NESN Hires Former FSN, ESPN Exec Joseph Maar

NESN announced today that they have hired former FOX Sports North Coordinating Producer and ESPN Coordinating Director and Dir of Operations Joseph Maar as their new vice president of programming & production, executive producer.

Here is their full release:

BOSTON, MA – NESN, New England’s most watched sports network, announced today that Joseph Maar has joined NESN as the vice president of programming & production, executive producer. Maar’s responsibilities will include leading, overseeing and managing NESN’s production, programming and network operations teams.

Maar comes to NESN with over 25 years of experience in the sports media industry, leading and developing the operational, logistical and creative aspects of studio and remote event productions. In his most recent position at FOX Sports North (FSN) regions based out of Minneapolis, Maar led the redevelopment of their original programming. He oversaw live events, studio shows, interactive projects, second screen media and new channel initiatives for two FOX regional sports networks across a five-state region of the Upper Midwest. The telecasts Maar oversaw included the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers (MLB), the Minnesota Wild (NHL), the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks (NBA), the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Vikings (NFL).

“Joseph has a rare combination of experiences in live sports, original programming, production, operations, and social media that he’ll bring to the management team at NESN,” said Sean McGrail, NESN’s President and CEO. “We’re thrilled to have someone of Joseph’s caliber join the management team at NESN.”

Prior to working at FSN, Maar worked in ESPN’s Original Entertainment division and helped launch 20 new shows including Pardon The Interruption (PTI) and Around The Horn. Throughout his career he has received three national Emmy Awards, three Telly Awards and over two dozen regional Emmys. In addition, for over a dozen years Maar wrote feature stories and a monthly print column on television production and operations for national trades Television Broadcast and SportsTV Production. He is an oft-requested moderator and panelist at national television industry conventions.

”I am very excited at the opportunity to work with the storied franchises of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins, combined with the tiffany reputation of the programming and staff at NESN,” said Maar.  “I’m equally grateful to serve a network with such a high commitment to volunteerism and charity–something that speaks to my core values.”

Maar is an honors graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also taught for eight years as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He will be relocating to Boston with his wife and three children this summer.

Maar actually announced he was joining NESN last week on his Twitter account:

Let’s hope this leads to some improved programming from NESN.

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Monday Thoughts – Ugh, Red Sox.

At what point do we declare the 2012 Red Sox a lost cause?

After the most encouraging win of the season last Thursday night, allowing the Red Sox to take 3 of 4 from the White Sox, after taking 2 of 3 from the Rays, the Red Sox were swept, in decision fashion, by the then-last place Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. As a result, now the Red Sox sit in last place in the AL East.

Horrific starts by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester did the Sox in this weekend, continuing a season-long trend. Rob Bradford notes that the Red Sox are 13-23 in starts by those two this season.

I read over and over how the team cannot trade either of those two while their value is so low. But clearly, something needs to change.

All in all, this may have been the most devastating/disappointing weekend of a season that has been disaster from the beginning.

Elsewhere:

A couple of interesting media bits from the weekend football notes. First Mike Reiss in his Sunday thoughts column:

Bill Belichick is scheduled to meet with reporters each day at training camp at 1 p.m., right before the team takes the field for its lone practice (1:30-4 p.m.). Those news conferences will be in the press box at Gillette Stadium, per usual in camp, but in a change from years past, that’s also where media will work throughout the 2012 season (instead of the media workroom). The team is expanding its weight room into the area where media members usually work during the season.

Over-under on number of times this is mentioned throughout the season? 50?

Then, in the Globe Sunday Football Notes, Shalise Manza Young, filling in for Greg Bedard cited ridiculous comments made by Jets receiver Santonio Holmes about how the media needs to be more supportive of the Jets, and used them to launch into a lecture on the impartiality of beat writers.

