Tom Tolbert Eric Byrnes KNBR 680

Rich Lieberman 415 recently reported that Eric Byrnes was no longer the host on Sportsphone 680. With all due respect to Mr. Lieberman, this isn’t exactly news. Byrnes stopped hosting Sportsphone months ago, in the process becoming the person most commonly heard with Tom Tolbert.

It got to the point where Tolbert started acting like Byrnes was the regular co-host — he could have been trying to make Byrnes more comfortable, but it really did appear as if Tolbert and Byrnes could be a long-term partnership.

The real question for the radio-obsessed (any of you out there?) is this: will Byrnes come back to KNBR?

He hasn’t been on for at least a month now, and from what I’m hearing he will probably return. Or there’s a 50/50 shot he’ll return. Or maybe he’ll never return. Byrnes said this on Twitter a couple weeks ago:

Eric Byrnes KNBR twitter

So what’s the holdup? Has Byrnes’ triathlon training gotten so intense that he doesn’t have time to co-host a 4-hour radio show at the current time?

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Byrnes’ absence has to do with money. According to a multiple sources, Byrnes wants to be paid commensurate with what a person hosting a drivetime radio show would/should expect to make, and Cumulus’ offer isn’t enough. That’s why you’ve heard Ray Ratto with Tolbert (or Ratto with Sportsphone 680 host Ray Woodson, which leads to those cheesy “Raydio” lead-ins that lead to some pretty amusing reactions from CSN Bay Area’s Senior Insider) most of the time from 3-7 pm over the last several weeks.

Tolbert likes working with Byrnes, and I’m pretty sure Byrnes has a good time hosting with Tolbert. They’re both former athletes who played in Oakland, and they seem to really enjoy teasing each other about their respective golf games and musical tastes.

However, KNBR probably wonders what kind of value Byrnes provides. Are the ratings higher for “The Mr. T Show” when Byrnes is there? I’d say that’s doubtful, especially during the baseball off-season. Byrnes’ style (high energy, distinctive voice, occasional yelling) makes him one of the more polarizing figures on KNBR. In other words, he’s the opposite of Woodson.

Cumulus presumably let Ralph Barbieri go to save $380,000 per year; are they interested in replacing him with a guy who doesn’t want to work at what he perceives as a bargain price? On one hand, Byrnes probably doesn’t need the money as he pulled down over $28 million in salary over his Major League career and still does TV work for MLB Network. Then again, a guy with that kind of money can afford to say no to what he considers a low-ball offer.

With the permanent hosts migrating away from the station for the holidays, the Byrnes question probably won’t be answered until January at the earliest. If you were Cumulus, would you raise your offer to Byrnes or let him walk (which in Byrnes’ case would probably mean more running, cycling and/or swimming)?

Or maybe I’ll phrase it this way: who’d you rather hear with Tolbert most afternoons, Byrnes or Ratto?