The Mighty 1090: A Perpetually Confusing Radio Station

Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton announced earlier today that he would be taking over the Pregame and Postgame show for 2014 on the Padres flagship station, The Mighty 1090. This news may interest those wondering what 1090 would do with Hamilton after it had replaced him with Dan Sileo but I find it interesting* for another reason: Baseball fans will now get even less of Craig Elsten.

*Where I define “interesting” as “disappointing”.

Last season, Elsten’s primary duties included hosting the Pregame and Postgame shows on the weekend as well as filling in for Jack Cronin or Coach Kentera during the week when needed. All told, Elsten worked about half of last season’s games,  partnering with former Padres announcer Bob Chandler. The combination of Elsten and Chandler made for a great mix of something old and something new. This is now gone.

I catch a fair amount of Pregame shows prior to each Padres game whereas the Postgame show is usually something I only listen to when I’m returning home from Petco Park. I think the Pregame is worth listening to for the obvious reason, in that it provides all of the necessary team news and injury updates. But more importantly, I think that Craig Elsten is one of the most intelligent baseball people working in San Diego. And it’s one of the few places we can could actually find him with some level of regularity.

Craig Elsten is a forward thinking baseball mind. When he does get an opportunity to fill in for one of the regular hosts during the week we’re often treated to interviews with other baseball luminaries like Jonah Keri and Joe Sheehan.

Elsten is comfortable talking about advanced metrics like WAR and how it connects to potential free-agent contracts but without doing it in a way that wouldn’t confuse listeners who don’t choose to analyze baseball using newfangled acronyms.

Two years ago Craig had a local bio-mechanics expert come on air to discuss pitching injuries and preventative care – think such a guest might be welcomed on San Diego’s airwaves now?

Last season before Will Venable caught fire his OBP was terribly low yet Bud Black continued to bat him second. I called in to the Pregame show, discussed batting order optimization with Craig, and then asked him to politely question Bud about his thought process when constructing a batting order – Craig inquired about it within a few days.

The Pregame and Postgame shows represented one of the few opportunities for Padres fans to hear intelligent views on baseball and now with another line-up shuffle we are denied this chance.

I don’t quite understand the thought process behind 1090’s decisions. I didn’t understand the Mighty 1090 when they moved Darren Smith to the 12-3pm graveyard and I don’t understand them now with their use (misuse) of Craig Elsten.

I also don’t understand the shuffling of Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton. Hacksaw’s program didn’t draw listeners during the PM drive-time slot so they moved him to the AM drive-time. When things didn’t work in the AM, 1090 found Hacksaw a partner in JD Hayworth, a decision which failed to generate ratings, leading to the former Arizona Congressman’s dismissal. Not long after Hayworth’s departure, 1090 removed Hacksaw from the regular line-up entirely in favor of a Miami radio host ignominiously fired for racist and misogynist remarks at previous radio stations.

Again, I just don’t get it.

If Hacksaw can’t draw ratings and hold an audience why is The Mighty 1090 positioning him as the Pre and Postgame host? More importantly why doesn’t The Mighty 1090 see that they have a real pro in Craig Elsten?

In the meantime I’ll wait patiently and quietly for news that one of the smart baseball guys in town has received a chance to give us something thoughtful.


I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired by Juan Uribe. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at

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  • USMC53

    Disappointing is right. You nailed it. 1090 has become a disaster, and this is just another log on the fire. Hacksaw is brutal. I wrote to the VP of 1090 about a month ago and asked that, for baseball season, they move Darren Smith to the afternoon drive slot, so we could get some intelligent baseball talk before the pregame show came on. Instead, they’re going to stick with Scott/BR (terrible) in the afternoon, and then shove Hacksaw down our throats for pregame?? Man, that station stinks.

  • USMC53

    Thank All That Is Holy for the internet. If I couldn’t come to Padres Public and MadFriars for interesting Padres/baseball chatter, and the only outlet in town was 1090, I’d lose my mind.

