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Kirk Minihane too good for low-brow antics

Erin Andrews conducted an awkward interview with Adam Wainwright.

matt slocum/associated press

Erin Andrews conducted an awkward interview with Adam Wainwright.

Here’s a truth one learns quickly while enduring prolonged exposure to sports radio:

Unnecessarily outlandish behavior is the last resort — often the only resort — for the untalented.

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Let’s elaborate on that truth, because this week we had a certain high-profile exception that proves the rule.

Since joining WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” show in February 2013, Kirk Minihane has proven an invaluable asset to the morning program.

He’s sharp, has a low tolerance for the usual overblown contrivances and transparent agendas, and appeals to the younger demos that have eluded the program, which tends to draw much of its considerable audience from the older demographics. He’s been the jolt that the program, which rated second in morning drive to Sports Hub rival “Toucher and Rich” in the spring ratings, desperately needed.

Minihane is genuinely talented, which is why it was so foolish — pick a blunter adjective if you wish — for him to call Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews a “gutless b----” in reference to her awkward interview with Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright during Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

The brief back story if you somehow missed the media maelstrom Wednesday: Wainwright found himself in the middle of an instant controversy when he casually admitted he threw a couple of “pipe shots” — lingo for grooved fastballs — to Yankees star Derek Jeter, who was playing in his final All-Star Game.

Wainwright was besieged with real-time criticism and social-media backlash to the point that he felt it necessary to explain himself during an in-game interview with Andrews, during which he awkwardly backtracked on the comment.

Rather than pushing him further to explain why he said he gave Jeter pitches to hit in the first place — a harmless acknowledgment despite the public overreaction — Andrews instead said: “Well, we appreciate you clearing that up. Don’t you love social media?”

That was the impetus for Minihane’s vicious rant the next morning, which also included the suggestion that she “drop dead.” It was beyond over-the-top and easily interpreted as misogynistic, and Minihane seemed to realize his mistake almost instantly when he said: “I’m going to get in trouble for this.”

Somewhat surprisingly, he did not get in trouble beyond having to write an apology on the station website, though station management waited until almost 8 p.m. Wednesday to clarify his status. He had a couple of days off scheduled already, so he is out for the remainder of the week. That’s for the best for everyone.

Hopefully, the acknowledgment of the mistake was genuine. While I wonder sometimes whether Stockholm Syndrome will ever set in with Minihane on that program — lately I’ve found myself wishing he’d challenge his co-hosts more — he does know what makes for truly entertaining radio despite his relative inexperience in the business.

He grew up as a fan of legitimately gifted radio personalities such as Howard Stern and the superb WFAN tandem of Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.

He’s made an impact on WEEI in the short time he’s been a regular; if co-hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan receive new contracts in September, they owe Minihane a debt of gratitude beyond a couple of gift certificates to Strega.

But he must realize now, if he didn’t before, that he doesn’t have to take the route of someone such as Dan Sileo, a Miami-based host and former WEEI guest who has been suspended and fired from past jobs for crude and rude behavior, including of all things sending sexist tweets to Andrews.

The likes of Sileo have to be outlandish. There’s nothing else in the repertoire. Minihane is good enough that he should never have to resort to such nonsense.

And there’s one more truth: As important as he has become to the show, as talented as he is, it won’t protect him from facing real consequences if he’s so crudely outlandish again.

Gwynn deserved better

Fox Sports and Major League Baseball issued a joint statement Wednesday explaining why Padres legend Tony Gwynn, who died June 16, was not acknowledged during the All-Star Game:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, an extraordinary individual whose memory we have honored in numerous ways in recent weeks. The baseball family has sadly lost a number of people this year — including Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, Frank Cashen, and former All-Stars Jerry Coleman, Jim Fregosi, and Don Zimmer — and did not want to slight anyone by singling out one individual.”

I get where the network is coming from, but the explanation is less than satisfactory. First, it could have taken a brief moment during its broadcast — which should have been titled “Jeter Night In America” for the relentless manner in which color analyst Harold Reynolds in particular feted the retiring legend — to salute all of those mentioned in the release. It was three-hour-plus broadcast. Surely there was a spare moment in there somewhere to acknowledge Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star, or Zimmer, who spent his entire adult life in baseball, and the rest of baseball’s notable recently deceased without missing a single pitch.

During its pregame coverage on Fox Sports 1, an excellent remembrance of Gwynn did air, featuring articulate recollections from his son, Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. But that is not the same. Fox Sports 1 is a fledgling network. Many cable subscribers still aren’t sure where to find it. Gwynn deserved acknowledgment during the prime-time network slot.

Fox also could have rectified this as the game was going on. Andrews’s in-game interview with Wainwright was in large part a reaction to the instant social-media criticism of the pitcher’s semi-serious confession.

Such social-media incredulity mounted during the game again when viewers began to notice in the late innings that Gwynn hadn’t been mentioned. Fox surely was aware of this, and all it would have taken to appease his fans was a warm word or anecdote from Joe Buck, Tom Verducci, or Reynolds, who was briefly a teammate of Gwynn’s in spring training 1994. But there was nothing. On Jeter’s night, Fox couldn’t spare Tony Gwynn a moment. What a shame.

Ratings decline

Sports Business Daily reported earlier this week that NESN has seen its Red Sox ratings drop 23 percent this season.

That’s a huge percentage, but not a huge surprise — the viewership drop coincides with the defending world champions’ precipitous drop in the standings. Entering the All-Star break, the Red Sox were 43-52 and in last place in the American League East.

The Red Sox’ household rating through July 9 — which excludes the final four games before the All-Star break but is the most recent data available — is a 5.2.

That’s down 29 percent from their 2013 full-season average of 7.3, which was the fifth-best regional cable rating in Major League Baseball.

NESN typically receives an uptick in ratings post-All-Star break. But the Red Sox also are usually in contention.

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