Valentin gives viewers a player's perspective
Former Sox infielder John Valentin has added his voice and insight to baseball analysis, joining the Fox Sports New England crew for its postgame show after each Red Sox playoff game.
Valentin not only understands the intensity of playing in Boston, but said the lack of it was a major reason he retired after being released by Houston in spring training. "I could have caught on with a team like Tampa Bay, but I didn't want to be a bench player on a team that was going to lose 100 games," he said. "I took a shot at making the Astros because I wanted to play on a championship-caliber team."
When it didn't work out, Valentin figured, "It's time to get on with my life. I worked hard at being a player, but that chapter's closed."
A new one opened when he did an interview with CBS4's Bob Lobel. "I always had a good rapport with him in my 11 years with the Red Sox," said Valentin. "After the interview, he asked me if I'd be interested in coming on `Sports Final' to talk Red Sox and give a player's insight. After all, I'm familiar with the Sox locker room and played with a lot of the guys on the team."
Those appearances on Channel 4 led to others on NESN's and the Globe's "Sportsplus" and FSN's "New England Sports Tonight." The feedback has been encouraging enough to keep him coming back to Boston from his New Jersey home for more. On the postgame Red Sox shows, he's been candid and offered another perspective.
"Being with the media makes me realize how little they know about the inside workings of the game," said Valentin, a general reference to his TV experiences and not specifically aimed at the "New England Sports Tonight" postgame crew of Gary Tanguay, Greg Dickerson, and Michael Felger. "I think I've helped them understand it. And I've learned a ton about TV from them, how to perform, and how to get your message across."
After Wednesday's Game 2, he noted that the Yankees made adjustments, in facing Pedro Martinez, while the Sox didn't, maintaining their aggressive batting style against New York starter Jon Lieber. "On the road, you have to hit up the middle and go the other way," said Valentin. "When the Sox play at home, they can take the plate away from the pitcher and hit fly balls off the wall. They'll be a different team back in Fenway. Lieber was beatable, but they didn't do it. They took swings they shouldn't have when they had him down, 1-0 or 2-0."
On Derek Lowe starting a possible Game 5: "He'll answer the bell. I don't think there's anything wrong with him. And I think he'll pitch well."
On the bullpen being used heavily: "It's the end of the season and what you play for. They have to be OK. If anyone says he's tired, there's something wrong with him."
The TV work in Boston has "helped me get a foot in the door for a possible media career," said Valentin. "After playing in the most intense baseball atmosphere in New England, I didn't want to sit on the bench and watch."
Catch in fine print
Most people don't have the visual acuity to read the fine print on the back of a playoff baseball ticket. But, if you're one of the lucky ones who, a) has a ticket and b) Ted Williams-esque 20-15 eyesight, you'll see a line that says, "This ticket may not be used for advertising, promotion [including contests and sweepstakes], or other trade or commercial purposes without the expressed written consent of the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball." That disclaimer brings us to "Dakota," once and still of Braintree, but now morning host at WWZN (1510 AM). When Dakota decided to hold a mini-lottery for two tickets he had for tonight's Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park, the telephones lit up. And stayed lit until 9:30 Wednesday morning, when the Sox called.
Sometime before that, someone had left a voice message for Chuck Steedman, senior director of broadcast services for the Red Sox, telling him what WWZN was doing. Steedman immediately called 1510 general manager Mike Winn with a heads-up to the effect of: "You can't do that without MLB's permission."
"We wanted to be nice and give the guys at The Zone the benefit of the doubt," said Steedman. "We called as a favor to people we like in the market. The message is, `Either talk to MLB or stop the promotion.'
"It wouldn't have mattered if it were WEEI [the Sox broadcast partner] or any other station," said Steedman. "The Commissioner's Office runs postseason rights. During the season, 'EEI can give away tickets. Part of our contract with them is they have the right to purchase tickets and use them promotionally. But if they want to do it in the playoffs, they have to talk with MLB."
Meanwhile, Dakota, formerly a regular caller to WEEI, figures it was someone at that station who caused the message to be left for Steedman as a scare tactic.
It made for great "Big Biz comes down on the Little Guy radio," but it's also hard to scare a guy with nothing to lose.
Thus, Dakota persevered yesterday, without further repercussions, and maintained that the two seats for Game 3 would go to his lottery winner during today's 7-10 a.m. broadcast. "I wanted to do a little personal survey to see how many people are listening," he said. "I found out that there are a lot of people tuned in. And you can't buy publicity like having organized baseball come down on you."
Ratings not debatable
Red Sox ratings continue strong. Wednesday's Game 2, despite being up against the presidential debate, did a 37.9 rating (53 share) in Boston, a slightly bigger audience than the 37.0 for Tuesday's Game 1. The combined debate rating for Channels 4, 5, and 7 (9-10:30 p.m.) was a 19.5 (26 share). In the 55 metered markets, the game did an 11.0 rating, down 15 percent from last year's 12.9 rating . . . WEEI is scheduled to go live overnight following this weekend's Games 3, 4, and 5 . . . Fox's "Diamond Cams" returned for Game 2 after being covered with dirt by the Yankees' Jorge Posada in Game 1. The Yankees didn't permit them in the Division Series, but had agreed to let Fox install them for the LCS . . . NESN is doing a one-hour pregame show before each of the weekend games and will set up on Yawkey Way, weather permitting. NESN and NECN also plan to go live to postgame after Fox's live broadcasts. FSN will continue Sox postgame shows and adds Celtics-New Jersey at 7:30 into tomorrow night's mix . . . College Sports TV (CSTV) joined