With CBS radio deal up, broadcast changes loom

Williams' big night helps Staten Island to a win
Curtis Granderson and left-handed pitchers
The reported coverage for each station in the Yankees Radio Network based on the MC Conductivity Map. (Via Bostonography)

On Friday, New York City’s terrestrial radio dial will lose its modern rock station. Ennis Communications is selling WRXP 101.9 to Merlin Media, and tomorrow, Merlin will take over programming. Eventually, the station will move to a news/talk format, but the sale requires federal approval which won’t arrive until the fall.

Now, why, you must be wondering, am I writing about an FM radio station format flip and sale on a Yankees site? Well, with the end of WCBS-AM’s five-year, $65-million contract looming at the end of the season, the Yankees and their radio broadcasts will be one of the most lucrative baseball free agents this winter, and Merlin, by many accounts, will attempt to play a role in the bidding.

Tied in with the fate of the Yankee radio rights are the futures of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Bob Raissman had more on this story recently:

If WCBS radio re-ups with the Yankees, Sterling and Waldman will be retained. Despite all the blunderful calls and uncomfortable moments, the suits there have never complained about Ma and Pa’s performance.

The voices would likely be on the ropes if ESPN-1050 gets the rights. Considering the station’s weak signal (two Dixie cups attached by a string) that’s a longshot. Still, money changes everything. If ESPN brass is willing to pay silly dough for the Yankees it could land them, thus greatly improving its chances of finally toppling The Sports Pope Radio Network. If ESPN does acquire the rights, it would select its own voices. Yet one well-embedded 1050 mole said ESPN would consider keeping Pa but probably dump Ma.

The other possible player could be WRXP-FM. Merlin Media recently purchased a majority stake in the station from Emmis Communications. Already, there is speculation that WRXP, 101.9 FM (rock and alternative) will change its format to a conglomeration of news, talk and sports. What better way to get instant recognition than to have the Yankees, a mega-marquee property, as WRXP’s anchor tenant. The familiar sound of Sterling and Waldman would be a plus in a new format launch.

There’s always the possibility – and it’s a strong one – that in any new deal Yankees suits will demand the right to select the radio broadcasters or, at least, the right to approve the voices. This would be a positive development for Sterling and Waldman.

Raissman, decidedly not a fan of the duo he has termed Ma and Pa Pinstripe, has been speculating on their ousters for a while, but it seems as though the team is married to the pair. Waldman has blazed a trail as the first female in the radio broadcast booth, and jettisoning her could be a costly move. Sterling and his histrionics are popular (although CBS-AM’s ratings are dropping despite the popularity of the Yanks). I do like Raissman’s suggestion that the Yanks add some younger blood to the broadcast booth to spell John and Suzyn, but the two seem to miss games only for religious holidays and rarely anything else.

The bigger issue, as I mentioned in February, will concern the strength of the Yanks’ radio broadcast signal no matter where it moves. ESPN 1050 has a very weak signal compared to WCBS’ powerful booster, and sticking the Yanks on FM would lead to clear sound but a significantly smaller broadcast radio. In the car, for instance, I can tune into 101.9 only as far north as Miller Hill Road in Hopewell Junction on the Taconic but can get 880 AM loud and clear in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

To visualize the potential signal change, take a look at this post on Bostonography. The typographically-oriented site recently compared the Yanks’ and Red Sox’s relative broadcast coverage, and it’s clear just how strong the Yanks’ AM radio affiliates are as compared with their FM counterparts. A frequency switch could spell bad news indeed for fans accustomed to WCBS AM’s signal. MLB.com’s radio package might just look more appealing come 2012.

Williams' big night helps Staten Island to a win
Curtis Granderson and left-handed pitchers
  • nick

    The only positives to come from a move to RXP (RIP, very underrated station) would be clearer sound (not that big a deal) and new blood. Getting rid of these two would make the sacrifice of signal strength worth it, but it’d be a dark, dark day if they sacrificed both signal strength and the chance to get some decent commentators in there.

    • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

      I’m from New Jersey, am a I die hard Yanks fan, but I live in Boston.

      I often travel from NJ to Boston on weekends for holidays, etc. On those trips I can pop on 880 and cruise literally the entire way from my house in Northern Jersey to my apartment in Boston.

      I would be sadly disappointed if I couldn’t do that anymore.

