Boston Red Sox

All MLB Media is Local- Boston Red Sox

Let’s take a look at some of the local media covering the BOSTON RED SOX.

Newspaper- Many newspaper outlets cover the Red Sox, but the two biggest names are the Boston Globe (subscription may be required) and the Boston Herald. The Globe online is handled through The paper’s sports section includes a page dedicated to the Sox (Twitter). Beat writers Peter Abraham (Twitter), and Nick Cafardo (Twitter), anchor the paper’s Extra Bases blog.  The paper also maintains the popular Boston Dirt Dogs blog. Chris Gaspar (Twitter) and  Dan Shaughnessy (Twitter) will also add their thoughts on the team.
The Herald  also has a page dedicated to the Sox.  Beat writers John Tomase (Twitter) and Michael Silverman (Twitter) also contribute to the paper’s Clubhouse Insider blog.  Columnists Steve Buckley (Twitter), Ron Borges and Gerry Callahan (Twitter) will also let their thoughts be known on the team from time to time.

Sports RadioSports Radio WEEI serves as the flagship of the Red Sox Radio Network.  Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien have the call with Jon Rish in the studio. Uri Berenguer and Juan Oscar Baez have the Spanish language call on WUFC.   Sports radio talk is dominated by WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Television–  The New England Sports Network (NESN) has the Red Sox covered on television.  Don Orsillo (Twitter) and Jerry Remy (Twitter) call the games with Jenny Dell (Twitter) on the field.  Tom Caron (Twitter) hosts from the studio with Peter Gammons (Twitter), Jim Rice (Twitter), Dennis Eckersley (Twitter) and Matt Stairs.  The network outlets covering the Red Sox include, WBZ, WCVB, WHDH and WFXT.  Boston also has coverage of the team from Comcast SportsNet New England.  ESPNBoston also follows the team.

Blogs– Some independent sites following the Red Sox include Over the Monster, Boston red Sox Blog, Fenway West and Surviving Grady.

There are plenty of others in the Boston market covering the Sox.  Add your favorites in the comments.


Sports Media Weekly Podcast No. 75- Ian Eagle, CBS Sports

After a week off, Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites rejoins me for this week’s podcast.

We begin the show by looking at the World Series and the potential of it being one of the lowest rated Fall Classics ever.  We keep with the baseball talk to discuss the coverage in New England of the aftermath of the collapse by the Boston Red Sox.

Ken and I also talk about the relatively flat NFL ratings as well as the contract extension for Jon Gruden to stay with ESPN and Monday Night Football.

We also handicap who, among ESPN, NBC, and Fox, will likely be awarded the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup when FIFA announces the winner later this week.

Our guest this week is Ian Eagle of CBS Sports, Tennis Channel, Yes Network, and Westwood One.  Ian talks about how his schedule has changed since he’s had to take time off from being the voice of the New Jersey Nets due to the NBA lockout.  Ian also talks about the current NFL season to date, his ability to remain a flexible personality, and his summer sportscasters camp.

Media Critics Need to Learn That There is a Gray Area

In the examination of a sports media entity, we need everything to be black and white.  There can be no areas of gray.  Every newspaper, TV network, radio station, or website is either toeing a company line, protecting the players, or writing with a perceived agenda.  I call B.S.

Media critics, fans, and other media outlets in New England are responding in black and white terms to an article written this week by Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe seeking to explain the unprecedented collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox.  I’m here to say the work of the Globe cannot be so easily defined.

When there is controversy surrounding a team, especially in a electric media market like Boston, the conspiracy theorists come out in full force.  And even though the Red Sox have won two world championships in the last seven years, they remain the patsy de jour among the big four professional sports teams in town

Fans in Boston have the right to question what led to the Red Sox blowing a nine game lead in the American League Wild Card race in September.  And the Boston Globe and other media outlets should be responsible for using their resources to answering those questions.  Hohler’s article attempted to do that.

Hohler did a good job in making sure everyone in the Red Sox organization was tagged with the blame for what took place on and off the field.  But because they’re the Boston Globe, there has to be more to the story.  There must be something they’re hiding or someone they’re protecting.  No gray area allowed.

Lets look at the accusations made against Hohler and the Globe and make a realistic attempt to see the likelihood they are true.

The biggest complaint about the article is that Hohler and the Globe wrote the piece on behalf of Red Sox ownership.  The Globe’s parent company, the New York Times, owns a minority stake in the team.