  • Change the Padres

    I wholeheartedly agree that it would be nice to get more thoughtful commentary on 1090. I wholeheartedly disagree that it should be Craig Elsten who gets that gig. He may have a cursory knowledge of some newer metrics, but I don’t think he’s nearly effective enough at it to get that position full-time. While it’d be better to have him on the air than Hacksaw (or nearly anyone else at 1090), I don’t think that’s the reason we should be disappointed he’s not on the air. Quite honestly, I think several members of this blog (among others) would be a better choice if that were a priority, let alone the whole spectrum of possible people that could be put on the air.

    Most of my ire, though, comes with Elsten consistently being on the wrong side of history. These are just a sampling of some things he’s said over the years:
    – “If fans are pessimistic about Moorad as an owner, they’re not paying attention.”
    – “[The Padres] are also quite probably better off on the baseball side of the equation as well. The trend in baseball these days has been trades where the selling party either gets salary relief OR top-shelf players. The Padres got both from Chicago, pitchers who have potential short-and-long term impact, while relieving themselves of every dollar of future commitment to Peavy. It was a banner day, maybe a lucky day, for Towers and the organization.”
    -“The Padres’ top asset doesn’t show up in the preview magazines or online projections. Bud Black is the Padres’ top asset.”
    -“Marquis, who arrived when desperately needed last year and pitched well enough to catch management’s eye, could easily regress back to his career levels and become a long reliever or waiver wire candidate. But at $3M, he’s a small and thus relatively safe bet.”
    -“I know, I know. New ownership! New money! We want more! All you’re giving us is a little more of the same!”
    -“I rolled off the lot in a 2011 Toyota Corolla. It’s solid, dependable, gets really good gas mileage, and I won’t go broke on the payments. It’s not sexy–heck, it’s barely noticeable in a parking lot—but it will get the job done. I hate to say it, and I know the San Diego Padres have a lot more money than I do in this extended analogy, but Padres GM Josh Byrnes should take the exact same strategy to the Winter Meetings in Nashville. So far, it appears he has.”
    -“Now, there is youth. Now, there is talent. Now, there’s a reason to watch, reason for hope, a reason to believe the boys from San Diego can compete even when the “Yankees West” have appeared in the division.”
    -“Let this column serve more as a friendly reminder: there’s a quality baseball product being delivered at Petco Park right now. The team is playing much better than you probably realize. And the future has never been brighter for Padres baseball.”
    -“Luebke and Cashner could come back at a high level, and Quentin and Street could stay healthy and productive. And with all of those things happening, the Padres could contend for the division and a playoff berth. Those are a lot of variables tumbling around, though. It’s rare all the tumblers line up in the same direction. But thanks to the willingness of Quentin and Street to take San Diego discounts, Josh Byrnes isn’t 100% committed to one path or the other. If things break bad, Street can be shipped out and there are no onerous commitments on the books. So, I guess we’re contenders now.”
    -“The Padres have too much talent at third base not to take advantage of the market dynamics and convert Headley into some other scarce resources to improve this team.”
    -“Padres MVP? Try the Trainers.”
    -“Now, the Padres have players who actually fit their plan in the pocket rockets Cabrera and Amarista. Eventually, they should be batting 1-2 in the lineup.”
    -“There are surely more changes to come, and some may be unpleasant. But at least this franchise has a bit of a direction now. Give Byrnes credit.”
    Among others…

    Let alone his consistently changing view on a Headley extension – to to campaigning for it, to then being against it – and being against moving in the fences (which were a huge disadvantage from a game theory standpoint).

    Using the term WAR every now and then is nice, but it doesn’t nearly make up for his general waffling on subjects and repeated shill on behalf of ownership (and bad baseball). So while I agree that 1090 made another WTF decision, I don’t think neglecting to give Elsten more air time is one of those WTFs. There are many other better alternatives.

    • When things are said and the current state of affairs when said are each important elements of understanding. Providing context is one of the things that you consistently neglect to do, David.

      There are a lot of people who disagree with your opinion stated here.

      • Change the Padres

        You can go ahead and go reread all of those comments from their source if you like, or just blindly assert that I’m leaving out context. Many of those things – by everyone’s standards – you’ll agree don’t require context if you read the source.

        That I even did any of that above is so much more than anything you’ve provided in this article – in terms of seeming to blindly support Elsten – that I’m shocked you would require anything more. Do you want dates to those? Links? The entire article pasted?

