Desperate WEEI Shakes Up Lineup

This afternoon Glenn Ordway was touting a “major announcement” to be made at 5:20. Most of these “major announcements” are little more than announcing a new weekly guest to the program, or something along those lines.

Today’s announcement however, is legitimately big news. After years of having the format of Glenn Ordway and two rotating co-hosts, Ordway announced that starting February 28th, the Big Show will add Michael Holley as a permanent co-host alongside Ordway. The name of the show will remain the same, and there will still be a whiner line. It is unclear whether there will be a third rotating co-host each day, as Ordway simply said that others “will be in and out of here all the time.”

The question was left then – what will become of the Dale and Holley show? This was not announced on the show, but The Inside Track at the Boston Herald reports that the duo will be replaced by former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni and weekend WEEI (and WGAM AM)  host Mike Mutnansky.

The track reports that Dale Arnold will be relegated to “fill in duty.”

These moves are clearly in reaction to the ratings gains made by 98.5 The SportsHub in the last year. The odd thing is, the Dale and Holley show was the only one that was still consistently beating their 98.5 competition.

WEEI was hamstrung however, by the salaries of their talent. They couldn’t make a move in the morning, with John Dennis and Gerry Callahan making big bucks, and Ordway is a fixture in the afternoons. I believe Holley’s contract was due sometime this year, so this move seems to be a promotion of sorts for him.

These are some big moves. I can’t wait to read all of your reactions to them.

WEEI Announces New Drive-Time ‘Dream Team’ (weei.com)

Glenn Ordway Tries To Clear The Air

Since the announcement on Wednesday that Pete Sheppard was being let go from WEEI due to economic issues there has been a lot of questioning and speculation about what the “real” reason for the move was.

I did it here at BSMW. Chad Finn (sort of) did it in the Globe this morning. Other sites and messageboards have been doing it.

When the Big Show opened this afternoon, Glenn Ordway attempted to set the record straight, and very seriously said that it was solely due to the economy. He even said he could understand why people might be skeptical because of gags that they’ve done in the past. (Such as Mike Adams “locking himself in the studio.”)

It was unlike Ordway, as he didn’t take shots at those of us who have been wondering about the episode, just stated repeated that this is just a product of the economy and while WEEI has done better than a lot of companies in terms of not having to make large-scale cuts, they haven’t been immune from the effects of the economic downturn.

He seemed sincere, and while we know Ordway is an actor, and in the entertainment business, I guess I’ll take him at his word. (That weasel Jason Wolfe is another matter, however.)

But even with that, I still don’t think Curt Schilling left WEEI entirely because of the Sheppard layoff.

Questions on the Pete Sheppard Layoff

Entercom/WEEI is insisting that yesterday’s announcement about the departure of Pete Sheppard is strictly for economic reasons, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the timing and details of this announcement.

Why on a Wednesday? Couldn’t get through until Friday? Couldn’t have done it last Friday before a three-day weekend?

If this move was solely economic, this was the best way they could cut costs? Why not cut the Mike Adams show altogether and just go with ESPN programming at night? How about firing Adams and giving Sheppard that spot?

If it was strictly economic, why is Curt Schilling so ticked off? He said yesterday he wouldn’t be on the WEEI airwaves until Pete was rehired, and has moved his 38Pitches Blog off of WEEI.com and back to its original domain.

The Entercom release wording seems rather final. The standard policy for WEEI is that once you leave, you’re dead. You never get mentioned again. A few who been announced as no longer being employed there, such as Bob Neumeier and Larry Johnson (after the Mustard and Johnson show was cancelled) have been back on the WEEI airwaves. It doesn’t seem like they’re expected to have Sheppard back on.  

He signed his last contract in May of 2007. The article quoted below in 2008 stated that Sheppard had two more years remaining on his contract, which would have it ending in May of this year. Is he getting paid the rest of the contract? If so, why release him now? To allow him to find another job with a few months of pay still coming?

Was he flirting with 98.5 for the role that Andy Gresh was eventually hired for and Entercom got wind of it?

Will he show up in another market? In a column written by Eric Rueb in the summer of 2008 for the Narragansett Times, Sheppard talked about his future -

As each year goes by, Sheppard makes a bigger name for himself without having his own show.

He’s a second banana – a big one at that – on the Big Show, where he fills in for host Glenn Ordway when Ordway is sick or on vacation. He’s in the second year of his contract and has two more years left on it and it wouldn’t be shocking if a bigger market or even satellite looked to give The Meatman his own show.

Whether Sheppard could take that offer is another question. “I could go outside the state or the region and be OK, but it just plays to my strengths. I wouldn’t have the same passion going to Chicago and talking about the Bears and White Sox or Cubs. It just wouldn’t be the same,” Sheppard said. “But like anything else in this business or anything in this business and a lot of other businesses, you’re only as good as your last contract. The ratings have been good at the station, but there’s always a possibility but you have to have leverage. If there’s somebody else that wants me or there’s a bidding war, that’s nice, I don’t expect it.

