The Lou Merloni Conundrum

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.

  • Guest

    Sports radio spends too much time on the negative.  I wish someone would provide nuggets of information or insights that the normal listeners don’t have.  The negativism that is on the air get difficult to listen to.

    • tl;138

       *Boston* Sports Radio spends too much time on the negative.

    • latetodinner

      First off there is not too much negativism on the air in Boston…rather there is too much “Contrarian/Straw man/Devil’s advocacy to create an argument/controversy” on the air and because the Boston franchises have been so successful these past few years the hosts…to stand out…have had to be negative.

      Second…with regards to the Red Sox right now…there cannot be enough negativism heaped their way.  The play on the field, the arrogance off the field of management and ownership…all of it…needs to be ridiculed, mocked, discussed and panned. 

      I don’t hear negativism about the Bruins at all, on air people seem to be coming around on the Celts because expectations are low in the fan base…the contrary opinion is the Celts could make a run.  That leaves the Patriots.  I could write books on the negative coverage they get all because they win, their coach does not play the media game and did I mention they win with ruthless efficiency often making the media prognosticators look like fools.

      • Frank

        Can’t believe Tito caved and is going to the 100th anniversary game. Once again the billionaire gets what he wants. What are the odds that Tito gets introduced, comes out onto the field and instead of giving JH a hand shake walks right up to him and gives him double birds right in his stupid ghostly white face. Then, he walks off the field to the first ever 20 minute standing ovation in the history of Fenway Park. That would be awesome.

        • Atreyujones

           I’d say the odds are 2 trillion to one. It’s probably because he lives on planet earth where the Sox owners are not some evil geniuses plotting to do the utmost evil things like, uh, ummm …. win championships and make money … and, uh, I forget, what are the other evil goals of this terrible ownership?

        • Frank

          How about uh,
          alienating their core fan-base by consistently lying to them, or
          uh, caring about the casual fan more than the hard core fan, or uh trashing EVERYONE that
          they show the door who was ever popular in Boston. Or uh, how about showing
          that they know nothing about team chemistry?

        • whitey b

           Like team chemistry mattered when the Yankees won back to back WS in 77-78. It’s all about the W, frankie baby!

        • bsmfan

           Actually, Felger said it best here,

          “Would Tito have come back if the Sox were 10-1? Nope.”

          He gets to come back and become a rockstar/hero .

  • Kevin

    Good call, Bruce.  I find myself wondering this time to time when Lou discusses football storylines rather than if the team won or lost that week.   (Hint: they almost always won.)

    Then last week, I thought his reaction to D&C interviewing Bobby V. was interesting.   Lou started wondering on air why D&C spent so much of the interview asking him stuff about Ozzie Guillen’s comments, about his NY radio gig, and about whether he likes Curt Schilling or not.    Lou was saying stuff like, “you have the manager of the Red Sox on, why not ask him about onfield stuff”.

    I thought that was pretty refreshing, but of course I wondered why he can’t always be like that.

  • Peter Saunders

    I have to admit that Gresh and Zo have grown on me.  I am not a big fan of Gresh but I have always had a soft spot for Zo because he does draw from his experience on a pretty regular basis.  

    • latetodinner

      I think Zolak has grown up significantly over these last few years. When he was first on the air in Providence with Gresh he was horrible…the show was horrible…it was like listening to a few frat boys brag about drinking, having played football, and being on the radio.  I still think that Gresh’s persona and I really have no use for him as a host.  However Zolak proved to me he had grown up a bunch last year when he toned down the Yahoo persona and started doing pretty good, insightful talk on both football and hockey.  He went up even further in my eyes with his work on the Pats sideline/ third man in the booth work on the Pats radio broadcasts.  I think for the first time ever he clearly sees where his career is leading.  He was content to hold a clipboard in the NFL but I think he has dedicated himself to succeeding at broadcasting and I think he WANTS the color job.  That is huge for him and it is reflected in his work.

  • latetodinner

    Bruce…

    I really think most people who follow Boston media thought it was a mistake giving Utility Lou a full time gig.  He was adequate on the Big show and on CSSNE but he was never “good”.  I do agree with you that teaming him with Arnold would have been great for his career but why should Dale have been forced to carry yet another hack.  Weren’t Eddie and Holley enough (Neumy can hold his own with anyone)?  Listen to Dale on any call in show he does and the quality of it is 10 times better than anything else on the radio in Boston…does not matter if he is partnered with Bob Ryan, Rob Bradford, or even kirk Minihane…the show always flows well, has good insight and is easy to listen to.  I am not saying Dale is without fault…I am saying his is much better than Mutt and Merloni.