        Why have a comments section if we can’t come here and say “CRAIG ELSTEN IS SPECTACULARLY WRONG AND SELF-CONTRADICTORY ALL THE TIME” by literally giving you all that evidence?

        If you have reason to believe that Craig Elsten isn’t just a talking head who can SOUND intelligent, then by all means show me. Saying “other people agree with me” is exactly zero meaningful pieces of evidence.

        Again – 1090 is/was stupid, I’m not disagreeing with you on that. I just don’t think the decision to hire Elsten would have been a good one either. Honestly, if what you want is someone to say “WAR” and talk about OPS for ten seconds a broadcast, then I’d rather have Wonko on the air. And that’s saying something.

      • Comment away, David. Nobody’s saying you can’t or shouldn’t. I appreciate that you took the time to comment. I also appreciate that you’re tenacious and want something better for Padres fans. However, I think there are times when you leave out context to better shape your arguments. Since this has become a discussion about context I’ll point to these tweets from the other day.

        You included nothing about 2009-2012. Why? Does the percentage favor the Padres? Has the Padres payroll risen during this period?

        Why include 1998-2000? Those were years before the crazy TV money kicked in with YES and NESN and then other teams started going for regional networks. The Padres and Yankees were actually close in payroll in 1998. That context matters.

        One way you and I differ is that you view changing your mind as weakness, waffling. I don’t. I love to see someone’s position evolve. Craig can be reasoned with and I think that’s a positive. You’re entitled to disagree.

        The fact of the matter is that we’ll likely never hear a stat-head on the radio in SD. That’s ok. What I like hearing is someone who isn’t afraid of touching the “acronyms” and doesn’t scoff at their use.

      • Change the Padres

        Didn’t want to have to go here, but perhaps the only reason you wrote this post was because Craig invites you on his radio program. If you want to talk about absence of context, start there.

        No context was necessary for my tweets. They were in response to articles on the UT regarding payroll being the highest ever. I pointed towards many seasons where that wasn’t the case in terms of overall MLB spending. ’09-’12 weren’t those season so they aren’t included. That’s not leaving out context; there are 140 characters on Twitter and it would be totally f-ing stupid to write “these seasons were higher while these were lower” and then list off every season. That’s not possible, nor does it make any sense since the absence of a season implies it’s lower than the quotes ones. Additionally, I posted a chart showing every season with that statistic. Perhaps the context missing here is that you are purposefully (or negligently) implying a loss of context where there is none in order to support a point you are trying to make.

        Craig’s position doesn’t evolve, it waffles. I pointed to many instances and if you’d go listen to his podcast – I have heard every single on of them involving a Padres guest – you’d reach the same conclusion. His opinion changes on a weekly basis on things that shouldn’t change on a weekly basis: extending Headley one of the most blatant. If you want to call that “evolving” so you can justify this post giving a shoutout to a guy who invited you on the radio that one time earlier this year, that’s on you. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a dandelion-in-the-wind when it comes to stating his stance; you haven’t pointed to anything to prove the contrary while I’ve provided you links and places where you can go see that evidence.

        If you want to be defeatist and state “we’ll likely never hear a stat-head on the radio in SD”, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Advocating for someone because he’s the best of a shitty bunch is poor advocacy, in my opinion. We can do a lot better than almost all of the crud on radio in San Diego.

      • Change the Padres

        Nor, I point out, have you even rebuked a single one of those quotes. You just blurted “context!” and left it at that, as if every single one of those quotes is excusable given context. Get real.

  • Robby Deming

    The radio situation and the comments on this thread remind me of why we can’t have nice things. Sigh.

  • Lonnie Brownell

    Speaking of numbers, I’m guessing (since I don’t have the numbers) that 1090’s programming decisions are based on ratings (pragmatically, this is what they should be doing). I’d continue to guess that Scott & BR are the team leaders, with everyone else in a fairly tight, lower group.

    Whomever gets the morning drive has to do well, because that and the afternoon drive are critical (park factors). No one has done as well as S&BR did, so they keep searching for a winner. Saw probably had the second best numbers in that slot, but still too low to be considered good–so, they tried to find something to kick it up a notch or two–thus the string of broadcast partners, but that failed repeatedly. So now we end up with Sileo, who is in the same mold as S&BR. Poo.

