Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley just wrapped up his first stint as postseason studio analyst for TBS, having provided analysis for all 21 playoff games televised by the network this month. The studio analyst for Red Sox games will be back on NESN next season, but not before a hard-earned break during this off-season.
As he wrapped up his postseason duties, he stopped by to chat about the Red Soxí ALCS loss to the Rays, how David Ortiz brought a team and its fans back from the brink, and what he wouldíve said before technical difficulties cut off the networkís pregame show prematurely before Game 6.
TC: When the Sox were down 3-1 in the series and trailing 7-0 in Game 5, people were saying this team needed wholesale changes. Instead, they lose in seven games after that dramatic comeback in Game 5. Do fans feel better about this team now than they would have had it ended at Fenway?
Eckersley: No doubt about it. They came so close. If they had lost [Game 5] 7-0, it wouldíve been devastating. Who knows what wouldíve been said. But they won two of those last three games, and it changes everything. Itís not so desperate. I think you almost felt like, ďWeíve got to blow this team up.Ē Now, because you won three games and went to Game 7, thatís not the feeling. At least thatís how I sense it.
TC: You were sitting up there on the right-field roof during Game 5. How dead was it before the Ortiz homer?
Eckersley: Iíve never seen anything like it, from the first inning on. It was time to go home. Literally. I mean, this was it. Elimination. It had happened three days in a row, you remember. They were taken out of the game three days in a row. So they were just flat.
TC: For 2 games, it was homer after homer after homer from these young guys. How surprised were you by the Raysí offense?
Eckersley: Thatís what the stunning part was. Itís one thing to get a rally going, get a guy on and get a base hit, but the way they did it was like, Boom! Boom! Oh my God. And thereís something about giving up home runs that makes you feel like youíre losing worse than youíre really losing. People are saying, ďOh, my God. Weíre getting killed.Ē But itís only 2-0, calm down, but it felt like 10-0 when the first home run left the ballpark.
TC: Would you like to tell everyone in New England what you were going to say in the final segment of Saturday nightís TBS pregame show? We were busy watching ďThe Steve Harvey Show.Ē
Eckersley: [laughs] You didnít miss anything. I was going to say the Sox would win the game, 4-2, and take it to Game 7 [laughs].
TC: What was the national experience like for you? It mustíve been nice to finally work with a professional studio host like Ernie Johnson.
Eckersley: [laughs] Iíll tell you what, it was a great experience. You get so used to doing something a certain way and you have no idea how they do it somewhere else. And it works both ways, you appreciate where youíve been because sometimes it takes you going somewhere else to know how good youíve had it. Thatís part of it. The other thing thatís been good here is itís sort of free-wheeling. I donít know if itís good or bad, but itís relaxing.
TC: You said something on air about going to Tampa Bay and sitting in the sun, and people down there took it as an insult. I guess youíve got to watch what you say on the bigger stage, right?
Eckersley: Yeah, that didnít go over very big. I was just kidding, my God! I guess I can understand how they would take it. I wasnít saying anything about Tampa, or even that ballpark ó but you can dump on that ballpark anytime you want. All I was saying is that I like to sit in the sun and Tampaís a great place to sit in the sun. Itís not the only thing you can do here, but I guess it sounded like I was saying that.
TC: You were on air with TBS for three weeks, and there seemed to be this whole ďdiscovering EckĒ thing going on with baseball fans. We know who you are, and what you mean when you say iron [money] or gas [velocity on a fastball] or cheese [a fastball], but not everyone does. Has it been interesting on your end to watch people talk about you? Or is that something you could do without?
Eckersley: I donít know. Either way, I guess. I didnít know that this was going to happen. When itís me and you, I just say what I say and people get used to it. I guess when people hear me talk for the first time theyíre like, ďWhat? What did he say?Ē And I forget that they donít understand what Iím saying. I didnít really think anything of it. They got a kick out of it on the show, but Iíve been talking like this my whole life.
TC: Itís who you are.
Eckersley: Yeah, right. SoÖwhatever. I have no control over it.
TC: You guys had some light moments in the studio, and you seemed to be the guy they would have the most fun with. Were there times when you were worried about what was coming next?
Eckersley: Definitely. Itís so relaxing, that sometimes I donít know where weíre going. Iíd say, ďI think weíre going too far here, I think we need to get back to baseball.Ē
TC: This month marks the 20th anniversary of Kirk Gibsonís dramatic home run off you in the World Series. TBS has shown that clip more times in 17 days than weíve shown it in five years with you.
Eckersley: Absolutely. Thatís not nice.
TC: Iím guessing you couldíve done without that.
Eckersley: Right. And I canít say anything, because Iím just happy to be there [laughs].
TC: Even though the Red Sox didnít make it all the way, it was a long haul. Are you ready for a break?
Eckersley: A big break [laughs]. This has been overload. Iíve watched more baseball in three weeks than ever in my life. Itís been a great experience, but I am burnt to the core.
TC: When you come back to NESN in the spring, are we going to have to treat you differently now that youíre a big national star? Are we going to need to get a bowl of M&Mís for you that are all one color?
Eckersley: [laughs] Oh, yeah. The roomís not going to be big enough for me when I come back. I need my own show.
TC: You and Steve Harvey, both.
Eckersley: [laughs] Exactly right. Next time they can roll ďThe Eck Show.Ē
OT contributor Tom Caron is the studio host of Boston Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network.
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