Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston @mikeinboston

 

Happy spring everyone. I’m going to use this post to clear out a lot of things that got stuck in the queue over the last month or so. If there are interesting issues I have missed, please post them in the comments.

 

Changes at the Globe & the Star

 

The biggest media story over the last few weeks has been the shake-up at the major papers, not just in sports but across the board. If you follow Simon Houpt then you know just how many high level newspaper people have been fired or reassigned. You also know that there have been some massive financial losses at the National Post. The industry is really in flux right now.

 

As a fan of good sports journalism, this is exciting. My hope is that the sports directors at the Star and the Globe are in the process of rethinking how they approach journalism. I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial in claiming that sports journalism is one of the most recalcitrant industries with respect to change. There has been one business model for the last 100 years, and in recent times that model has not served the reader very well. In 2014 you still see some people arguing that locker room access is the measure of the quality of one’s writing.

 

To summarize the major recent moves: Cox and Blair leave their columns for full time gigs at Sportsnet, and Cathal Kelly takes his column over to the Globe. This means that Feschuk moves up to take over Cox’s role, while Kelly takes over for Blair. Another way you could see the Kelly move is as a replacement for Brunt.

 

Cox the writer is a different person than Cox the PTS co-host and Cox on Twitter. In my opinion he has given up the thing at which he was best, and will now focus full time on things he doesn’t do well at all. That said, I think Feschuk is a perfectly capable replacement for Cox at the Star, and perhaps one that comes with less baggage. Kelly is a mixed case: he tends to try very hard to sound smart in his writing and this sometimes interferes with the story, but when it works it works well. My hope is that the editors at the Globe will work on and with him.

 

We have debated the plight of the traditional newspaper here quite a bit. We have seen the journalistic death of once venerable figures like Stephen Brunt when they leave their newspaper homes. So, it would be natural to think that there is no way to save things for the readers. But, I believe that newspapers (some of them at least) still have a credibility that is unmatched. If a story is going to break on PEDs, or NHL relocation, or homophobia in the front office, I want that story broken by a newspaper, not a blog and not Twitter.

 

So I’m cheering for the lean and mean sports departments that will emerge from these overhauls. The people in charge have a real chance to turn a negative into a positive. Good luck to these people in their new roles.

 

JaysTalk

 

Given how terrible the off-season and spring were, you have to count the start of the Jays’ 2014 season as a huge success. If they can stay at .500 through the first 50 games then they have a chance of being surprisingly relevant this summer. After Rogers slammed the door shut on adding new money to the budget, and after the Jays were publicly embarrassed by the news that they were asking players to defer money to make room in the budget for much needed pitching, an opening losing streak would have been the final nail in the public perception coffin.

 

The Jays have played well defensively, have hit reasonably well, and the starting pitching has been what we expected from this group. The bullpen has been over-taxed and has shown some cracks, but it has held up for the most part. There are some feel-good stories in McGowan and Hutchison, and most of the players are likable.

 

As you may have seen, the Jays had a historically bad half-inning against the Twins the other night, giving up a bunch of walks and wild pitches, blowing a lead and losing the game as a result. I took this occasion to tune in to Wilner’s show for the first time this year. Here is a brief paraphrase of what I heard:

 

CALLER: If the Jays are going to be out of it by end of May then I’m going to stop paying attention

MW: That’s your right. You’re entitled to that opinion. But it if you’re going to make a decision based on a half inning of baseball, then you know nothing about the game.

 

Glad to see that Wilner is still in fine form after all these years. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Jays fans deserve better than Mike Wilner. He’s not good at his job. The show has not improved, despite his efforts to condescend people into saying things he thinks are worth saying. Time for a fresh start.

 

I have lived in several baseball cities in the U.S. and nobody has a worse post-game show than the Jays. My apologies to Wilner’s co-workers who read this column. I’m sure he’s a delightful colleague and a real hoot at office parties.

 

Quick Hits

 

The MLS has seen increases in attendance across the board and are now closing in on a lucrative national TV deal in the U.S. Lots of people are rabid fans of top level soccer played in Europe and elsewhere, and complain that the level of play in the MLS is just too low by comparison. If teams get a cash infusion via a TV deal, this might lead to more elite players coming over, and in turn raise the quality of the product on the pitch. Going to a game at BMO is fun when the weather is nice (as long as you remember to bring a hat). If the MLS could become a good league, then the experience would be even better.

