When Michael Kay and company beat Craig Carton and Evan Roberts in the Fall 2021 book, it was ESPN Radio New York’s biggest win ever. By far. While Kay’s victory over Mike Francesa in Fall 2019 drew more attention, the big guy was out of gas at that point. This was a triumph over WFAN when it was at full strength.
But it has been all downhill since. Carton and Roberts have found their groove in afternoon drive and are hammering Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg. They have won the last two books, including a dominant 6.3 to 3.3 spring romp in the all-important Nielsen demographic of men ages 25-to-54. It’s not over for ESPN. But it’s getting late, early out there.
Kay, in his capacity as Yankees television play-by-player, sat down with NJ.com baseball columnist Bob Klapisch for a question-and-answer feature published Thursday. The bulk of the discussion was about the Bronx Bombers. But they talked a little radio at the end. Kay has a new take on why the scoreboard may look the way it does (Kay’s comments to Klapisch are below in italics and presented in full). And some things about Carton to get off his chest.
They beat us at first, when they were the new show in town. I figured that was just curiosity. Then we beat them for seven straight months, but starting in January they’ve beaten us for six straight months. It’s disappointing but I’m very competitive. Craig has been very nasty and rude, which doesn’t sit well with me.
Thing is our show is just as good as theirs, so it could be that the (ratings) meters (which are rotated every 18 months) have been given to more people who listen to (Carton and Roberts). Or it could be deeper.
They do a different show than ours. Theirs is guy talk. I try to do a show as if my wife is in the car with our kids. I don’t want to be embarrassed that they’re listening. Those guys don’t do a show like that, although I will say Craig is a hell of a radio talent. He knows how to deliver, he knows how to push peoples’ buttons, he does a show that’s a little blue. The people I work for wouldn’t want that. We play by different rules.
But, you know, I didn’t gloat when we won for seven months. So I’m not going to sit here and cry about it now when they’re winning.
Kay previously played fast and loose with streaming numbers in an attempt to declare premature victory over Francesa. But a meter distribution issue? That’s a new one. Kay also went back to the Carton-gets-to-say-dirty-things-I-can’t well, along with a great backhanded compliment. Worth noting: Kay’s station colleague, Bart Scott, recently waxed poetic about how you need a couple of guys who have been charged with felonies to win in the NFL.
That said, Kay is right. The shows are very different. Right now, the audience likes what Carton and Roberts offer much more. But there is a season for everything. And — as we have discussed previously — we are headed into a fall that could play to Kay’s strength.
The Mets and Yankees are going to be World Series contenders. The Giants and Jets have more optimism than they’ve had in years. The Knicks and Nets will be newsy, especially if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving stay and Donovan Mitchell arrives. And while hockey doesn’t matter much, the Devils, Islanders and Rangers should all be playoff contenders. Fans may want actual sports talk. And Kay’s show is much better at doing Xs and Os and interviewing the big newsmakers.
WFAN is the heavy favorite to keep rolling. And if they win the fall book, it will be time to call the fight. But Kay still has a puncher’s chance to get ESPN back in the game. We’ll see if he can.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]