That’s not how media works. A good beat reporter isn’t a team’s enemy, and isn’t a fan. He or she is there to gather facts, anecdotes, and quotes and pass them on to readers or listeners. Is every reporter completely impartial? Sadly, no. Can some be accused of being a fan of the team they cover? Sadly, yes.

Being impartial means writing about the good and the bad, and trying to paint as honest a picture about what’s going on as possible. If a team or player is struggling, sometimes the truth isn’t well-received. But at the end of the day, a beat writer’s job is to present what he or she knows, good or bad.

If it were only that simple. I often wonder where the lines of being a beat reporter end. For many of them, what they write in the paper is much different than what they write on Twitter, or what they say in online chats or radio/TV appearances. Are they still a beat writer in those instances, or are they crossing over into a more opinion-based role, and does that negatively impact their self-claimed “impartial” beat writer material?

It really is not as simple as just presenting facts and quotes and passing them onto readers.

WEEI-FM is a finalist for the 2012 Marconi Awards Sports Station of the Year. That seem a little strange to you?

On the Penn State matter, I’m glad some people are keeping a proper perspective on these events:

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To be fair, the original Tweet was deleted fairly quickly by Breer, but not after it had been re-tweeted extensively, thus preserving a record of it.

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Week Wrap: Ross, Ainge Big Winners, Cappelletti Retires

Ben Cherington’s first season as Red Sox GM has been rocky, but it’s pretty safe to say that we can place the signing of Cody Ross into his “win” column. The outfielder, on a one-year, $3 million contract had a game-winning  three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth last night to give the Red Sox a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park. The home run was his 16th of the season.

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge continues an impressive makeover of the Celtics this offseason, as he appears to have landed shooting guard Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade with the Rockets. Steve Bulpett  (@SteveBHoop ) led the coverage on this, providing updates throughout last evening, even when it looked like the deal might fall apart.

The Celtics will be a younger, faster, more athletic team this coming season while they will still lean heavily on stalwarts Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they will should have more support and rest.

Media news this morning revolves largely around the Patriots radio team, where team legend Gino Capelletti has retired after 32 seasons in the radio booth.

Gino Cappelletti leaving Patriots’ radio booth – Chad Finn has more, as well as a note about ESPN Radio possible showing up on Entercom-owned 850 or 680 AM by the end of the summer.

Gil Santos set for final season with Patriots – Bill Doyle talks to the other half of the Patriots radio duo, play-by-play man Gil Santos, who will return this season following an offseason of health issues which led to him receiving last rites three times.

Matt Light Joins ESPN as NFL Analyst – The recently-retired Patriots lineman joins former teammates Tedy Bruschi and Damien Woody at ESPN.

‘NFL AM’ To Offer Football Fans An Early Start – My SB Nation Boston media column looks at the NFL Network’s new morning show, set to debut on July 30th.

Weekend Viewing Picks – Ken Fang runs down what to watch this weekend.

Meanwhile, stop the presses:

Two columns in one day!

Red Sox blow out White Sox, Ortiz to DL

Led by slugger Cody Ross’ two three-run home runs the Red Sox powered over the White Sox 10-1 Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Felix Doubront picked up his tenth win of the season, which is the same number as Jon Lester and Josh Beckett combined. Jacoby Ellsbury continued his strong play since his return as he went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

After receiving a second opinion on his Achilles it was determined that designated hitter David Ortiz will go on the 15-day disabled list. The Red Sox will get Dustin Pedroia back Thursday, and will most likely use the DH spot to give a few guys a rest from playing the field, rather than having one player fill the shoes of Ortiz.

Around this time of year no rumor should be a surprise, but this one came out of no where. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, as well as USA Today reported the Red Sox have been engaged with trade talks involving Carl Crawford. One of the teams he mentioned was the Marlins and the deal would be the Red Sox sending Crawford and Jose Iglesais to the Marlins in exchange for former Red Sox Hanley Ramirez and closer Heath Bell. This really doesn’t make sense on so many levels, but during July this probably won’t be the last crazy rumor to get out there.

