WEEI Ratings Dominance Falters Slightly

We’ve reached the midway point of the Winter ratings period, and while WEEI folks are celebrating at the Whiney Awards tonight, the party might be tempered a bit by the numbers for the first phase of the Winter ’06 book. RadioandRecords.com shows the Arbitron numbers with WEEI coming in behind four other stations thus far in this period. WBZ, WJMN, WODS and WXKS are all showing higher ratings than WEEI. Ratings are down almost a full point from the Fall book, dropping from 6.2 to 5.3.

These ratings are apparently from January 5th to February 28th. (Arbitron Survey Schedule) It should also be noted that these are the ratings for audiences age 12+, not the 18-54-year-old male demographic that the station targets. Winter was also their lowest rated period last year.

What can likely factor in for much of the decline is the fact that the New England Patriots did not play as deep into the season as they did the previous two seasons. Numbers will likely climb again as the Red Sox get into full swing and the spring continues.

However, also of note is the fact that ESPN Radio Boston (WAMG) shows up in the ratings…something that WWZN was never able to do. They’re getting a 0.4 share. Not much, but they’re on the map.

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New NFL Ready to Kick Off?

On the newly redesigned Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight on FSN last night, Jonathan Kraft sounded quite certain that a new NFL labor deal would be done by tomorrow. Reading between the lines, he also sounded confident that both Adam Vinatieri and Willie McGinest would be back with the team next season. John Tomase seems to feel that chances are good that McGinest will not take a huge pay cut from the Patriots and might bolt to the Browns or Jets. Eric McHugh notes that Tyrone Poole could follow Duane Starks out of the Patriots secondary and into the open market. Jerome Solomon notes that with the expansion of the Belichick coaching tree, “Patriots type” players are going to be more in demand in the draft and free agency. Lenny Megliola catches up with author James Lavin, who is working on volume three of his series on how the New England Patriots do business. Tomase and Mike Reiss each look at the impending labor deal.

The Indy Star reports that a High School offensive coordinator has accepted a position with the Patriots. His name is DuJuan Daniels and he was the 1997 Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Football. He also went to Boston College and played wide receiver for the Eagles. It would appear that he’s getting a chance to start at the ground floor.

The Red Sox continue to make preparations for the season as they move closer to Thursday’s exhibition opener with the Minnesota Twins. Tony Massarotti checks in with Johnny Damon over in Yankees camp, and finds the former Red Sox centerfielder doing just fine, thank you very much. Gordon Edes has a look at Dustan Mohr, who is taking over Damon’s #18 in the Red Sox outfield. Mohr injured himself last season with the Rockies on opening day after trying to vault a short fence to celebrate a walk-off home run by a teammate. The injury set the tone for the rest of the season for Mohr. David Heuschkel says that another Red Sox outfielder, Trot Nixon, has no intentions of slowing down, despite being in the last year of his contract and starting to get up there in age a bit. He’ll be 32 in April, but feels his best years are still in front of him. Steven Krasner looks at Tony Graffanino, who is currently a man without a position or playing time. The Red Sox will attempt to trade him to a team where he can play second base regularly. Jeff Horrigan also reports on Graffanino and the Red Sox attempts to trade him.

Rob Bradford profiles the Red Sox massage therapist and nutritionist, two people who are unrecognizable to the casual fan, but still play big roles with the team. Jeff Horrigan looks at pitcher Edgar Martinez, who started out in the Red Sox organization as a catcher, but has developed into a good prospect since switching ends of the battery. He throws 94-97 mph and reminds some of El Guapo because of his large frame. David Borges introduces us to the Red Sox new third base coach. DeMarlo Hale takes over for Dale Sveum, a welcome move for many Red Sox observers. While in Yankees camp, Massarotti also has Mike Myers wondering why the Red Sox never got around to offering him a new contract.

