Longtime sports talk radio personality Craig Carton could be returning to the mornings. But not in a way anyone likely would’ve guessed.
According to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, Carton is talking to MLB Network about possibly hosting a morning show. If an agreement is reached, Carton’s program would begin at 7 or 8 a.m. ET. So fans of MLB Central wouldn’t need to worry about Carton booting MLB Network’s late-morning show from its lineup.
[UPDATE: Marchand reported on Twitter that Carton’s show would be one hour long. So there would presumably be a replay directly afterward or something else to fill the one to two hours before MLB Central on the schedule.]
Carton probably isn’t the first person you might think of for hosting a show on MLB Network. Sure, Christopher Russo hosts High Heat on the channel, but he brought a lifelong baseball fandom — notably for the San Francisco Giants — to the show. If MLB Network hires Carton, it would be buying into him as a personality, one with a track record of drawing morning audiences for his opinions, more than any deep love for baseball.
Yet that’s presumably exactly why MLB Network would give Carton a show. Morning sports TV is a rather crowded space these days with ESPN’s Get Up, ESPNews’s simulcast of Keyshawn, JWill, and Zubin, NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, FS1’s First Things First, NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, and CBS Sports Network’s simulcast of Carton’s former radio show, now Boomer & Gio. Not to mention local news, along with network and cable morning shows.
With no disrespect meant to any current MLB Network personalities, how many of them would be a draw in the early morning against that kind of competition as people are starting their days and getting ready for work? Viewers probably tune in for highlights, analysis, and features during the previous night with MLB Tonight or Quick Pitch. That’s also available later in the morning with MLB Central.
A strong voice is needed to cut through the other morning show noise. And though Carton might not offer the most insightful — or even correct — take on the previous night’s baseball action, he will likely say something that gets your attention and compels you to agree or disagree. That could generate some buzz among listeners and on social media, something that MLB Network isn’t getting early in the morning.
And it’s not like Carton doesn’t talk about baseball on his radio show. New York is a baseball town with the Yankees and Mets. You can’t do sports radio in that market without covering those teams, especially during the spring and summer. That’s what the audience is following.
For Carton, the MLB Network show would be a return to morning programming after topping New York radio ratings for years on WFAN with co-host Boomer Esiason. Carton’s morning radio reign ended three years ago when he was arrested by federal authorities on investment fraud charges. WFAN subsequently suspended Carton and the host soon resigned. Carton was eventually convicted and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He also has to repay nearly $5 million to those he defrauded.
Carton’s time in prison and his early release was chronicled in the HBO documentary, Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth. The doc also recapped Carton’s radio career and detailed the gambling addiction that fueled his downward spiral. Soon after leaving prison, Carton was re-hired by WFAN to host an afternoon show with Evan Roberts and also hosts a weekend show on gambling addiction for the station.
One note that Marchand raises: MLB Network recently dismissed 17 employees, and previously let Chris Rose and Eric Byrnes go. How would hiring Carton be received under those circumstances? Apparently, we’ll soon find out what kind of fit Carton is at the network.