Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Sports Hub, the Globe and Pedro

It's not costing the Phillies much to find out if Pedro still has some magic in that right arm. Photo from this site.

Interesting post last week on Boston Radio Watch (found via Bruce Allen’s site) about why “The Sports Hub,” the all-sports station CBS Radio will soon launch at 98.5 on the FM dial, has a pretty good shot at putting a dent into WEEI’s dominance. But even with the synergistic opportunities and healthy signal that ESPN and Sporting News Radio never had, CBS still has quite a long road ahead of it, if the news out of New York last week is any indication.
Despite a critically panned morning show and upheaval within the afternoon show, WFAN remained the unquestioned king of New York sports radio during the spring ratings period. The Boomer Esiason/Craig Carton morning show lifted WFAN to its first-ever win in that time period among men ages 25-54. WFAN finished with a 6.5 share, trouncing the 1.8 recorded by ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show.

Mike and the Mad Dog had an ugly divorce last summer, but Mike Francesa—the less tolerable half of the duo—lifted WFAN to another easy win from 3-7 p.m., when it drew 7.2 percent of the 25-54 demo, compared to just 2.1 for ESPN, whose afternoon show is anchored by Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay.

It should be noted that ESPN has signal issues in New York, where it is hoping a new antennae in northern New Jersey will provide a boost to the station. But still: If WFAN can improve its morning drive numbers after losing Don Imus and maintain its afternoon dominance with Francesa flying solo, well, it stands to reason CBS has quite a challenge in dethroning a relatively stable WEEI, where the morning duo of Dennis and Callahan used to beat Howard Stern in the ratings.

Some other bits and bytes on which to chew:

The Boston Globe is not closing its doors after the Newspaper Guild agreed to a new contract with the New York Times Company. Among the concessions: A pay cut of nearly six percent (down from the 23 percent cut that was unilaterally implemented when negotiations stalled last month), along with furloughs, a freezing of pensions and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees.

It sure will be interesting, and probably not in a good way, to see how many of the sports staffers who once had those guarantees will no longer be with the paper 12 months from now. Or six months from now.

It is believed that the new contract will make it easier for the Times to unload the Globe, and the Herald reports that three Bostonians—Stephen Pagliuca, Jack Connors and Stephen Taylor, the latter of whose family once owned the Globe—have expressed interest in buying the broadsheet, but my guess is that it comes down to Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman, with John Henry still lurking as the best possible solution.

—As you no doubt know by now, Pedro Martinez signed with the Phillies last week and could begin a minor league tour as early as this weekend. Martinez is no longer the once-in-a-generation talent he was during his peak in Boston, but I’m willing to bet he comes up with a few gems down the stretch for the Phillies. Remaining unsigned into mid-July should provide plenty of motivational fuel for the famously prideful Martinez, as should the fact the Mets—who have employed roughly 76 starting pitchers this year—never expressed interest in bringing him back.

If Martinez starts every five or six days beginning Sunday, he lines up to pitch in both of the Phillies’ remaining series against the fast-fading Mets (Aug. 21-24 and Sept. 11-13). That’s juicy, but not nearly as delicious as the subplot that could be on the menu come October. Imagine if the defending world champion Phillies return to the World Series and face the Red Sox. Mmmm mmmm.

Email Jerry at jbeach73@gmail.com.

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