Friday Four-Pack 1.5.24
Red Sox Radio drama. Belichick's finale? Week 18 NFL Picks. Snow!
There is potential for decent snow in the forecast this weekend in New England.
And that can only mean one thing.
If I participated in this exercise, bread would not be on my list of essentials.
The snow is good for folks who ski. I hate skiing. I basically just fall down the mountain over and over. In my family - where my wife and two kids love to ski - I’m just there to help with the boys’ mountain of ski stuff.
And more importantly, make sure we have a table at the lodge. I’m good at that.
So I don’t care if it ever snows. They’re pretty pumped. For them, the weekend forecast is awesome.
Me? I just want to stay inside, stay hydrated, watch and also bet on what looks like a tremendous Week 18 in the NFL. And the forecast means I have already started worrying about the power going out. That’s my version of the picture above.
Some people go out and buy bread. I’m here refreshing Eric Fisher’s X.com feed to see if we’re getting heavy snow or light now. Because everyone knows the heavy, wet snow is the kind that can down powerlines.
Snow all day, I don’t give a shit. Just don’t knock out my power. I want to see how Gillette Stadium reacts to Bill Belichick’s sendoff. Because it sure does feel like it will be his last game as HC of the NEP.
We’ll get to that story below. But we’ll start with some news on the Red Sox radio booth in the first Four-Pack of 2024.
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On the current state of Red Sox Radio…
It’s not every day you see one of the flagship teams in all of sports post a surprise job opening for their radio play-by-play position.
But that’s what happened this week for the Boston Red Sox and their radio partner 93.7 FM WEEI.
This popped up Wednesday afternoon. I was surprised to see it. So were a lot of other people.
As someone who spent last year - and 5+ seasons in total - hosting Red Sox pre and post-game on WEEI, I was interested in what was happening. And so are thousands of Red Sox fans.
What we know so far is below, with a very important detail RE: 2024, and some opinions.
Because it was my understanding the Red Sox booth was pretty much set for 2024. And it would sound a lot like the 2023 booth.
Joe Castiglione - who last month was selected as the 2024 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame - would be back for at least half the games. He recently cut back on the number of games that he does. He turns 77 in March.
Lou Merloni would be back in the booth calling 40-50 games on the radio. Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reported last week Lou would also be back on games for NESN. NESN is sticking with the same crew from last year but should have given Lou more games. He’s the best guy they have.
Rob Bradford would do some games. Voices from the Red Sox AAA Woo-Sox would also mix in, as they did the last few years. Maybe some Rich Hill for a few games.
Sean McDonough has done 20 or so games each season the last few years but admittedly, I was not able to confirm he would be back for 2024. He’s also the No.1 NHL play-by-play guy on ESPN.
And sort of anchoring it all and doing the most games would be Will Flemming, a lead voice on Red Sox radio since 2019.
Which leads us back to the posting.
This posting, essentially, is for Will Flemming’s job.
WEEI Market Manager Mike Thomas told the Boston Globe Wednesday the listing was part of WEEI “Just building a bench.”
That’s just impossible to believe.
The listing is for a FULL-TIME job. If they wanted to build the bench they would continue to do what they’ve done the last few years with the Woo Sox guys like Tyler Murray and Mike Antonellis. They don’t need a job listing for that. Just pay them per game. Legally, if they were to say, replace Will FULL-TIME, they have to post the job.
WEEI parent company Audacy, is set to officially file for bankruptcy. Seems unlikely they’d lay out the cash for another full-time broadcaster.
When Flemming was a guest of Jared Carrabis on his very popular podcast in October, he did not sound like someone who was headed elsewhere in 2024.
And here’s the important 2024 detail referenced above:
From talking to multiple trusted sources over the last two days, the plan is for 2024 to be the last year where WEEI and Audacy have control of the Red Sox Radio booth. As part of an agreement between the team and the company, the Red Sox will assume full control of the booth starting in 2025. They’ll select and also employ the broadcasters directly.
Back in 2021, the two sides agreed to a contract extension that would take the agreement through the 2028 season. I don’t know if this was part of that agreement or something new.
As far as the team employing the broadcasters, a lot of teams do this, but this is a change for this particular agreement. Right now the broadcasters are employees of Audacy. That will change in 2025.
So this puts everyone in the booth, essentially, on one-year deals.
