OK, Blue Jays : Recapping the baseball media stories from a busy off-season

<span class="entry-title-primary">OK, Blue Jays</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">: Recapping the baseball media stories from a busy off-season</span>

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail

 

Good morning sports media fans and industry watchers. Spring is here and the Jays are playing meaningful baseball for the first time since last summer. There have been a lot of big and small changes, events, and developments in that time, many of which have a media or business angle. I have collected the biggest stories here, but by no means is this intended to be exhaustive. If there are ones you think are worth mentioning, add them in the comments.

 

Unlike some places, we love reasonable disagreement here at TSM. So please keep things interesting by adding your thoughts and points below.

 

5 Questions with … Keegan Matheson

 

One of the interesting off-season developments was popular Jays writer Keegan Matheson branching out on his own to start a subscription site. I reached out to Keegan to find out how that came together and to discuss a few Jays related matters. Here is our conversation.

 

Q: How did you get your start writing in baseball and how did it eventually lead to a gig with MLB.com

 

KM: I got my start working online and blogging about the Blue Jays before I moved to Toronto. My goal from the very beginning was to get to this point, though, where I’m reporting daily on the team in a beat role, so I moved here from Nova Scotia and went through a proper sports journalism grad program at Centennial College. I came from a writing background in my undergrad, but I’m very glad I took the industry-specific training. It matters. This year, I’ve started to do some teaching at the same college. I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities on radio and television along the way, which has helped. I owe a lot to a handful of producers who took a chance on me early on at various TSN and Sportsnet stations in Canada. From there, I took an internship with Sportsnet.ca. Soon after, MLB.com offered me the position of associate Blue Jays reporter working alongside Gregor Chisholm on the beat.

 

Q: When starting out how were you treated as a young person by the older writers on the beat? Did anyone take you under their wing?

 

KM: The more experienced writers on the beat were very good to me, and I mean that sincerely. My friends will tell you that it was a smooth transition because I really am an old man, myself, and maybe there’s something to that. I wasn’t taken under anyone’s wing, so to speak, but I was quietly shown the ropes and am very grateful for that. It was an acclimation process early on, but a valuable one. If you’re paying attention, you can learn a great deal just from watching how John Lott asks a question or how Richard Griffin works a scrum. There’s a level of camaraderie on the beat, even between writers from rival outlets, and I consider many of them friends. It is a sitcom-worthy group of personalities.

 

Q: Having been in the market for a few years now have the players started to recognize you? Do any of them follow up with you about things you have written? Who are some the players you enjoy talking to the most?

 

KM: Players do begin to recognize you. Personally, I get that more with the younger players who I’ve covered coming up through the minor leagues. The recognition matters, though, even if they don’t know your full name, outlet, and cell number. By recognizing “Hey, I’ve seen that ugly guy with the beard in here every day”, there’s a built-in level of trust at some level. I haven’t had too many instances of players confronting me about what I’m written. Granted, I was not publishing many controversial pieces under MLB.com, but I expect that to be something that does come up as the years go on. If I am going to write something negative about a player, it’s important for me to speak with them first whenever possible. If I’m about to write that Player X is having the worst season of his career, I need to have his voice in there or at least give him the opportunity to say “no comment”. There are two types of players I particularly enjoy talking to: catchers and middle relievers. Catchers see the game and have the most inquisitive minds, I’ve found, while middle relievers have plenty of time to sit and think about the game. These conversations don’t produce the headlines of a Donaldson or Stroman article, of course, but they’re often fascinating.

 

Q: What was the impetus for starting your own subscription site? Why now? What kind of market research did you do before coming up with your concept?

 

KM: From a professional standpoint, I thought it was now or never. I do believe that subscription-based journalism is the best bet for sports media’s future, so I wanted to enter that market at a point that’s still relatively early. I received several offers after leaving MLB, but nothing that excited me nearly as much as this. My market research — aside from the casual conversations I had with people in the industry — was the small book I put out last offseason on Amazon (The Top 50 Toronto Blue Jays Prospects: 2017-2018). If that book had of flopped, Baseball Toronto would not exist. That was my way of dipping a toe in the water. The sales and reception of that book left me encouraged that people were willing to pay for Blue Jays content. It was also the right time from a personal standpoint, which is equally important. I’m at a point in my life where I can take this chance and run with it. The risk involved is substantial, but perhaps all these years of being cheap and stubborn have finally prepared me for something.