On top of the trade rumors, Crawford has had to deal with the aftermath of the racial slur directed at him during his rehab game with Portland in Manchester, NH. You really have to feel for the guy who has been outstanding in his first three games of the year having to deal with all of this, and to Crawford’s credit he has said all the right things.

Felix Doubront fulfills promise foreseen by Bobby Valentine– Scott Lauber looks at Doubront’s outing and how Valentine has believed in him since the first bullpen session he saw him throw.

Ross, Gonzalez step in for injured Ortiz– Danny Picard has players stepping up to try and make up for Ortiz’ absence in the lineup.

Cody Ross helps fill void– Joe McDonald also has Ross stepping up to make up for Ortiz’ production while he is on the DL.

Cody Ross validates decision to sign with Red Sox, showing swing suited for Fenway Park– Didier Morais looks at Ross’ swing being perfect for Fenway, and how he already has more home runs than all of last season.

Gonzalez headed in the right direction– Brian MacPherson has Adrian Gonzalez being locked in at the plate ever since the teams’ West Coast trip prior to the All-Star break.

The return of the real Adrian Gonzalez– Alex Speier looks deeper into Gonzalez’ recent hot streak at the plate.

Rondo NBA’s best point guard?– Interesting quotes from Rajon Rondo in an interview to a French newspaper while at a Nike Camp in France. This was supposedly translated from English to French, then back to English, so things could have gotten a little distorted. Rondo calls himself the best point guard in the league, and adds he has been “running” Celtic timeouts for the past two seasons.

Penn State should discuss ending football– Bob Ryan adds in his take on the Penn State scandal and the aftermath.

Pro Football Focus Interview With BSMW

Last winter, I had interviewed Neil Hornsby, founder of Pro Football Focus for a piece with Patriots Football Weekly. That column never ran. Here is the raw material from the session I did with Hornsby:

First, PFF has become really big in Boston. Just about all of the major outlets here have used statistics or analysis from PFF regularly this season. Is this indicative of all NFL markets, or has Boston been a little quicker to grab onto your information? Are you bigger in some markets than others?

Lots of people use our information but it is more used in certain areas. I would guess the other markets where we have better traction are New York, Chicago, Buffalo, Green Bay, Miami and Philadelphia. Boston is probably towards the top end of those areas.

What makes PFF different from other “statistic” sites, such as Football Outsiders and Cold Hard Football Facts? (Both Boston-area based, coincidentally)

I guess it’s the sheer amount of data we collect. We work with over a quarter of the NFL teams in one way shape or form and are usually flabbergasted by what we have. In summary:

  • Who was on the field – in 2010 this was 99.83% accurate but we didn’t double hand most games then – this year we do so I’m predicting well in excess of 99.9%
  • What position they played (at a level which allows us to provide formation as well as package information)
  • What they generically did (block, pass route, cover, pass rush etc.)
  • A measure of how well they achieved what they attempted to do (obviously we don’t know their assignments so this is what we use)

In addition we clean up a lot of the problems in the base data provided by the NFL; idiosyncrasies between different scorers and inaccuracies in terms of tackles, assists, hits, passes defensed etc.

Any aspirations of latching on with a major media company/outlet such as what those sites have done? Or do you prefer to stay independent?

We do sell information to the media outlets but we don’t write content specifically for them. It’s nothing we’d rule out but if it stopped us from working with the teams and player agents I don’t think it would happen.

How do you view all the games – an NFL Sunday Ticket sub with lots of DVRs, or do you use the NFL.com GamePass – GameRewind?

We use Game Rewind. A number of people question how accurate we can be with this but I think 99.9% playtime accuracy pretty much obviates that criticism. In my own little world of innocence I still like to believe we are the reason the NFL changed it’s policy this year to allow teams to get playtime information directly after games (rather than having to wait to season’s end) but insiders tell me our work is more accurate on the first pass than the NFL’s before they clean it up later in the week.

One player question – Jerod Mayo, He’s got his critics in New England, who basically say he is all hype and no real contribution/production. Sure, he has a lot of tackles, but they’re all down the field. What do your stats say about this player?

Sam Monson has analyzed the most Patriots games so I asked him for his view on the next two questions. This was his response:

Before this season we might have agreed with you about Mayo.  Despite making a lot of tackles he was rarely a downhill, impact type of player and seemed more of a clean-up specialist than a linebacker really influencing the game.  In this regard he was not unlike the Jets’ David Harris.  This season though, the move to the 4-3 seems to have helped him be more of a downhill force.  He is making more of his tackles in the right area.  39 of his tackles have been defensive stops this season, a far better ratio than in previous seasons where he was aligned slightly further back from the line of scrimmage so that he could control both sides if necessary.  The hype for Mayo has always outweighed the real impact he has on the defense, but it would also be somewhat unfair to say that he does little of substance, as his contribution and reliability are not to be underestimated, and he does get involved in a lot of plays, even if it is almost always fewer than the generosity of the New England scorer would suggest.  The area where he still struggles the most is in coverage, where he has allowed 416 yards this season with 319 of them after the catch.  Only four other 4-3 OLBs have allowed more YAC than Mayo has this season and throwing into his coverage yields opposing QBs a 92.0 QB rating.

OK, I lied, second player question. Chad Ochocinco. Anything you can tell us about his lack of production/involvement in the offense? Is he doing things incorrectly? Is at least his blocking acceptable?

As for Chad Johnson the first thing to note is obviously what kind of small sample size we’re dealing with.  He has only played 331 snaps and been targeted just 31 times.  On those 31 passes he has obviously only been able to haul in 15 of them, which is a pretty poor catch rate.  He still runs some really good routes on occasions, but he doesn’t seem to have the sudden burst and change of direction that he once had.  Teams don’t fear his athleticism anymore the way they once had to, and he hasn’t really been able to get open consistently on the intermediate routes that the Patriots looked for him on.  You also still see a reasonable number of disconnects between him and Tom Brady regarding where he should ultimately end up on routes.  Part of what makes the Brady to Welker connection so great is that they are always on the same page when it comes to reading the coverage and adjusting the option route accordingly.  Ochocinco is still not where they would like him to be and you will still see Brady miss him because he didn’t make the adjustment to his route that Brady was expecting or wanted him to make.  There’s no reason why he can’t learn that going forwards if they keep him around, but it probably highlights the subtle complexities to the Patriots passing scheme that people don’t really appreciate.  As for his blocking, again we are talking small sample size, he has been on the field run blocking just 87 times, but he has certainly not disgraced himself and is a willing blocker if not exactly an accomplished one.  He at least deserves some credit for accidentally blocking two defenders in the Denver game on a pass that Aaron Hernandez was able to take for a big game because of Ochocinco getting in the way of the Broncos defenders.

An observation/question – it seems to me at times that there is a subjective angle placed on grades – I’ve seen cases where it seems like a better player gets graded tougher than an average player, is more expected of the star player? Or speculation about the player sneaks into the analysis “player X doesn’t seem right” – does that somehow finds its way into the grade?

No it doesn’t. The mantra is: grade the play, not the player and let the dice fall where they may. We have so many people still writing and saying “your grades must be wrong because  X is better than this” or “Y is worse than this” and we have to be able to provide an audit trail of our work – we have to be accurate and accountable. We might say (as I did earlier this week) “it was a shock Calais Campbell graded so poorly because he’s a had a great year but the grade stays and it’s that methodology that allows us to “discover” stars before anyone else; guys like Cameron Wake, Carl Nicks etc. Just because Evan Mathis isn’t a household name won’t stop us standing by the courage of our convictions and naming him our all Pro LG and if people want convincing we’ve got a whole database of plays explaining exactly why that’s the case.

Finally – you’ve got the individual statistics and grades down to a science, and I know you put them into cumulative team stats. Has there been thought or plans to trying to come up with more accurate team stats for offense and defense – we know that those units don’t always equal the sum of their parts?

First and foremost we are a player evaluation site and we are real sticklers for trying to completely nail something before we move on. We have an ethos of continuous improvement and I want to see maybe another year of getting better, talking to coaches, player personnel guys and the like to make sure we have our bread and butter down before we take on something new. That’s not to say I’m not proud of our information; it’s passed every test to date with flying colors and while new NFL teams come on board none have left.

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Youkilis returns to Fenway, Ortiz injured

Monday was a busy day in the world of Boston sports, led by the return of Kevin Youkilis to Fenway Park. The Red Sox won the game 5-1 over the White Sox as a result of Adrian Gonzalez’ three-run home run in the eighth inning. The big story of the game was on the home run designated hitter David Ortiz appeared to injure his leg while rounding second base. Following the game manager Bobby Valentine said it was an achilles injury and he is expected to miss a few games. Ortiz said he would have an MRI Tuesday.

Ortiz injures achilles tendon– Nick Cafardo in his notebook has what a bizarre injury season it has been for the Red Sox.

Kevin Youkilis feels love at Fenway– Joe McDonald looks at the former Red Sox’ return to Fenway, a game in which he had three hits.

Kevin Youkilis feels comfortable with White Sox– Bob Ryan (subscription only) also has a look at Youkilis’ return to Fenway. It was Ryan’s last official Red Sox assignment with the Globe before he is set to retire after the Olympics. The media gave Ryan a standing ovation in the press box during the game.

Another solid outing from Aaron Cook– Maureen Mullen has another quality start from a Red Sox starter.

Crawford gets off to good start– Mullen also has a look at Carl Crawford’s first game back this season.

Ross can relate to Youk facing former team– Brian MacPherson and Tim Britton in their notebook have what Ross said it is like facing a former team.

In football news, Monday was the deadline for players who were franchised to reach long-term agreements with their respective teams. Otherwise the players will be forced to play the entire 2012 season under the franchise tag and cannot sign a long-term deal until the 2012 season is over. As expected the Patriots and Wes Welker did not reach a long-term deal.

What’s next for the Pats and Welker– Mike Reiss has the options the Patriots have Welker have regarding his next contract.

Wes Welker, Patriots, will wait– Jeff Howe has what the next off-season will look like for the Patriots and Welker.

In media news, Talkers.com came out with “2012 Talkers Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk”, ranking sports talk shows from 1-to-100. Boston was well-represened in the list as Dennis & Callahan came in at No. 7, followed closely by Toucher & Rich at No. 11. No. 21 was The Big Show and Felger & Mazz was No. 33. Rounding out Boston’s representation was Mut & Merloni at No. 73. Gresh & Zo were not on the list. Take this list for what it is worth.

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Will The Red Sox Surge or Melt In the Second Half? WEEI Responds To Ratings Claims

The Red Sox get back to work tonight as they begin a series in Tampa with the Rays. What will the second half of the season bring for the Red Sox? Can they pull it together and grab a playoff spot, or is a complete meltdown right around the corner?

Mismatched Sox wearing on Bobby? – Gordon Edes has today’s must-read column, with plenty of griping and back-biting going around the Red Sox clubhouse, most of it centered around manager Bobby Valentine.

Sox need to make a statement – Jon Couture tries to be optimistic about this team, but finds it increasingly hard to do so.

Adrian Gonzalez continues his quest to find the old Adrian Gonzalez – Rob Bradford has the first baseman trying hard to regain his power stroke.

Ciriaco takes chance and runs with it – Peter Abraham has the well-traveled 27-year-old giving the Red Sox a jolt of energy.

Media

Mediocre Red Sox not hurting NESN’s ratings – Chad Finn looks at NESN’s strong ratings numbers, has more on WEEI, and weighs in on Matt Millen’s torturous ESPN appearance yesterday.

McDonough talks and plays a great game – John Molori talks to Sean McDonough about his work at ESPN and his love of golf.

Examining Gary Tanguay’s New Confrontational Style – What in the world is going on with Gary Tanguay? That’s the subject of my SB Nation Boston column this week.

In an email to BSMW, Entercom’s Jason Wolfe disputed the numbers from yesterday’s post, (A sure sign WEEI is doing better, Wolfe has emerged from his bunker.) discarding the standard Arbitron numbers that run from 3-7pm and sending over what he claims are the 2-6pm numbers for the month of June.

He also zinged me with this line:

I know you’re a 98.5 fan and not an EEI fan, that’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re numbers are wrong.

OK. Has he paid attention at all to what I’ve said about Felger and Mazz, either here or on Twitter? A 98.5 fan? Someone over at CBS Boston is getting a good chuckle out of that.

Someone from 98.5 emailed me recently and said:

Maybe we suck. Maybe we’re too negative. Or too loud. Or too whatever. You are entitled to whatever opinion you have.

I sure am glad all the radio people are allowing me to be entitled to my own opinion on things.

Anyway, here is what Wolfe sent me regarding the afternoon drive numbers:

Men 25-54, Mon-Fri 2-6 pm.

Week One Week Two Week Three Week Four
6.9                8.4                7.0                 6.3                  WEEI
5.7                7.6                6.4                 5.7                  98.5

Men 18-34, Mon-Fri, 2-6 pm.

Week One Week Two Week Three Week Four
3.3               2.7                3.1                 2.6                     WEEI
7.7              9.8                 9.6                 9.6                     98.5

Men 18-49, Mon-Fri, 2-6 pm.

Week One  Week Two Week Three Week Four
6.1               6.6               5.8                  5.0                    WEEI
6.0               8.8              7.5                  7.0                    98.5

He also included the 35-54 age bracket, which really solidifies that older listeners prefer the Big Show, while the younger ones prefer Felger and Mazz.

Men 35-54, Mon-Fri, 2-6pm
Week One  Week Two Week Three Week Four
7.5                9.0             7.5                   7.4                   WEEI
4.6                6.9              5.5                   4.7                    98.5

The numbers from yesterday were taken directly off sheets with the Arbitron copyright on them. These numbers provided by Wolfe may well be accurate, but he’s also had a history of being, um, creative with how he comes up with ratings figures.

Yesterday, WEEI also sent over these figures, interestingly, the release contained the line “WEEI saw benefits of carrying both the Celtics and Red Sox game broadcasts.” Um, yeah. :

WEEI 93.7 Arbitron Ratings (rival station The Sport Hub compared in red):

M25-54                 June                                      Spring 12                              Winter 12

6a-mid                  6.8 #3    (BZ 5.5 #4)           7.1 #2    (BZ 6.0 #4)           5.7 #4 (BZ 8.5 #2)                                                                                           

6a-10a                   6.8 #4    (BZ 7.6 #2)           7.3 #3    (BZ 8.0 #2)           7.6 #3 (BZ 9.8 #2)

10a-2p                  5.5 #3T  (BZ 5.9 #2)           6.7 #3    (BZ 6.8 #2)           5.5 #4 (BZ 10.0 #2)

2p-6p                    7.1 #3    (BZ 6.3 #4)           7.9 #2    (BZ 6.9 #3)           6.2 #3 (BZ 9.8 #1)

6a-7p                     6.5 #3    (BZ 6.6 #2)           7.3 #2    (BZ 7.2 #3)           6.5 #3 (BZ 9.6 #2)

7p-mid                  11.0 #1  (BZ 4.6 #6)           9.5 #1    (BZ 5.5 #5)           4.0 #11 (BZ 6.5 #2)

Wknds                  5.8 #3    (BZ 2.6 #11)        5.6 #4    (BZ 3.2 #10)        3.7 #10 (BZ 5.6 #6)

Is your head spinning yet?

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