Seen & Heard – Weekend Baseball Edition

by mike in boston @mikeinboston

 

After several weeks of roundtables and interviews and Mike Toth, I finally have time to catch up on other stories and have a bunch of topics I’d like to cover. But the Jays took centre stage this week, so this will once again be a single-topic post.

 

Hayhurst Returns

 

If you watched WWF/WWE wrestling when you were a kid the following scenario might be familiar. Your favourite wrestler has been missing for weeks and weeks on end. There has been no news of what happened to him; he has just vanished. Then, here and there you see hints of his return. A few signs in the audience … a brief snippet of his entrance music … And then it happens: he comes flying down the ramp like a bat out of hell, cleans the ring of everyone in it by delivering his signature move, and then grabs the mic defiantly to announce that he’s back, and to put the rest of the punks out there on notice.

 

That’s how I like to picture Dirk Hayhurst’s surprising return to Toronto. As you’ll recall, word came out at the end of the Jays’ awful 2013 season that Dirk would not be back. He had appeared on TBS in the U.S. during the playoffs and his work was regarded as mostly good. So the assumption in Toronto was that he had been snapped up for a full-time gig in his native country. Jack Morris left around the same time to take another radio/TV job, after failing to get in to the hall of fame. The speculation was that Morris — whose work was widely praised — would return if he did not get in, so his departure was also a surprise. After the loss of the talented Ashby the year before, things were looking grim. (as an aside: how long until it’s ok to “ask the question” whether Jerry is the reason people keep leaving.)

 

But earlier this week Dirk announced via Twitter that he had joined TSN would be making regular radio hits on TSN1050. This came as a great surprise to all Jays fans. Not only was Dirk back, but he had moved to the competition. During his time in Toronto Dirk  established himself as a polarizing figure. There can be no question that he presents a unique perspective on the game. Many mediocre players who have turned to broadcasting after their cups of coffee in the big leagues, but Hayhurst has written a very successful book about his time in baseball that goes well beyond the normal ex-athlete tell-all. Dirk has cornered the market on being baseball’s Everyman, and his signature move is to deliver existential insights into the human condition through his experience as a career minor leaguer.

 

While at Rogers Hayhurst worked with, and stood out from, the other  Sportsnet baseball voices. Even though both played the game, Dirk did not suffer from Zaun Cherry’s “know it all / I have the only correct opinion” approach. Nor did he suffer from the uncritical homerism that characterizes Wilner’s contributions. Nor still did he suffer from Blair’s grumpily outdated views on the game. That said, he did fit in very well with the 2013 Sportsnet narrative that most criticisms of the team are dumb, and fans are dumb for thinking the Jays are a bad team simply because they lost so many games. So, Dirk brought something valuable to the Rogers family, and almost everyone on the outside believed that his departure was a real loss to that network, but that he could not be faulted for moving on to greener pastures.

 

Dirk’s return came on opening night. The Jays lost to the Rays, and Dickey looked horrible. Dirk was front and centre on Twitter offering his insights on the game as it unfolded. Unfortunately, his insights were indistinguishable from everybody else’s on Twitter: transparent attempts to be funny, in the hopes that others will heap praise on you for being so clever. Soon, Andrew Walker (of FAN590’s Brady & Walker morning show)  said what most people were thinking:

 

 

Clearly the “sour grapes” part of Walker’s comment irked Dirk because the very next day he penned a long blog post in response. I strongly recommend that you go read it. Here are the highlights:

 

  • Dirk was not renewed as part of general spending cutbacks at Sportsnet, as well as targeted reductions to baseball coverage
  • JP Arencibia did in fact go to management about the criticism he was receiving from Dirk and Zaun
  • Dirk was reprimanded for publicly criticizing Rogers’ music/production choices
  • Twitter love Hayhurst
  • Dirk was commended for stirring up a storm about Clay Bucholz
  • Dirk’s lack of knowledge for how to navigate Rogers’ corporate climate is what led to him being let go
  • Fairness in coverage at Rogers “comes with an asterisk.”

 

Wow. That was unexpected. True, false, or a little of both, these criticisms offer a peek into how things are run over at Rogers.

 

The response to the story has generally divided into two camps: 1) sour grapes from a bitter ex-employee, and 2) insight into the true state of journalism by Rogers employees. The truth is, I suspect, somewhere in the middle. Hayhurst is clearly upset that he was shown the door. His blog post as well as his Twitter stream are punctuated by digs that only come from a place of real sensitivity. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t bother sniping. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. In fact, Rogers has done this before, when Wilner was suspended for airing dirty laundry. But let’s also consider the source: Hayhurst is looking to land a full-time gig, and so he has an interest in keeping his name in the news.

