Attempting to predict the next personnel change on Boston’s sports radio stations has become a fan’s pastime in its own right, not unlike trying to guesstimate which excess outfielder Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will trade before the start of the season.
There’s something of a formula to the predicting. Just look at the ratings and the years, months, or weeks remaining on individual contracts, and those with the low numbers in both categories are the ones who ought to have their agents atop their cellphone list of favorite contacts.
But sometimes it’s not as obvious. Consider this:
Scott Zolak and Andy Gresh have worked together for a dozen years, including a stint in Providence before they were reunited in the middays on 98.5 The Sports Hub in April 2010. Their ratings in that time have vacillated between steady and strong, with double-figure shares in the Nielsen Audio ratings often coming during the NFL season, their area of expertise.
Zolak, a former Patriots quarterback, is the color analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts, while Gresh is a host of the pregame and postgame programs on The Sports Hub, the flagship station. Their show, which finished second in the fall ratings period with an 8.5 share, might not be for everyone, but its performance has been remarkably stable.
This is why when fans and observers play that guessing game, few would suspect that the “Gresh and Zo” show will not be around much longer.
According to multiple industry sources, Gresh will no longer be part of the midday program after the Super Bowl.
Gresh, whose contract option was picked up by the station and parent company CBS Boston last January, will not receive a new contract and will leave the station.
Marc Bertrand, the third voice on the ratings-dominant “Felger and Massarotti” show, is expected to join Zolak as a cohost in the middle of February. However, his contract with the midday show is not official.
The front-runner to replace Bertrand as Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti’s cohort in afternoon drive is believed to be Rich Keefe, who is currently with the evening “Adam Jones Show.”
With Gresh’s departure, The Sports Hub will also shake up its Patriots pregame and postgame programming. Gary Tanguay, who briefly preceded Gresh as Zolak’s midday cohost when The Sports Hub launched in August 2009, also is not expected to return.
While Bertrand-Zolak has the makings of a very successful pairing, Gresh’s departure is somewhat puzzling because of the success and relative popularity of the program.
There have long been rumors of behind-the-scenes conflicts between Gresh and station management, but that’s hardly unique in the volatile world of radio.
Gresh and Sports Hub program director Mike Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.
Arnold gets a contract
Meanwhile, in the column of “completed transactions,” Dale Arnold has a new contract. And a little bit of redemption, too.
The longtime WEEI host, who had been working without a contract since reuniting with onetime on-air partner Michael Holley on afternoon drive in March, has signed a multiyear deal to remain with the program. Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, announced the news Wednesday.
It’s been a remarkable comeback for Arnold at WEEI after a tumultuous couple of years. Arnold began at WEEI in 1991 and had a long run in the midday time slot, where his cohosts included Holley.
That program was broken up in February 2011 when Holley, whose contract was expiring, was shifted to the more prominent and lucrative afternoon drive, where he initially paired with Glenn Ordway. Arnold was demoted to a part-time fill-in role while taking on a bigger role at NESN as part of the network’s Bruins coverage.
Ordway was fired in February 2013 and replaced by Mike Salk, a Sudbury native who arrived from ESPN 710 in Seattle. Salk’s pairing with Holley was a disaster, and the former abruptly resigned in March 2014 to return to the Seattle station as program director.
Arnold became the chief fill-in host in the interim, then became the primary cohost — but without a new contract — later that March.
The “Dale and Holley” show, which also features Jerry Thornton a couple of hours per day, has seen significant progress in the Nielsen Audio ratings, though “Felger and Massarotti” dominates the time slot.
In the fall ratings, “Felger and Massarotti” was first for the 10th straight ratings period with a 13.6 share. But “Dale and Holley” was second with an 8.0.
Holley’s contract is up in February. Entercom Boston vice president and market manager Phil Zachary indicated that he is optimistic a deal will get done.
Not a great week for current and former Ravens attempting to interpret the rules. First, coach John Harbaugh and his team were briefly bewildered by the Patriots’ four-offensive-linemen alignment during New England’s 35-31 win Saturday night. Then on Tuesday, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis went on Stephen A. Smith’s radio program and said in essence that we wouldn’t know Tom Brady if not for the “tuck rule,” which was a ridiculous rule correctly interpreted. On Thursday, Lewis took to Twitter to try to clarify his comments. The following is what he said in a series of tweets: “To clarify my comments from this week: I was trying to express my frustration about the Tuck Rule itself. Rules like that should not be part of the game. They lead to controversial plays that impact the outcome of games and that’s what everyone remembers, especially when you are talking about playoff games. I have immense respect for Tom Brady and everything he has achieved in this league. He will go down as one of the all-time greats.”