Lou Merloni’s involvement with Red Sox broadcasts shouldn’t stop with the 60 or so games he is booked for as part of WEEI’s radio booth in the coming season.
It seems here that it would be a no-brainer for NESN to add him to its rotation of Red Sox color analysts, which has a massive vacancy with the retirement of the unparalleled Dennis Eckersley at the end of last season.
NESN pieced together its broadcast booth around play-by-play voice Dave O’Brien last year, with Eckersley, Kevin Youkilis, Tony Massarotti, and occasionally Kevin Millar all part of the color-analyst carousel. Eckersley worked around 75 games last season, Youkilis in the range of 50, and Massarotti 40.
It often felt like a chronic scramble — you never knew who was going to be on when you tuned in to the game. Often, during the games Eckersley didn’t work, it ended up being a reminder of how much longtime analyst Jerry Remy, who died of cancer in October 2021, was missed.
Even if last year’s cast of analysts (minus Eckersley) return and NESN elevates the promising Will Middlebrooks from the studio to the booth or lands someone like Brock Holt, there’s still a place for another hire or two.
Hiring Merloni, who spent six full or partial seasons with the Sox, ought to be an easy yes for NESN. He’s no longer tethered to a daily radio show with WEEI’s decision not to pick up his contract recently. And his role on WEEI’s Sox broadcasts wouldn’t preclude him from doing games for NESN.
And he’s good at this. He’s candid and insightful on the Sox — I say this as someone who agrees with 97 percent of his baseball takes, give or take a percentage point – and he got better and better during his past contributions to WEEI’s booth. He’s not unlike the early broadcaster version of Remy.
As a Framingham native and local-kid-makes-good story, he’d bring popularity, familiarity, and some needed stability. Not a lot about the Red Sox has made sense lately. Hiring Merloni would be just about the most logical thing anyone affiliated with this team has done in a while.
Celtics and Bruins ratings soaring
The Celtics and Bruins are in the midst of fantastic seasons, and unsurprisingly, local viewership has coincided with their success.
Through Dec. 12, Celtics broadcasts on NBC Sports Boston are up 40 percent in ratings and 56 percent in impressions — the estimated number of viewers in a given amount of time — year over year.
The biggest gains are among women. Viewership has leapt 71 percent among women 18-49 and 67 percent among women 25-54. The broadcasts are up 20 percent in ratings and 41 percent in impressions among men 25-54, and up 28/51 among adults 25-54.
Also of note: Celtics fans are loyal to Mike Gorman, Brian Scalabrine, and NBC Sports Boston’s broadcast team. In the four games this season in which the Celtics have aired simultaneously on ESPN, NBC Sports Boston’s broadcast has had a 64 percent advantage in viewership.
The story for NESN’s Bruins broadcasts is one of similar success — and similar expanded popularity with women, with impressions up 62 percent in the women 25-54 demographic. Impressions are up 43 percent overall, 32 percent among adults 18-34, and 24 percent among adults 25-54.
NESN’s Bruins broadcasts are tops among regional sports cable networks that broadcast NHL games, averaging 94,000 impressions per game, 54 percent higher than the No. 2 NHL RSN.
A revealing flex
The Patriots offense hasn’t exactly been a recurring thrill ride this season (unless you’re into abundant screen passes, I suppose), but I’m still somewhat surprised that their matchup with the Raiders was flexed out of “Sunday Night Football” and replaced by Commanders-Giants. The Raiders are fun to watch, the Patriots have real stakes, and Bill Belichick vs. Josh McDaniels seems like an appealing story line. Then again, New York and Washington, D.C. are the Nos. 1 and 9 television markets. Boston is 10th and Las Vegas is 40th, so that’s probably your answer right there … Periodic reminder: The NFL in recent years has prioritized “cross-flexing,’’ or getting the best games in front of the most eyeballs rather than sticking rigidly to the longtime AFC-games-on-CBS, NFC-games-on-Fox format. That’s part of the reason Patriots-Raiders is on Fox, with the other reason being that Fox had a void in its schedule with NBC taking Commanders-Giants … On Friday morning, Cox Media Group reached a long-term carriage agreement with Verizon Fios TV. It didn’t draw much notice, but this was a crucial outcome for Boston sports fans. Had the agreement not been reached by Thursday at midnight, Fios would have dropped Fox stations in Boston, Providence, and Pittsburgh, which are owned by Cox. That would have meant no over-the-air World Cup final broadcast on Saturday or Patriots-Raiders game Sunday on Boston 25. Something tells me that would not have gone over well.