    So to answer your question as to why Merloni is the way he is…two thoughts:

    1) A consultant told him to behave that way.
    2) He is not a trained radio person, therefore he does not understand the job, his role or how to rely on his strengths to make his on air persona better.

    In either case the listener…us…gets stuck with less quality. 

    • Winning_Again

      You’re so off on Michael Holley. He’s not the best since sliced bread, but you lump him with the dregs of society. I think it’s more of a statement to your perspective in this case.

      • latetodinner

        I am not off on Holley.  I have said it many times…he speaks, says nothing, never divulges any of the inside Patriots info his incredible access has given him, and when not paired with Dale Arnold has been pretty mediocre.  I have no idea what perspective you think I have other than observer.  I just think Holley is no better than the average dreg and has had incredible good luck to get the jobs he has.

        • Winning_Again

          Many would disagree with your viewpoint. I don’t believe this is open and shut like approval of D&C. I am waiting for this years Approval ratings, and we can see where Holley racks up.

        • latetodinner

          I know from reading this board I am in the minority on Holley. I think people are snowed by him. He is supposed to be some expert on hoops, the only reason people could possibly think that is because he grew up with LeBron’s mother… it is not from his knowledge which pales in comparison to Ordway’s. He has written two books on the Pats, both I found to be simple. He was granted tremendous access to the inner workings of the Pats…does anyone consider him a football expert? Does he ever come across as an expert on the Pats? I think he speaks in general terms and does not say anything remotely insightful. As far as I can tell the love affair with him comes from the fact that he is not Glen Ordway. It certainly is not because of any talent.
          When the approval ratings happen I am sure I will be out voted…does not mean I am wrong.

        • Winning_Again

           No the fact that you are wrong means your wrong lol. Sorry! :)

        • latetodinner

          When it actually happens I will deal with it…luckily we are discussing Michael Holley so I will never have to deal with it. :-)

        • whitey b

           I don’t think Holley is an expert on hoops. Frankly, I don’t think Boston has a media person who is an expert on hoops. Maybe they could tell you what a pick and roll is, but they sure as heck couldn’t give you more than one way to defend it, or one way to beat that defense. But I guess knowing that Bill Russell was the “Greatest Celtic of Them All” counts as expertise these days…

        • whitey b

           You’re not only late to dinner, you’re late to the point. Let me spell it out for you: Holley is there for perspective, not dirt. Someone needs to be the grownup. He starts spilling all the beans, and what is gained? A few days of hysterics. But what is lost? All that access that gives him his perspective. Leave it be.

        • latetodinner

          It would be fine if he spun perspective…he says absolutely nothing. It is like listening to dead air when he talks. What is the point of having access if he brings nothing relevant with it to the table. Whitey…both you and Winning are good posters and I think are pretty astute about the Boston media. I can’t believe both of you have been snowed by this charlatan. You are right…if he recklessly went and exposed secrets…which I am not asking him to do… he would lose access. However saying nothing…and he says nothing… defeats the purpose of having the access. Might as well let the Pats PR staff write the books and sit in the chair. He is horrible. He might be there to provide an adult voice to counter Ordway but in reality his lack of insight, talent and intelligence allows Ordway to spew, control and dominate the conversation to the point that show is significantly worse than it was when it had the rotating hosts.

    • bsmfan

       With the recent change Bruce noted, that I sometimes see, it reminds me of when Teddy had the whole blowup with 85 over the playbook earlier in the year. James Miller, the guy who wrote the ESPN book, said it’s literally told to you/scripted that after you survive your first year, you won’t go much further on ESPN without carving your niche and building your brand.

      Building your brand includes “blow ups” that garner the attention of every single website like deadspin/sportsgrid/awfulannouncing/etc/and the twitter world.

      I wonder if CSNNE (NBC now) is doing the same.

  • Guest

    Not to say that Lou bears no responsibility here, but I blame a lot of his mediocrity on his pairing with Muttnansky. Say what you will about Ordway, but he was able to bring far better insights out of Merloni back when he was a regular guest on the Big Show. I’ve never been impressed with Muttnansky. No idea how he got that job. He’s a fan with a communications degree. He hasn’t covered sports in any kind of professional capacity, i.e. as a reporter, columnist,play-by-play guy, etc, which takes away from his credibility for me.

    Merloni didn’t have nearly the media experience that Zolak had before his radio gig at 98.5. All things considered, I think Lou has done pretty well given hie started on EEI as a total novice. If management has any brains they’ll pair Merloni with a seasoned radio veteran once “the Mutt Man” is inevitably shown the door.