    Why is Saw at the top of the bottom tier? The same reason some general talk shows are huge: Muck-raking. Saw stirs up controversy where there isn’t any, and badgers his audience. People (not most people reading this, but those large numbers) love it. However, he’s not a wise-cracking shock-jock, which S&BR (well, Scott) and Sileo are, and that seems to be the sweet spot. I do wonder how Sileo’s numbers are doing. Time will tell.

    H. L. Mencken: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”.

  • DaveRiceSD

    Still shaking my head at this. Then again, I’m still disappointed Darren Smith got buried midday – in my opinion he’s the most consistently listenable voice on the air, and I really enjoyed the years when he was doing pre-game. Not impressed with Sileo thus far, but I’ve never been fond of Kaplan’s schtick either. Apparently enough people are, though, to keep that kind of programming on the air.

    Still, I’d rather have more of them than the Hack. Hell, a pair of 12-year-olds making fart noises into the microphone for three hours would be better than the Hack. The guy may have an encyclopedic knowledge of crew rowing and Australian autocross, but I can’t stand listening to caller after caller get half their thought out before they get cut off and Hamilton starts blathering about some irrelevant detail in the listener statement, usually taken out of context.

  • Turbopan

    1090 is a shock-jock centered station. It’s a bummer

  • GoldenBoy

    God, this is awful. Hacksaw is the absolute worst. I thought he was about to retire. Why can’t this guy retire?! For what it’s worth, I thought the Pre & Post-game shows were great last season. I appreciated the work of everybody- Scanlon, Kentera, Elsten, Randy Jones, Bob Chandler… they all did great jobs.

  • Jefe

    I could not agree more with this article. There are only two reasons besides Padres broadcasts that I listen to 1090 – Darren Smith and Craig Elsten. All other times I switch off. Last season’s pre- and post-game shows with Craig, Bob (Chandler), RJ, Coach and the team were informative and engaging. Sticking in Hacksaw where he doesn’t belong is a waste and will turn off serious Padre fans. I don’t expect the current situation to last the season – the ratings will be a disaster. He’s a square peg being jammed into a round hole.

    If I was program director at 1090, Scott and BR would be back in the early morning (or gone altogether – they are just awful). Darren Smith needs to be the afternoon lead-in for Padre baseball and Craig Elsten would have the mid-day (or evening) slot full-time, with Coach filing the gap.

  • Phillietransplant

    I agree wholeheartedly but I have to wonder if Craig E. will never get the opportunity he deserves because he does not share the political views of Mr. Lynch. By the way does anybody else go crazy having to listen to Darren Smith go on and on in his inane manner; talking and talking in circles. What makes him think we are interested in the inner workings of his mind. Worse than nails on a chalkboard. The new morning guy is even worse cannot listen to him for more than 3 minutes no make that 1 minute. Craig E on the other hand is such a smart and articulate guy. But brains seems to be held against you on the mighty 1090. if you are as dumb as Kaplan and Billy Ray you get the top slot each day and us listeners just have to suffer.

  • David Massicot

    I couldn’t agree more with the writer’s comments about Craig Elsten. He has been enjoyable to listen to for years, yet he keeps getting treated like Chris Ello (a utility radio host) He seems really professional at his job with a fine mixture of knowledge, creativity, humor in his craft; while not getting full of himself. He can interact well with sports enthusiasts and get the listener thinking analytically and philosophically. I liken him to ESPN’s Freddy Coleman but at the Southern California regional level. [Coleman also seems to be under appreciated at the national level as he is only heard midnight and weekends] When Elsten started doing the pre game show for the Padres with Ben Higgens over a decade ago I remember it being fresh and engaging. He hasn’t been given the opportunity it appears. Somethings got to give.
    On the other hand Hacksaw has lost his game a little over the years. Though he was a sports talk radio pioneer at one time, it’s not the same. It is much more enjoyable to hear Elsten doing Padre pre and post game (esp w/ Bob Chandler). I could go on with my opinions and that’s all they are. But Elsten being kept down is a definite head scratcher.