 

Q: The Jays media marketplace is arguably the most crowded of the big 3 sports in Toronto. What gap in the market do you see your site filling?

 

KM: The “gap” you mention is critical. If a subscriber pays $4.99 a month, I feel a great deal of responsibility to them to honour that with unique content they’ll enjoy and benefit from. I believe that Baseball Toronto’s minor-league coverage and prospect analysis will be the best on the market. Given the direction of the franchise, I think those topics will be particularly relevant over the coming seasons. There will also be an emphasis put on feature writing and analysis. It’s important to work outside of the “norm” while still being clear and interesting. Access is king. Baseball Toronto will be at all 81 home games and, if all goes according to plan, at least five series on the road. In this area, being small can help Baseball Toronto. Even with a bare-bones budget, I can hop in my car, make a 10-hour drive, and stay in a dive motel to cover a series if that’s what it takes. With travel budgets being cut around sports media, I hope to go the other way a bit.

 

Q: Are you planning to write game stories every day? Are there other kinds of stories you think your site will especially well suited to pursue, given your independence from deadlines, advertisers, and corporate ownership?

 

KM: I do believe that game stories and hard news have a place. I’m not above those, and I think they can still be an effective foundation of a website. Without having those, I would feel like Baseball Toronto lacked the connective tissue or wholeness that it needs.That being said, a “traditional” game story won’t always be the best use of my time. Some days, the game story will be 200-300 words at the top of a notebook that rounds up a half dozen other pieces of news from the day. Being free from advertisers and corporate relationships is very important to me. If something bad happens, I will write that something bad happened. It will be written fairly, but it will be written without the pull of any external influences. That will become more rare as leagues and teams consolidate media in the future, I fear, so I am happy to work outside of that.

 

Q: What are the challenges of working without an editor while also trying to produce content?

 

KM: Two challenges. First, I need to assign myself stories. Sometimes, that means forcing myself to chase a story I’d rather leave alone, or talking to a player who I normally wouldn’t. If I only write what’s on my own mind and inside my own comfort zone, I’m doing subscribers a disservice. The second challenge is editing my own work when it’s completed. If I’m working at home or in the press box, I’ll often finish my article and then get up to make a coffee before editing it. I need to create that divide, even if it’s only in my head, between writer and editor. I do have my longer features looked over by others, of course, but editing your own daily work requires a different mindset.

 

Q: The last couple of years have included a number of incidents between the players and the media. When something happens in the clubhouse or on social media everyone knows about it almost immediately. Has that affected how you approach your job?

 

KM: It’s a balancing act, and an important one. If I overhear something in a locker room between players, is that always fair game to tweet out? No. A level of respect needs to be present so that the players know you’re not just lurking and eavesdropping. Media access to a clubhouse is vital and necessary, but at the end of the day, you’re in their office. The rush of Twitter isn’t something I enjoy, and it’s a hole I get sucked into myself. I’ve learned it’s better to be second and right than first and wrong.

 

Q: The Jays shuffled their media relations department in the off-season. Has that had any noticeable effect on you so far?

 

KM: The changes have not impacted me substantially as a writer in my day-to-day coverage, but I do realize that I’m the small fish in the pond and can’t speak for my colleagues on the television or radio sides. The folks who left the organization were well-respected and treated me very well early in my career, so I will always be indebted to them for that.

 

Q: Most models have the Jays at 81-85 wins this year. If they decide to rebuild in 2019, when do you think this team’s prospect core will put them back in position to win the division?

 

KM: The Blue Jays can still make this more of a retool than a rebuild, but top prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will lead it. Having top young talents impacting your major-league roster in their cheap contract years is the secret to winning in the majors. Next season should be an identity change. We’ve been hearing the phrase “younger and more athletic” for two years now, but that should finally arrive. The 2019 season could be a bit of transition year, but if everything goes well from a development standpoint, there’s the potential for sustained success in the seasons beyond that. It will be an opportunity for this front office to really craft the roster they want, once some of the bigger contracts come off he books.

