The Media Column: NESN's Red Sox plans include Kevin Millar, Youkilis, Tony Mazz


NESN is adding three new voices to its Red Sox broadcast team this season. Former players Kevin Millar and Kevin Youkilis and longtime columnist and radio personality Tony Massarotti will join the booth for select games, according to a source.

Dennis Eckersley is still slated to call the majority of games alongside veteran play-by-play man Dave O’Brien.

Millar, who rallied Red Sox fans in those curse-breaking days with cries to “Cowboy Up,” returns to NESN with an extensive broadcasting resume. Since retiring from baseball in 2010, he’s worked as a studio and game analyst for Fox Sports, and hosted the irreverent “Intentional Talk” program on MLB Network. The former slugger briefly spent time at NESN immediately following his retirement as well.

The charismatic Millar is comfortable behind the mic and enjoys a well-honed schtick. He was one of Theo Epstein’s first free agent signings in 2003, coming to the Red Sox after they had blocked him from signing with a club in Japan — an unprecedented move. In many respects, Millar was the soul of the 2003-04 Red Sox, coming up with the “Idiots” moniker and presciently predicting the Red Sox would come back and knock off the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

“Don’t let us win today,” he famously told Dan Shaughnessy before Game 4.

One can expect Millar to regale viewers with plenty of stories from those heart-palpitating days when he visits the booth this season.

Youkilis, a relative broadcasting novice, joined NESN as a studio analyst last year. The three-time All-Star was the starting first baseman on the 2007 championship team and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2018.

He’s operated an award-winning brewery in retirement out of California, where he lives with his wife, Julie Brady.

As one of the original saints of the analytics movement — Billy Beane admirably referred to Youkilis as the “Greek God of Walks” due to his penchant for getting on base — it should be interesting to hear his perspective about the current direction of the game.

Massarotti is the most unconventional choice for the booth. He worked for years as a Red Sox beat reporter and columnist before becoming a full-time radio host in 2009.

NESN is making these additions to help fill the void of beloved analyst Jerry Remy, who passed away last October amidst his seventh battle with cancer. O’Brien has been calling Red Sox games for the last six seasons, primarily working with Remy and Eckersley.

Eckersley has become a fan favorite in recent years, known for his candor and cheeky “Eck-isms.” The Red Sox great was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year on the ballot.

MLB announced Tuesday it is canceling the first two series of the season due to the league’s ongoing labor impasse. But when the games begin, the Red Sox will aim to capitalize on the momentum they built last year during their surprise playoff run.

They’ll be doing it with a new-look booth stocked with familiar faces.

ESPN’s Aikman power play: ESPN just gave Troy Aikman his pay day, showering the Hall of Fame quarterback and longtime analyst with a five-year deal worth $90 million to call “Monday Night Football.” That means Aikman will earn more on an annual basis than Tony Romo, who recently signed a 10-year contract worth $180 million with CBS. It’s safe to say Romo’s nine-figure deal has changed the pay scale for top-tier NFL analysts, who are now getting compensated like active Pro Bowlers.

Aikman should provide ESPN with stability in its ever-changing Monday night booth, which has been in flux since Jon Gruden left to coach the Raiders in 2018. Now the question is, will Joe Buck join him? Aikman said this week he would love to keep working with his good friend and longtime partner.

Buck’s contract with Fox will expire at the end of next season. Pairing Buck and Aikman would be an incredible coup for ESPN, which pays the NFL $2.6 billion per year to broadcast MNF. The network now airs an annual wild-card playoff game, and will broadcast the Super Bowl in 2023 and 2026.

ESPN has also been linked to Al Michaels. The iconic announcer called MNF on ABC from 1986-2006. Amazon is also reportedly pursuing Michaels, 77, to spearhead its new Thursday night package.

One thing is for certain: it certainly pays to be a top NFL analyst on a legacy network. Though announcers don’t impact ratings, they determine cache. For egoistic network execs flush with cash, that’s often good enough.

Red Sox out-rate Celtics, again: The Celtics may command their share of social media buzz. But those viral online moments don’t translate to TV ratings. The C’s are averaging 2.37 rating on NBC Sports Boston this season, which is right around where they normally are. The Red Sox, for comparison’s sake, averaged a 4.23 household rating last season on NESN.

The Bruins averaged a 4.19 for the 2020-21 campaign.

Keep those numbers in mind next time somebody says the Red Sox are suffering from lack of interest. Their viewership totals aren’t close to where they were 15 years ago, but that doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant, either.

Send Jack and Brick on the road: NESN suffered an embarrassing moment last week when Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley were forced off air by a fire alarm in their Watertown studio during the Bruins’ matchup against the Seattle Kraken. John Henry can afford to send his broadcasters back on the road. With Covid restrictions easing, it’s long past time to do it.

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