Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: CP/nightmare fuel

.

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail

 

Good morning sports media watchers. A reminder about moderation: you don’t need a real email address to comment here, but very fake sounding email addresses trigger the spam filter more easily. I try to fish them out of the tank regularly, but sometimes they get lost.

 

Beeston’s Blues

 

The big story this week was the fiery return of the rumours that Paul Beeston would be replaced as Jays president by current Orioles GM Dan Duquette. Various US baseball insiders reported that a deal to bring Duquette to Toronto was nearly done. This story has had many lives already. The rumblings of his departure began during the season with this scoop by the excellent Shi Davidi. Beeston has been without a contract since the end of the season, although he is still representing the team at various MLB meetings.

 

The most curious aspect of the previous round of rumours was that Ted Rogers’ son Edward Rogers had been making calls around the league on behalf of the team. This thorough Toronto Life article describes the process through which Ed was removed from a position of control at Rogers industries. There has never been any announcement that Ed was or is part of the Jays management team. So it was a shock to read Bob Elliot referring to the Jays as “Edward’s team” in the Sun this week. Brendan Kennedy of the Star has a similar story but with some quotes from annoying ex-President of the Jays Paul Godfrey, who rallies around Beeston. If you have time for only one article, make it Scott Stinson’s in the National Post. Stinson has more of the story behind the story. (Oddly, Griff didn’t have a story on this. Hope he’s OK.)

 

The question on the minds of Jays observers is: what is going over there? This has been a curious off-season in several respects. After a frustrating season where the Jays did not spend any money improving a talented but aging core, AA hit the ground running making several major moves to shake up the construction of the roster. The natural interpretation was that white witch Guy Laurence’s payroll freeze had been defeated and that spring was finally coming to Narnia. As the winter meetings came and went with no further moves to shore up the obvious holes on the roster, this theory became less and less viable. With the news that Ed Rogers is once again in the kitchen one wonders whether there is some kind of internal power struggle going on at the top with the Jays.

 

Much of the media attention has turned to the treatment of Paul Beeston. Bob McCown has been Beeston’s friend for years and unloaded on PTS. Brunt was back as co-host (for the last time until April …) and as usual delivered on behalf of the audience. (He’s really the best thing about PTS. Rogers should just back up the money truck and pay whatever it takes to get him to commit for more than the 12 weeks (?) his current contract requires. Buy him a jet or a golden airline ticket. They did it for Marsden.) Here is part of a conversation the two had with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

 

Bob: “it’s a shameful way to treat an employee who has been with the organization since day one. They aren’t letting him go with any level of dignity at all.”

Rosenthal: “what we don’t know is if he’s ticked someone off in the organization and they don’t care about showing him respect.”

Bob: “I guarantee he’s ticked someone off.”

 

The fact that Rosenthal mentioned it and Bob seconded it makes me think there is fire somewhere behind this wisp of smoke. After the interview Bob and Stephen had this to say:

 

Brunt: “It was ineptly handled, and they are kind of painted into a corner now … and that’s why I think [the Duquette hiring] has got to happen.”

Bob: “i’d love to know who is making that decision. I assume it’s someone really near the top.”

.

These comments support the thesis that someone is sick of Beeston, perhaps for personal as well as professional reasons, and wants to hire someone new. Before going all-in on the Edward Rogers conspiracy, let’s think this through. Beeston turns 70 this year. He has had plenty of time in this organization to enact his vision. The team has not made the playoffs during his tenure. Moving on from Beeston at this juncture makes a lot of sense along many dimensions.

 

The confusing part is the following: given how easy it would have been to thank him for his service and start a search for his replacement, why go this route? Why keep him on only to let him twist in the wind? Hard to say, but some explanations are:

 

 

1) Beeston won’t go quietly

2) someone wants to make Beeston suffer

3) this is all just organizational incompetence rather than malice

4) there is a power struggle going on behind the scenes

 

As odd as it sounds, if Ed Rogers wants a toy with which to play then I wouldn’t mind if he takes over quasi-ownership of the Jays. The Yankees thrived when they had an owner who refused to lose and was willing to spend in pursuit of that goal. I don’t know if Ed has that kind of power over the Jays’ budget, but if he does then that’s good news for Jays fans.

 

The problem that has plagued the team for years and years is that its primary value to Rogers is as television content. Rogers makes buckets of money before any tickets are sold. TV ratings have remained solid through all the losing. So there has been no financial incentive to really invest in getting to 90 wins and the playoffs. If the arrival of Ed means someone’s ego is in play this has the potential to make the on-field performance more of a priority. Of course it also has the potential to make a bad situation even worse.

 

I don’t know what to think but once again the Jays are making news for all the wrong reasons.