 

Q: Among the pitching prospects who has the best chance to become a front end of the rotation starter over the next couple of years?

 

KM: Nate Pearson. If you were to build a prototypical starting pitcher, you’d start with Pearson’s frame (6-foot-6, 245 pounds). His secondary pitches have made some very encouraging progress, but his 100-mph fastball is already a major-league pitch. He’ll start the season in high-A Dunedin and could push for a few starts in triple-A Buffalo by the very end of the summer. There’s a lot of risk involved with Pearson, but his potential ceiling is massive.

 

 

(Disclosure: I paid full-price for a subscription to his site. I am not being compensated in any way for promoting his site here.)

 

Thanks to Keegan for sharing his thoughts with the TSM audience. You can read his site here.

 

Elasticity & The Secondary market

 

The Star and CBC teamed up to do some investigative journalism on Jays ticket pricing for opening day. Most cities sell out their home openers, but in a status conscious city like Toronto having seats for Game 1 has become a test of one’s social standing. This frenzy intensified this year due to the celebration of Roy Halladay that was to precede the start of the game.

 

 

The investigation revealed several points of note:

 

  • At least 45% of opening day seats in the Dome were sold through secondary ticket sites.
  • The average price for those online seats was 205% of face value.
  • The StubHub partnership announced in 2017 did not mention the team was getting a cut of each ticket sale.
  • Shapiro was quoted (by Sportsnet) as saying the game would be “the highest-revenue game in the history of Rogers Centre.”
  • Neither the Jays nor Stubhub would deny that some of the tickets on the site were put there directly by the team.
  • Shapiro estimated almost half of the Jays’ 20,000 season-ticket holders last year were professional ticket sellers.

 

This is a complex issue and the discussion has conflated several different points. Let’s try to pull some of these apart:

 

Dynamic Pricing: Under Beeston the Jays moved to a multi-tier pricing system where some games (Red Sox, Yankees, holidays, weekends) were designated as Premium and priced higher than the standard ticket price. In 2016 they ditched this for a fully dynamic system: every seat has a price that in theory could change daily based on market pressures. This means that there is no longer a stable retail price for a seat at the stadium. It is unclear whether the Jays’ model allows for deep discounting of unpopular games — it doesn’t seem that way — but what is certain is that the model allows for steep increases. The best strategy for fans wanting to attend popular games is to buy single game tickets early from the Jays box office. The price will go up as the game starts to sell out.

 

The Secondary Market – scamming: Stubhub has partnerships with all MLB teams to facilitate the transfer of tickets from sellers to buyers. Since many tickets are digital there is ample opportunity for fraud, and Stubhub wants to be able to guarantee that a person buying from them will not get ripped off. Until the partnership with MLB there was no way for them to fully guarantee the validity of tickets, and so they occasionally had to offer refunds due to scams. A refund won’t make up for missing a game winning home run though. The MLB partnership allows perfect tracking and transfer so this threat has effectively been eliminated. This is the original reason for partnering with Stubhub.

 

The Secondary Market – scalping: As the Star piece notes, there is a lucrative industry in scooping up tickets to popular games and re-selling them. Historically teams have fought this through special zoning around the stadium allowing police to arrest re-sellers. When everything moved online teams had fewer options to fight large scale professional scalping. But things have again changed and it is easy to track professional re-sellers and bots. Rather than using technology to eradicate professional reselling (see next item), the Stubhub partnership allows them to profit off a ticket they have already sold. This is the thing that people are upset about.

 

Licenses: Buying a seat is not like buying a computer or a house. In those cases what you are buying is exclusive ownership. By contrast, a ticket is a revocable license issued to you by the actual owner, namely the team. Teams could ban or limit the transfer of tickets if they wanted.

 

OK, with that out of the way let’s think though the issue at hand. Is there something wrong with the Jays profiting off almost half of their opening day tickets being sold twice?

 

The answer will depend on your ethical and economic perspective. Dynamic pricing allows the Jays to squeeze as much revenue as possible out of the marketplace. If they thought they could charge more for your seat then they would have. The face value reflects their best guess regarding the maximum they can sell that seat for. This is simple supply and demand economics where there is elasticity on the demand side. No one trying to find housing in Toronto needs this explained to them.

