Bob Fitzgerald

KNBR soap opera: Lee Hammer drops Mychael Urban

To say it’s has been a tumultuous last couple years at “The Sports Leader” would be a pretty big understatement. Traditional radio as an industry is suffering from satellite radio not going away as quickly as predicted (or ever, in all probability), but with the lackluster performances over the last several years by the 49ers and Warriors, the Giants World Series run has been the station’s only real anchor.

Now head honcho Lee Hammer is giving KNBR’s Giants coverage a major shakeup in 2011, as Mychael Urban let it be known via Twitter this morning that his weekend show wasn’t picked up. Why? Here’s Urban’s thinking:

Hammer basically said he didn’t like the show. It’s a subjective business, and he’s the boss there. Feel free to let him know how u feel.

While many fans are doing just that via Twitter and email as you read this, Hammer must be confident that just there are just as many enthusiastic supporters of Marty Lurie. So you have to wonder whether letting Urban go was a stylistic choice or a financial decision. Because while Urban has been a fixture on KNBR since he was a regular guest on Rick Barry’s show, he wasn’t working four, five, or six hours after games like Lurie. And since KNBR always has the ESPN Radio button they can push whenever they aren’t paying for their own hosts to talk and take calls, the fact that Lurie was allowed to extend his show for hours on end each weekend night probably meant he wasn’t getting paid extra.

So for around half the price it cost for Urban to host weekend pregame shows and handle an hour or so of postgame duty, with Lurie taking over and taking calls and playing interviews until 11 pm or later, Lurie will probably handle the pregame and postgame every single Saturday and Sunday. You have to wonder if his postgame shows will stretch as long as they did in 2010, because that would lead to Lurie working 8-12 hour days, maybe more.

While I like Lurie’s work (as I detailed in my post about why the 2010 Giants seemed to mean more, which I wrote after they won the NL West), taking Urban away makes the coverage more one-note. I liked the younger, more energetic show around gametime followed by Lurie’s slower, more relaxed approach. While some weren’t fans of Urban’s relationship with Barry Zito, Urban was successful in making the battered Zito sound like his former easygoing, loopy self from time to time. Urban has a great radio voice, he isn’t afraid to poke fun of himself or make jokes about stuff like the drinking going on at the Public House, and his years as a beat writer for and Comcast gave him an “insider” (sorry for using Comcast’s term) point of view on both the Giants and the A’s.

Urban’s release (and public announcement before KNBR could get ahead of the story) is only the latest controversy to affect KNBR since the major shakeup after Larry Krueger and producer Tony Rhein got canned in 2005 in the aftermath of the infamous “brain-dead Caribbean hitters” incident.

1. In 2009, Damon Bruce was forced out of postgame duties after his continued criticism of the Giants rankled their front office. Giants play-by-play announcer Dave Fleming replaced Bruce on Sportsphone 680 after weeknight Giants home games, F.P. Santangelo replaced Bruce as the full-time nighttime host in 2010 and Bruce moved to KNBR 1050 from noon-to-4.

2. Warriorsworld’s Rasheed Malek published a story reporting that according to “more than one source,” the Golden State Warriors pay Bob Fitzgerald’s salary for his work on KNBR’s “Fitz and Brooks” show.

3. F.P. Santangelo got pulled into a Twitter-spat by Jose Canseco over a purported argument of some sort at the Playboy Mansion during a party on New Year’s Eve (Canseco claimed that F.P was drunk and had to be removed from the Mansion by security). Santangelo did an excellent job squashing the “story” and the feud didn’t end up making a difference, as he ended up taking Rob Dibble’s old job as the TV color commentator for the Washington Nationals. Rumor has it his replacement will be Eric Byrnes, but that isn’t confirmed.

I don’t have an axe to grind against KNBR, besides the fact that listening to the station too much means my music consumption has sunk to a pathetically low level. While my wonderful wife (mostly) stays quiet on the subject, I’m sure she’d rather listen to a little less KNBR in the car (especially a certain “Kars” ad that’s played nearly every commercial break). I love Bruce’s show on 1050; Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert have been in top form ever since ESPN dropped Tolbert from its basketball coverage; Radnich is still funny when he’s engaged, and his is one of the voices that matters when actual news is going on (although his insecurity has been more and more noticeable over the years, and you can tell he misses having Barry Bonds to talk about). I listen to the Giants whenever I’m near a radio, and I’ll listen to Lurie like I did last year. However, one has to wonder if Urban’s release is the last major change, or if there’s more coming.

Urban will land on his feet, and many saw today’s news coming when a couple weeks ago he started tweeting about giving private pitching lessons and how KNBR hadn’t contacted him regarding a contract extension. Urban leaving KNBR (on a full-time basis — he recently tweeted that he isn’t “banned” from the station and may fill in from time to time) only means he’ll be on TV more often. However, as an outsider one can only look at KNBR and wonder about how stable things are under the Cumulus umbrella. If more layoffs/non-renewals are to come for the on-air talent, things could sound pretty differently on “The Leader” in 2011.

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