We’ve looked ahead to the ESPN documentary on the Pete Carroll Era at USC, and looked back on Jessica Mendoza’s run with the ESPN MLB job.
Presently, this is what’s worth submitting to the Internet machine before we focus on the Dodgers’ run in the playoffs:
== What can set KFWB-AM (980), aka “The Beast,” apart from other sports stations in Southern California?
That’s Tom Lee’s task.
The ratings for the iconic spot on the L.A. radio dial haven’t really shown much movement up in its first full year of format change, driven by CBS Sports Radio’s need to finally bestow a Southern California beach head for Jim Rome’s 9 a.m. to noon national radio show.
Rome is safe. What’s built around him here keeps shifting like it’s on an earthquake fault. To no one’s fault.
The announcement that L.A. Times sports columnist BIll Plaschke has joined the 6-to-9 a.m. with Jeanie Zelasko is the latest wake-up call by program director Lee as he continues to put his shovel into the ground for a weekday lineup heading into the NBA season that will be very Clipper-heavy for the team’s flagship station.
“I’m looking at every possible way to make the station better,” said Lee, who came on as the PD after the original man in the position, Owen Murphy, built the first lineup prior to the Sept. 2014 launch. Murphy eventually returned to his family in Seattle last February to work as a radio consultant.
“What I ask myself every day: What’s the advantage for the L.A. sports fan? If we ask ourselves that question every time a decision is made, then we’re going to get better.”
The Plaschke hiring was necessitated to replace Marques Johnson, the former UCLA and NBA star who jumped at the chance to become the TV analyst for the Milwaukee Bucks. Johnson felt the commitment to the TV job meant he had to leave the station, but his name value was really all that carried him through during his time in that radio chair. His ties to the Clippers made him a recognizable figure. He added little otherwise. Perhaps team broadcaster Ralph Lawler‘s regular contributions may be all that’s needed in the grand scheme.
In this era of media branding, Plaschke becomes along as a potential beast of an asset for 980 as the only regular local newspaper columnist taking on a radio role. (The last? You can follow T.J. Simers reports on his wrongful termination case against the Times as it continues to play out in downtown L.A. courts. Other websites are also hopping on board with analysis.) Along with his duties on ESPN’s continually unwatchable “Around The Horn,” Plaschke only hopes to work some sleep time into his new 24/7 schedule.
Actually, the first of Lee’s first revamping jobs was to thankfully drive out the George Wrigster and Brett Winterble team in the 4-to-7 p.m. afternoon drive shift, still known as “The Drive.”
“I loved both of them, and they’re two really good people, but it wasn’t quite where we needed to be,” said Lee, who was the former PD at ESPN Sports in Dallas, WIP in Philadelphia, KJR in Seattle and Fox Sports Radio.
“Having been in this business for as long as I have, it’s a decision you make from your gut, from experience, and from ratings. They worked really hard and helped launch the station, but it’s time to raise the bar.”
Lee has been trying out mix-and-match combinations of Wes Clements, Dave Denholm, Dave Smith, Brian Webber and others, to some degrees of success, until he decides on what could work. All are viable candidates.
But all that may be simply to see who fills the noon-to-3 p.m. slot. Fred Roggin, the KNBC-Channel 4 sportscaster who has been on that shift, is in discussions of being moved to drive-time and have his show emanate from the Channel 4 Universal Studios offices.
A strong lead-in will be needed once the Clippers regular season begins later this month. Sam Farber, Isaac Lowenkron and Brian Siemen will handle the Clippers pre- and post-game shows.
As this market has shown, the interest in the Clippers has a strange attachment to how the Lakers’ float. Without the Lakers driving viewers, the Clippers often stay stagnant or even submerge more. No matter what 980 does, it, in some strange ways, has to hope rival ESPN-AM (710) does well with its Lakers ratings.
“I’m excited about the potential now with what we have in place,” said Lee. “I know potential doesn’t mean we have it done yet, but with the options that L.A. sports listeners have, we’re building a station for the real L.A. sports fan. It’s a process that’s done with a lot of evaluation and internal discussion and brain storming and it feels like we’re on the brink of really doing something good. I love the energy in the building.”
== OK, one more New York Times story that posted today about Mendoza.
== On the MLB postseason:
For the Dodgers-Mets NLDS, TBS will have Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, Cal Ripken Jr. and Sam Ryan on each game starting Friday at 6:30 p.m.
On the Cardinals-Cubs series, TBS sends out Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Simpson and Matt Winer starting with Friday’s Game 1 at 3:30 p.m.
When the two American League Division Series begin tonight, Fox Sports 1 has Kenny Albert, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci doing the Texas-Toronto series, with Game 1 at 12:30 p.m., followed by FS1’s Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, A.J. Pierzynski and Jon Paul Morosi doing the Houston-Kansas City series, with Game 1 at 4:30 p.m.
The MLB Network jumps in for two games: It sends Bob Costas and Jim Kaat to call Game 2 of the Rangers-Blue Jays series on Friday (9:45 a.m.) and for Game 3 of the Astros-Royals series on Sunday (1 p.m.), it will stick with the Vasgersian-Smoltz-Morosi crew.