 

The questions becomes more interesting when you ask whether it is ethical for the team to profit from the secondary market when they already employ dynamic pricing. This looks like double-dipping. If the demand turns out to be higher than they predicted and the ticket is now worth more, then they have miscalculated and should just learn from this for next time. The other way to look at this is that re-sellers are profiting off something they don’t technically own. The privilege to transfer the license to the seat is at the discretion of the team, and getting a piece of the action via Stubhub is simply a way for the team to receive compensation for granting that privilege. I understand both positions and tend to side with the latter … most of the time.

 

Here’s the rub: opening day is always a sell-out and tickets disappear as soon as they are available. As such, the team could very well stop or tightly constrain re-selling so that fans are able to purchase tickets via the box office at whatever price the dynamic model determines is the right one. By allowing professional sellers to scoop up thousands of tickets the team is passively allowing its own fans to be overcharged by the secondary market. This would be objectionable on its own, but becomes doubly so when one learns the team profits off this. The messaging to fans is that the team is participating in a scheme that prevents willing buyers from accessing tickets at face value.

 

With all that said, this is largely a non-issue. If the Jays only have 13,000 season ticket sales this year then this means there is little interest by professional sellers in the team beyond a handful of dates. The vast majority of tickets will be available for purchase at normal market prices. Some tickets might even be available for less, if the team dumps tickets onto the secondary market via Stubhub. If you are the kind of fan who is only interested in premium games then you should have the opportunity to buy those from the team since so few will be pre-scooped up via season ticket and flex pack re-sellers. If you left it too late then you can’t complain too much about paying a surcharge, since the dynamic pricing system guarantees that you are going to pay more as scarcity increases. That’s just the market confirming the value now is different than it was months ago. We all accept this as a fact of life with air travel and hotel rates. You are always free not to pay and to stay home.

 

Some markets go to great lengths to keep tickets away from the secondary market. In Cleveland, playoff tickets were tightly controlled to make sure they went to local fans. In Chicago, Cubs season tickets have waiting lists and re-sellers can have their licenses revoked. If the Jays are lucky enough to end up in these positions they will need to think carefully about the direction they wish to pursue. The fact that this team only has 13,000 season ticket holders despite their recent successful seasons reflects very poorly on the perceived value of what is on offer. How do you go from having waiting lists in the 90s to relying on professional re-sellers to make up half of your season ticket sales? That speaks to poor management of the market for your product.

 

No one wants to return to MMA Tuesdays, and the Jays should be mindful of their own recent history. To that end, this point seems compelling:

 

Fan support will surely depend on how the team performs on the field, but it may also depend on how the organization treats its fans. The arrangement with scalpers is not only unethical, it may also be risky business. — The Star Editorial

 

As has happened before, some of this comes down to Shapiro’s poor judgment. The team has a massive repair bill coming due on a stadium with diminishing value on land they don’t own. In his zeal to spread the good news about how he is going to generate new revenue streams he botched the messaging on this one. Opening day (and weekend) is a time to emotionally connect with the fanbase for the next seven months (ideally). With the tragedy of losing one of the organization’s most beloved players this was not a time to be boasting about this being the most profitable opening day ever. Long term sustainable revenue depends, in part, on growing the number of fans who show to an aging stadium up rain or shine. Gouging on opening day might work, but if that’s the only game those folks attend as a result then you will have won a Pyrrhic victory.

 

What About Wilner?

 

By far the biggest media story of the off-season was who would replace Jerry Howarth as the team’s radio voice. The issue became more complicated when Sportsnet announced that Joe Siddall would be the replacemanalyst, moving to TV from radio. This meant two seats were now vacant on the radio side. What ensued generated a lot of discussion around the TSM water cooler.

 

The main question was whether Mike Wilner, longtime divisive host of JaysTalk, would take over. In some ways he was the incumbent, since he routinely covered a few innings for Jerry during home games. This was pitched as giving Jerry a break due to his frail health, but for listeners it was reasonable to look upon this decision as a kind of on-the-job training for Wilner to eventually replace Jerry. Wilner often spoke and tweeted about how much he loved calling games, and how he hoped this would eventually lead to a full-time gig. His Twitter profile proudly claimed/claims that title.