This accusation that the Globe does the bidding on behalf of the team is not new, but really, does anyone really think the corporate big wigs at the Times or the Red Sox ownership, pick-up the phone to Globe Sports Editor Joe Sullivan and have the following conversation?

“Joe, John Henry.”
“Yes Mr. Henry, how are you?
“Not so great Joe.  I need your help.  We’re looking to control the message concerning our late season swoon and we’re wondering if you’d put your best investigative reporter on the case, to, you know, make us look good?  It would mean a lot to us.”
“Sure Mr. Henry, not a problem.  I assume we can use the same ‘unnamed sources’ we’ve used in the past?
“Absolutely.  We’ll be in touch.”
“Have a great day Mr. Henry.”
“I will now, Joe.  Thanks.”

How silly does that sound?  No editor of a newspaper should let that happen, no matter what the connections or bottom line dictate.  Are there perceived agendas with some media outlets?  Absolutely.  And the Globe has been tagged with them for years.  But I doubt it would jeopardize its integrity to partake in this type of practice.

Another bone of contention made by the critics of the Globe and other media outlets is why the clubhouse behavior of some of the players, specifically pitchers Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Jon Lester, was not published earlier?  To me that’s an easy one to answer.  The actions of the pitchers allegedly took place DURING the game.  Even though the media have liberal access to the clubhouse, they do not have that access DURING he game.  Even if there were rumblings about the indescretions of the pitching corps, no reporter would have had first hand knowledge of that activity.  The news on this began to leak from sources after the season ended.

Speaking of sources, critics also looked with a curious eye towards the Globe’s use of anonymous sources.  Here’s an example of people not understanding how journalism works.  It’s always preferable to get named sources for a story.  But there are times when sources for a story fear for their job, or even their lives, if their identity were to be made public.  It is better to keep those names quiet in exchange for the information.  That’s why the Globe and others use anonymous sources.  It bothers me why people still don’t understand this.

Some will say, “Why should reporters care about revealing sources or burning bridges in the locker room if the truth comes out?”   Bloggers and sports radio callers (and even some hosts) make this claim often and still don’t get it.  Beat reporters for a club rely on one thing, above all else, in getting information on the team.  That is access.  If they are not allowed access, or are shunned by members of the club, then they cannot do their job.  Not being able to do their job leads to their termination.

Are some reporters too close to players, coaches, and owners?  Yes.  But it should not hinder their ability to ask difficult questions when needed.  Some reporters are too close to be able to walk that fine line.  Those reporters should be replaced.  Most can work that balance and do a good job of it.

I will criticize Hohler for his unnecessary implication that Terry Francona’s martial problems, along with his concern for his son’s safety as a soldier in Afghanistan, and his alleged reliance on pain killers played a role in the demise of the club.  I’ve always been a proponent of keeping one’s personal life out of the news, unless brought into play by the player or coach.  Everyone has issues in their life that need not be made public in the paper.

The media today have too much pressure to report on every nuance of the team they cover.  That’s not fair. People take too much stock into how a story is reported when instead they should focus on the story itself. Not everything needs to be turned into the next big controversy.  It is not always black and white.

Gray is not such a bad color.  We should all wear it once in a while.

Blogger on the Beat, Part 2

I hope you had the opportunity to read part one of my report on my summer covering the Pawtucket Red Sox as an independent blogger.  That piece gave you a window into how I started my reporting venture and how it developed.  Today I want to delve more into my daily routine and other observations from the McCoy Stadium press box.

Many a sports blogger has speculated that being a beat writer isn’t that difficult and how great it is to get paid to write about sports.  For me this was a true labor of love for the craft of sports writing.  Everything I did for PawSox Blog was on my own time and for no fiscal remuneration. Some also criticize the beat writer for being too cozy to those they cover, for not standing up to the manager and players and bravely question their work or play on the field.  These bloggers have every right to their opinion.

Being a beat reporter is more challenging than one would think.  It’s not as easy as just reporting to the press box just before the first pitch, eating some free food, then talking to the manager and players after the game. To do this right you need to spend some time cultivating relationships with the players, the manager, and the coaches.  And I wanted to do this right.

What some bloggers don’t understand is that you can’t be a fan and be a beat reporter.   You need to tread carefully into the domain of these teams.  You need to be objective.  Yes, at times you need to ask probing questions.  But you can’t be such a bulldog that you alienate those you cover.  If you do, your beat will be worthless.