  • Andrew518

    Whimsical story:

    Looking at this map makes me so jealous. Growing up Upstate pre-Yankees raio network I had to try to pull in the AM broadcast from the city. I lived so far out in the sticks I couldn’t even get cable, so my only connection to the team was through the raio. Now you can just flip on an FM affiliate out of Albany and listen crystal clear. In these olden days, heck this was only 20 years ago, but I would lay in bed perplexed by the clarity I could hear Harwell and the Tigers broadcast but how difficult it was to hear my local team. The signal was so weak that I was forced to listen to WABC’s hate talk radio all the time because any movement of the dial might take days to recover. Waldman drives me nuts and Sterling has gotten so over the top in recent years, but the thought of ESPN taking over makes me shudder.

    • MikeD

      I’m surprised you had difficulty picking up WABC at night. It’s a 50,000 watt clear channel, and at night the signals from those stations can skip across the ionhalf way across the continent thought something known as skywave interference. WABC at 770 on the AM dial sits right next to 760 AM WJR out of Detroit. I wonder if the directional pattern of WJR crowded out WABC at night. As a kid (way back in the dark ages of the late 70s and early 80s), I used to try and locate out-of-market stations at night, when Philly, Boston, Detroit would show up on my radio, not to mention Canada and Mexico. I knew I’d hit the skywave motherload when I’d hear a call signal from a station that started with a “K”, not a “W.” Hey, it was pre-cable (at least in my house) and certainly pre-Internet, so what was as a kid to do! I used to love picking up the ballgames from other markets.

  • hornblower

    Another station going to news/talk. Heck there is a real opening in this market for another one. Who makes these decisions?
    Ma and Pa are my age and I can’t listen to them. But Suzyn can sing a song anytime. She is really excellent.

  • mbonzo

    I’m more distraught about losing WRXP. Aside from Q104.3, who plays pretty much the same classic rock everyday, that was the last mainstream rock station in New York. As if New York needs another talk radio or pop station, I’m pretty much done with the radio now, I’ll stick with Pandora.

    As for the Yanks on WRXP. I highly doubt this could happen. It would take an amazing amount of money for them to outbid the players involved and to boost their signal. I’m going to assume the Yankees wouldn’t let WRXP pick up the Yankees without coverage of New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate. That would be a huge hit in their fan base, and probably worth millions to them. Who knows what Merlin Media is capable of, but thats a lot of money dedicated to a 3 hour program a day.

    • Ed

      I was going to complain about losing WXRP, but you summed up my thoughts perfectly. Radio is dying.

      I’d be surprised if the choice of announcers had much to do with the WCBS ratings. Radio sucks in general now. If you’re getting your music from the radio, it’s easy to flip over to the game. If you’re using an mp3 player or smartphone, you’re far less likely to tune in.

    • Brian in NH

      I completely understand the feeling on this. 101.7 WFNX out of boston simulcasts in Southern ME and NH on 92.1 (one out of Manchester, one out of Sanford, ME). They just recently sold the Sanford station to some oldies radio station so i’ll soon be losing the only decent radio station in the area. Pandora isn’t an option because most of the area i live and drive in doesn’t have 3G coverage (let alone 4G) so streaming won’t work.


    • Yank The Frank

      Try WFUV – 90.7 – reminds you of the old WNEW-FM.

      • ChrisS

        I love this station … it’s the only commercial radio (non-XM) station that I listen to.

        Otherwise it’s pandora/slacker.

        • Yank The Frank

          It’s not commercial radio which is what makes it so good. It’s public radio living on grants and donations.

          • ChrisS

            By commercial I meant on the FM dial. I know, not accurate.

    • Yankeegirl49

      I said the exact same thing when I heard. It is unfathomable to me that Q104 is the only rock station that can survive in one of the largest media markets in the world.
      Thank Mo for Sirius/XM and iPods.
      BTW..if you can get 105.5 out of jersey, thats a good station. They play a nice mix of classic rock and new rock.

  • Pat D

    See that little tiny section that straddles the PA/NJ border? That’s where I am.

    The local Allentown/Easton ESPN affiliate 1230/1320 AM used to have the Yankees games. Then the friggin’ Iron Pigs came along and they dumped the Yankees in favor of them. I can’t pick up 880 AM that good on my car at all. When the games used to be on 770 AM, I had a much better time.

    But then last year I found out that 107.1 FM from Belvidere, NJ had the games, and I’m about 8 miles from there, so I can always pick up the games that way.

    I guess I’d be concerned if that station would lose the games if there was some kind of change.

