The Return of Baseball Central

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.

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@snuffter
@snuffter
July 7, 2012 9:19 pm

We’re really starting to see the value of having a media company owning a franchise. It took a long time to get here(Rob Faulds play by play anyone?) but the level of coverage and the quality of broadcast the jays now get might be the best it’s ever been.

Rogers has done a superb job investing in the Product and it’s paying dividends. Hopefully they’ll start investing a little more on the field now that they have the radio and TV side taken care of. Although I wouldn’t miss Wilner if he were to find a job elsewhere.

alex
alex
July 8, 2012 1:03 am

From the couple times I listened, Hayhurst loves talking about the mental side of pitching, as he seems to bring it up with every guest.

Ticky
Ticky
July 8, 2012 2:17 pm

@SNUFFTER
“quality of broadcast the jays now get might be the best it’s ever been.”

Have you ever watched a Jays broadcast on TV? Not only are Buck and Pat are two of the worst announcers in the MLB, but Sportsnet production is piss-poor compared to anything produced by ESPN/Fox/NESN/YES/etc.

Darren
Darren
July 8, 2012 3:06 pm

What Ticky said!!!!

Daniel
Daniel
July 8, 2012 4:02 pm

Buck and Pat leave a lot to be desired, this is definitely true.

But the Jays broadcasts pre Buck and Zaun were really bare bones. Jamie Campbell and Sam Cosentino on PBP. No ingame host etc.

So while Buck and Pat can be a bit much, I totally agree that Rogers have definitely invested far more in the broadcasts over the past couple years than they used to. Jamie and Zaun as analysts are a great addition.

Darren
Darren
July 8, 2012 4:14 pm

My problem with Buck is besides his voice wears on me he is a total homer, never gives criticism and everything is about the future. Tabler just echoes everything Buck says, rarely has an original thought. Mind you they aren’t on the verge of becoming Ken Harellson/Steve Stone but close. Campbell and Zaun are fine, a little stail but that’s OK. They have got to realize the talent they have in Ashby and utilize him allot more.

@snuffter
@snuffter
July 8, 2012 7:25 pm

Ticky

If you read my post you’ll note I wasn’t comparing it to other networks. Whether you enjoy Tabs and Buck or not you can’t argue they’re worlds better than Rob Faulds and Jamie Campbell calling games back when they were platooning Fletcher and mulliniks(sp?) alongside tabler. The telecast as it has existed on sportsnet is as good as its ever been. The production value behind the game is light years from what we’ve seen on any network covering the jays on a regular basis.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
July 8, 2012 8:30 pm

Great write-up RobG. Thanks for doing this.
.

The show is great and is very welcome addition to my iPod. It’s great to hear them devote time to each Jays game as well as more general baseball news and stories. Living in baseball mad Boston i got used to people questioning every line up decision and pitching change.

I also like that they are talking to people outside of the Jays organization about the status of the team as well. Really looking forward to spending a summer with Baseball Central.

itchy butt
itchy butt
July 9, 2012 6:56 am

I will always laugh at the “homer” comments. You people do realize that the broadcasters are hired by the team, right? And while Ashby can be a tad caustic and critical at times, for the most part they are employees of the team/team station. How often do you hear Ken Singleton say anything bad about the Yankees? (it helps that there isn’t much bad to say 😉 ).

alex
alex
July 9, 2012 9:20 am

I thought it used to be that broadcasters were employees of the media outlet but “approved” by the team.

Of course, these days with vertical integration, like with the Blue Jays or Yankees or Sox, it’s one in the same.

alex
alex
July 9, 2012 1:15 pm

I could do without them constantly using the term “multi platform coverage” to describe the Rogers/Jays monolith.

Daniel
Daniel
July 9, 2012 2:46 pm

“I could do without them constantly using the term “multi platform coverage” to describe the Rogers/Jays monolith.”

With Rogers and TSN buying the Leafs, Raptors and TFC, we’ll probably have to get used to that stuff!

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