(Who better to talk baseball than Tom “TC” Caron, the Red Sox Studio Host on New England Sports Network? NESN is the flagship network of the Boston Red Sox and broadcasts every one of the team’s 162 games to millions of viewers from Bangor, Maine to Providence, Rhode Island. In many ways, TC has become the face of the team as the primary host of the one-hour pre-game show and post-game wrap-up. Millions of Red Sox fans invite TC and his guest hosts (such as former Sox greats Dennis Eckersley and Jim Rice) into their living rooms most summer evenings. TC is a native of Lewiston, Maine, and has been working at NESN since 1996. DaRK PaRTY was caught up in the Red Sox recent 12 game winning streak when we touched base with TC.)
DaRK PaRTY: Being based in Boston where baseball has gone through a renaissance with the success of the Red Sox, I always assume that baseball has regained the crown as the most popular sport in the US. Is this true or is the game still struggling? Give DaRK PaRTY readers a prognosis on the state of baseball in 2006.
Tom Caron: What's been going on in Boston (a virtual explosion in popularity for the Red Sox) is not indicative of what's happening in the rest of the baseball world. As an industry, the game is in rough water. There are serious concerns about the integrity of the game -- steroids were just the beginning. Human growth hormone is very difficult to detect and is rumored to be prevalent in the game. The sport's crackdown on amphetamine use is just beginning.
There is also a real concern about the disparity between the "haves" and "have nots" in the game. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays entire roster makes less than (Red Sox outfielder) Manny Ramirez. There's no way a team can be competitive with a competitor paying 10 times as much in payroll.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires this off-season. Adjusting the current revenue sharing and "luxury tax" structure is a must. Currently, there is no incentive for small market teams to reinvest that money into the product. Those who have (Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati) have become competitive. Those who have not (Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh) have become also-rans.
DP: The steroids issue has been generating a lot of press – especially after Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth for second place on the homerun list. Has baseball handled the steroids issue well and what are your thoughts on Barry Bonds?
TC: Baseball was asleep at the wheel for far too long on the steriod issue, and is now trying to play catch-up. Trouble is, detection always lags behind use, so getting a late start in this matter has made a true crack-down nearly impossible. Books like Juiced (by Jose Canseco) and Game of Shadows (by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams) have turned up the heat on the issue; as a result, the game is essentially unified on taking performance-enhancing drugs out of the game.
The pressure is mounting on Barry Bonds. He is facing trouble on several fronts: his alleged steroid use; his well-documented extra-marital affairs; and his reported lack of financial disclosure with the IRS. He's become the ultimate embarrassment to the game: a superstar who is loathed everywhere but San Francisco. While it will never admit to it, MLB is hoping Bonds retires (or wilts under the pressure) before getting anywhere close to Hank Aaron's home-run record.
DP: Your job hosting the post and pre-game shows before and after every Red Sox game on NESN must make you one of the most recognized celebrities in New England. What’s it like to know that on any given night your face is on the television screen of every barroom from North Conway, New Hampshire to Fitchburg, Massachusetts?
TC: Timing is everything. The Red Sox have never been more popular, and it's a privilege to be in the host's chair at the height of this popularity. I'm also blessed to be able to work with analysts like Dennis Eckersley, Jim Rice, Gary DiSarcina and Dave McCarty
In television, the worst thing you can be is irrelevant. There's nothing in sports more relevant than the Red Sox during the summer. Like the T-shirt says, "Boston is a drinking town with a baseball problem." It's amazing how current and knowledgeable the team's fan base is. In one sense it makes our job easier, since we can safely assume our viewership is up-to-date on what's happening with the team. On the other hand, we must be cautious not to insult that collective baseball intelligence. Obviously, I keep close tabs on what's happening with the team, but I also keep tabs on many of the fan websites and blogs. It's important to keep tabs on the pulse of the Red Sox and Red Sox Nation.
DP: It’s all about content and most TV shows produce 20-25 shows in a given year. You are on the air 162 times a year doing live television – appearing nearly every single night between April to October. That kind of schedule must be grueling. How do you keep each show fresh and keep up your energy levels?
TC: You're catching me right after the All-Star break, so we're rejuvenated for the second half! Truth is, we've got a great crew behind the scenes -- producers who love the game and always try to push us in what we do. They rotate through the schedule to stay fresh and bring new ideas to the table. Other than that, it's simply by being a baseball fan. I do what hundreds of thousands of New Englanders do every night... I watch the Red Sox. I just do it every night, and I get to do it with baseball greats. The only difference is I put a tie (and a little make-up) on at the end of the game. I know most Sox fans would do most anything to get my job, so I never take it for granted.
DP: This is a three part question about the Red Sox. Who do you think is the best player on the current roster? What former Red Sox player currently on another team do you wish still played in Boston? And, finally, who is your favorite all-time player for the Red Sox?
TC: Best player -- I have to categorize here. David Ortiz is the best clutch hitter, Alex Gonzalez the best defensive player, and Curt Schilling the best pitcher. Having said all that, Jonathan Papelbon is probably the team's MVP at this point. Had he not been able to seamlessly take over the closer's role in the first week in the season, this team would be nowhere near first place right now.
Former Sox player -- Pedro Martinez. I didn't realize how much I missed watching Pedro perform until he returned to Fenway with the Mets last month. As good as he is on the mound (and, even though he is well past his peak, he's still damned good) it was the aura he brought with him to the game that made him special. He was (and is) a baseball artiste and was must-see TV every fifth day. As good as this team is, he added a flair that few players bring to the game.
All-time favorite -- I grew up watching the mid- to late-70's teams, and loved the counter-culture players that made the game so much fun. We just had Bill Lee in studio last week, and I loved watching him pitch. I still love hearing him talk (he lives in Craftsbury, VT, and has traveled to Cuba and China to spread the gospel of baseball.) As a pure player, Dwight Evans was my favorite. No one could gun down a player at the plate like Dewey, and few can do it to this day.
Labels: 5 Questions, baseball, Sports, Tom Caron