    Thankfully I have DirecTV and the Extra Innings package, though.

    • MikeD

      Hopefully the Yankees decide to do something a little different, and allow their games to also be broadcast on satellite radio. Yankee games on the radio no matter where I am. That would be great.

      • Ed

        All MLB games have been on XM since 2004.

        • MikeD

          Sadly, I have Sirius, and even with the merger, they have not brought the MLB games over. Not all content on Sirius went to XM and not all XM went to Sirius. I want the Yankees to do their own channel.

          • Ed

            Wow, I figured they would have worked that out by now. I’m not on top of the situation anymore… I used to have XM, but dropped it after they replaced all the XM music stations with the Sirius ones. That merger’s been a mess since the day they announced it.

            • Brian in NH

              Nope. I was a former Sirius subscriber (came with my new car). They kept them separate so they can charge you more money for getting the “Best of” XM or Sirius. I don’t know the specifics of the deal MLB signed with XM back in the day, but it might have something to do with it. I’ll stick to AM1270 (Dover-NH) for broadcasts for now.

  • Craig

    Bucks County is awful for two reasons: home of Phillies fans and very weak WCBS signal; I hope if a new deal happens I can hear the team comfortably in my car with no static.

  • Rich in NJ

    Women should want to be represented by a competent person. That’s not Waldman. Sterling is so sight-challenged that when you listen to him, it’s like he’s watching a different game.

    It’s also kind of comical that they profess to hate stats, until they stumble upon one that supports their distorted
    point of view.

  • Cuso

    God, you know I get the whole cancer-survivor/woman-in-the-broadcast-booth feelgood story, but can we move on please?

    Waldman is God-awful. I haven’t known or met a single Yankee fan that honestly likes her. The only people that have ever stuck up for her have done so ONLY because she’s a woman and a cancer-survivor.

    She’s clueless and her presence is a major reason that Sterling drops dated references & has become over-the-top with some of his ridiculous commentary.

    If he had a professional color-commentator that was younger perhaps or a more contemporary choice, he’d be forced to tighten his game up the first time he heard crickets following a Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat reference.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, get rid of Waldman. Tell her to go cover the Clemens perjury trial for WCBS or something.

    • mbonzo

      Suzyn Waldman sued Mount Sinai Hospital for $2 million following her chemotherapy for misdiagnoses. Does that help wash the feel good story from your empathy?

      • MikeD

        Are you saying she didn’t have cancer?

        • mbonzo

          No, the doctors thought she was cancer free after chemo and missed something. Whatever the doctors missed ended up spreading and she had to go through it again. Yea it sucks, but they saved your life. Seems really disrespectful to sue the doctors that saved you even if they messed something up.

          • MikeD

            Okay, I see. I had always heard she had cancer and thought for a second it wasn’t true.

            As for suing, people can sue for pretty much anything. I thought for sure the wife of the man who fell at the stadium in Texas would sue, but that doesn’t seem to be her mindset.

          • John

            that’s a pretty big thing to “miss” and “mess up” if the cancer spread in her body after chemo.

            That’s like one of the few times its legit to sue for malpractice and incompetence on the hospital’s part. She could have died. Sure they saved her life, but you don’t make mistakes like that.

    • Will

      Being an out-of-state fan, I don’t listen to the radio broadcasts much, but from the few times I’ve heard them, I actually think Waldman/Sterling are pretty hilarious. I think it all depends on what you expect from a radio broadcast, and to me, entertainment is the main thing. Same with TV, which is why I love it when YES goes with the 3-man teams of O’Neill/Flaherty/Kay or Cone/Leiter/Kay…the irreverence quotient goes way up and it makes for a more entertaining broadcast.

      • mbonzo

        I could appreciate Sterling’s humor if he could call the game as it really is. Its very hard not to hate him when he’s constantly going into his homerun call when balls get caught, or the other way around.

        As for Suzyn Waldman, she’s not trying to be funny. She’s just lost. Its a pity that she is the first woman baseball caster. She is to sportscasting, as Leela was to baseball.


        • Skip

          She is to sportscasting, as Leela was to baseball.

          She is to sportscasting, as Leela was to blernsball.

  • YankeesJunkie

    You guys in the New York area have it pretty lucky that you pretty much get the Yankees for free to watch (cable of course) and radio.

    • mbonzo

      Actually, because I can’t get YES on MLB.TV, I have to order cable which is a lot more expensive.