Dom Amore looks at Effa Manley being the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Chris Snow’s notebook looks at how Baseball Prospectus has Dustin Pedroia ranked as the 11th best prospect in baseball, while Baseball America ranks him at 77. Krasner’s notebook looks at Manny Delcarmen as he attempts to get his curveball back this spring. Borges’ notebook makes note of the fact that the other Manny, Ramirez, is due into camp tomorrow.

Steve Bulpett has a look at Paul Pierce’s development into a complete player, the type that makes those around him better. Shira Springer notes that the team’s success on the recent road trip has their confidence up and hopes brightened for the future of the club. Bill Reynolds devotes sections to Ryan Gomes, Paul Pierce and Lamar Odom in his column this morning. Bulpett’s notebook has Gomes saying that his success recently is due in part to the fact that he is finding things simpler in the NBA right now as a supporting player than it was as the main guy on a college team.

Jackie MacMullan has a look at African-Americans in the local history of hockey. She goes back to Leon Lewis, who was probably the only African-American playing high school hockey in the 1950’s, and David Yancy, who started playing in the 1960’s. It’s a very interesting article, typical of MacMullan. Rich Thompson has the Bruins getting ready for a stretch run. Mike Loftus checks in with Hall Gill and Mike Sullivan, who are disappointed with how things turned out for their Team USA in the Turin Olympics. Fluto Shinzawa looks at rookie defenseman Milan Jurcina, who returns to the Bruins after playing heavy minutes for Slovakia in the Olympics. Thompson’s notebook has more on Jurcina. Loftus also previews the week ahead for the Bruins.

Michael Vega looks at Boston College setting their sights on getting the #2 seed in the ACC Tournament.

Lenny Megliola reports on WEEI afternoon flash guy Pete Sheppard’s attempt at curling last night.

Check out these two entries from a hockey blog called Japers’ Rink on January 12th and January 18th. Then check out these online columns from SI.com’s Tom Layberger on February 16th and February 2nd. Just a little too close for comfort.

NESN has Wake Forest/Boston College at 7:00. ESPN has LSU/South Carolina at 7:00 and Illinois/Minnesota at 9:00. ESPN2 has Saint Joseph’s/Xavier at 7:30. OLN has Wild/Avalanche at 9:00.

Weekend Recap

If you didn’t get to check out the papers over the weekend, here are some of the highlights:

Bryan Marquard and Russell Nichols had a report on Boston saying goodbye to Curt Gowdy.

One week into camp, Tony Massarotti said that the Red Sox don’t have much personality. Gordon Edes Baseball notes had a number of interesting items, including a look at a member of the Australian national team trying to make it with the Red Sox, an Edgar Renteria update, Darren Daulton predicting the end of the world, and lots of other stuff. In Massarotti’s Covering All Bases, he looks at Bill Lajoie leaving the Red Sox to join the Dodgers, the Mets thin rotation and Barry Bonds. Edes Sunday notebook reported that Curt Schilling is in line to start the season opener in Texas…a sign that the ace is healthy. David Heuschkel says that health has not been an issue for Schilling this spring. Steve Buckley had a feature on Hyde Park’s Manny Delcarmen.

Ron Borges reports on the NFL labor situation, and is decidedly pessimistic about the outlook. He also wrote a column on the subject for MSNBC. Borges also had Pro Football Notes, which lead off with Ricky Williams, and includes more on the labor situation, including speculation that Richard Seymour could make out huge in an uncapped season. John Tomase reported from the combine, where the Patriots met with USC back LenDale White. Tomase also broke down the labor problems into four major issues. Tom E Curran also had a nice breakdown of the situation.

Mark Murphy’s NBA Notes looked at the curious fascination that NBA players have with pit bulls. Peter May’s Basketball Notes examines the ongoing mess Isiah Thomas is creating in New York, as well as Antoine Walker returning to Boston this week with the Heat.

Jeff Goodman’s The ACC looks at the final weeks at BC for Craig Smith.

Pierce, Celtics outlast Bryant, Lakers.