 

Bob Knight (noted anger management student) works for ESPN. In that capacity he talked about how the NCAA has “raped” its players through its rules. ESPN did not see fit to apologize for the comment, or force him to retract it. We can argue over how bad a statement this is, but I would have expected higher standards from ESPN.

 

Ho-hum. Another college athlete came out as openly gay to his teammates. In a few years this will be a non-story, but for now it’s more support for those who are thinking about coming out themselves. This is good news for social change.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Rosie wrote a Leafs piece that was quickly demolished by birky over at PPP.

 

  • Brian Burke is still a bully who seems really invested in what everybody else is doing.

 

  • Not sure if PTS had technical difficulties, but their interesting interview with the lawyer who is suing the NCAA on behalf of the players  cut off mid-sentence on the podcast.

 

  • Fair or Foul? Howard Berger wrote a blog post about why he and David Shoalts don’t get along. In it he mentions the recent death of Shoalts’ son. I had no idea about that, and it seems odd to raise it within something that could be construed as a hit-piece. Seems like he should have left that detail out. (thanks to reader Jonathan Giggs for the link).

 

Thanks for reading and commenting. Now go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

until next time …

mike (in boston)

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Sam in Scarb
Sam in Scarb
April 19, 2014 10:13 am

Soo far the Jays are doing all right so far this season.They really did not add any huge big name players but they did make one very important move. They gave the gas-pipe to J.P. Arencibia. Sometimes a team becomes better by subtraction rather than addition.
J.P. not striking out 3 times a game with runners on base and hitting into a double play at his 4 th at bat is turning into being a ++
Oh and not being able to catch balls thrown by the pitchers at an MLB level of competence is also turning out to be a huge ++
Currently he is on the Texas roster but there are strong rumors next week when an injured catcher returns he will be released outright,not sent to the minors..released.
Karma is a Bitch!

Dogpounder
Dogpounder
April 19, 2014 10:57 am

Wilner is a necessity in a market where the average fan is dumb. You make think it’s the worst post game show, but that has nothing to do with the host. The callers are brutal, and Mike does a good job conveying that baseball is a cerebral game, and wins aren’t drummed out of the ra-ra found in the hockey dressing room.

100% agree on Cox. Guy is horrible on TV.

Kamlesh
Kamlesh
April 19, 2014 12:35 pm

No need to apologize to Wilner’s co-workers. He’s as condescending to them as he is to callers. Wouldn’t be surprised if they secretly despised him.

Lee (Oakville)
Lee (Oakville)
April 19, 2014 4:21 pm

Damien Cox is a triple-threat: below-average in print, unlistenable on the radio and abhorrent on TV. He is an automatic channel-changer for me and I find it mind-numbing that Sportsnet considers him a media fixture on their platforms.

Neil
Neil
April 19, 2014 9:10 pm

Hey Dogpounder

funny your defending Mike Wilner. One of the Most astitute broadcasters in the game, Dan Shulman now a Gem in the broadcast world, use to sit where Wilner is sitting today in terme of Jays talk. Dan’s professionalism and skill awarded him a job with the biggest sports broadcaster in North America, Mike will be doing Jays talk till he’s blue in the face because other broadcasters probably see this guy as a clown. Just to give you an example Mr defender of all things Mike Wilner. Remember when Jp Richardi went off on a fan in regards to Adam Dunn, Mike Wilners name wasn’t even mentioned in media reports, Media south of the border called it Ricchardi’s show.Mike Wilner is a no one and tries to make all his callers who oppose his convienant truths feel the same way. He Is a Jays Media Pupper
Mike needs to learn from some of the most professional people that have worked or work in Jay’s broadcast i.e The late Tom Cheek, Dan Shulman, Allan Ashby, Jerry Howarth…..
Mike is no more than an extention of the jays PR department, his Title: SPIN DOCTOR.On Mikes show your aloud to be unreasonably optimistic, on the flip side being any kind of pessimist regarding the organization or players will get you dial tone, A true demonstration of a double standard and bias reporting. I don’t think anyone who listen’s to the Fan throughout the day has to wonder what Mike’s co-workers think about him. Mike Toth former talk radio co-host on Mike Hogan old Show While filling in for Bob Mcowan one day on the fan Made a comment about Wilner and then invited callers to Pile on his not so nice comment and boy did they ever, Bob Mcowan never has Wilner on his program. Other personalities on the station “Jokingly” have made comments about Mike thinking he knows everything. I echo the sentiments “It’s Time For Change”

Another Steve
Another Steve
April 19, 2014 9:43 pm

I agree with what Dogpounder had to say about Wilner. He has a thankless job, for I think that most of the callers are mind-numbingly stupid.

