FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
Asking and answering media questions from the couch:
### How did new Fox MLB studio analyst Pete Rose fare in his debut this week?
There’s something odd about a network rights-holder hiring someone who has been banned by his sport. But Fox made an enlightened move by adding Rose, who’s not only a neon name but someone with the chops to become MLB’s best studio analyst.
Rose, 74, was glib, prepared, candid and generally impressive in his Fox Sports 1 debut this week. (He will also appear occasionally on Fox, including during the postseason.)
The all-time hits leader’s greatest asset as a broadcaster is that he tells you exactly what he thinks, without any filter or artificial softening of criticism. Rose has that Jeff Van Gundy quality of saying whatever comes to mind.
Some of his initial observations: He said Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton probably won’t get back to what he was because he “has no bat speed” and noted Jim Palmer told him that Orioles slugger Chris Davis can hit only a low fastball.
He couldn’t understand celebrating Alex Rodriguez moving up to No. 4 on the home run list (“Nice going, you hit a lot of home runs, but you’re No. 4!”); mentioned that he recently called Pirates star Andrew McCutchen (who he says is the National League’s best player) to give him advice; said players-only meetings are worthless because the manager starts wondering if he did anything wrong; and said “no one will beat my record when I’m alive. And when I’m dead, I don’t give a damn.”
New commissioner Rob Manfred has said he will consider Rose's bid for reinstatement. He did not object to Fox hiring him.
"As a courtesy, Fox informed us that they were interviewing Pete Rose for an on-air studio position," MLB said in a statement. "The decision to hire on-air talent for its telecasts rests solely with Fox."
Since the ban began, Rose has not been allowed in areas of ballparks not open to fans, except with special approval from the commissioner's office. Approval has been granted for ceremonies, such as a Reds' 2013 celebration honoring their 1975 and '76 championship teams.
Because Rose is working in studio, that won't be an issue, but it's a hurdle Fox might need to cross during the World Series, when its studio show originates from the stadium.
### Why did Hank Goldberg return to local radio last week with a new weekday 3 to 6 p.m. talk show on WMEN-640?
Goldberg is friends with Dean Goodman, the station’s new owner, and when Goldberg called to wish him well, “We started talking. I said I would be interested in doing more.” They initially discussed a 10 a.m. to noon slot, but Goodman said it would be better for both parties if he worked afternoons.
Goldberg, 74, said “when ESPN didn’t renew my deal on horse racing this year, I was looking for more to do” beyond working as a handicapper for Vegas Insider and hosting a Saturday morning show from Gulfstream on WMEN.
“I want to stay active,” he said. “I didn’t want to retire altogether. The idea of doing a fulltime thing appealed to me because I still feel good and keep up with everything.”
Goldberg had a daily presence on local radio for more than 30 years before leaving WQAM-560 at the end of 2007 when his contract expired.
“I’m a little more mellow than I used to be,” he said. “I’m a little more patient. The biggest difference now is the amount of competition. There are four talk show on during my slot” – The Ticket’s and ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard, WQAM’s Marc Hochman, The Finsiders on WINZ-940 and now Goldberg.
(Le Batard’s show, incidentally, will be simulcast on TV network Fusion beginning Tuesday.)
Goldberg said some friends have encouraged him to talk about old times but he wants to stay current. Joe Ranieri, who had been handling the 3-6 p.m. slot, has moved to noon-3 p.m., following morning host Sid Rosenberg and Dan Patrick’s syndicated show.
WMEN-640, which was sold at an auction earlier this spring, now has recognizable names in both morning and afternoon drive, in Rosenberg and Goldberg.
### Considering the local interest in LeBron James, how are Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff ratings in South Florida?
Quite good. Among 56 metered markets, Miami-Fort Lauderdale ranked sixth (with a 7.6 rating) for Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Bulls series on ABC. At one point during the game last Sunday, 10 percent of all South Florida homes with TV sets were watching.
South Florida ranked eighth (with a 5.5) for Game 3 on ESPN. By the way, Heat games on Sun Sports averaged a 5.0 this past season, which ranked in the top four for NBA markets.
