Don Orsillo’s NESN Departure Is the Biggest Loss of the Red Sox Season

This could signal a dark, propaganda-filled turn for Red Sox telecasts.

Don Orsillo

Via MLB/YouTube

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington will be moving on at the end of this season, but the change at Yawkey Way that fans may notice most will be happening in the broadcast booth.

WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show reported Tuesday morning longtime Red Sox play-by-play man Don Orsillo will leave NESN once the season concludes. Boston Globe sports media writer Chad Finn has followed up on the story, and tweeted Orsillo, whose contract expires at the end of the year, has been forced out. WCVB has also confirmed the news.

If that’s the case, this is the worst decision NESN—and by extension, the Red Sox—has made since the network decided to put Sox Appeal on the air.

It isn’t hyperbolic to say Orsillo has kept the Red Sox booth from unraveling over the last several years. Calling games has arguably been the least of his worries through the most recent stages of his 15-year tenure with NESN.

Entering last season, the news of color analyst Jerry Remy’s son’s murder case dominated the news. But through it all, Remy continued to work. He was on the call for Opening Day last year while Jared Remy awaited trial for stabbing his girlfriend to death in their apartment. Jared pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges May 27, 2014, and his father was back in the broadcast booth the next night.

Orsillo navigated through the delicate situation with aplomb. The game broadcasts last season went smoothly, and even featured much of the goofy off-topic banter that has become a hallmark of Red Sox telecasts.

Though Remy presents a jovial caricature of himself on the air, his reclusive personality is well-known within the industry. Orsillo frequently ribs Remy on telecasts for his supposed habit of staying hauled up in his hotel room on the road and leaving the ballpark immediately after the game ends. Meshing with Remy will be no easy task for Orsillo’s replacement, especially considering how much time Remy has taken off recently due to various health concerns.

In an industry that demands adaptation, Orsillo is a chameleon. His ability to gel with a variety of partners over the years—29 in total—is perhaps his greatest skill. Whether Orsillo is working with a TV newbie such as Boston Globe baseball scribe Nick Cafardo, or the charismatic Dennis Eckersley, the broadcasts appear to go off without a hitch.

In recent years, Orsillo’s superiors have asked him to spend more time hawking silliness such as commemorative Fenway Park bricks and NESN fan polls rather than calling baseball games. The man’s ability to transition from reading a promo for NESN’s latest doomed-from-the-start reality show to calling a go-ahead Red Sox home run is uncanny. Good look to whomever has to do it next.

And for baseball fans, that is probably the most troubling aspect of Orsillo’s reported departure. It seems as if NESN brass and club chairman Tom Werner primarily view Red Sox telecasts as promotional vehicles, with the baseball coming in a distant second place. It’s scary to think of what Red Sox games on NESN may look like without Orsillo in the driver’s seat.

If the rest of NESN’s propaganda-filled programming is any indication, it won’t be pretty.