NESN Can’t Explain Why It Dumped Don Orsillo

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner shared the network's reasoning over the weekend, but he had nothing to say.

One of the hardest parts to accept about Don Orsillo’s unceremonious dismissal from NESN is that the Red Sox didn’t do anything wrong.

The organization acted callously, and if Chad Finn’s report that Orsillo was never a favorite of NESN’s new vice president of programming Joseph Maar is correct, you could even say it acted vindictively. But with Orsillo’s contract expiring at the end of the year, NESN had every right to make a change.

That’s the message Red Sox chairman Tom Werner tried to relay to the Boston Herald‘s Steve Buckley over the weekend, albeit in his typically clumsy fashion. Werner said he thinks current Red Sox radio commentator Dave O’Brien, the man who will replace Orsillo, will “reenergize the broadcast.”

“It was nothing against Don,” Werner said. “It was the opportunity to bring in Dave.”

Orsillo was the perfect soldier throughout his 15-year run at NESN. In fact, he was the glue that held Red Sox telecasts together while color analyst Jerry Remy missed significant time due to health and personal issues in recent years. But sometimes it’s not your fault when you lose your job. Sometimes you just get screwed.

Needlessly getting the shaft is something most people can relate to, which might be a reason why an online petition to keep Orsillo on NESN is currently at over 50,000 signatures. A boss’ whim can override logic and rational. A lot of us have been there before.

Nothing Werner said would’ve satisfied the outraged masses. Once WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show broke the news last Tuesday that Orsillo was out, NESN started playing defense. The timing of the press release that officially announced Orsillo’s departure—7:50 p.m., right in the middle of the Red Sox game Tuesday night—proves that point. NESN tried to bury the lede, but it didn’t work. The top story for the rest of this Red Sox season won’t be how improved Jackie Bradley Jr. looks at the plate, but rather how many games Orsillo has left at his dream job that he didn’t deserve to lose.

Sports are often viewed as an escape from reality, but the cold hard truth of life’s cruelty will hit Red Sox fans in the face every time they turn on a game for the next month. Nobody is above rejection, not even the man who yucks it up with the RemDawg for a living.

There isn’t a proper way to dump a beloved figure like Orsillo. If word about his departure didn’t leak out until the offseason, the backlash probably wouldn’t be any less severe than it is now.

Werner made it clear the Red Sox feel like they are upgrading their television broadcast with this move. That’s his prerogative, no matter how unjust it may be.

The Red Sox will eventually win here, because people will still watch the games next season. Orsillo got dissed, and nobody left on his side has the power to stop it.

That’s how it works. No explanation necessary.