    • rijoinm

      come on Merloni is a wannabe–its obvious he’s a jock that didnt spend a lot of time “learning” he’s a typical jock dummy, but smarter than most of the jocks but not a rocket-scientist. dont expect an original thought from him–he parrots the mundane,

  • Guest

    I can’t agree with you more that WEEI blundered badly in not pairing Lou with Dale Arnold.  They would have played to each others strengths and been a great counterpoint to D&C. 

  • Hank

    I’ve really enjoyed the increased amount of Kirk Minihane lately. he seems to just think differently than a lot of the other regulars. More analytical and less story line based.

    • latetodinner

      When he is not being an arrogant, condescending prick.  He has a habit of saying absolutely stupid things to guests no less.

      • HighWireNickEsasky

        Has he done that to guests other than Edwards?  (Not challenging your point i just don’t listen enough to know)  

        • latetodinner

          Did you hear him today? He spent almost 20 minutes slamming Mike Muttnansky’s TV work on NESN, as well as his work on WEEI. Calling him horrible, awful, and lousy. Several times ordway gave Minnihane an out by saying this is just a “bit” and Minnihane kept saying “but seriously… have you seen the Muttansky Minute on NESN and hor horrible it is”. Minnihane should be fired for these comments. WEEI is a commercial enterprise. Minnihane goes on air and spends 20 minutes deploring the talent of a fellow employee. It is no secret that he wants a full time talk gig. So his criticisms of Muttnansky can also been seen as self serving, and disloyal…but most importantly why in the world WEEI allow valuable on air minutes be used to degrade one of their media properties so viciously.
          He has done this sort of thing before…you mentioned the Edwards incident. There are others.

        • Jason_Coyote

          If Minnihane really said all that, it must have been part of a “bit”, because he and Mutt used to work together fairly regularly on weekends (before Mutt got the midday gig) and they were pretty good together (in a non-acrimonious kind of way).

        • latetodinner

          It was said around 3:35-3:50. It might have started out as a “bit” but it did not seem to stay that way. I am usually pretty good at picking up on works versus shoots…this sounded pretty real. If it was an act…then Minnihane is a moron for going along and sounding like a completely contemptuous jerk while totally diminishing the talent and career of a fellow Entercom employee. I just don’t think he is that good an actor.

  • Nsbombers

    Can somebody tell me why EEI is no longer broadcasting in stereo.

  • bsmfan

    I get the same impression but Bruce’s post above hits at an obvious point. When I first started to listening to him more, some WEEI and when he’s on The Baseball Show or a CSNNE program, he always seems like someone who comes across as “inauthentic”.

    I put it in quotes because I don’t really have a better word for it. When not reporting on baseball, it seems like all he does is reiterate whatever is out there on ESPN or another major sports site. Compared to G+Z, who I usually enjoy the most during the NFL season because of what you mentioned, at least seem to try and take an original point or frame it in their own way.

    Even on the baseball reporters, he always seems to be the odd person out without an original opinion–kinda like when you meet a group of people at a conference or party, and segue a conversation throughout everyone there, but then get to someone who just kills it. I usually cringe or stop paying attention because it’s as if whatever he adds does not belong.

    I’m not sure why he was pursued by both stations because he strikes me as more of a Sean McAdams type who only comes on for specialty segments (baseball) because he can speak to it. At least Dale Arnold can talk throughout all sports but clearly has a passion for hockey.

    • latetodinner

      Sean McAdam can talk baseball, hockey and football with anyone on the radio.  He is significantly more knowledgable and talented than anyone who has a full time show and almost any of the fill ins right now.

      • rijoinm

        he’s pompous and doesnt know as much as he think he does.

  • Smoothdono31

    Mut reminds me of when I use to travel to other towns (small markets) and would listen to sports radio and you would have some generic radio host on there with a local college sports legend.  Boring, generic, cliche driven.

    Merloni is a baseball head.  brings zero to the table, he is a miserable curmudgeon.

    The Minihane/Bradford/Ryder combo on Saturday’s is funny, connected to pop culture and knowledgeable about all sports.

    • Homer Nixon

      Boring, generic and cliche driven is precisely what Mutt is. And I had that opinion when he was merely a weekend guy on WEEI.  I have no idea what Bruce saw or still sees in him.  

    • Jason_Coyote

      ‘The Minihane/Bradford/Ryder combo on Saturday’s is funny’.

      Was, Smooth.  They haven’t been on together for months since Mustard & Johnson returned to the Saturday morning slot.

  • Homer Nixon

    I am unable to listen to either show for more than about 15 minutes.

    Mutt and Merloni are boring.

    Totally agree with Bruce about Merloni and totally disagree about Mutt.  Merloni has literally nothing to say and Mutt is as cliche driven as you can get in a radio host.

