Sports Radio Boston News – NESN

NESN coverage goes with flow

Heidi Watney Boston Sports NESN

By Chad Finn Globe Staff / July 31, 2009

It will be tough to duplicate the frenzied drama leading up to last season’s Major League Baseball trading deadline, when the Red Sox dealt enigmatic slugger Manny Ramirez in the final moments before the 4 p.m. cutoff and NESN’s live coverage of the breaking news memorably included a reporter departing the set during a live shot to take a call on his cellphone.

Then again, Tom Caron knows it’s wise to expect the unexpected on deadline day.

“Oh, yeah, it can be strange,’’ said Caron, who for the “third or fourth year’’ by his estimation will serve as the studio host of NESN’s coverage of today’s MLB trading deadline beginning at 3 p.m. “You can go on the show with nothing, as we did last year when there wasn’t too much buzz around the Sox, and then right around the deadline things got crazy when we got wind that there’s something going on with Manny, and all of a sudden it’s rapid-breathing time.

“I learned a long time ago you can’t try to be Regis Philbin on a show like this,’’ he added. “You really can’t go into it with any kind of game plan, because you just don’t know how it’s going to play out. You just have to roll with the punches and wait to see what happens.’’

Heidi Watney Boston Sports NESNNo matter what happens, NESN has a full roster of analysts ready to dispense rumors and information from three locations. Caron will be joined in the main studio by the Globe’s Tony Massarotti and the Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley. Gordon Edes of Yahoo! Sports will be situated at the “NESN SportsDesk’’ set and will provide analysis on other teams’ moves, while Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo, NESN reporter Heidi Watney, and NESN analyst Dave Roberts will check in from Baltimore.

“It’s great to have such a deep group of writers and resources, because it allows us to fill a 60-minute, 90-minute, 100-minute show if need be,’’ said Caron, who notes that the Sox have made the biggest deal at three of the past five deadlines (Ramirez last year, Eric Gagne in 2007, Nomar Garciaparra in ’04).

Should the Sox make a trade of significance this year, the show will actually run for three hours, right up until the start of the “The Boston Globe Red Sox Pregame Show’’ at 6 p.m.

“We plan to stay on the air as long as we need to get all of the information out and make sure everything is completed,’’ said NESN vice president of programming and executive producer Joel Feld. “Last year, things were sort of winding down in the control room, 15 or 20 minutes past the deadline, then all of a sudden the Manny trade was confirmed.

“With the extra schedule flexibility this year, we’re prepared for just about anything that should happen.’’

Merloni’s a keeper

Score the first point for WEEI 850-AM in its impending battle for Boston sports radio supremacy with WBZ-FM’s “The Sports Hub 98.5,’’ which launches Aug. 13.

Heidi Watney Boston Sports NESNWhile “The Sports Hub’’ seriously pursued Lou Merloni to serve as Michael Felger’s cohost on its afternoon show, he decided this week to remain in the cast of cohosts on WEEI’s “The Big Show.’’

The former Red Sox utilityman has already proved just as versatile in his second career, quickly becoming respected as an analyst since retiring as an active player following the 2007 season and joining “The Big Show’’ in March 2008. He is a regular on Comcast SportsNet studio programs, and recently filled in capably as the host on “The Baseball Show’’ after Felger’s departure from the program.

While Merloni sometimes falls into the condescending, “Have you ever played the game, caller?’’ habits of the ex-jock cohosts on “The Big Show,’’ he has proven to be a reasonable and insightful observer.

The straight-shooting Merloni would have been a fine pairing with the contrarian-for-the-fun-of-it Felger at “The Sports Hub,’’ though indications are that the station already has a well-known and appealing alternative in mind.

Dandy Don

An overdue tip of the cap to Don Orsillo, who has provided steadiness and stability as the play-by-play voice on NESN’s Red Sox telecasts in the absence of longtime analyst Jerry Remy, who took an indefinite leave of absence May 6 to recuperate from lung cancer surgery. While NESN remains mum on the intensely private Remy’s status, the network continues to utilize a parade of analysts in his absence. Bob Montgomery, who spent 14 seasons (1982-95) providing color on Sox telecasts on Channel 38, became the 25th analyst to fill in alongside Orsillo this season during yesterday’s telecast . . . Comcast SportsNet’s “Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight’’ will air at 6 tonight, an hour earlier than usual, to provide additional MLB trading deadline coverage . . . The NFL Network will become available to thousands more Boston-area Comcast cable television subscribers tomorrow when it switches from the subscription-only sports tier to the digital classic level.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.