Theo Epstein, Tito Francona, Jonathan Papelbon, Jed Lowrie, Kyle Weiland, Josh Reddick. None of these names will be with the Red Sox on Opening Day 2012.
That list will undoubtedly grow over the coming weeks, but one name stands out as perhaps the most difficult to replace of all.
As NESN's on-field reporter for all Red Sox TV broadcasts, the lovely and sexy Ms. Watney was bright enough and capable enough to overcome the initial "eye candy only" snickers. Yes, she is stunning to look at, but she was also a National Merit Scholar and went to the University of San Diego on an academic scholarship, graduating with honors in 2003.
Prior to joining NESN, Watney was a weekend sports anchor for KMPH in Fresno. She was also a sports talk radio host for 1430 ESPN Radio KFIG Fresno.
At NESN, she hosted The Ultimate Red Sox Show and The Red Sox Report, and also became the on-field reporter for TV broadcasts.
The sad news of her departure was reported in mid-November by CSN New England's Sean McAdam, who announced that Watney was heading back to California to cover the sidelines for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Media and fan reaction was immediate, and certainly stronger than the mere ripples created by the departure of Lowrie or Reddick.
"Heidi is the latest departure from NESN’s pulchritudinous lineup of jock talkers," bemoaned the Boston Herald.
Tina Cervasio, Hazel Mae, Kathryn Tappen and Jade McDonald were capable reporters who also added significantly to the sports scenery.
The silver lining is that NESN will undoubtedly want to maintain its reputation for developing fantastic sports babes. I am sure the powers-that-be at the network are hard at work over the holidays, seeking the most dynamic and bodacious talent available.
To help you armchair recruiters out, I've assembled 27 prospects for your New Year's weekend review. I've left out the most obvious superstars (e.g. Erin Andrews), for whom a gig with NESN would represent a step backwards. I've also left out a few other pretenders who have nothing going for them but looks. After all, this is a savvy sports town, and while we enjoy the eye candy, nothing is sexier than a good-looking woman who also knows sports and can talk about them effectively.
Let me know whom you would most like to see at Fenway Park this summer!