retirement

TIM McCARVER: In baseball for 55 years

Heather Ainsworth/Associated Press/File 2012

TIM McCARVER: In baseball for 55 years

Tim McCarver has amassed some impressive numbers in his lifetime, and that extends beyond the 72 candles that were on the birthday cake presented to him Wednesday late in Fox’s broadcast of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

He has spent 55 years in professional baseball, 21 as a player and 34 as a broadcaster. He has been paired with Joe Buck on Fox’s baseball broadcasts for the past 18 seasons. This is the 29th straight season McCarver is calling the playoffs for one network or another.

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Whether you’re a fan of McCarver’s style or a detractor, this much is certain: It’s not going to be the same without him next year.

McCarver made the decision in March to make this his final season on Fox’s national broadcasts. And even as the season winds down to its final fascinating days, the man who made his reputation as a broadcaster by being such an adept first-guessing foreseer of what might happen on the field is having no second thoughts.

“No, it’s not bittersweet, it’s not anything along those lines,’’ McCarver said on Thursday. “I made the right decision. I thought about it for a long time, a couple of years. I know I made the right decision.”

But don’t mistake him for a lion in winter. There’s plenty to be done this autumn, more ballgames to be broadcast, analyzed, and dissected with his former catcher’s wisdom, occasional abstract meanderings, and familiar drawl. And he is looking forward to another spring and summer of baseball.

“I’m not retiring,’’ he said. “I’m cutting back on what I’ll be doing. I won’t be doing the World Series, playoffs, All-Star Game, but I’ll be doing something, stuff that will feed my passions. Plural.”

That means traveling and spending time at his home in California wine country and, as he puts it, fulfilling a longstanding desire “to read a book that I don’t have to read.”

McCarver, a truly innovative analyst during his heyday with the Mets, was honored with the Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Award last year. But he recognizes that his style — seen as patronizing or condescending by his detractors — has made him a contentious figure.

Not that he pays any attention to it.

“It’s escalating. It’s getting worse,’’ he said when asked if he’s aware of his critics, particularly on social media. “I don’t read the good or the bad, but we’re all in that boat. Everybody who is a broadcaster is in that boat.” Some might be more vitriolic. But everybody who expresses an opinion, you’re going to get your share.”

McCarver all but guaranteed he’ll be calling baseball somewhere next year, most likely regionally and on a part-time basis conducive to his schedule.

“Distinctly possible,’’ he said. “I can’t just quit. I want to do something, but it’s going to be what I want to do. I’ve worked hard for a long time, and I’m glad, but it’s time to take a step back.”

Rivera was ready

No truth to the rumor that Fox’s “Being: Mariano Rivera” features a scene in which the recently retired Yankees closer puts all of the commemorative gifts he received during his farewell tour up for auction on eBay.

But the 90-minute documentary, which airs at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the network, is full of revelatory information about Rivera’s final season — including David Ortiz’s status as something of a confidant.

During a lunch with a group of friends, among them Ortiz, during the Yankees’ final trip to Boston in September, Rivera reveals that he is more than ready for the tributes to end and the new stage of his life to begin.

“You know what? I can’t wait for the moment when this is over,’’ said Rivera, who spoke in Spanish, with his words subtitled in English. “I’m ready for it already, brother. I’m ready for it. Mentally and physically, I’m ready for it. There’s no desire anymore.”

In other words, Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s spoken wish late in the season that he hoped to convince Rivera to pitch one more year never had a chance of becoming reality.

“We keep doing this for what?’’ said Rivera in the documentary. “Is it for boastfulness, or for the love of the game, or because we don’t want to do anything else?”

Merloni a plus

WEEI’s addition of Lou Merloni as the third man in the broadcast booth for all Red Sox home postseason games has proven welcome and worthwhile.

Merloni, who filled in on Wednesdays this season, is insightful without being obtrusive, and Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien have made sure the fit is seamless.

“We really pushed to have Lou on, as often as we could get him, because he’s terrific,’’ O’Brien said in an e-mail. “The guys who excel at analysis just seem to have a knack for it. Lou does. I hope he wants to make it a career. Everything he says has a purpose. He’s razor sharp, sees so much. Most important for me, he is willing to say what has to be said.”

WEEI brand manager Kevin Graham broached the idea with O’Brien and Castiglione. “It just sort of became natural to include his expertise for the postseason home games,’’ said Castiglione of Merloni.

Putting up numbers

Much was made about the huge 35.1 household rating the Patriots-Saints thriller put up on Fox last Sunday, particularly in comparison with the 20.6 the same network received for Game 2 of the Red Sox-Tigers ALCS matchup.

The rating was the Patriots’ highest of the season, and the 62 share — meaning 62 percent of the televisions in the market were tuned in to the game — is certainly staggering.

But enormous NFL ratings are no surprise these days and haven’t been for years — as the league is quick to note, the 14 most-watched shows this fall are NFL games.

And in context of modern expectations for postseason baseball, the ALCS ratings are strong. Game 1 earned a 21.8 in Boston. Game 2, which may have lost some late audience after the Sox fell behind, 5-0, had that 20.6. Game 3 was at 20.8 (with a 42 share) while Wednesday’s Game 4 came in at 20.2/34.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.

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