“Let’s put it this way – I expect myself at ’EEI for a long time.”

So what’s next? Will be end up at 98.5? Chad Finn’s column this morning had WBZ-FM program manager Mike Thomas saying that he had not been in contact with Sheppard, and that they currently had a full staff.

Does he wind up at another Entercom station trying to create their own version of The Big Show? Does he end up in Jacksonville talking NASCAR?

Wow, that’s why too much time spent wondering about Pete Sheppard, but yesterday’s news resulted in the biggest day, traffic-wise for BSMW in months. Apparently people are interested in the fate of an afternoon sports radio flash guy.

Pete Sheppard Out At WEEI

It appears that Pete Sheppard has done his final sports flash for WEEI’s Big Show.

From Regan Communications (PR firm for Entercom New England) today:

Statement Regarding Pete Sheppard from Entercom New England Vice President and Market Manager Julie Kahn and Vice President of AM Programming Jason Wolfe

“As we continue to operate in challenging economic times, it is with regret that we announce today that we have eliminated Pete Sheppard’s position as sports anchor on the Big Show. We’d like to thank Pete for his outstanding work with WEEI over the last ten years. He played a major role in our growth, and helped “The Big Show” become one of the top radio shows in the country. We wish Pete the best of luck in his future endeavors and remain extremely grateful for all his contributions over the past decade.”

Too bad for Pete. He was the one guy on that afternoon show who actually had some passion for sports. The elimination of his position also raises the question of what happens to Patriots post game shows next season, and who becomes the standard “fill in” host for Ordway.

If this really is a economic layoff, and I don’t have reason at this time to believe otherwise, what would prevent Sheppard from becoming just another rotating fill-in co-host or flash guy in the future? Or does he surface at 98.5?

Sheppard had signed a multiyear contract with WEEI back in May of 2007, so it doesn’t look like contract negotiations gone bad here.

The Boston Radio Watch fellow says that Curt Schilling called in and said he won’t come back onto the WEEI airwaves until Sheppard is rehired. 

Glen Ordway stated on the air that the company has decided to outsource the flash updates for the Big Show, similiar to what they’ve done to other shows (Dale & Holley) in the past.

Approval Ratings – Pete Sheppard (BSMW)

Sheppard out at WEEI (Boston.com)

(Interesting) Navel Gazing on WEEI

The first hour of today’s Big Show on WEEI was pretty interesting, as they discussed the transition of sports media into the internet age. The comparison was made to when radio and TV were getting into everyday sports coverage and resistance they encountered from the newspaper writers.

The topic came up when it was revealed that WEEI.com editor and Red Sox writer Rob Bradford, a co-host on the show today, is not currently a member of the BBWAA, (Baseball Writers Association of America) mostly because he does not write for a print publication, but instead for an internet site only. Bradford had been a member when he wrote for newspapers (Herald, E-T, Lowell Sun) in the past. Glenn Ordway even joked that Bradford appears on polls about Who is the best Red Sox Writer?  – so why isn’t he considered a writer by the BBWAA?

Ordway discussed coming up the media ranks in the 1970′s as a radio/TV guy (lugging around a giant reel-to-reel tape recorder) and the resistance he met from the old school newspaper writers. (Interestingly the name Clif Keane came up.)

It’s a pretty interesting discussion, we’ll see if they talk more about it as the afternoon goes on.

WEEI Breaks Own Record For Most Self-Congratulatory Press Release

WEEI has issued a press release announcing Glenn Ordway’s new contract, and it’s a piece of work. The quotes from Julie Kahn and Jason Wolfe are especially nauseating.

Emphasis Mine:

Glenn Ordway Re-Signs Contract with WEEI

BOSTON (January 5, 2009) – Entercom New England today announced that it has re-signed WEEI Sports Radio host Glenn Ordway to a new multi-year contract. Ordway is host of WEEI’s The Big Show, a perennial powerhouse among talk radio programming.

The Big Show has ranked number one among men 25-54 in every ratings book since the spring of 2003, and has also ranked number one with adults 25-54 in every ratings book but three over the same period of time. The show originally aired from 3 PM – 6 PM, but shifted to 2 PM – 6 PM in September of 1999 where it remains.

Ordway has been a presence on the Boston sports broadcasting scene for over two decades. Prior to joining WEEI as Program Director in June of 1995, he was a commentator for Boston Celtics radio broadcasts for thirteen consecutive years, including five as play-by-play man. The Big Show was among the new programs he created upon joining ‘EEI and he has hosted it since its inception. At the same time, he also created the ever-popular Whiner Line, which has become the highest rated fifteen minutes in Boston radio today among both men and adults 25-54.