Let’s be honest: having a discussion about Wilner at this stage is almost pointless. Most of the people who make comments here have long since made up their mind on him. Those who dislike him will hold that viewpoint no matter what. For my part, I enjoy listening to him and I’m not persuaded by those who strongly dislike him, just as I’m sure that there’s nothing I could write that will persuade those that hate him to change their minds.

(By the way, how do you know that he’s condescending to his co-workers, Kamlesh?)

Daniel
Daniel
April 20, 2014 3:23 am

Hey different strokes for different folks! I like Wilner. JaysTalk makes me laugh in a cringey kind of way. And I have to say I find it enjoyable when he breaks apart moron callers.

He gets a bit offbase sometimes, and caught up in semantics, but generally I think he has a good grasp of things.

I’ll throw this out there – I’ve gradually started to enjoy the job Scott MacArthur does covering the Jays at 1050 as well. Nothing fancy, but I think he’s solid and knowledgable. If you can’t stand Wilner, give him a follow.

Daniel
Daniel
April 20, 2014 3:35 am

Yeah, wasn’t expecting this, but I feel cautiously optimistic about the Jays. That was particularly nasty on Thursday, but really other than that they have looked pretty good.

Melky and Bautista look like the *really good* Melky and Bautista, and the top 5 or 6 of the lineup could be terrific with decent health.

Defence has been excellent, bullpen good (other than the meltdown on Thurs), and yeah – Dionner is a huge improvement over JPA. With the bat, and I think also for the pitchers.

I think the concern is still what we all thought it’d be – the rotation. Buehrle looks absurdly good, and Hutchinson has looked really strong, which is great. But Dickey, Morrow and McGowan have been such mixed bags. Might get a great start, might see a total shitshow. Very disappointed in Dickey in particular. I hate to say this, but having Santana in this rotation would have been such a difference maker, and I really think could end up being the difference between playoffs and not.

Maybe Morrow will step it up, or maybe if the Jays are in good shape still by June/July they’ll trade for a starter. We’ll see. At least it really does look a lot more like the good team we thought we were getting rather than what we saw last year. Maybe with a bit of luck or a couple pleasant surprises the Jays can end up in a race.

Westdale Rocks
Westdale Rocks
April 20, 2014 9:15 am

Regarding the changes in sports journalism, I’m kinda with you. To see the downside of this change, one need look no further than the SLAM! website. It’s still somewhat connected to Canoe/Sun Media, but it’s become a mish mash of blogs that have wild and exaggerated opinions. And what’s with the focus on T&A? The sweeping generalization about sports fans is that they’re beer swilling slobbering cavemen with beards and baseball caps askew, while dragging women by the hair. SLAM! does nothing to dispel this. If I go to a sports site, I want to read about sports. If I wanted to see T&A, I’d type in ‘bikini beach’ on google and go there.

D Smith
D Smith
April 20, 2014 10:46 am

I have to agree with Dogpounder about Mr. Wilner. Jays fans and Jays Talk callers can be increcibley dumb. If I had his job I’d be in a straight jacket after a week. It doesn’t help that the other talking heads in the media don’t do much to educate the fan base. Listen to Buck and Tabby depate obp vs. ‘production’ made me want to throw my remote

Dogpounder
Dogpounder
April 20, 2014 3:19 pm

Neil. You’re assuming that hosting the JaysTalk is somehow an automatic path to doing the play-by-play for Sunday Night Baseball. It doesn’t work like that.

Because he’s been doing it a long time is not evidence he’s an inferior broadcaster.