 

Let’s cut to the bottom line: it is good for everyone that Hayhurst is back covering the Jays. There is a lot to criticize with this group of payers, this management, this stadium, and this ownership. If Hayhurst is right, then we cannot expect that criticism to come from Rogers affiliated journalists and media. Observers will decide for themselves whether Dirk is right or wrong about Rogers, because credibility is always in the eye of the beholder.

 

I like Hayhurst in small doses. He’s very one-dimensional, but that dimension is one worth exploring. He was over-exposed at Rogers and was not very good as an every day baseball talking head. There’s a special skill in being able to talk intelligently about baseball day in and day out, and in my opinion Hayhurst is not right for that role. I have not yet heard him on TSN1050 so I can’t comment on how that went. Regardless, I’m glad he is back on in Toronto, and this is a smart move by TSN.

 

JaysTalk

 

Just a few things here, all of them bad news.

 

First, the team made news by booting their neighbour Steam Whistle from the Dome for being too visible. Apparently that was contrary to the terms of the deal they signed. This leave the Jays as the only team not to offer “craft” beer in their stadium. This looks pretty terrible.

 

Second, the team made news this week after Ken Rosenthal wrote that several Jays were willing to defer salary in order to make room in the budget to sign pitching help. This is so embarrassing for the Jays. A year after Beeston assured us that ownership are “all in” on winning, and that 2013 was not  a one year commitment to that goal, a story like this is public perception poison. If I’m Jose or Edwin, I feel like I’ve been misled and I’m seriously thinking about asking for a trade.

 

Chris Zelkovich has a report on the ratings. It sounds like it is going to be an uphill climb in light of the disappointment of last year and this off-season.

 

Lastly, I’m not sure what Robert McLeod’s job description is at the Globe, but his writing on baseball is not good. Here’s a story that reads like a promotion for the 2014 Jays. The farcical quotes by Beeston are left to hang there as if they make any kind of sense. I’ve been shouting for a while that the Globe needs to find a Mirtle for baseball, and another for the Raptors. For excellent neutral reporting, John Lott is peerless right now.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • I’m way behind on podcasts so I can’t comment on recent interviews and segments, but Dave Naylor’s March 7th interview with Steve Moore on the 10 year anniversary of his assault at the hands of Todd Bettuzzi was riveting radio. The discussion they had about “the code” was fascinating.

 

  • Nice to see Ben Ennis getting some high profile fill-in gigs. He’s been cursed with lousy assignments most of his time at the FAN. I’ll be curious to see if he can take the mantle of “next in line” and do something with it.

 

  • Steve Simmons implied on Twitter that Jays fans shouldn’t feel fondly towards Roy Halladay, because Doc asked to be traded to a contender. Damian Cox now has competition for the stupidest thing said about the Jays by a hockey writer.

 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike in boston

[hatemailaccount at gmail]

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Sam
Sam
April 5, 2014 11:44 am

The Jays are really turning me off with all of their smoke, mirrors and BS. The salary deferral stuff is terrible. I have to deal with enough nonsense in my job, I don’t need it from the place that’s supposed to provide me with an escape.

GreyCountyMike
GreyCountyMike
April 5, 2014 8:43 pm

MIB: Dead-on about Hayhurst! He, in small doses, delivers a fresh perspective that truly stands out from the Rogers propaganda. That he is back in Toronto is a good thing.

Matt
Matt
April 6, 2014 7:44 am

I agree with everything Hayhurst said in his blog post. Saying how it is always good. It’s nice he isn’t worried about getting hired back by Sportsnet to often personalities hold back cause they are worried about future jobs and not doing the current one correct.

Alex
Alex
April 6, 2014 8:11 am

Listening to pods while on long drive, funny to hear differences between 590 and 1050 on covering the jays’ deferment story.

Drumanchor
Drumanchor
April 6, 2014 10:05 am

Either contrived or by accident, Dirk Hayhurst appears to come across as smug and arrogant. He even admits to being sarcastic, so it’s easy to see how he rubs people the wrong way. He tends to speak in a smarmy, self-important kind of way.

He is not without intelligence and insight but I don’t really miss his daily talks on The Fan.