Today, Ordway’s influence transcends the airwaves. He has hosted The Whiney Awards to honor the top callers to the Whiner Line for the past six years. The event began as a small gathering of 150 people at Davio’s in Boston and grew to upwards of 3,000 attendees at the Wang Theatre in 2008. The event benefits a different non-profit organization each year.

Ordway’s extensive charitable initiatives have helped raised millions for numerous local non-profits, including The Jimmy Fund, Champions for Children, The Rodman Ride for Kids, The Genesis Fund, and The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, to name a few. In 2005, he was honored by the Jimmy Fund as the recipient of the annual “Jimmy Award”, an honor bestowed upon a media member who goes over and above to support and raise funds for the organization.

Ordway has also been nominated for three Marconi Awards (2006, 2007, 2008), which are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards in the radio industry.

“Glenn is a very special part of the WEEI “Magic”; having been one of the architects of the station and the only nationally recognized Major Market Personality by the Marconi Awards in the Boston market, three times in recent years,” said Julie Kahn, Entercom New England Market Manager. “His show is a must listen to destination for breaking sports news in America’s best sports market.”

“Glenn and I have been together since the beginning. He has played an enormous role in helping grow WEEI to the legendary status we currently enjoy, and I’m thrilled to be able to continue to work with him for the foreseeable future,” said Jason Wolfe, Entercom New England’s VP of AM Programming and Operations. “I’ve been privileged to work with some of the very best broadcasters in the business in the seventeen years I’ve been at WEEI, and Glenn is at the top of that list.”

“We have had a phenomenal run with The Big Show on WEEI and I am thrilled that we will have the opportunity to extend that run for years to come on America’s number one sports station,” said Ordway.

While I know that the very purpose of a press release is self-promotion and touting yourself, I’m wondering in what universe has a sports radio station achieved “legendary status.”

Globies Back on CSN, The Genius Of Manny

Yeah, that was Dan Shaughnessy on the 6:30 edition of CSN’s Sports Tonight program last night. As Gary Tanguay explained in his blog yesterday, CSN’s partnership with the Boston Herald (they were a sponsor of New England Sports Tonight) has expired, and that partnership was what had kept Globe writers off the show. Tanguay says that Tony Massarotti will be back on the show as well.

Tanguay’s blog has had some interesting entries as of late, as he tries to give us more “behind the scenes” type narratives about what’s going on at CSN.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Troy Brown will not be making his scheduled appearance tonight on Sports Tonight, as had been reported on the Herald’s Point After blog.

Yesterday Curt Schilling blasted Manny Ramirez on a call-in appearance to WEEI’s Big Show. Schilling’s remarks irritated me at first, simply because this is a topic we’re all sick of, and we know full well Manny was a major disruption near the end of his Red Sox tenure. Manny’s gone now, and his teammates have moved on, and have been playing their best ball of the season (well, except against Tampa) and I just didn’t see why Schilling, who hasn’t thrown a pitch all season felt it necessary to talk more about it.

On reflection, I think I have a bigger problem with how two-faced Schilling is with this stuff. When Manny was his teammate, he defended the guy to death to these very same radio shows. When Manny and Youkilis had the dust-up in the dugout earlier this season, Schilling was calling the media fools because this stuff happens all the time between teammates, and we just don’t see it. He’s defended Manny’s work ethic in the past, and played the role of good teammate.

Incidents like yesterday show that he really was just playing that role, since as soon as Manny is gone, Schilling can do an about-face and start telling all sorts of tales. I don’t like that.

It’s become customary when criticizing Schilling to acknowledge his huge contributions to the 2004 World Series championship, and to a lesser extent, the 2007 title. OK, duly noted. I’ll always be thankful that we had Curt Schilling on those clubs, and he turned in some legendary performances in his time here.

However, now that his career appears over, I’m rather sick of him. I’ve taken 38 Pitches out of my RSS reader, simply because I’m not interested in what the guy has to say. I’d rather get out now while I still have that great respect for him as a player, rather than keep reading, and totally losing all fondness for the guy.

Back to Manny for a moment, Joe Posnanski, the KC writer who has gained a huge following here in Boston simply because he puts out great stuff, has a piece on SI.com entitled The genius of Manny Ramirez. It’s a lot of stuff we already knew about Manny in better times, but also has some interesting perspectives on Ramirez as a person. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN says Manny has made a huge difference to the Dodgers both in the lineup and in the clubhouse.

Tony Massarotti wonders if David Ortiz is returning to form just in time.

TBS has announced their MLB Postseason Broadcast Team, and both Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley will be a part of the coverage.

Peter May on Yahoo! Sports has a feature on new Celtic Darius Miles, who says “I would have come here (to Boston) for $5 and a bag of Doritos.” No joke.

Jim Corbett of USA Today has a look at Randy Moss taking on a leadership role with the Patriots in the absense of Tom Brady.

Jeff Pearlman has a must-read feature on former Angels outfielder Lyman Bostock, a budding star who was murdered during the 1978 season.