The Celtics capped off a 3-1 West coast swing with a dramatic 112-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on national television last night. Shira Springer examines the game, which featured a superstar matchup of Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant, who went for 39 and 40 points respectively on the night. Steve Bulpett notes that even though the Celtics needed to survive some dramatics at the end, this game and trip is one that they an feel very good about. In LA, Mike Bresnahan chastises the Lakers for falling to the “hapless” Celtics. Ross Siler claims towards the end of his game story that Ryan Gomes should’ve been called for a loose ball foul on the Paul Pierce missed free throw which set up the Lakers final shot. John Nadel of the AP looks at Pierce capping off the finest month of his career with his 39 in his home town.

Tim Weisberg is surprised that Danny Ainge showed restraint at the trading deadline. Bulpett says that the Laker rivalry with the Celtics is still alive and has a certain amount of mystique attached to it, even after all of these years. Springer’s notebook has a look at Ryan Gomes, who continues to fill up the stat sheet for the Celtics since being placed in the starting lineup. Bulpett’s notebook reports that Wally Szczerbiak has taken over for Paul Pierce as being the go-to guy for shooting technical free throws. He also notes that Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins remain out with their respective injuries.

Jeff Horrigan reports that the Washington Nationals could be a potential trade partner for the Red Sox after they lost one of their starting pitchers until at least August. Gordon Edes looks at utilityman Willie Harris as he attempts to latch on with the Red Sox after winning a title with the White Sox last fall. One of the angles Edes’ pursues is the fact the Harris is from the same town in which Jackie Robinson was born. Steven Krasner looks at Craig Hansen who is prepared should the Red Sox need him to close games sooner than is expected. David Heuschkel looks at Jonathan Papelbon as a youngster who is sure to play a huge role with the Sox this season.

David Borges has an interesting look at the three catchers who are battling for the right to be Jason Varitek’s backup this season. Rob Bradford has a look at a couple of Doctors whose job it is to test and monitor the players eyesight in spring training. Jon Couture says Pedro Martinez’s ailing toe is making the Red Sox decision not to re-sign him look wiser by the day. Tony Massarotti looks at Theo Epstein promising some high school girls he’d show up at their prom.

Horrigan’s notebook reports on Josh Beckett putting on a show while throwing batting practice yesterday. Krasner’s notebook catches up with Dustin Pedroia, who was one of those who batted against Beckett. Edes’ notebook looks at David Wells taking a pass on photo day.

John Tomase looks at the clock continuing to tick on the Adam Vinatieri contract negotiations. Albert Breer has had a two part series on the Patriots offseason needs, yesterday he examined the offense, today he looks at the defense. Michael Parente says that the release of Duane Starks could be just the beginning of an offseason makeover for the Patriots. Tomase wonders if a linebacker might be in the Patriots draft future.

John Molori looks at Greg Dickerson taking some shots at Ed Berliner, previews the Whineys and talks boxing with Ron Borges.

I’m hoping to have an update later today with some highlights from the weekend articles…

SporTView

It’s another fairly slow sports weekend, with the Winter Olympics, NBA and College basketball making up the major events. This will be the last weekend of the Winter Games, as the closing ceremonies will air on NBC at 7:00 Sunday night.

Olympic TV listings can be found on the NBC Olympics website, as well as on the simplified MSNBC TV listings page.

We have a somewhat brief edition this week, with not much going on outside of Manny talk on the airwaves during the past 4 days. The Manny stuff cracks me up because it’s clearly just a time-filler for talk radio. The new theme regarding Manny for the on-air hosts goes something like this: “I love Manny and want him on this team, I don’t want to trade him, but he needs to be held accountable for his actions.” Sounds good. Except no one actually offers to explain HOW the team might be able to make him accountable for his absences, lapses and incidents. I’m not going to argue that what happened this week isn’t newsworthy. It is. What is annoying is the “analysis” offered by the media experts who seem to just repeat the same phrases 3-4 times an hour.