Sinnacle
Sinnacle
April 6, 2014 5:18 pm

Hayhurst reminds me of Keith Law over at ESPN. Sarcastic and condescending to some who neither did much of anything when employed by big league ball clubs. That’s not to say they don’t know baseball cause each clearly do.

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
April 7, 2014 4:16 pm

I wonder if 1050 will have a baseball show with Hayhurst to replace Leafs Lunch once the hockey season is over? The same goes for 590, I think Sam Cosentino is still with Sportsnet.
Hayhurst was more appealing in this interview than he usually is on the radio:

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2012/10/31/3577994/dirk-hayhurst-interview-sabermetrics-broadcasting

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
April 7, 2014 4:19 pm

“The magic of analytics is in recording all of the small things lost to memory that add up to something significant.”

Above quote is from an interestin 538 article on the NHL and analytics. “Something significant”, there’s the rub.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-people-pushing-the-nhl-into-the-advanced-stats-era/

alex
alex
April 7, 2014 4:42 pm

The description for the baseball central podcast still lists costentino and hayhurst as hosts.

Mike S
Mike S
April 7, 2014 6:22 pm

Another good post from mike in boston

However I disagree about Ben Ennis……….of all the weeknight/weekend guys on 590 (Sammut, Lajoie, Rusic, Wong, Ennis, etc) I probably like Ennis the least, although I am not really a fan of any of them……….I listen to 590 quite a bit more than 1050 on weekdays but I like the weeknight/weekend programming on 1050 better

Antonio
Antonio
April 8, 2014 10:50 am

Dirk is great. Rogers are jerks.

Naylor is a terrific host and interviewer. Bertuzzi should have been arrested and jailed for what he did to Moore.

Daniel
Daniel
April 8, 2014 4:06 pm

I have been hesitant to really shit on Rogers as terrible owners in the past, partly because I could see the justification that AA needed a couple years to build things up before really needing to spend a lot.

But this player deferral story has totally pissed me off. It’s outrageous. You can’t go all in one year, trade Syndergaard and Darnaud for a 38 year old, be in total ‘Win Now’ mode – then shut your pocket book a year later! It completely fucks the team, and makes dealing youth for now pointless. The fact that a company with 12 billion in revenues needed Reyes and Bautista to defer salary to sign a *badly* needed starter shows how Rogers views the team. It’s pathetic.

One of the most frustrating things is that the fans 100% showed up, after the Jays invested serious money in the team. Rogers *knows* that if they can win/create buzz/invest in the team, the fans will do their part and come.

I really despise Rogers right now. If they feel this apathetic about the baseball team, then let MLSE take over the Jays and spread it around. I want to see what Leiweke would do with this club.

Daniel
Daniel
April 8, 2014 4:09 pm

RE Dirk – it’s disappointing that Rogers has…what… 20 hockey analysts? And seems as though they’re only willing to hire one for MLB (Zaun).

I get we’re in Canada, and that hockey is a beast. But baseball draws good (likely great if the team was good) numbers 162 times a year. Letting Dirk go was a big mistake, and good on TSN for picking him up.

Baseball Central has brought in Kevin Barker as a cohost the last couple days. I dunno. He sounds OK. But Dirk was excellent (in my opinion). Would have made a lot more sense to just bring Dirk back.

Chef Mike in Burlington
April 8, 2014 4:44 pm

Gee Daniel, glad you’re come over to the dark side, you’ve finally run out of the patience most of the rest lost years ago…

11 years of Rogers ownership has clearly shown that this team will never be a success on the field except by blind luck, only because their ownership sees them as nothing more than a spreadsheet entry and DVR proof content for their other enterprises. Great for the bottom line, but shitty for the few fans they have left

Daniel
Daniel
April 8, 2014 7:03 pm

“11 years of Rogers ownership has clearly shown that this team will never be a success on the field except by blind luck, only because their ownership sees them as nothing more than a spreadsheet entry and DVR proof content for their other enterprises. Great for the bottom line, but shitty for the few fans they have left”

Actually, what’s particularly frustrating is that the fan base (paritcularly over the last couple years) has shown itself to be quite large, and willing to get into a team they think can win:

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/eh-game/great-canadian-ratings-report-blue-jays-bounce-back-214616633.html

Rogers is squandering that.

Daniel
Daniel
April 8, 2014 7:06 pm

And I wouldn’t say it they can only win through blind luck. They have the 10th highest payroll in baseball, ahead of the Rays and O’s. It’s just the plan set in place last year involved taking on a lot of salary and selling some younger, low priced players/prospects. You can’t halt that plan just a year in, or it will completely fuck it up. That’s more my frustration than anything.

