NESN's Don Orsillo has had at least eight different partners in the booth this season as Jerry Remy recovers from lung cancer surgery. None of them have been as good as Gordon Edes, who filled in for the Orioles series this weekend.
Edes, who was at the Globe for nearly 12 years before moving to Yahoo! Sports last August, did not offer too much analysis, but NESN viewers weren't getting much of from anyone, anyway. What he did offer was concise news on what's going on throughout baseball (including the National League!), trade rumours, what teams are looking for as the trading deadline nears and who they are shopping. He had good information on the Orioles' young pitchers.
Sadly, it all came as a shock because we've never heard this fresh insight from Remy, or any of the other fill-ins this year.
Edes was low-key, but the last thing I want to hear is a pompous McCarver/Sutcliffe-type proclaiming his opinions loudly and insistently. He also had a nice easy rapport with Orsillo. And he spoke when he had something to say, knowing that quiet (on a TV broadcast) is not something to fear; rather, it shows the announcer understands and is in tune with the flow of the game.
I heard Jim Kaat for only a handful of innings -- I'm not sure how many games he did -- and it seemed he talked more about pitching in general, rather than anything specific to the Red Sox. Nevertheless, he'd be a great replacement if Remy cannot return.
Once Dennis Eckersley toned down his slang and sat upright in his chair, he has been pretty good, though he still gives us more shtick than insight into various strategies on the field.
I'll love Dave Roberts forever for 2004, but he has been an utter disaster in the booth. All he seems capable of doing is narrating the replays, describing exactly what we saw and what Orsillo just finished calling. Then he wraps it up with "that's a good piece of hitting" or "he didn't give in to the pitcher" or "he didn't give in to the hitter" some other worthless cliche. And if I had a dime for every time he says "you know", I could buy out Tom Werner's stake in the team.
I say all this knowing that calling a game must be incredibly difficult and learning on the job cannot be easy. It is unfair to pass judgment on someone based on a week or a month, or maybe even a season, of games. However, while Eck has clearly improved, Roberts has not. (With the Extra Innings package, I'm not always given the NESN feed, so I'm always happy when I do. Lately, however, I have been muting games so as not to start grinding my teeth the second I hear Roberts's voice.)
Also: Orsillo did the first three innings of one game by himself in the early part of this season and was a revelation. With Remy, he rarely did anything other than strict play-by-play, along with too-long recitations of an opposing player's career or a stream of numbers from the press notes. Flying solo, though, he ditched that and proved to be extremely adept at both calling the game and doing analysis. I loved it. (Did he work by himself when he did PawSox radio?)
I have no idea what NESN is going to do -- or if Remy will try to return this year or next -- but Kaat, after getting some schooling on what's going on in the Sox organization, would be a fantastic addition to the NESN team. I'd also be happy with Announcer Boy going it alone.