Neil
Neil
April 20, 2014 3:43 pm

D Smith Wilner is Just as Dumb When he says stuff like former GM J.P Richardi never signed a bad contract, Yet J.P dolled out one of the worst contracts in Blue and maybe even sports history by giving Vernon Wells $140million over 7years which was dealt away a year later, What about when Mike use to Cry about the division that the Jays are in, Yes the same division that drives revenue for the Jays when their rivals Boston and Yankees come in and yes the same division that Paul Beston has always said is a cash cow for the Jays, the same division the Rays and their lowest payroll are in yet made playoffs since 2007. Boy D smith is Mike ever so smart by belittle the Rays every year since 2007. sure lets belittle a team that’s had top 5 best pitching staffs in baseball since 2007 and great defence, how smart is Mike’s perception of Tampa Bay, given the fact that pitching and defence wins games. Im sure you’ve heard Wilner say a manager job is really to only manage the bullpen and that managers don’t really impact the game, REALLY, Contrary to Mike’s thoughts on a manager, If a manager does not really impact a game why not just throw any batter anywhere in the lineup or why not just throw a .190 hitter vs lefties in against Jon lester.John Gibbons is responsible for the lineup 1 through 9 which certainly impacts the game
Swings on 3-0 pitches, defensive alignment etc all these area’s can be the difference between winning a losing especially close games. Dude Mike has you hoodwinked.
You sound pretty young, to young to remember some of our great baseball broadcasters in this city. You seem to have a love for Wilners bias, contradictory and controversy.

Neil
Neil
April 20, 2014 4:26 pm

Dogpounder,

Im simply saying that when your masterful at what you do, your opportunities will be plenty, especially in broadcasting. This statement is backed by the fact that Canada has lost Great on radio talent. Like Dan Shulman(former great host of jays talk) The jays via Radio and TV has always been a great draw, Mike Wilner has nothing to do with that, if anything his play call might have caused declines to the Radio numbers, Mike is Far inferior at play calling to any of his predecessors. I don’t think you’ll debate that.

Matt
Matt
April 20, 2014 4:46 pm

The people who call into Jays Talk are usually idiots. They are the reason I usually shut it off after 2 callers not Wilner. And a younger on air person at the Fan I know when I asked about Wilner a couple years ago they had nothing but nice things to say about him.

Neil
Neil
April 20, 2014 5:08 pm

Matt your right about the idiots. because 90% of the people that call into the show tell Mike how great a job he is doing.Im not saying Mike is not a nice guy, what I am saying is that his on air personality sucks. We have hockey people in this city that take calls on post game shows regarding the most valuable hockey team in the world and it’s losing ways, how often do you hear them hang up or yell at crazy hockey fans many of which are dillusional,
If you ask yourself why don’t leafs fans get yelled on call in shows, well it’s simply because the broadcasters are smart enough to know that passionate fans drive pro sports and keep the team and ownership honest. Wilner covers the Jays and offers very little objectivity therefore the fans do that part of his job for him. Does Mike think what he deals with is anything compared to what the hockey guys deal with. Give me a break. Cry me a river.

Dogpounder
Dogpounder
April 20, 2014 5:14 pm

Sounds like Mike put someone in their place on a recent Jays Talk and that someone is bitter.

Age card. Nice.

Neil
Neil
April 20, 2014 5:17 pm

Theme of the blog should be Wilner Worship.

Clair A Fye
Clair A Fye
April 20, 2014 10:05 pm

Neil, you’re either new to this website or you’re not paying attention. Wilner is a regular whipping boy here. Just read the last two entries by the anonymous New Englander. Last week he suggested Wilner was suspended for “airing dirty laundry”. Not true. He was suspended because he was aggressively questioning Cito Gaston and Cito didn’t like it. Don Kollins was the new PD and didn’t know what he was doing. He caved to Cito and made Wilner walk the plank. In hindsight that has been extremely damaging to Wilner’s credibility, and it’s because of ill-informed opinions like the Great Nor’easter’s (spoken as fact) . It’s also something that would not have happened if Nelson Millman was still in charge. Millman was always defending his staff. Kollins threw Wilner under the bus.
And one other thing: Wilner isn’t on PTS because McCown doesn’t like to look uninformed. I’m not defending Wilner;he doesn’t need me or anyone else to do that. You also don’t have to like him or the job he does. But he is a pro (unlike Beantown Boy) and as a pro, I’m sure he would have gotten the facts straight. Opinions, of course, are an entirely different matter.

Sam in Scarb
Sam in Scarb
April 21, 2014 3:19 am

Due to the nice warm weather here in southern Ontario I have been able to see most of the Blue Jays games on TV this year.Saturday was the final straw.Pat Tabler brings absolutely NOTHING to the Blue Jay broadcasts.Goes on and on about how difficult the game of baseball is too hot,too cold sun too bright,windy,bullpen tired,grueling road trip (hint,every team in the MLB has nine game road trips not just the Blue Jays). He brings nothing to the game you can’t see on the TV screen (nowadays at the top,bottom and side of screen) To prove the point we watched the entire game on Sunday with the sound down and I feel I did not miss anything at all.
I challenge anyone to explain what positives Pat Tabler brings to Blue Jays TV broadcasts?