 

Butch Burns his Bridges

 

As TSM reported, ex-Raptors coach Butch Carter lashed out against current Raptors play-by-play man for Sportsnet Eric Smith. His words are harsh, completely out of the blue, and aimed at someone who works for a company on whose stations Butch regularly appears.

 

As background, Sportsnet made the decision this year to swap Smith to play-by-play from colour and put Paul Jones in the colour role. TSN and SN split the Raps games on radio, and TSN has decided to keep Jones in the play-by-play role using a rotation of people for colour. Confused? Me too. The problem is that Smith is Rogers property while Jones is a freelancer. Doug Smith of the Star has some details on the changes.

 

In the interest of full disclosure I have not listened to a Raps game on radio on either station this year so I have no opinion on Smith or Jones in their current or previous roles. My general impression is that both men sound fine, though everyone looks 2nd best when compared to the amazing Devlin.

 

Butch Carter is an enigmatic character. To say that he marches to the beat of his own drum would be to put it mildly. In 2000 he accused his college coach Bobby Knight of being a racist. He is mainly known around these parts for being a member of Bob McCown’s inner circle, routinely appearing on PTS to discuss basketball as well as everything else under the sun. Butch has a great set of pipes and can sound credible simply on that basis. But as many have noted, his general sports knowledge is weak and he seems very invested in convincing everyone that despite not coaching again since being fired by the Raptors, he is a well-respected basketball insider.

 

The facts surrounding his firing are in dispute but in his book Richard Peddie claims that the firing was in response to an attempted power grab by Butch following his successful 1999-2000 season with the Raps. Dave Feschuk wrote a story about it in 2013. It’s a good read. Here’s the money quote from Carter: “(Peddie) blackballed me. They knew I was such a good coach that if I went somewhere else I was going to win. If there’s one thing I can do, I can coach.” Carter has apparently enlarged his portfolio of skills since making that claim. As per this Tweet, Butch now has a track record in marketing:

 

https://twitter.com/TOButchCarter/status/555574754800070656

 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make some wild conjectures. I’m guessing that Carter believed himself to be in the running for a full-time job with the Raptors or with Sportsnet as a basketball analyst. This would not be an unreasonable thing for him to believe, given his status as Friend of Bob. Others have leveraged that status into high profile jobs at Sportsnet. Bob has publicly lobbied for Carter on his show in the past.

 

The faultless victim in all of this is all around good guy Eric Smith. Smith is a real FAN590 success story. He has worked his way up from part-time work to a very prominent role. He has survived some bad experiments at the FAN and at Sportsnet (Jays Xpress?). I presume that he has earned the confidence of his bosses through being a hard worker and a team player, as well as being a basketball expert in this city at a time when many were just learning about the game. Eric did nothing to deserve this and, regardless of what you think of his work, no one should be publicly attacked without provocation by a putative co-worker.

 

Last conjecture: McCown must feel personally betrayed by this incident. It can’t be easy going to bat for a difficult guy like Butch only to have him throw gas all over the place. Who knows, perhaps Carter and McCown parted ways over these issues long ago and we are now just hearing about it. Regardless, I get the sense that Bob is a relatively generous guy who enjoys being able to help out people he considers to be friends. This has to hurt.

 

Quick Hits

 

NFL broadcast partner NBC took time during a playoff game to make Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels read prepared statements in defense of Roger Goodell. If you have not seen the footage, watch it. I saw it live and could not believe it. NBC’s response to the deluge of criticism was to imply that others are unpatriotic. The NFL is destroying the credibility of everyone and everything in its wake.

 

John Lott has an excellent piece of journalism on the state of the turf plans for the Dome. Long story short: things are stalled but could be jumpstarted at any time. The prospect of real grass has been one of the most exciting ideas I can remember in Toronto stadium plans. If this doesn’t happen by 2018 it will be really sad.

 

Boston has two all-sports radio stations, a heritage brand (WEEI) and a recent entry to the market (CBS/SportsHub). The latter has overtaken the former in the ratings, as you can read about here. I recommend the new TSN PD take a look at what they did right. Also, it would be nice to live in a city where the ratings were published by a major newspaper rather than needing to be cobbled together by bloggers.

 

Still with Boston sports media, they are currently engaging in all kinds of shenanigans with the Indy media in advance of the game tomorrow. Funny stuff.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Most of the people I write about are adults and can handle criticism. However, I recently discovered I have been blocked on Twitter by a couple of sports people. This is odd because I do most of my complaining here and almost none of it on Twitter. In one case in particular I can’t for the life of me figure out why he would have blocked me. Who has blocked you and what for?

 

  • A reader asked for a review of Tim without Sid but with Bennett in his place. Didn’t have time to listen, but would be happy to hear what others thought.

 

  • Does anyone care what TFC does anymore? It’s been sad to watch the media machine try to generate interesting story lines for this organization.

 

—–

 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

 

About the Author