Some notes from the week:

  • I checked in with former Globe sports media writer Bill Griffith, who has been in Italy since January 31st. He’s been working with NBC for the Olympics in their Research Room and putting out a daily in-house newsletter during the Winter Olympics. He notes that it’s been interesting to see the magnitude of the operation from the inside.
  • FSN’s coverage from the beach in Spring Training has been garnering attention from the locals. Laura Ruane in the Southwest Florida News-Press has a look at the broadcasts and the influx of Red Sox fans to the region. The same paper has a pretty decent Red Sox blog by Glenn Miller, who has been making entries from Fort Myers each day.
  • FSN will keep the buzz going next week as they unveil a new stadium themed set for the newly renamed Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight. The new set features four distinct zones – the Dick

The Gangs All Here. Sort Of.

Chris Snow reports that Dave Wallace’s hip infection became so serious last week that he nearly died, had to have a hip replacement yesterday, and will now likely miss the season or perhaps never come back to the team. Jeff Horrigan looks at John Henry and Larry Lucchino arriving at camp and immediately going into their new “Belichickian” policy of being tight-lipped when it comes to news. Tony Massarotti has an article looking at the young arms in camp, and the promise they hold for the future. It’s been over 20 years since the Red Sox had a collection of promising young pitchers as they do now. Dan Shaughnessy looks at the Red Sox getting on the field as a team for their first full squad workout of the spring.

Snow first reported in the Globe Extra Bases blog yesterday that Manny Ramirez would not be participating in the World Baseball Classic, but instead would come to Red Sox camp next week and stay with the club throughout spring training. The information came from John Henry, who as Jeff Horrigan points out had promised to put an end to leaks of information. Steven Krasner reports that Manny now wants to stay with the Red Sox this season, instead of being traded. He uses Enrique Wilson as his source, who, as Massarotti points out, is one of Manny’s closest friends in baseball. David Heuschkel and David Borges have more from Wilson and others talking about Manny and his late arrival and whether he will play in the WBC.

Rob Bradford has a look at reliever Rudy Seanez, who, for the second straight offseason trained by participating in ultimate fighting, a regimen that led to the best season of his 14 year career last year. Snow’s notebook has more on Manny, as well as a number of other notes from around camp. Borges’ notebook has more on Enrique and Manny, and Krasner’s notebook looks at the Red Sox brass making their first appearance in camp.

Jerome Solomon reports on the Patriots declining to place a franchise tag on Adam Vinatieri, meaning that the kicker can become a free agent if he is not signed by next Friday. John Tomase goes to Romeo Crennel for comment on Vinatieri, and the former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Browns head coach says what you would expect. The Patriots will probably try to work out a long term deal with Vinatieri. Tom E Curran says that he sides have not been talking as of late. Michael Parente notes that the labor situation might’ve played a role in this decision, and he also looks at some of the Patriots other free agents.

Shira Springer looks at Danny Ainge and the Celtics standing pat at the trade deadline, choosing to go with their current roster for the reminder of the season as they attempt to make a playoff push. Steve Bulpett says that the Celtics made their big deal when they traded Ricky Davis and others for Wally Szczerbiak. Tim Weisberg reports that the Celtics will hold the first of seven “road rallies” on Sunday night in New Bedford. Bulpett’s notebook looks at Gerald Green leaping onto the scene Wednesday night in Phoenix, but notes that the strong outing doesn’t guarantee future playing time for the youngster. He also reports that there is a chance Al Jefferson could play tonight in Portland.

Mike Loftus reports that despite the extended break for the Olympic games, the Bruins don’t find themselves much healthier as they begin to regroup for the final stretch of the season. Steve Conroy looks at Marco Strum as one of the Bruins who is not completely healed yet.

Ron Borges does what he does best; Boxing notes, and lots of them. The main focus is on Shane Mosley trying to recapture past glory.

Check out the New York Sports News page for more news on the Jets, Johnny Damon and the Yankees in spring training and the Knicks spinning their recent trades. The Bay Area Sports Pages have plenty of coverage of spring training for their local clubs.

You can check the Olympic happenings on the pages of the Boston Herald Olympic pages and the Boston Globe Olympic pages.

David Scott weighs in with observations on Spring Training.

Check back later for media columns and TV listings.