If Flemming were locked in for 2024, this job listing and speculation would not exist.
Why is Flemming not locked in? Unfortunately, he and the other major players involved are not talking. If I had to guess -
They can’t come to terms on the one-year deal.
He already has a job elsewhere and everyone has agreed to put a lid on it for now.
Weird spot. I’m sure Audacy's financial issues are a factor. And the one-year thing. You’d think that they’d try and work this out before January. Spring Training starts in six weeks. There are a lot of games to cover in that broadcast booth.
Assuming he doesn’t have a new job somewhere else, and they wanted to negotiate with Will in good faith, the job posting seems like they’re just trying to bust his balls a bit. Given their financial issues, not a stretch.
A random fact that also makes this awkward - Castiglione is a godfather to one of Will’s sons. The two are close. How does he feel about his good friend not being back in 2024 - a year he goes into the Hall of Fame?
Because the main folks involved are not talking, I have no idea how this plays out. I do know this is much deeper than “building a bench.” That’s just not true.
My gut says they don’t have a deal and if you don’t have a deal by now, it’s a coin-flip something gets done.
If it’s not Flemming, is a broadcaster willing to take a one-year deal to call Sox games? Will the Sox guarantee the new guy is back once they take over the booth? Do you just elevate one of the Woo Sox guys?
I’m trying not to ramble as much in 2024. It feels like I’m rambling. A lot of information. I’ll update you as I get more. Comments open below for your thoughts on the Red Sox Radio booth.
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On the end for Bill Belichick???
Some uber-detailed reporting on the Patriots’ mess this week. First from Chad Graff of the Athletic. And Thursday from Andrew Callahan and Doug Kyed of the Herald.
If you were still hoping Bill Belichick might return in 2024, you probably didn’t like either one. The Herald report details massive dysfunction on the coaching staff and in the locker room, with Belichick as a central reason why.
They paint scenes of a new offensive coordinator unsure of his assistants; a quarterbacks room filled with tense radio silence; an offensive lineman unofficially working as a coach to round out a shorthanded staff; another veteran proclaiming, with four games left, he would play for another team next season.
“This was messed up from the beginning,” a locker-room source said.
The Athletic piece is even more damning, sounding like a missive direct from ownership of all the gripes they’ve had with their Hall of Fame head coach. Even some petty stuff. It reeked of Jeff Benedict’s book The Dynasty - it was so pro-ownership that it’s hard not to read like it came directly from them.
In August, just before Kraft found out he hadn’t been selected for the Hall of Fame, Belichick was given a chance to publicly back the candidacy of the guy who signs his paychecks. It was a softball of a question, but Belichick was brief in his answer.
“Keeping our fingers crossed that we get the vote this year,” he said.
To Belichick backers, it was a simple sign of support for the owner. He was hoping Kraft would get the votes. What more could you want?
But others saw it as a less-than-full-throated endorsement. Belichick is often brief when discussing his current team, but it’s not uncommon for him to talk for several minutes about long snappers, left-footed punters or Curly Lambeau’s playbook. Yet when it came to his boss’s place in NFL history, his answer lasted 11 words.
Both of these reports come months after Tom E. Curran first reported a parting was coming at the end of the season. It seems like ownership has decided to tip their hand with some in the media.
I spent hours and hours and hours railing against the team when they let Tom Brady go. It will not be the same this go-around with Belichick. It’s time.
He’s drafted poorly, has been glacially slow to catch up with the NFL’s now offense-first approach and has shown no ability to develop a quarterback. Fold in a 29-37 record since Brady left. Plus some weird coaching decisions just this year. And sprinkle in the details of the two stories above. That’s a recipe for change.
The best QB of all time was sent packing. The same can happen to the best coach, too.
I suspect we’ll get a volley back from the Belichick Camp this weekend. My guess is it comes from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Could Belichick sell ownership on the idea of staying on as coach but handing off personal decisions? Could he walk into the meeting, eat some of his own famous humble pie and map out the path back to NFL relevancy for the Patriots? Could Bob Kraft decide he does not want his legacy to include the unceremonious exits of Brady and Belichick? All possible.
Mike Reiss of ESPN says Belichick is scheduled to meet with ownership on Monday. A lot of coaches get fired the Monday after the NFL season. Crazy to say out loud, but unless something changes in the next 72 hours, it feels like Belichick will be one of those coaches looking for work.
