Later this month, Jerry Remy will head to Fort Myers, Fla., to begin his 22nd season analyzing Red Sox games on NESN. Since that rookie broadcasting season in 1988, he has become as popular as any player on the field. He was elected president of Red Sox Nation, created a popular fan website, and will soon open Jerry Remyís Sports Bar & Grille around the corner from Fenway.
I spoke with Remy about heading to spring training, this yearís team, and walking the fine line between baseball analyst and television entertainer.
TC: When was the last time you didnít go to spring training to get the season started?
Remy: Just the one year after I retired. I didnít go down the following season, so itís been every year but that one since I was probably 19 years old coming out of high school. It is strange. I donít know what Iíd do if it came to be March and I didnít go somewhere warm for baseball.
TC: Seems like the Sox are hoping their pitching depth will be the key to this season.
Remy: Theyíve been doing that for the last couple of years. They did it with [Bartolo] Colon last year, and hopefully they get more out of both [Brad] Penny and John Smoltz than they did out of Colon. I think they probably will. They do have some depth, but they really wanted [Mark] Teixeira. He was a guy that they could plug in the middle of that lineup for the next six, seven years, and you could tell at the end of last year that the lineup was not the same without [Manny] Ramirez in it, and it was pretty obvious in the playoffs. I think thatís something they really wanted to do, and I think they were stunned that they didnít get it done.
TC: Mannyís still out there. Are you surprised?
Remy: Yes and no. Iím not surprised because I couldnít see a team making a commitment of four or five years to him because of his history. I thought maybe a two-year deal like the Dodgers offered wouldíve made sense because youíd only have to deal with him for two years. I just saw him having a tough time getting a long-term deal because of his history and the bad ending here in Boston. It is strange to be here just a few weeks from spring training and have this guy not with any team at all. Heís still one of the best hitters in baseball.
TC: He wonít come back here, but would you bring him back if you could?
Remy: Iíd love to see him back. From a personal point of view, you never knew what to expect from him every day. Now, I donít have to manage his team or be one of his teammates, but from our vantage point it would be great.
TC: Jason Varitek finally re-signed with the Sox. How tough will it be for the player, the team, and the fans to put this weird off-season behind them and once again accept him as the guy who has been behind the plate for 11 years?
Remy: I donít think itíll be that tough at all. I think once heís back behind the plate itíll all be forgotten very quickly. A lot depends on what he does, how he plays. I certainly expect him to play better than he did a year ago. Iím not one to say heís done. I think itís been a long, drawn-out thing, and there have been a lot of mistakes made by a lot of people in this. Unfortunately, you donít want the guy embarrassed, but on the other hand he had a chance to go to arbitration and make that kind of money, but he didnít, and now heís paying the price. But I think once heís back there playing the games, itís all forgotten and theyíll be happy to have the captain back.
TC: They had Jerry Remy Day at Fenway last season, and teams donít usually do that until a guy is ready to retire. Youíre not leaving us, are you?
Remy: No, no, no [laughs]. Not unless somebody else wants me to. I think Iím going to be around here for quite a long time. Iíve said many times that when this gig is finally up, I will miss this more than playing, and Iím serious about that, because of the connection weíve been able to develop with the fans. Itís been a great job where Iím in the game of baseball yet I donít have the pressure of being a coach or a manager. This will be my 22nd season. Sometimes you sit down at the end of the season and wonder, ďHow many more of these do I want to do,Ē but I havenít gotten to that point yet.
TC: I canít think of another team where fans watch the games each night like itís a soap opera. Fans follow the story lines on the field, the story lines in the booth. They tune in for the energy and the entertainment these games bring every night.
Remy: Weíre lucky we are where we are. These fans love baseball, and what we try to do as a group is entertain and educate. The most important thing for an analyst is to try to explain the game the best I possibly can, to try to predict things, but not all games are good. Sometimes you have to try to entertain a little bit. Iíve always considered it a soap opera. There are people who turn the game on for the first game of spring training and watch every single game all season long. Youíre like part of their family. I hear it all the time out on the street. ďOh, you guys make me laugh.Ē Thatís a nice feeling that youíre welcome in their homes ó most homes, I guess, not all homes ó and they enjoy what you do.
TC: Some people get critical about the entertainment part of the broadcast, but I know you work at not losing sight of whatís happening in the game itself.
Remy: No, and I shouldnít, but we get carried away sometimes. Itís hard because there are a lot of lousy games. There really are. And it seems like a snowball. Something starts, and it takes off, and it goes in a direction you donít want it to go and you donít know why. But first and foremost is the game, because youíve got to refocus, because it could be a 10-0 game and youíre in this clowning-around mood and all of a sudden you get eight runs and youíre in a game again.
OT contributor Tom Caron is the studio host of Boston Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network.
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