Sam in Scarb
Sam in Scarb
April 9, 2014 12:02 pm

Since this website has basically turned into a once a week posting may I comment on something current.
I find it absolutely hilarious listening or watching on TV all the hockey experts (and yes there are way too many of them) making the bold prediction that there will be personal changes to the Toronto Maple Leafs before next season.
Well,No phucking shit Sherlock !!! Like you have to be an insider to predict that.My grandmother has been dead 22 years and she could tell you there would be “changes” on a team that has made the playoffs once in the past 9 years (and that was in a 48 game practice season)
Where oh where would we be without all the experts & insiders?

Curt
Curt
April 9, 2014 4:01 pm

It seems only a select few at Sportsnet have freedom of opinion on the Blue Jays (Bob and Brunt…though that could be debated), the rest must tow the Rogers line – or else. Actually, I was disappointed with Brunt’s questions for Beeston last Friday. Brunt asked Beeston (sheepishly) about the deferred payment story and Beeston gave his usual non-answer answer, throwing in how great Rogers ownership has been. That’s it. No follow-up question on what was an obviously nonsensical answer. Richard Griffin on the other hand was not afraid to call it exactly what it is: a serious embarrassment for the club and for Rogers. So maybe Brunt is also being “controlled”. Who knows.

I’m a life-long Jays fan (I was at the first spring training in 1977), but I am so turned off these days. I find it really hard to support a team that is owned by such a bunch of assholes.

Daniel
Daniel
April 9, 2014 5:23 pm
Daniel
Daniel
April 9, 2014 5:23 pm

Thanks Mike! Really enjoying your weekly posts.

Mullah_Kintyre
Mullah_Kintyre
April 10, 2014 9:38 am

Just in case it hasn’t already been mentioned here and anyone was wondering where she went, Barb DiGiulio is apparently showing up sporadically on NewsTalk 1010 during “round table” type segments.

Chef Mike in Burlington
April 10, 2014 10:56 am

Anyone read Griff’s puff piece today?? It sounds a lot like a guy trying to be liked by ownership…

Curt
Curt
April 10, 2014 1:31 pm

Griffin has a way of writing a tough article, followed by one that “mends fences” as it were. Typical journo stuff – he still needs to keep whatever sources he has happy.

Regarding his comparison of the two clubs, Houston has the top-rated farm system in the major leagues (which I don’t think he mentioned), whereas the Jays sold most of their top prospects to win now (which is not likely to happen). It’ll be interesting to see where both clubs are in a few years.

Chef Mike in Burlington
April 10, 2014 4:04 pm

I think it’s just me, and maybe he’s just playing nice with AA/Beeston to keep the door open, but I find it a alarming that barely 10 games in, we are already seeing Torstar coverage to re-assure us it’s all good and that we’re not going to become Houston…but considering that Houston has been in the playoffs in the past 20 years, maybe Griff should be very careful what he wishes for…

Daniel
Daniel
April 10, 2014 6:12 pm

As I wrote before, I’m pissed at the way Rogers handled the Jays this year – but I’m not sure we should assume there’s an ulterior motive behind Griffin pointing out that Rogers probably wants the team to perform well, because Jays ratings mean a lot to them.

I mean… it’s true. It’s not ass kissing.

Chris
Chris
April 10, 2014 8:07 pm

“Since this website has basically turned into a once a week posting may I comment on something current.”

Me, too. Damien Cox is leaving the Star to join Sportsnet full time.

Newspapers are dying a quick death. Between Brunt, Cox, Blair, Grange and others, I really hope SN uses their website the right way and have these guys post columns on a regular basis (much like local ESPN sites do in the US). You may not agree, or like all of them, but they are good writers. Soon there won’t be any of them left in print.

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
April 11, 2014 8:50 am

Sportsnet should have hired Cathal Kelly. Have at least one person worth reading (or don’t they think they can control him). Excellent move by the Globe.

http://j-source.ca/article/cathal-kelly-joins-globe-sports-columnist

D. Smith
D. Smith
April 13, 2014 12:53 pm

I’ve never been sure what to make of Hayhurst. I enjoyed his first book but I found his mix of self-pity and what’s it all mean take on things a little too much. I would agree with others that whether intentional or not he does come across as smug. After reading his response I was reminded of the bar scene in Singles. In that, A. he has an act. B. not having an act is his act. I can’t say I’ll really miss him.

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