Last week saw a lot of buzz around Tim Neverett’s exit from Red Sox radio play-by-play duties for WEEI after three seasons there, with him saying there was a lack of support from management and “it was pretty disappointing how it all went down.” Well, Neverett (who worked as a studio and play-by-play voice for the Rockies for four years, then spent seven years with the Pirates before joining the Red Sox radio team ahead of the 2016 season, as part of the fallout from the team pushing Don Orsillo out and replacing him with then-radio voice Dave O’Brien) has now landed on his feet. And he’s landed in a place where many Red Sox players have wound up over the past few years (including Joe Kelly this offseason and the many players involved in the giant trade in 2012); Los Angeles. As per the Dodgers’ Rowan Kavner, Neverett will be calling games for the franchise on both radio and TV this season, filling in for Charley Steiner and Joe Davis respectively:
Neverett will call a select number of Dodger games on both television and radio, handling play-by-play duties on SportsNet LA during Joe Davis’ national assignments and on AM 570 in place of Charley Steiner, who has requested to cut back on his broadcast schedule.
“We’re excited to welcome Tim to our broadcast team, and know Dodger fans will appreciate his knowledge, passion and insight on the air,” said Lon Rosen, Dodger Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “The Dodgers are also thrilled that Charley will continue to be part of the team’s broadcasts for years to come. We think the addition of Tim along with Charley, Joe and our talented group of analysts and reporters will continue to treat Dodger fans to one of the best broadcasts in baseball.”
…“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join such an established and talented group of radio and television broadcasters, as well as the gifted production personnel with the Dodgers,” Neverett said. “My family and I are thrilled to be able to be part of the Dodger family and be back in the National League. I am very much looking forward to getting started, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones.”
Hopefully Neverett’s relationship with the stations’ management (he said the Red Sox, by contrast to WEEI, were always supportive of him) in Los Angeles will be smoother than it was at the end in Boston. At any rate, it looks like he won’t have to deal with any discussion of making game broadcasts “more like a talk show” there, something that really generated a lot of discussion. But it’s unclear to what degree that will be happening in Boston either.
The “talk show” comments that have spurred came in a Tuesday article from Chad Finn of The Boston Globe on Neverett’s departure, and they weren’t a specific quote from anyone, but were attributed to multiple sources and cited as one possible change the station was considering. Finn’s exact wording was “There were industry rumors about possible changes all season long. One, which multiple sources have said was a genuine consideration, had WEEI dropping the concept of a conventional radio baseball broadcast to make the call of the game sound more like a talk show.”
That possibility seemed to receive further endorsement from a job posting for Neverett’s replacement in a Sportscasters Talent Agency of America email two days later, which included “The Boston Globe has reported about plans for major changes to this broadcast format. STAA knows these plans to be true. WEEI wants to drop the concept of a conventional radio baseball broadcast to make the call of the game sound more like a talk show.” However, WEEI program director Joe Zarbano took to Twitter to deny that, saying “We do not want the Red Sox broadcast to sound like a talk show and anyone reporting that is spreading misinformation.”
But it’s perhaps notable that a WEEI.com media piece from Alex Reimer, even titled “WEEI is not changing the format of Red Sox broadcasts,” seemed to endorse the idea of tweaking the broadcast in that direction. And amazingly, it cited the recent TV change of pushing Orsillo out in favor of O’Brien as an example of how well this can work, something many voters in our local announcer rankings certainly wouldn’t concur with. So even if they don’t officially “change the format,” there still could be major changes ahead:
To start, WEEI is not changing the format of Red Sox broadcasts. “It’s never been our intention to turn the broadcast into a talk show,” program director Joe Zarbano told WEEI.com on the phone Thursday.
…The discussion around this topic has been centered around extremes. “Albert in Rhode Island” is never going to call in after the 2-1 pitch and yell at Joe Castiglione about Deflategate. Nobody is suggesting that.
But there is room for more opinion. Maybe some discussion around whether Alex Cora should’ve pinch-hit in a specific spot, or if the team is approaching the trade deadline properly.
The best sports broadcasts, whether they’re on TV or radio, have a conversational feel. The game remains paramount, but there are engaging discussions about league- or team-related issues.
…The idea of opening up the broadcast to allow more conversation is not revolutionary. In fact, we don’t have to look far to see it accomplished at a high level. NESN’s crew, whether it’s Dave O’Brien working with Jerry Remy or Dennis Eckersley –– the dream team is all three of them calling games together, which we occasionally saw last season –– have entertaining exchanges with each other and give opinions about the action on the field.
And when Remy or Eckersley say something, O’Brien usually asks follow-up questions. His lifts his nose up from the media guide once in a while.
That’s one hell of a subjective opinion from Reimer on what makes the “best” broadcasts, and it’s one that many would probably disagree with. But it all depends how it’s done, of course; some more conversational and more opinionated broadcasts that dive into league or team issues do work well and do have their fans. (But so do many that focus on actually calling the game.)
In any case, it does sound like some changes are contemplated there. But we’ll have to wait and see who WEEI brings in and how close to a “talk show” their broadcast winds up becoming (even if they dispute that specific characterization). We do know that Neverett won’t have to deal with it, though. It’s perhaps appropriate that he’s wound up in LA filling in for Steiner, who still has the greatest “Follow me to freedom!” line reading in history.