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
April 21, 2014 8:22 pm

Bruce Arthur ‏@bruce_arthur 2h
Yes, I’m joining the @TorontoStar as lead sports columnist. I will be back in a little while to attempt to thank all you beautiful people.

Ron
Ron
April 21, 2014 8:25 pm

And the wheels keep turning: just announced that Bruce Arthur is heading to the Star. Thank goodness for that; I was beginning to think that Rosie was gonna be the lone columnist in the Star’s sports section, which was a frightening concept. I’m never sure what they’re thinking at the Star, but allowing Rosie to write sports columns (any columns for that matter) is just a huge embarassment. They must know this, and yet they still persist in lettting it happen. Kinda like PTS continuing to employ Shannon. It’s total indifference towards your readers/listeners. That only lasts so long.

I agree about Cox…he was always a better writer than a radio or television voice. Seems to me to be a risky move, to give up on that thing that’s your core strength. Obviously the cash being offered by Rogers to both Brunt and Cox must have been too good to pass up. But not he’s gonna be just another hockey voice at Rogers, alongside Mclean, Kypreos, Shannon, Morrison, etc., etc. Easy to get lost in all of those voices.

Mullah_Kintyre
Mullah_Kintyre
April 21, 2014 9:38 pm

Re: “watched the entire game on Sunday with the sound down and I feel I did not miss anything at all.”

I wish we could watch all sports on TV hearing a lot more of the game and ambient sounds and a lot less of the announcers. It’s TV and not radio, and it’s not 1964 with a small blurry black and white picture and 3-inch speaker. It’s 2014 and we’ve got big HD screens and good sound systems. The graphics on the screen tell everyone (including those watching in bars with no sound) what’s happening. We don’t need a squad of annoying motor-mouthed announcers to tell us what we can plainly see for ourselves. I’d prefer none, but I could accept one who talked very sparingly only when something needed to be explained. We’ve now got many other options on TV, radio, etc., to hear all the other (usually) pointless blather. There’s no need for it during the actual game.

Alex
Alex
April 21, 2014 9:48 pm

I believe in the UK, sky used to have an ambient feed for futbol matches, with no announcers so you could hear the chants and what not.

Neil
Neil
April 22, 2014 6:41 am

Shi Dividi, would be great for jays talk. Hope somewhere along the lines he takes over. A wealth of knowledge about the game and the league.

Curt
Curt
April 22, 2014 12:25 pm

I don’t know, Jays Talk doesn’t seem to be an aspiring gig. I’m thinking Wilner does it because no one else wants it, and he’s low man on the totem pole. Shi is too good for that nonsense – Wilner is perfect. Just my opinion.

Curt
Curt
April 22, 2014 12:29 pm

Re Arthur, I’m actually an online subscriber to the Star (no apologies – I know I can get it for free, but I like to support journalism), so when it looked like Rosie was about the only columnist left in the sports department, I was about to unsubscribe. I’m glad to have Bruce on board.

Antonio
Antonio
April 22, 2014 4:18 pm

Arthur going to The Star makes perfect sense. They deserve each other.

Dan
Dan
April 23, 2014 7:56 am

Moving newspapers doesn’t change the way Arthur writes, so yes, I will continue to not read his rubbish. Moving from a national paper to a Toronto one (and one with a presumably bigger budget), it means he’ll focus more on Toronto teams (which doesn’t interest me at all), and/or he’ll be sent to write on new events he hasn’t previously covered (so he’ll even have less of a clue than usual).

Pudge72
Pudge72
May 8, 2014 3:31 pm

“CALLER: If the Jays are going to be out of it by end of May then I’m going to stop paying attention

MW: That’s your right. You’re entitled to that opinion. But it if you’re going to make a decision based on a half inning of baseball, then you know nothing about the game.”

Wilner…if you actually think that the caller’s opinion is shaped solely by a 1/2 inning of baseball, then you know nothing of, or are oblivious to, the frustrations of fans over the way the Blue Jays and Rogers operated the team during the off season. Wilner’s constant homerism gets tiresome real quick with justifications like the proverbial ‘if you take out the grand slam, (insert Jays pitchers’ name here) had an excellent outing!

On another point, Buck should move over to colour and Tabler should be given the boot

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