Goodbye Jerry Howarth, Hello Ricard Deitsch – Toronto Sports Media Recap

By TSM

Happy Saturday..

It’s been a while and much has gone on, much to write about so let’s go..

As we wrote last year, rumblings were abounding that the 2017 season would be Jerry Howarth’s last as the radio voice of the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, that proved to be true, albeit the official announcement came a little later than expected.

The good? The guy had an unbelievable career with the Blue Jays and with the current state of media in total flux, it’s hard to imagine anyone will ever match Jerry’s run in Toronto ever again.

The bad? Given the proximity to the start date of the season, the limited field available to replace Jerry. Hard to imagine being able to talk to anyone employed by other teams with spring training already in play. Doesn’t mean they won’t land anyone but in an ideal world, the position would have been open at the end of last season with a full offseason to conduct a proper search.

The ugly, Bob McCown- the dean of the station not saying anything about Howarth. Rumblings are that Bob blames Jerry for the Cito affair many years back and as a result, Bob has not anything to say to or about Jerry since. I am told that Jerry’s name was raised to Bob on air by a baseball insider the day of the announcement and Bob’s reply was something akin to, let’s talk about things that are important. Petty to say the least.

So what do I think happened? I think there was an ongoing effort to keep Jerry in the gig throughout the winter, with the brass telling him not to make any decisions until the spring thinking that the rejuvenation of spring would lure him back. I think his health and age and a reluctance to do anything other than the full-time gig surprised some folks and they’ve had to scramble since. Fact? No. Just my two cents.

Finally, on Jerry’s retirement, you should do yourself a favor and take a listen to the end of the Blair show the day of the announcement. Blair who is akin to Walter Matthau in the movie Grumpy Old men actually displayed some emotion in his closing remarks to Howarth. Blair’s show of emotion as stunning as Max Goldman shedding a tear in the all-time great flick. Up there with Blue Moon’s and unicorns it’s worth listening to.

So, who do the Jays turn to in the booth?

Well, they bumped Joe Siddall out of the radio booth and into the tv studio to do pre and post games. So the radio booth is currently empty, completely swept clean of talent awaiting new hosts.

In that the reviews of Siddall were nothing short of positive, it’s a move that suggests that radio is not nearly as important as tv. If the radio was, then why pull a strong performer away. No one would have blinked if Joe remained in the booth.

The saddest part of the Siddall move was that the response was crickets. Literally, no one cared. Seriously. The silence was deafening. Why do we think this is? Could it be that we don’t have baseball or Blue Jays on the brain yet? IS the reason that it is the dead of winter as far as sports go? The Olympics were on, the Maple Leafs and Raptors are both having good seasons that are capturing our hearts and imaginations. Is that the reason? Is this a further sign of the erosion of interest in the Blue Jays by the masses and returning to the die-hards only? Radio, TV, and attendance numbers were all down YoY last year, is this a further sign of decline? I guess time will tell. I was stunned at how little attention the news garnered. Maybe it’s just me.

The easiest avenue for the Jays to have followed was to promote Elliot Price from the morning show and plunk him in the radio booth. Price held that same gig before and by all accounts was damn good at the job. The Jays had the gift of someone with MLB experience already in the market, on the flagship and yet Price announced on Twitter this week that the favorited, clubhouse leader was not in the running. Stunning.

The next decision would appear to be, do they hire full-time replacements for Joe and Jerry or do they go via committee. There are a lot of folks in and around the team who could pick up a slot of games, allowing the team the time to conduct a proper search. These names include Mike Wilner, Dan Shulman, Buck Martinez, Matt Devlin, Kevin Barker as well as others.

Another option is to name full-time replacements. These can include some pairings of the above names or add in totally fresh names too.

Let’s take Matt Devlin out of the running for a full-time role. I can’t see them asking or him wanting to jump Raptors ship for Blue Jays radio.

Mike Wilner. Look Wilner is going to play a role, there is no doubt. Does he get the coveted full-time member of the play by play team? That is the question. Like him or not, he gets kudos, again, for hosting Jays talk, the hardest gig in town. However, there is no more divisive member of the Toronto sports media landscape than Wilner. He is the complete opposite of Howarth and Cheek. If Wilner were going to be the guy, why not announce it then. Unless the other partner is not yet confirmed.

Dan Shulman. Landing Dan as the full-time radio voice of the Jays would be a home run. It would also be the move that would be most stunning. Not because he isn’t qualified, more so that he is way overqualified. If you could get Dan for an entire season you’d want him on TV, not radio wouldn’t you? I mean if he were willing, wouldn’t you broom Buck to radio booth and put Dan on TV? More importantly, Dan’s move back to Toronto and away from ESPN was to spend more time in Toronto not less. 160+ games would be more full time and less time at home. If Dan plays a role in radio look for it to be part of a by-committee, not a full-time gig. Just a hunch.

Scott Richmond. Former MLB player and Blue Jay. Has already called a spring training game with Wilner and is the time of hire that makes sense for Rogers.