      • ChrisS

        My other comment was apparently eated.

        But this pisses me off. Part of the growing pains of digital entertainment is that content producers seem to go out of their to double-charge and overcharge for their content or otherwise make it exceedingly difficult for people to access their content.

        I live in the NY market, so I have to pay for 120 cable channels that I could care less about just to get YESHD. I’d pay, per-channel, more to just have ESPN and YES access (something easily accomplished over the broadband internet I pay for – the bulk of which I don’t use). I already pay for Hulu+ and Netflix. I don’t need cable except for live sports. And I can’t use mlb.tv because I’m in the Yankees market. It less-than legal internet work-arounds that much more attractive.

        Additionally, I have XM with MLB radio. Yay. I pay the extra $2.99 to access XM online. A mistake I won’t make again, because the online streaming doesn’t include MLB radio. Fucking pointless. I can listen to the game in my car, but I can’t listen on my iPhone 10 feet away? Who the fuck are these people to dictate how and where I can use media that I’ve purchased access to? It seems contradictory to try limit their audience.

  • BigBlueAL

    Yankee games have been on radio in South Florida since around 2007 (640 Sports). At first they only aired games on Sat and Sun but since 2009 they air every single game along with the pre and post game shows. They promote themselves as the flagship station of the Yankees in South Florida (although their talk shows are all basically Dolphins/Hurricanes/Heat related).

    Before you had to pay for MLB.com audio from 1998-2000 I heard basically every Yankee game on my computer for free (at least the games not on Fox/NBC/ESPN or whenever they played Tampa since even in Miami you get to watch almost all of the Tampa Rays games). Broadcast.com had links to all baseball games for free every day, I even got to listen to the pre and post game shows too (Dunno if this was available before but I found the site during the 1998 season but unfortunately starting in 2001 it was only available on MLB.com and not for free). I must admit I LOVED Kay and Sterling back then. They were excellent together.

    • ChrisS

      I remember this. I was stationed in England with the USAF and worked grave shifts (which was awesome because with the time difference, I could listen to all the games online .. for free with no restrictions). Ah digital freedom.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Mattpat11

    Wow, the “Ma and Pa” comes off as terribly strained shtick.

    I wonder if he sees the irony.

    • JohnnyC

      Raissman…irony? Ya gotta be kiddin’. He calls YES Al-Yankeezera. Gives you an idea of how much he hates the Yankees and how wonderful his sense of humor is. Nice Village People handlebar moustache as well. Complete fool.

  • gargoyle

    Waldman needs to go.

  • Joe P

    That map is BS. I have been able to get WCBS in the south east for years. You can get it as far south as GA/FL sometimes.

    • bonestock94

      I can get it in Va Beach at night crystal clear.

  • nycsportzfan

    I am a berkshires dude.. I hope i don’t lose my yanks here in Pittsfield MA… I get them totally perfectly on 1340AM.. I can’t think about not having them, it really hurts to even think about it…

  • dc1874

    I have been in Myrtle Beach , South Carolina and could pick up Yankee games on CBS at night…

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

    I may intensely dislike Sterling and Waldman, but I’d rather have them on a strong signal than someone better on a weak signal. The 880 coverage is nothing short of fantastic; I can listen to the entire game on a ride to my GF’s in South Jersey (about 15 mins. from Phila.) whereas I lose 1050 not even an hour outside of the city. Hell, there are times when I can hardly get 1050 on my ride to/from work. The ideal situation is keeping 880 and replacing Sterling and Waldman, but that won’t happen.

  • Monteroisdinero

    XM radio and DirectTV mlb package. Glad I have both.

  • Sam

    They need to stay on WCBS. Many times during the summer I drive down to DC on a Sat, which is a horrible thing. Screw you, Jersey shore. But at least with WCBS, I can listen to a Yankees day game all the way down. That sucker reaches right to my folks’ place in Northern Va. If the Yanks go to a weaker single, there will be blood.

  • Brandon

    Sterling is and has always beenthe voice of the Yankees. Losing him would be a travesty to Yankees baseball. When people think of Yankees broadcasters, they dont think of the YES guys. They think of John Sterling. Now Suzyn Waldman, on the other hand, is dispensible.

    • Rick

      Mel Allen and Red Barber announced for the Yankees. Sadly, Sterling has been here for a long time, but he has most definitely not “always been” the voice of the Yankees.

      I’m less than thirty, and I only remember Mel Allen as the voice of “This Week in Baseball,” but come on.