Professional baseball media rules dictate that the press can gain access to the clubhouse 3 ½ hours prior to the game until about one hour before the first pitch.  That means for a 7:05pm start the clubhouse opens at about 3:30pm.  Most beat writers on the Major League level report to the park that early, take-in batting practice, and talk with players and coaches for features and notes.  You need to be where the action is to remain competitive.

Each team also has its own set of protocols for press access.  When it comes to the PawSox, batting practice would end approximately two hours before the first pitch and Manager Ron Johnson would meet with the press for about 10-15 minutes.  You knew as a reporter that if did not get in to meet with Johnson at that time there was no guarantee he would have time for questions before the game. That’s fair.

Players were a little more receptive to speaking before a game, although there are some who would rather not be bothered as they prepared.  Game day starting pitchers are always off limits.

A typical day for me would begin at my day job at 8am.  I would do my best to leave early so I could get to the park by 4-4:30pm, in time to meet with Johnson and some players before the 7:05pm first pitch.  Earlier starts would cause a conflict for me that resulted in many times not getting access to the team before the game.

After the pre-game locker room session reporters would spend the rest of their time writing their features and notes columns prior to the first pitch.  There was also plenty of time for reporters to enjoy the daily pre-game meal.

During the game itself reporters would file any features and notes columns while scoring the game and taking notes. For many a newspaper reporter, the first edition deadline is between 10:30pm and 11pm.  With that in mind reporters are writing their game story as the game unfolds, making changes as events warrant.  When the game is complete reporters would leave room for a few quotes that are inserted after the post-game locker room visit.  Most nights reporters would make their deadline, but there are others when games go into extra innings when partial game reports are sent to the editors.

I always approached each game as if I was a reporter for a daily newspaper.  Even though I did not have a deadline, I too would write my game story while the game was taking place.  I would also live blog each game I attended in person, providing updates every two innings or more frequently as events warranted.  15 hour days starting with my job made it important for me to wrap-up my work by the time I left the press box.  Rarely did I finish my reporting back at home.

PawSox post-game rules prohibited reporters from the locker room for at least ten minutes following the completion of the game.  Johnson also appreciated being approached first for his thoughts on the contest before the media descended upon the players.

Johnson is definitely one of baseball’s new breed of characters. He had a brief Major League career with Kansas City and Montreal in the early 1980’s and has been a minor league skipper for more than a decade, the last four seasons in Pawtucket.  He is extremely engaging and entertaining, but also aware of the need to toe the Red Sox party line when needed.  He is always good for an interesting quote.

When it comes to the media covering the team I will say this…each of them are skilled journalists, but there appears to continue to exist a generation gap between the old school and new school beat reporter.  The old school set understands and utilizes the Internet, but at times fails to look at the bigger picture when it comes to its future.  They still look at newspapers as king, failing to grasp that by the time my generation passes, print journalism will be mainly a thing of the past.

The best example of this came July 31st at the training deadline.  The big trade in Boston, of you may remember, was the shipping of Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.  PawSox outfielder Brandon Moss was part of the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh.  After talking with Moss and filing related stories, one reporter (old school) was amazed that one paper had already posted online most of the stories that were set to appear in the next day’s paper…all by 8pm that night!  When hearing that amazement the first thing to enter my mind was how this reporter could not grasp the fact that many readers will not wait for the morning paper to get the information on this breaking story.  It really is eye-opening to see this first hand…and a little sad.

Beat reporters also act like you and I at work…there are times they would rather not be there!  I often saw reporters languish over the slow pace of the game, mainly because it would impact their deadline.  But for some you could see that it was a struggle for them to be at work.  As much as many of us think being a beat writer is a great gig, it’s a job like any other to some people, and the opportunity exists where some fall out of love with it.

The other sad part about the press experience is the non-participation of the out-of-town press corps covering the visiting team.  Minor league teams rarely have their beat reporters follow them on the road.  Only once did I see a reporter from a paper of a visiting team follow the club in Pawtucket.  Many of those papers will hire local freelance writers to string the game for them.   The local Rhode Island papers are no different.  It’s really too bad that papers are forced by their bottom line to cut back on providing a constant link to one of their true local community sports institutions.

I have to thank the Pawtucket Red Sox organization for having the confidence to allow me to cover the team without being a member of the established mainstream media.  Not many organizations would welcome a blogger into the press box.  They did.  And they deserve to be recognized for their foresight.

