Maybe Mike Adams should have locked himself in the studio at the end of his run as WEEI’s weeknight host rather than the beginning.
I say that with only a smidgen of snark, for the sentiment wishing he still had the gig is sincere. Adams, whose 10-year run in the 6-10 p.m. slot ended this week when Entercom Boston vice president Phil Zachary informed station employees Tuesday that he was out “effective immediately,” memorably began the gig with a stunt.
When WEEI was searching for a replacement for Ted Sarandis as its evening host, Adams, who had been pinch-hitting in various roles at the station, was a prime candidate. But he didn’t get the job until he locked himself in the studio and refused to leave until then-program director Jason Wolfe called in during his on-air protest and offered him a job. Adams and Wolfe both sold it well, and it was only years later that they conceded that Adams’s sit-in was a stunt.
It was that sort of thing — the willingness to play along with a tiresome stunt yet invigorate it with humor — that made Adams both entertaining and exasperating as a host.
Initially, I wasn’t a fan, and it had nothing to do with him calling me Hack Finn, honest. (Hey, got to respect a clever insult when you hear one.) It’s that he was an enigma, sharp-witted and sometimes hilarious, but other times one-note, juvenile, and repetitive (the Manny Ramirez-bashing and steroid-speculation programs were an invitation to turn on a podcast). You got the sense show-prep wasn’t a priority.
Adams was an acquired taste, and I eventually acquired it — not because I changed, and not because he changed, but because the market changed. Adams had — here’s a novel concept — fun on his show. He did a Yaz imitation that, as familiar and perhaps demographically unappealing as it was, never failed to draw laughs. He adored Bill Lee and knew the ’70s Red Sox teams that I grew up admiring like they were still playing today. His guests generally seemed to be there because he liked them, not because they had some sizzling take.
At a time when sports radio in this market, including Adams’s evening counterpart on 98.5 The Sports Hub, is structured around negativity, faux anger and contrived points of view — and draws the ratings to justify such miserable behavior — Adams’s approach became more refreshing the longer he was around, even as nothing about him or his “Planet Mikey” program really changed.
It was good company on the commute home, and I’ll miss it. But it’s not difficult to understand why a change was made, and it did not come out of left field. Rumors about the possibility of moving Adams out of the role had been around for six months or so. WEEI has altered or tweaked all three of its other weekday programs at least once since February 2013, when Kirk Minihane was added to the “Dennis and Callahan” morning program to significant success.
It seemed inevitable that something would happen to Adams’s program, and if WEEI was determined to make a change, it makes sense to do it during the summer, when the Red Sox take up most of the evening programming hours anyway.
Zachary told employees that no replacement will be named for 3-4 months. That saves a few dollars on a full-time hire while WEEI and parent company Entercom figure out how to best utilize the “strategic opportunities” Zachary cited in telling the staff about the opening and Adams’s departure.
Of course, a postmortem can barely be completed before the parlor game of speculating who will replace Adams begins. The night shift is the least-coveted and least-important daily hosting role, but it will be coveted as a full-time job at a highly rated sports station. Mike Mutnansky, who has improved considerably since he was removed from the midday program in May 2014 to a role that included handling Red Sox hosting duties and working with Adams, deserves a second shot at WEEI. But the best fit for him would be with Minihane and Gerry Callahan on the morning show when John Dennis offends the wrong intern or steps aside, which he has indicated he will do when his contract expires next year.
If Mutnansky is not the choice at night, the station has some potential internal candidates, including Christian Arcand and Danny Picard. Gary Tanguay, who has created a cartoonish radio persona as a fill-in on “D&C,” would seem an unlikely candidate since he remains a prominent host on Comcast SportsNet New England programming. Curt Schilling? He’s too busy retweeting Internet memes to do it. For now, there’s plenty of time to speculate.
They don’t have to find someone who will lock himself in the studio. But finding someone authentic and funny, someone who listeners don’t want to lock out, is probably all we can ask for.
Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.