  • ChrisS

    I listen to the Yankees radio broadcast, but I would rather listen to just about any other announce team. I don’t understand why the wealthiest team in the biggest market relies on those two clowns to be their radio representation.

  • JohnC

    I honestly have always liked Sterling. I think he calls a very good game for the most part. Waldman, on the other hand, I detest. Her voice is so annoying, and she is always laughing about something stupid. I enjoyed it when Sterling and Kay were together in the booth. Even Charlie Steiner was better than Waldman. I’d be happy if they keep Sterling and dump Waldman

  • MannyGeee

    not for nothing.. but its worth the $10 to get the mobile app. I can get some WCBS up here (on clear days), and the AM station that goes over the ocean from NH when I am at or leaving work… but outside of that, there is no clear consistent signal for anyone not in the tri state area.

    sorry but with the growing reach of ‘fanhood’, traditional sports radio transmissions are kinda on the way out.

  • Skip

    I live in Boston and I can pick up 880 sometimes when I’m outside…I can’t wait for tonight’s game to try and pick up these NH/ME stations for a better signal.

  • Hester Prynne

    John and Suzyn need to go. Their time was up 5 years ago. Sterling can be retained but the brass needs to tell him to stop the nicknames and the Yankees win at the end of each victory. He won’t agree and they fire him. Fire Suzyn. Hire some people who know what they’re talking about, the Yankees can afford it.

  • Yank The Frank

    On the map it looks like a lot of Boston fans live in the ocean. Gritty and wet.

  • murg

    Could deliverance be at hand? Make any deal that gets rid of Sterling. He’s a buffoon.

  • Hester Prynne

    THAT BALL IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS GONE! IT’S AN A-BOMB……………………………………. homerun Hideki Matsui.

    Sterling needs to go.

    • jon

      THAT BALL IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS!!!!!!!!! caught on the lip of the warning track

  • Justin Liu

    Woooo! Shout-out to the Junction…don’t see that too often.

  • Oscar Gamble’s ‘Fro

    Suzyn Waldman is beyond awful. A legitimately painful listen, and trust me I’ve not heard much of her because I simply can’t take it. Whatever happens, she absolutely has to go.

  • Elmgrovegnome

    I vote for both to go. Waldman is beyond awful as Oscar said. I liked Sterling years ago but I would rather the old crew. Wasn’t Tommy Hutton and ?whoesle?.

    On another note I wish that Michael Kaye wasn’t so entrenched in the Yankees as well. I never cared for him. He doesn’t have the voice to broadcast on TV or Radio.

  • Matthew G.

    The current signals are even stronger than the map suggests. Although usually a NJ resident, I spent 2010 living in Rutland, Vermont (that’s the dot in west-central Vermont that is nowhere near the radii you show) and got a listenable signal for the Yankees games. The beauty of AM is that, absent interference, it can reach over hill and dale far beyond where you would expect.

    There’s something about baseball on AM Radio that just makes life better, even if that means listening to Sterling and Waldman. I’d rather keep them and keep AM than move to FM and be free of them.

  • Tom Zig

    wtf is this game

  • McSwifty

    I am reading through these posts and can understand people hating Sterling and Waldman. I am not a big fan of either. But the WORST thing about the Yankees games on the radio HAS TO BE all those damn commercials!!! Before the game, after the game, and most annoying of all, DURING THE INNING! Have you listened to the Pre-Game show? They have a lot of nerve calling it a Pre-Game Show. It’s a nonstop listing of all the SPONSORS of the Yankees. If you broke the 30 minutes down, I am sure there’d be 8-12 minutes of actual content (“The Manager’s Show” and some other nonsense with Suzyn Waldman). OK, sponsors pay money, and it’s a business, I know. But come on! If any Yankee gets a hit or a HR that scores a run, before the player rounds the bases and touches the plate, we have to listen to Sterling tell us that “Curtis Granderson is safe at home, and you and your family could be safe at home with a policy from New York Life insurance Company……” WHO CARES! Totally inappropriate. No place for it in a baseball game, I don’t care how much these sponsors pay them.

  • http://winewithmike.com Mike M

    I go back to the M&M days. I moved to the “Sixth Borough” in 2002. (That’s South Florida for NYer’s). Got my Yes Network on DTV,(though they rip you off because you have to take MLB package to get it.) Since 2009 all the Yankees games are on WFTL 640. Keep it coming!