by Rob Gregg
This week saw the return of Baseball Central (Noon – 1pm, weekdays on Sportsnet 590 The FAN) as Hockey Central went on its summer hiatus. Unfortunately, hockey missed the memo on taking a break, but I digress. The lineup for Baseball Central is new this year, with Sam Cosentino sitting in the host chair, and former Jay’s pitcher Dirk Hayhurst wearing the analyst’s hat.
As expected with new hosts, there was some awkwardness in the banter, but that was further exacerbated by Hayhurst experiencing problems crossing the border. He was set up at a radio station in his hometown of Canton, Ohio while his paperwork issues were getting cleared. Overall, as the week wore on, the awkwardness eased, and it will only improve when Hayhurst gets in studio with Cosentino beginning Monday.
The formula for the show is straight forward. Driven by the 20 minute updates, the 3 segments lean heavier on the Jays, as expected. It appears one segment will be a review of the Jays game from the day prior, a segment setting up the Jays game of the day, while the third segment concentrates on a baseball story outside of Toronto. Friday’s show had an interview with Detroit Tigers pitcher Darin Downs, who made his major league debut earlier in the week. Downs suffered a fractured skull from a line drive in 2009 while in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system. There were initial concerns that he would survive, and once he was out of danger, he had to relearn to speak. It was a compelling, feel good story to hear, highlighted by the humbleness you could hear from Downs as he reflected on how thankful he was to overcome the odds and make it to the majors.
For the most part, Cosentino aptly handles the hosting duties. The stumbling block for him (he’s not the first new host to have this issue), was handling the clumsy callout of Rogers and their multi platforms, as they head to a break. He’s a pro, and it’ll become second nature to him before long. Hayhurst also had his unwieldy moments, being somewhat new to the broadcasting game, let alone trying to create a good vibe with your co-host in another studio 500 kilometers away. Hayhurst has an “X games, dude like” quality in his delivery, which I’m sure will work with some, not so much with others. He had a proclivity for referring to his fellow baseball brethren as “man” during interviews this week, which seems a bit chummy now that he’s a member of the media. But he does know pitching, and he had some good takes during the week, including his thoughts on Carlos Villanueva’s start, commenting that he had stayed within himself, knowing his strengths, as opposed to trying to do something out of his realm. It is apparent Hayhurst has a penchant for baseball metrics, using it on a number of occasions, including using the metric WAR (wins above replacement) to measure Roy Halladay’s worth to the Phillies over his minor league replacement. Not sure I need a metric to further my understanding of Halladay’s worth to the Phillies, but it appeals to the sabremetricians out there.
What will be appealing to baseball fans is the show adds a different voice to the Jay’s discussion on The FAN in addition to Mike Wilner. It is clear that Wilner is not everyone’s cup of tea. What isn’t clear yet is whether Cosentino and Hayhurst will offer constructive criticism on the Jays, a la Alan Ashby and Gregg Zaun, or will it be the positive spin that more often than not emanates from Wilner.