On our Week 18 NFL Picks…
Week 11: 3-0
Week 12: 2-0-1
Week 13: 4-0
Week 14: 2-1
Week 15: 3-0
Week 16: 1-2
Week 17: 3-0
This is a terrific Week 18 slate. Big games and must-wins all over. But don’t just bet on all the good teams against the teams playing for nothing. Great stat from Action Network - “Since 1990, eliminated teams playing teams that need to win over the final two weeks of the regular season have gone 100-64-4 (61.0%) against the spread (ATS).
You can bet on bad teams this week. And I am.
GIANTS +5.5 V. EAGLES (-108, DK). The Eagles need the Cowboys to lose to have any shot at the NFC East. Otherwise, this game means nothing to them. So it won’t be surprising to see them rest their starters once they see the Cowboys up big on the Commanders. Meanwhile, Tyrod Taylor has been solid since he replaced Daniel Jones. Yes, a win could drop them a few spots in the draft order, but they’ve been playing hard for Brian Daboll and a win over the Eagles would be something to build on for 2024. Sprinkle ML bet, too.
BROWNS AT BENGALS UNDER 37.5 (-110, BETMGM). Wish I had gotten this at a better number. And I wish there was bad weather in the forecast. But we still get a Browns team with nothing to play for against a Bengals offense that operates at the third-slowest sec/play pace in the NFL. Slight risk that the Bengals go for some sort of moral victory blowout. Nice teaser piece if you play those.
JALIN HYATT O19.5 REC YARDS (-115, ESPN Bet)
Two bets on the Giants. Yikes. This one is admittedly a little chasey. As someone who rostered Hyatt in DFS last week, I watched in horror as he dropped a ball along the sideline that would have been a big gain. He also connected with Taylor on a huge play that was erased by a holding penalty. His 3-25 line could have been much bigger. Averaging over 16 yards a catch this season and should see plenty of targets against a bad Eagles secondary. Clear No. 3 receiver having buried Sterling Shepard in the depth chart. Can get us home on one play. Can also get +175 on O30.5 on ESPN. I played that, too.
On some New Year’s Nuggets…
If you’re looking for the craziest 30 minutes in recorded podcast history, I had a front-row seat for it Thursday on the Kirk Minihane Show. Buckle Up, indeed.
RE: The Red Sox and Audacy. Audacy’s financial issues could have an impact on the agreement that runs through 2028. The company is $2 billion (with a b) in debt and has a prearranged bankruptcy announcement coming in the next few weeks. Can the Red Sox, fearful that they’ll see just pennies on the dollar of what they’ll be owed by Audacy, use that as a way to get out of the deal? Would they want to? Audacy is paying them millions of dollars a year - would any other station in Boston be able to pay them that sort of money?
Those same financial issues will impact WEEI, too. They’re impacting much more successful Audacy sports stations already. Jon Marks of Marks and Reese left WIP in Philadelphia before Christmas, in part citing the impending financial doom for Audacy. His show was #1 in the Market for years, doing a 10.6 in the fall and a 12.3 this past summer. “They’re losing money on a quarterly basis. So when your business loses money, how do you pay off half a billion dollars of debt coming up? You lay people off, you cut costs, and even then it’s not doing anything. They’re going to have to declare for bankruptcy. It’s a matter of when, not if they do it.”
Interviews with current Pats players on the radio mostly suck. I was lucky that at the end of my time at WEEI, Matthew Slater was a weekly guest on Mut at Night during the season. And he gave thoughtful, actual answers to questions. About Brady. The team. League issues. Life. I looked forward to those talks on Monday and wish Slater well as he plays his last game in the NFL this weekend.
A Pats loss and they’ll pick second or third in the NFL Draft. A win could drop them as low as fifth. I’m reconciled to the fact that there is no way Belichick is going to lay down against the Jets in what might be his last game. Dreams of a Top-2 QB appear dashed.
Jersey Jerry’s hole-in-one after more than a day of trying to get it done, set to a scene from Moneyball, is the early favorite for 2024 Sports Video of the Year.
We’ve said it all, haven’t we?
Enjoy the snow this weekend if you’re in New England. Comments on the newsletter and its content are always welcome.
Thanks for reading and hopefully subscribing. Good luck with all your Week 18 bets.