Ben Wagner. Ben is the voice of the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo Bisons. He too has received some airtime this spring. In an attempt to foster the whole minor leagues to major leagues story, this move would make sense. Based on my unscientific research, other than Shulman he would be the choice of the fans.

Here are some names to think about…

Joe Carter- played a role on the TV side of things in the past. The Jays love to bring back alum to remember the glory days and he would be a natural on the radio. Would he want a full-time gig?

J.P. Arencibia- He is my dark horse candidate. Former Blue Jay, well spoken and a catcher where all good broadcasters come from :). Would the Jays bring him back?

Jose Bautista- I am joking, kind of. If Jose can’t find a gig, would he consider a role? I could totally see the Jays signing up for the circus that would be.

The field. Of course, they could hire someone no one has considered or thought of.

The season is not that far off, time is ticking.

Who do you think will get the gigs, who do you want in the booth?

The the other news that broke since I wrote last was that Stephen Brunt has returned to the co-host chair on Prime Time Sports alongside the chairman of the Jerry Howarth fan club Bob McCown. As we told you a while back this was not surprising given the news that Damien Cox was out in that role. The surprise is that Scott Moore has reached across the border to bring in American sports media guru Richard Deitsch.

Deitsch is THE MAN. He has been a regular guest and at times co-host on the Fan and PTS for years. The fact that he has made a full-time commitment to a station in Canada and PTS is quite amazing. I am surprised that Rogers will pony up that kind of money that I can only imagine Richard Deitsch will command and equally of interest would be his immigration visa.

The number one comment I received about the news is that the Fan with this announcement has continued it’s all male, old guy reputation. I think that’s fair. It is well documented that Moore has decided to skew older when it comes to talent in key slots. Brady in the am is the lone exception.

Pulling Brunt off the Blair show is a complete no-brainer. It makes no sense to have that quality of talent in the 9-12 slot. None. McCown’s numbers are in decline of late and bringing Brunt back will help regain the older audience. If you want the definition of akward, listen to Brunt being interviewd by McCown the day of the announcement. “How does it feel to comeback to PTS”… LOL

Brunt’s one comment in that award winning segment tells me, perhaps why Richard Deitsch would take the role (besides what is likely obscene money). “PTS was and remains the only sports radio destination”. That remains the truth. I have written this many of times, but PTS and McCown are the Ted Koppel of sports news. When news broke back in they day we would all stay up to watch Nighline. No matter what, Koppel would have the newsmakers on his show. Guaranteed. McCown built that with PTS and it remains that today. When the big news breaks you want to hear PTS that night. No one else does that.

The problem is, Bob’s interest level in the story is limited outside of his common loves- i.e. the Blue Jays. As I have written countless times when Bob is engaged on a subject he is the BEST interviewer anywhere. The problem is he is not engaged all that often. Richard Deitsch and Stephen Brunt rescue Bob on the 75-80% of the stories he has to cover but could care less about. The B and C class stories that make up the mundane world we live in are the ones Bob doesn’t care about and it’s apparent in his lack of interest and understanding of the basic facts of those stories. He is now going to have consummate pro’s around him that take great pride in knowing their shit.

So, while Richard Deitsch’s tends to focus on the matter that I love, clearly you do too or you wouldn’t keep coming here, we don’t represent the masses. The story is rarely the storyteller. Brunt and Deitsch will ensure that things are covered properly. Would it have been better to find someone whose focus is more on the x’s and o’s to appeal to a younger more general crowd say JP Morosi? Maybe. Given the demographic, given Bob and the stories he covers Richard Deitsch is a great choice.

One of the c stories Bob has butchered since inception has been the Seattle NHL story. Huge news out here this week as Seattle hockey fans bought over 30,000 tickets in a ticket drive to bolster the already filed expansion application. Geoff Baker formerly a Toronto scribe is out here in Seattle already. My question is who else will move to the Emerald City to cover NHL when the team is announced. There is a complete lack of hockey media here.

Hats off to the folks at Karbon Sports out of Toronto. Their wearables were the best I saw at the Olympics.

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri appears to be the leader to clean up. It was NOT the best movie I saw all year. That would go to I, Tonya. Don’t really care about the artistic side of things per se. I want a movie that first and foremost entertains and secondly makes me think. I, Tonya did that. 3 Billboards is a poor person’s Fargo in my mind. How quickly things transformed was beyond belief.

Not sure why, but lots of folks keep telling ME that this will be Lou Lamoriello’s last year as Maple Leafs GM. They tell me he will take on the role currently played by Cliff Fletcher. Will this move be enough to satisfy the other members of team Shanny?

Finally, the Leafs raised ticket prices again. I see the usual battle cry against the big, nasty corporation. Supply and demand is the easy answer. As long as people or corporations continue to buy tickets at both market and secondary market prices teams will continue to raise prices. The inverse is the only way to stop it. Yes, it’s sad that the franchise continues to raise tickets despite not having won the ultimate prize in decades, but as long as people continue to be willing to pay…

Jonah

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