I have yet to decide whether I will continue with PawSox Blog for the 2009 season.  The recently competed season is still too fresh for me to make a decision at this point.  If I do come back, I will probably do so with some assurances that I can contribute more than I did in 2008.  Not to improve upon one’s craft when afforded the opportunity is an opportunity lost.

Blogger on the Beat, Part 1

You’ve probably noticed (or not) that I was away from the blog for a good chunk of the summer.  Even though I’m not as proficient a poster as others (I do have other priorities), my summer writings have been particularly sparse.  Well, there was a reason for my absence.

This past March I decided to begin another blogging project, one which just concluded a few weeks ago.  This summer I became a beat writer (of sorts) for a minor league baseball team.

So what does that mean and how did I get there?  First some background.

For those of you who do not know, I have made a career in the media.  I currently work in the business, managing a small local cable television station.  My career started in radio as a news anchor/reporter and I also briefly freelanced as a sports reporter for a local daily in southeastern Massachusetts.

During my time on radio the station was issued press passes from the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  One season I attended between 30 to 40 home games, gathering sound bites for use by the sports anchor the next day.   I also covered the team during my newspaper days.  Over time I developed a relationship with the PawSox’ front office.

I was away from the team for nearly 20 years when I contacted them last summer seeking to write a piece about experiencing a game in their press box for SMJ.  They were gracious enough to grant me access for that story.

Then came this past March.  In our piece last August, I was taken aback by the lack of coverage of the PawSox, except for the Providence Journal and the local Pawtucket Times which staff each and every home game.  With the popularity of the team in the region, and being located in the heart of Red Sox Nation, I thought that there was room to provide broader coverage of the team.

So I registered for a free Blogger account and created PawSox Blog.  I also secured the stand-alone domain.

I approached PawSox Vice President of Public Relations Bill Wanless about my ideas and about securing a season press pass.  He appeared to be concerned with the “blogger” aspect of covering the team, falling into the general perception of the blogging world.  Fortunately for me Bill had known of my previous work, and after talking it over with senior club officials, agreed to provide me a press credential, with the understanding that access could be revoked at the club’s discretion.  I was thankful for the opportunity.  By the way, the question of my credibility never came up the entire season.

My goal was to cover the team as any other beat writer, filing game stories in a timely fashion (even though I did not have a deadline).  At the same time I wanted to use many Web 2.0 applications not seen very much in the minors, or even by media in many Major League cities.  This included the use of audio and video on the blog.

My first test was to attend the club’s Media Day in early April.  I was fortunate to be able to take a colleague of mine who served as videographer for the day.  During the afternoon I took photos of much of the festivities and conducted video interviews with PawSox Manager Ron Johnson and team President Mike Tamburro.  It was a good way for me to get into the practice of covering the team again while begin building relationships with players and coaches in anticipation of the long season ahead.

I knew going into this project that I would not be able to personally cover every home game.  I have a wife and daughter, and as much as I enjoyed this new venture, their happiness trumped any non-paying hobby I was involved with.  I’ve always said that my family, and my paying job, come before SMJ, or PawSox Blog.  I did not see this as a challenge to doing a good job, just a reality that I accepted upfront.  I must say that without the support of my wife and daughter, who both encouraged me to do this, I would not have been able to accomplish what I did.

Opening Day came on April 3rd at the PawSox home park, McCoy Stadium.  I adjusted my work schedule that week to ensure that I was able to get to the park about three hours before the opening pitch.  The big draw of the evening was not only the first game of the new season, but the debut of former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon in the Red Sox organization.  Because the Sox had plans for Colon at the big league level, the media interest in this game was a little more intense than normal.  Colon did not disappoint, pitching five innings and earning the win.  Because of his stature in terms of experience, Colon spoke to reporters before the game was completed.  He was no where to be found after the game.

I tried to do things with the blog on the minor league level that many reporters who cover Major League teams do…I would live blog from the game, giving updates every two innings, or more frequently if events warranted.  I also liked to post complete interviews with players as podcasts.  This gave the fan un-fettered access to the player as he was being interviewed.  Many big league reporters don’t partake in this practice, but they should.

Even though I didn’t attend every home game (let alone those on the road), I did attempt to write every day.  Many days I would provide a brief game preview based on the press notes issued by each team. (I would include quotes from Johnson or PawSox players when I wrote a preview on a game I personally attended).  I also would write game stories whether the team was home or away.   Much of these stories were developed based on the play-by-play accounts of the game available on the Minor League Baseball website.  I can only think of two long stretches of the season when I did not contribute anything to the blog, that was during two vacations with my family.

