There’s been a ton of publicity this spring for the Cardinals’ new radio home, much of it far from positive.  The St. Louis Post-Distpatch’s Dan Caesar analyzes the lousy first ratings book for the club-owned station.

KTRS (550 AM) is wallowing in 18th place in the rankings of stations in the St. Louis market in the recently completed winter ratings period. It is down from the No. 12 ranking it had last year in the winter book – which covers January-March. This period came amid a wave of publicity for the station, maybe more than any local station had received in the last 20 years, and at a time when KTRS carried more Cardinals spring training games than ever have aired in the market.

But according to the Arbitron ratings, KTRS has just 2.5 percent of the St. Louis audience – down 22 percent from the 3.2 figure last winter. Meanwhile, KMOX (1120 AM) remains No. 1 with nearly the same market share it had last winter – 8.4 compared to 8.5 in 2005.

“You have to think that with the publicity they would have gained listenership,” said Frank Absher, a St. Louis radio historian and journalism instructor at St. Louis University. “You can extrapolate from all of this that people tuned in and said, ‘I don’t like this’ and turned it off. That raises the question, ‘Do they really know what they’re doing there?'”

That’s a strong statement, but the Cardinals’ approach to radio station management at KTRS makes the question legitimate. Cards officials obviously misread the market, as all but two of the on-air newcomers already have been fired, left or have been reassigned – less than four months after the massive makeover. Even a replacement for one of the new crew has been booted, and one of the people dumped in December, McGraw Milhaven, was rehired.

Bob Bruce was one of the newcomers, in sports, but left after just three months and returned to his old job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“After my first two days, I had my doubts as to whether it was going to be a good fit for me,” he said.

That’s because he said he was thrust into something for which he had no background – hosting hockey programming.

“I was coming from a college (sports) background, and after two nights I was hosting hockey shows and there was nobody around to help me with pronunciations of names,” he said. “It was pretty brutal, and I butchered a lot of them. I was thrown into something I wasn’t prepared for.”