By the way, TNT will have this year's Eastern Conference Finals, with games every other day starting next Wednesday.
### What makes sense as the potential next stop for Bill Simmons, whose ESPN contract is not being renewed?
Fox Sports (which values edginess) and Turner (which could offer a TNT or NBA TV role and a column on Bleacher Report) would be logical options for Simmons, who will have no shortage of suitors.
Simmons made an indelible imprint at ESPN with his podcasts, column and on-air appearances, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series (which he co-founded) and his work as founding editor of Grantland, the sports/pop culture web site that has earned critical praise but reportedly hasn’t turned a profit.
But Simmons was quite polarizing as an NBA Countdown analyst before relinquishing that gig last summer. And he angered ESPN management with rants against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, one of which led to a three-week suspension last fall.
ESPN President John Skipper said it was his call not to renew Simmons, who reportedly earned $5 million annually, and that the decision was not financially motivated.
“It’s about what he wants to do, what value that creates, what we want to do together and deciding whether there was going to be a match. We decided ultimately there wouldn’t be,” Skipper told several publications, including The New York Times, at a presentation to advertisers in New York this week.
For all his popularity (3.7 million Twitter followers), Simmons’ departure likely won’t make any real dent in ESPN’s audience. The network said the Grantland site, which specializes in long-form features and analysis, will continue without him.
“Sometimes you feel like you outgrow ESPN or that ESPN is the star and you're just part of that,” ESPN alum Dan Patrick said on his radio show.
“I saw sort of the cracks in Bill Simmons I saw with Keith Olbermann, that you get to a point where you just say, ‘I'm tired of this. I don’t like this. I've got to do something else. I've got to get out of here.’”
Simmons hasn't commented on his departure, and ESPN has declined to say if he will appear again on the network before his contract expires in September. [Friday update: ESPN confirms Simmons will not be making any more appearances for the network.]
### Chris Berman will appear at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of the Broward County Speaker Series. (Tickets are available, priced from $35 to $65.) So how long does he want to continue an ESPN career that began in 1979, a month after the network launched?
“I wouldn't subject America to that long,” Berman cracked when I asked him if he might go another decade or two. “I turned 60 [on Sunday]. I have two more years to go on my contract. That means Tommy Jackson and I will have been together 30 years [on NFL studio shows.] This is our 29th. Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were 31 years. That would be kind of cool.
“I think we’re pretty good at it and we still like it a lot. If I went to 65, which is five more years, that would be 40 years at ESPN. I wouldn’t bet on anything beyond that. I’m not worried about it. I’ve been employed longer than I should be.
“Bob Ley and I started in the fall of 1979, when ESPN began. If I go to 65, that will be spring of 2020. That is a six-decade man.”
### Who won recent Sports Emmys and who should have won?
Ernie Johnson (studio host on TNT’s NBA), Mike Emrick (play-by-play on NBC’s NHL), Cris Collinsworth (game analyst on NBC’s NFL) and Ken Rosenthal (reporter on Fox baseball) were recognized in the marquee talent categories.
For those who missed it, the classy Johnson gave his Emmy to the daughters of deceased ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, who also was nominated in the studio host category. Scott died in January, at 49, after battling cancer.
Can’t argue with Johnson, Rosenthal, Collinsworth or Emrick (though Al Michaels could justifiably win every year for play-by-play).
Reynolds is better in studio than on games but was fortunate to win against Charles Barkley, who separates himself from the field with his ability to make an audience laugh. The other studio analyst nominees, besides Reynolds and Barkley: MLB Network’s Tom Verducci and Pac-12 Network’s Rick Neuheisel.
### Notable: A documentary on former NBA star Allen Iverson airs at 9 p.m. Saturday on Showtime…. TNT announced multiyear extensions for Johnson, Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal…. Among topics for ESPN’s new batch of “30 for 30” films: the Bills’ Super Bowl run of the early '90s, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, golfer John Daly, Baltimore’s legendary Dunbar High School, the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield rivalry and the Sacramento Kings.
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