There’s a lot to be excited about with this year’s Red Sox team. A legitimate ace, a revamped bullpen, and a young energetic core, highlighted by their best outfield in years. And while Monday’s Opening Day victory against the Indians provided many positives on the field, the most refreshing takeaway may have come from the broadcast booth.
Don Orsillo’s messy departure from the NESN broadcast after 15 years left many fans scratching their heads. He may not have always been the flashiest play-by-play voice, but his remarkable consistency and genuine chemistry with Jerry Remy left a mark on Red Sox Nation.
With that said — and this may be blasphemy — but I couldn’t wait for Orsillo to leave the NESN booth.
Former Red Sox radio network play-by-play man and current ESPN baseball broadcaster Dave O’Brien took his first crack at the NESN TV broadcast Monday afternoon, and he nailed it. Sure, O’Brien’s chemistry with Remy has a long way to go before it reaches the heights of the Orsillo era, but his voice and enthusiasm for the game is a welcome addition to my summer nights.
I have nothing against Orsillo. By all accounts, he seems like one of the genuinely good people in the industry. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was in high school. He grew up in Madison, N.H., a small community just 20 minutes away from my hometown, and his ability to come from humble beginnings and still achieve his dream is something that continues to motivate me.
But time and time again, Orsillo fell flat in the biggest moments.
He had the luxury of calling three no-hitters, but each one was a broadcasting dud. In one of the most important moments of his career, Orsillo called the Red Sox’ first game back at Fenway following the 2013 Marathon bombings. Daniel Nava’s go-ahead home run in the eighth inning was a huge point in what would become a championship season, but Orsillo came up small once again.
For a team that is built around its young, rising stars, O’Brien’s voice brings an energy to the game that has been sorely lacking. He wasted little time making an impression, and I anticipate him and Mookie Betts will be a perfect match in the years ahead.
Betts isn’t the only player who brings the best out of O’Brien. When I think of that 2013 championship, two specific moments come to mind: Koji loosing his mind after the final out of the World Series, and the first time I heard O’Brien’s call of David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam against the Tigers in the ALCS.
If Monday is any indication, it’s not going to take much out of Big Papi in his final season to get O’Brien fired up.
To be clear, I think Don Orsillo is a fine broadcaster. I just think O’Brien is better. Orsillo sounds too dated, which isn’t good in a league that’s struggling to garner interest from younger fans. O’Brien’s voice sounds fresh, engaging, and fills the dead space of a baseball game in a way that Orsillo rarely did.
In a way, the change is perfect for all parties involved. Despite all the rings, Sox fans are still perpetually angst-ridden. They need a voice like O’Brien’s that makes them want to jump out of their seats.
And Orsillo deserves San Diego. His one-note style is perfect for a much more peaceful audience, and he deserves to lay in the sun every day, right up until the first pitch.