The Red Sox’ 2022 season did not go well by any measure that matters to fans. A season after an unexpected run to the American League Championship Series, the uninspiring ‘22 Sox finished in last place in their division, six games under .500.
Thus far, the offseason hasn’t gone any better. It probably has gone worse, with longtime linchpin Xander Bogaerts signing with the Padres after Red Sox management had spent months claiming re-signing him was a priority but never making an authentic effort to do so.
The Red Sox have signed quality players — closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner, and perhaps outfielder Masataka Yoshida will qualify — but those moves wouldn’t have moved the needle all that much even if the Red Sox had retained Bogaerts. And the fan base’s new, rational fear is that slugging third baseman Rafael Devers could be the next to go.
Devers is the one remaining, healthy star. And that’s what is so mystifying about this from a media perspective. The Red Sox don’t really have anyone to market beyond Devers and maybe the unknown Yoshida to persuade fans to pay for NESN 360 subscriptions, or even just to tune in to watch the team on a nightly basis.
Viewership was tough enough to get last season. Red Sox games on NESN had a 2.65 rating in ‘22, down more than 35 percent from the ‘21 season. Only six teams’ regional-cable network ratings dropped more last season: the Reds, A’s, Giants, Rockies, Nationals, and Tigers. In ‘21, Red Sox games on NESN averaged a 4.23 household rating. During the pandemic-abbreviated ‘20 season in which the Red Sox went 24-36, the average was 2.14. In ‘19, it was 5.25.
The Red Sox have run into trouble in the past when they’ve pursued ill-fitting stars in the misguided belief that they would boost NESN ratings (think Carl Crawford before the ‘11 season, or Pablo Sandoval prior to 2015). But letting popular, accomplished homegrown players depart while filling out a mediocre roster with middle-class veterans who have no past connection to the organization is an even more surefire way to turn off the fans before the season even begins.
After last season’s dismal results and ratings, you’d think Red Sox management would be doing everything in its power to get them turn their televisions back on.
Bean moving on
DJ Bean announced Friday he is leaving NBC Sports Boston, six years after he joined the network as an on-air talent and opinion-maker for studio shows such as “Boston Sports Tonight.” His decision was in the making for a while — his role on BST had been diminished when Michael Felger returned to NBC Sports Boston in March 2021 to co-host the show with Michael Holley. Bean was always a creative and good-natured presence on the show, and his deep knowledge of music and movies would make him a nice fit at a place like The Ringer.
WEEI’s somewhat puzzling lineup shuffle began to take effect this past week, with Lou Merloni (afternoon drive) and Mike Mutnansky (evenings) hosting their final shows. Christian Fauria will move from afternoon drive to middays, where he’ll be paired with Andy Gresh, while midday co-host Rich Keefe, who had easygoing chemistry with Gresh, will move to nights. Meghan Ottolini and Christian Arcand are remaining with the afternoon drive program, but a third host is expected to be added in early January. The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones, whose contract expires at the end of the year, is believed to be the favorite … Maybe one of these long Decembers I’ll pull together one of those year-in-review awards columns, but it won’t be this year. I will say, though, that the national media sports story of the year has to be the game of musical chairs among the top NFL announcers and analysts. And ESPN’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman would be the personalities of the year for the big-event feel that they’ve brought back to “Monday Night Football” … Here’s some welcome media news in the holiday season: the legendary Bob Lobel will be part of Ch. 4′s “Sports Final” on Christmas night. The station was hoping to have him return to the show on-set for the first time since he left in 2008, but he recently underwent a medical procedure, so instead sports director Steve Burton went to Lobel’s home and recorded the show with him there.