    I don’t mind Zo, but do want to see Gresh driven from the area, off the air for good.  Gresh is the loudmouth, mostly know nothing, know-it-all.  He knows a few things about football, but that’s about it.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/H6CETF67JLIFWVZUWEJOVNVM2M Michael

    I haven’t cared for Lou all the way back to his playing days… the whole town was dying to love this guy like the hometown kid-made-it-big-despite the-huge-odds-against-it… and the signs were all there.  But all we ever got from him then was a “big leaguer” attitude.  From Nomar’s caddy!

    Remember the whining he did those times he got sent down to Pawtucket because he was the guy with options? That’s what happens with marginal player, Lou (even local ones).  Remember how he wanted to be traded just so he could get the chance he deserved somewhere else? Please!  How about when he came back here with his tail between his legs when he couldn’t adjust to life in Japan?

    Guess what, Lou? You are getting the chance you never deserved here in your post-baseball radio career. Savor it, because there’s no way you hang on over the airways for as long as you did in baseball. Lightning doesn’t strike twice!

  • etak

    A year ago, I could not /stand/ Gresh and Zo. Then Zo started doing his sideline bits on the Patriots broadcast, and I realized he really did know his stuff, and could articulate it to me, a duffer, and open up some of the game for me. (Despite their manifold flaws, Smerlas, Nelson, and DeOssie can do that, too.)

    With that opening, I tried listening to Gresh and Zo more lately, and you know what I like best about them, in addition to Zo occasionally getting to spread some knowledge around? Even when Random Team #2 has just lost, they’re not all doom and gloom. They don’t get caught up in the controversy du jour. Yes, OK, half the time it’s because they’re being boors, but they’re cheerful about it.

    This is as opposed to Mut and Merloni, who, yes, get caught up in the Narrative of the Day, and are /depressing/ about it, too. Merloni actually has more of a former-player’s attitude & information than is obvious from a casual listen, but frankly, I don’t care anymore because it gets buried in cynicism and panic. And he rarely uses it to illuminate for longer stretches of time or talk about details of the game I (as a non-pro) might miss. It’s all in glimpses.

    (I agree on the consultant part. Been “mainstreamed” out of any uniqueness he had.)

    As for Minihane — he swings wildly from being driven by The Story of the Day, to being contrarian and speaking against the grain. He’s frequently annoying just to be annoying, but when he’s in his contrarian persona, it’s at least not overly trodden ground. I just wish he and Dale were still doing things, as opposed to him and Pete, since Pete’s a black hole of failed communication.

    • rijoinm

      Zo knows his stuff–Merloni is a little toad suck up

  • bsmfan

    One of the threads talks about bashing WEEI/NESN

    This morning on D+C,

    “Maybe NESN should not play all these Fenway/product informercials when the team is circling the drain”

    Jerry doing his “mocking” voice about Sweet Caroline

    I’d hope they have freedom to say most things, but that’s something they might get called to the principals office over.

  • whitey b

    The only conundrum is whether Providence College should disassociate itself with that dumbshit Merloni. What did you expect, he would suddenly grow a brain?

  • Steve

    and for all these reasons is why I refuse to listen to any boston sports radio – thanks for letting me know that everyone to one degree or another is still completely unlistenable 

  • Homer Nixon

    15 seconds of Gresh’s voice just now to start their show was enough to make me want to kill myself.
    Seriously, the military should look into using him as a torture device for some of these interrogations.

  • Jdmcgrath

    I too, used to enjoy Merloni  - not anymore. I agree that he tries to create controversy for the sake of doing it. No insight at all. It appears to me that he feels that his opinion on any subject is the only one worth having. Right before Christmas, he was complaining about the NFL schedule and why there was a game scheduled on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day. He insulted every person listening that does not have a Christmas Eve celebration. I could be wrong but, Christmas Eve is not the holiday – Christmas is. A Christmas Eve celebration is one for some nationality’s, not everyone’s. To say something like that is an example of either arrogance or ignorance – or both.
       As for Mutt, he is, to me difficult to listen to. I live and work in Rhode Island. I cannot listen to Gresh under any circumstances and my company van does not have satellite. I cannot not wait for the day that another shake-up at WEEI occurs. 

  • rijoinm

    merloni is a bit of a hack–not that bright and a homer

  • cyclemadness

    Excellent point. The infection that is Boston sports talk radio is pretty virulent. Merloni is not immune. He’d be far more valuable and interesting if he leveraged his understanding of professional sports and the players; his salary would also reflect that. Been living up here since 1988 – same story, (some) different faces but everyone thinks like Dan Shaughnessy – who hopes for bad news the way a meteorologist hopes for the perfect storm.