Smizik on TV: Team of talkers will fill Madden's chair
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The search for a successor to Mark Madden in the 3 to 7 p.m. time slot on 1250 ESPN continues with the station hoping to have replacements -- it will be more than one person -- on the job by the time the Steelers go to training camp.
Among those who have filled Madden's old time slot are ESPN full-time employees Jim Colony, Ken Laird and Chris Mack; Ed Bouchette and Colin Dunlap of the Post-Gazette; Stan Savran of FSN Pittsburgh; Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review; John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times; former Steeler Mike Logan; Penguins announcer Paul Steigerwald; Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; part-time 1250 ESPN employee Tab Douglas and New England radio personality Andy Gresh. Former Penguin Peter Taglianetti is scheduled later this week.
Of all the names, Gresh is the most significant. He is a native of the region and, as his work clearly showed, not a newcomer to the medium. Until recently, he did a talk show in Providence with former New England Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak. The show went under when the station changed its format. He also can be heard nationally on the weekend on ESPN Radio.
He's a guy with strong opinions and not afraid to voice them. He worked Monday with Mack and, for the first hour, Logan, and drew favorable reviews from listeners we heard from.
"He's a great talent," said 1250 ESPN general manager Mike Thompson. "He is somebody we'd look at."
Thompson made it clear that a team format would replace Madden.
"We're committed to a team concept, a bunch of people," Thompson said. "We want to develop a team within the show." He indicated the show would have two hosts with a third person, presumably a news reporter, also participating.
Other names being mentioned are Pittsburgh personalities working at other stations -- Savran, Ellis Cannon of WPGB (104.7) and Tim Benz of WXDX (105.9). Savran works part-time at 1250 ESPN and Cannon, part-time, and Benz, full-time, previously worked at the station.
"Stan already does some work for us. We love him. He's Mr. Wonderful. But because of his commitment to FSN [6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Savran on Sports Beat], he's probably out of the question.
"[Cannon] is a talented guy who is under contract to Clear Channel."
Asked if Cannon were not under contract, Thompson said, "We'd consider him."
Also noting that Benz works for Clear Channel, Thompson said, "I'm not sure he'd be the right fit."
Go ask the manager
Stats-obsessed Rocco DeMaro went after manager John Russell on his Pirates postgame show, "Extra Innings," Monday on WPGB. DeMaro was upset, as he has been in the past, over Russell batting Freddy Sanchez high in the batting order. Sanchez, who took a batting average of .229 and an on-base percentage of .259 into the game against the Cincinnati Reds last night, almost always bats first or second.
DeMaro has a point. But just because the numbers don't compute doesn't mean that Russell is all wrong. Sanchez has a history -- he was a lifetime .300 hitter coming into the season -- and the Pirates are third in the National League in runs. Something about the lineup must be right.
Because this is such a concern to DeMaro, here's an avenue he might wish to explore. Russell meets with the media about 3 hours and 15 minutes before every home game and answers all questions in a thoughtful manner. DeMaro should attend one of those sessions and ask Russell why he bats Sanchez so high. He'd get a plausible explanation or more fuel for his diatribes.
Sports talk isn't journalism, but sometimes going to the source -- getting out of the office, so to speak -- is a good idea.
On the same Monday show, a stats-obsessed caller ridiculed Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker for pinch-running for Adam Dunn because Dunn led the Reds in OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage). DeMaro agreed with the caller. Since when is it bad baseball to replace a monumentally slow runner when he represents the tying run in the eighth inning?
DeMaro runs an entertaining show, but baseball is not, as he often insists, strictly about numbers. It's also about people.
First Published July 3, 2008 12:00 am