Lester, Welker & the talk-show host

One year after former Patriots receiver Wes Welker departed for Denver in free agency, the similarities between his situation and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester stand out to me.

I was reminded of this after watching an enjoyable segment on Comcast SportsNet’s “New England Sports Tonight” on July 10, with co-hosts Bob Neumeier and Michael Felger interviewing Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.

The trio discussed how the Red Sox opened contract talks with Lester with a “low-ball” offer of four years and $70 million, which was acknowledged by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino (via Shaughnessy in the Globe) as a starting point to get talks sparked.

But all the offer did was lead Lester and his agents to close ranks, apparently uninterested in any talks.

This led Felger to say the following on the program:

“And do you blame them? Do you ever sell a house, or buy a house, you’re negotiating and someone comes in so high, or so low, you basically say ‘You know what, I’m not even countering, see you later, I don’t want to hear from you again because I’m not going to waste my time with you.’ So when that individual does get serious at the end of the day, you still look at him cross-eyed …”

That real-estate analogy was actually how I described the Patriots-Welker situation in a fiery rebuttal call to Felger’s entertaining and popular radio show last year when he was critical of Welker coverage (Felger thought it was “team-friendly”, while I felt it was as close to an accurate account as possible based on sources from both sides). Only the situation was reversed – Welker’s agents had started talks with numbers so high (3 years, $51 million) it initially put the Patriots into a similar spot Lester currently finds himself, and by the time things got serious and there were some signs of optimism, the sides could not hammer out a deal.

We can always debate if both sides could have worked harder for a different outcome, and now we’ll see where it all leads with Lester and the Red Sox.

With that, my biggest takeaway is that when it comes to contract negotiations, the only place you can’t lose is if you’re in the seat of the provocative talk-show host. From there, you can pick and choose which side to take depending on how you feel that day.

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8 comments on “Lester, Welker & the talk-show host
  1. Great piece Mike! Ahem Reiss, not Felger.

  2. Michael Larrivee says:

    I used to listen to sports radio and I had to stop. Some, well, most of the opinions expressed were so far off of reality that it was no longer something I would consider sports talk. It is unlistenable now across the board. I often wonder how well a show would do if it were no longer about the hot sports take and was just honest sports talk.

  3. Jim says:

    Keep up the good work Mike. Many of us (most I hope) still like fair coverage of news not driven by agendas and negativism.

  4. Bill Marcellino says:

    Oh-ho-ho! Take that one, Felger! Seriously though, anyone who cares about Boston Sports knows the difference between someone like you Mike, and Felger. You actually 1) do real reporting work–talk to people, do research, you know–actually get credible information from which to base an analysis on, and 2) conduct analysis, you know: critically think though the evidence for implications, assumptions, cross-connections, taxonomic categories, disassemble the whole to parts, casual connections, and likely objections.

    Felger is years past doing either of those basic journalism tasks. Have you seen this piece on him? Spot on critique of his worst sins: http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com/2014/03/mediots-series-michael-felger-as-the-professional-propagandist

  5. donald phelps says:

    kudos, Mike, in your assessment of the ‘talk show host’s’ waffling depending on his mood and suspect (if any) sources. I truly do enjoy Felger’s opinions and the erudite way that he often expresses them but he is, as he would privately admit, an entertainer first and foremost. I enjoy his show immensely for the creative ways he can juxtapose fact with fiction/opinion. As a former print journalist, he is so adept at the handling of the English language, we must never lose sight of the fact that Talk Radio is SHOW BIZ and his opinions, while couched in creative Felger-speak, are aimed at controversy and pulling in the ratings and this he does in a masterful way. One could find fault with oh so many of his observations, as you did with his Welker/Lester snafu, and he DOES deserve to be nailed occasionally but we ultimately forgive his transgressions given the format of Talk Radio……keep up the good work on the JOURNALISTIC front. Your fact-laden postings are eagerly anticipated daily by this humble reader…….

  6. Morse says:

    What should be recognized is that this talk show is sports entertainment (and sometimes not very good at that either) rather than sports journalism. After all, journalism requires that you actually do some work.

  7. Jim Gill says:

    Mike, I had a bad feeling about how this would play out from the moment that Lester implied that he would be open to a “home town discount” (although I don’t recall he ever used those words. I knew in my heart that the Sox (especially Lucchino) would smell blood in the water and, instead of working with Lester to get it done quickly, they would see how low Lester was willing to go. This Red Sox response has Larry Lucchino’s fingerprints all over it. Why is it whenever the Sox do something that has a bad smell to it, Larry Lucchino seems to be close by?

  8. Bruce Mount says:

    We are here because we all still value old-fashioned, real-work, reporting. Thanks Mike (Reiss) for everything you do to slake our thirst for Patriots news that is not made up.

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Mike Reiss
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Patriots reporter/analyst for ESPNBoston.com.
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