Along with daily game stories and previews, I also provided readers with synopses of the other games played each day around the International League.  In those posts I included links to local news accounts of the game.

If you look at many of the time stamps of the posts, I tried to write my entries at times which did not impact my work or family life.  You will see many a game story written at 4 or 5 in the morning.  I considered it just a part of the job.

There were many highlights to my season covering the team.  Whenever a member of the Red Sox were sent down on a rehab assignment, the media contingent was sure to grow.  It reached a fever pitch July 17th when David Ortiz was at McCoy as part of a three game stint to see if he had recovered from an injured wrist.  Because this was an off-day for the Red Sox, the entire Boston media contingent traveled the 30 or so miles south to catch Ortiz in action.  PawSox Blog provided complete coverage of Ortiz’ pregame media session, his game at-bats, and his post game remarks.  It was a great use of the blog.  I was able to do the same earlier in the season when Mike Lowell rehabbed at McCoy in April.

In the end I was able to attend 25 home games.  It was extremely difficult at times because of my work schedule and the need to get to the park on time.  I get to my work at 8am and on game nights would not get home until after 11pm.  Even though I enjoyed what I was doing, 15 hour days can really get rough.

I thoroughly enjoyed my season on the beat.  My only regret was that I was unable to produce more video for the site.  Covering the game took most of my time.  Any extra video would have cut into my paying work schedule, something I could not afford to do.  My job also kept me away from the PawSox home playoff games earlier this month.

In part two tomorrow,  I will detail a typical day on the beat, observations of the media in the press box, and my interaction with players and coaches.

We’re Talking About Practice!

Last week I posted the story about how the New England Sports Network (NESN) is providing live coverage of Spring Training workouts of the Boston Red Sox. Living in New England and having access to NESN, I thought I would check in with the coverage to see what it was all about.

I’m a baseball nut, as are most sports fans in Red Sox Nation. Despite the success of other pro sports franchises in the region, New England is still a baseball haven first. So it was natural for NESN to take advantage of this fanaticism by providing coverage of the team literally from the get go. It helps that NESN is the sole local television play-by-play entity of the defending World Champions. And oh yeah, they’re partially owned by the Red Sox.

NESN’s telecast consisted of two hours of LIVE coverage from the team’s Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, FL. These live feeds took place in the morning during the team’s normal workout schedule. The program was rebroadcast several times throughout the day to accommodate many audiences.

You’d think that two hours of players stretching, running, and throwing would not make for intriguing television. And you’d be right. But NESN rarely showed much of the players working out. Instead they used the time to preview this year’s club by interviewing members of the media who cover the team. The network has a partnership with the Boston Globe so much of the time was taken up by scribes of the Beantown sheet.

NESN was able to secure interviews with players as they made their way to and from the fields of play. Sox front office personnel also made their way to the NESN stage.

The network coverage was buoyed by camera placements across the five fields at the training complex. If something of interest took place in the complex, NESN had a way to show it to the fans back home.

Overall I thought the coverage was well done. I like the fact that the network decided to create original local content at a time of the day when it generally runs infomercials or replays of classic Sox or Bruins games. NESN also never missed a beat in promoting their pre-season Sox telecast schedule as well as hyping opening day, which for Boston is March 25th against Oakland in Japan. FYI, coverage on NESN begins at 5am ET…

Obviously the NESN coverage would not work well in most cities with MLB franchises. But in snowbound New England, any programming featuring the Old Towne Team is always welcome.

Coverage You’ll Only See in Beantown

With the near perfection of the Patriots and the Celtics with the best record in the NBA, fans in Boston are definitely spoiled right now. But Boston will always be, first and foremost, a baseball town. Here’s the proof.

The New England Sports Network (NESN), the exclusive local television play-by-play outlet for the World Champion Boston Red Sox, will devote two hours of LIVE coverage today to the Sox pitchers and catchers practicing. That’s right…two full hours of guys throwing baseballs!

NESN will also weave in interviews with players, coaches, and front office management during its coverage. But it’s focus will be on practice.

NESN will also telecast live workouts when the full squad reports later next week.

Being a follower of the team and knowing its fan base…be assured that NESN will get some solid ratings from this. Only in Boston.

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe