Aaron Boone is leaving ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth for the bright lights of New York City and the Yankees’ managerial job. Boone sat alongside Dan Shulman, who stepped down from his role following the season, and Jessica Mendoza. The network’s No. 1 team will look and sound very different in 2018.
Two-thirds of the booth must be filled, assuming ESPN doesn’t go back to a duo, a la Jon Miller-Joe Morgan.
Karl Ravechis considered the leader the clubhouse for the play-by-play gig. ESPN also has in-house candidates in Jon Sciambi, Dave Flemming, and Jason Benetti. Ravech is the senior statesman and the move would give him a bigger platform than the increasingly diminished Baseball Tonight. It’s my belief that the most prized real estate on the network is shifting further toward the booth as SportsCenter and non-debate sports shows get scaled back.
As far as the second analyst role, Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News floated an interesting name: Joe Girardi, the man Boone is replacing in the dugout. Could the ol’ switcheroo be afoot? Girardi has worked at Fox and YES, but was hardly a breakout star. His presence could conceivably be more of a ratings curiosity than, say, Eduardo Perez.
Sunday Night Baseball ratings were up significantly this year, but it should be noted that it took a perfect storm to get there. This summer was not overshadowed by a contentious presidential campaign sucking the oxygen out of the room or major international sporting events — like last summer’s Olympics in Brazil.
More importantly, the big-market teams featured on the broadcast enjoyed great success this year. The New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox all made the playoffs.
Boone’s decision to leave for the Yankees job shouldn’t shock anyone. It’s the Yankees after all. But his decision does throw another curveball at ESPN brass looking to put together a team capable of replicating the solid broadcast he, Mendoza, and Shulman put together.