Here’s something I just don’t get about Lou Merloni – why does it seem like he’s trying way too hard to be just like every other sports radio/TV personality in town? Why does he spend his time pushing storylines, being negative and trying to create and further controversy?
He might try to be like everyone else, but he’s not. For the better part of a decade, nine seasons, Lou Merloni spent at least part of every season as a Major League Baseball player.
While he wasn’t an All Star, or even an everyday player, he made it. He did what 99% (or whatever the number is) of people who play sports could not do. He made it to the highest level. No one else on his station can make that claim, and of all the full-time hosts on the two sports radio stations in town, only Scott Zolak can make the same claim. (If fact, you can make the case that Zolak was the Lou Merloni of the NFL.)
As someone who made it, Merloni can speak of professional sports from a perspective that none of his colleagues can. He can offer perspective on what these athletes and teams face, and perhaps offer insight into why they struggle, or why they succeed.
Why doesn’t he?
Instead, we only get the standard sports radio storylines. We get an entire season of Merloni telling us how badly the Patriots suck. When he goes on TV and hosts Sports Tonight on CSNNE, he’s fostering discussions of controversies so transparent that Skip Bayless cringes.
Zolak, for all his shenanigans beside Andy Gresh, does offer regular nuggets of insight and perspective from his own playing career. Perhaps they get lost in the bluster of their show, but you can occasionally learn something from the show as well. I don’t get any of that from Merloni.
He started out strong. When Merloni first started appearing on WEEI, I felt like he was contributing from the perspective of a former player, not as a member of the sports media. So where did it go? Did he morph into just another sports media member by osmosis?
I find it hard to believe that 98.5 and WEEI engaged in a bidding war for his services, as has been reported. WEEI kept Merloni, and after paying him big money, needed to carve out a full-time role for him. The result is the Mutt and Merloni show, which I think was unfair on both hosts. Chad Finn has noted that the pair had never worked together prior to their first show together.
At the time, WEEI was desperate to shake things up. They jettisoned Dale Arnold, and moved Michael Holley to the revamped Big Show alongside Glenn Ordway. That pairing after an equally abysmal start, has started to improve, mostly through Holley, who seems to finally be getting comfortable.
In hindsight, it seems like WEEI would’ve been better off keeping Arnold as the host of the midday show, and moving Merloni alongside him. I think the veteran Arnold would’ve gotten a lot more out of Merloni, and been able to draw on his playing experience more than Mike Mutnansky has. I’ve been a longtime booster and supporter of Mutnansky since his days in NH radio. I don’t think he was placed in a position to succeed, but he had to take it. Full-time sports radio gigs are like NFL head coaching jobs – there are only so many available, and if one is offered to you, you don’t turn it down, no matter how big of a mess you’re walking into.
But the bigger issue for me here is still why Lou Merloni seems to want to distance himself from the fact that for almost 10 years he was a Major League Baseball player. You hardly ever hear him talk about his playing career, when he’s joking with a former teammate like Kevin Millar over who had frosted tips first, that might be the only time you’d even be aware he played the game. You’d think he could tap into some contacts for information, but that doesn’t seem to happen either, this morning for example, when Mutnansky asked Merloni about some things we might see for Fenway 100, Merloni’s answer was “I have absolutely no clue.”and then repeated that. Not “I’ve asked around, and no one wants to spill the beans.” but just “I have no clue.” Well, thanks for that, Lou.
It’s a mystery to me why someone with the background that Merloni has would choose to completely ignore it, and instead go with the sensationalistic approach that everyone else locally seems to go with. If you want to stand out and be different, pull rank on them, and use your experience to your advantage.