 

 

As time wore on after Jerry’s retirement announcement, the confusion was exacerbated by several management decisions. As with past seasons, Wilner was a staple on radio during spring training, being joined by a rotating cast of characters both familiar and new. Then it was announced that Elliott Price would join Wilner on radio in Montreal, despite the fact that Price had tweeted that he was not in the running for a Jays radio job. Through all of this the only constant from last season through spring training was Mike Wilner doing play by play.

 

Finally, Sportsnet announced that Buffalo Bisons (AAA) play by play man Ben Wagner would take over for Jerry on a full time basis, with a range of characters joining him throughout the season. (Here is a good piece by Sportsnet’s David Singh with the new guy). Mike Wilner would, presumably, stay in his current role doing in-game updates and the pre and post game shows.

 

 

The question to consider is whether Wilner was treated fairly or unfairly by Sportsnet throughout this process?

 

 

From a human standpoint I personally feel very bad for Mike. It cannot be easy to be passed over for your dream job. The only thing worse would be to be passed over while the entire audience weighs in on the merits of your work.

 

This was a very public decision that dragged on for months. If Mike was told early on that he was not being considered then asking him to sit beside others while they audition for the job is potentially cruel. That said, Mike might have preferred this to not working those games so perhaps this was his own decision. But if that is what happened then it was incumbent on Scott Moore to let the audience know that Wilner was not in the running. Twitter was filled with people telling Mike what a great job he was doing and how he was a natural for the job. That was all more messy than it needed to be, if the decision was already made.

 

If the decision was not made until the last minute then things look even worse. Wilner was the incumbent, and was then given the lion’s share of the work while others  — who will be working in the booth this season — put in much less time. Why did it take so long to decide the person for the job was NOT Mike Wilner. Surely they had enough evidence to make the decision to go in another direction before the last few days of spring training.

 

If Mike really wants a job as a play by play man then he probably needs to go somewhere else and work on the craft full-time. At his age and with the his seniority at Sportsnet I’m not sure that makes sense, but you can’t put a price on chasing your dreams. Staying in his current role will be rough, at least for a while. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the outcome, there was a better way to handle all of the public facing aspects of this decision by his superiors. I hope management has apologized to him for treating him less well than they should have.

 

Recommendations

 

The Jays market is completely saturated and this makes it hard to keep up with all the work being done. Going in to this year here are my own consumption habits for Jays news.

 

Best Reading: We are living in a golden age with Griffin (Star), Lott (Athletic), and Buffery/Longley (Sun). Between them the audience gets just the right mix of news, opinion, analysis, and commentary. Bob Elliott was a staple of the market and is certainly missed, but his replacements have shaken things up in a good way and added a different dimension to Jays coverage. If you’re not reading all of these folks regularly you are missing out.

 

Best Radio: Scott MacArthur has the best baseball show on radio right now, in my opinion. I would love to see TSN give him a regular co-host for a Jays-centric hour.

 

Best Podcast: I have been a regular At The Letters listener for the past few years but I am going to drop it if Ben and Arden don’t find something about which to disagree. The analysis and stats part of their discussion is great, but far too often all they do is say the same thing in different words. It would be nice if they could break out of the Sportsnet echosystem for guests as well. That said, it’s a well produced podcast that is reliably good. Like everyone I am excited for Shulman’s new podcast.

 

Best Follows: Twitter during a Jays game can be pretty bad, but some people are consistently interesting without being overwhelming. Gregor Chisholm who covers the Jays for MLB.com is a great option.

 

Best Blog: I’m a big fan of Blue Jay Hunter for good stories that aren’t always covered by other outlets.

 

Best Newcomer: I guess for the time being this goes to J.P. Arencibia joining Yahoo Canada.

 

Notable Absence:

 

 

Over to you: whose coverage do you enjoy the most? How are you feeling about this season?

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

photo credits: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 47
  • comment-avatar

    Thanks for an interesting read. I too am a subscriber to Baseball Toronto; I enjoyed the exchange with Keegan.

    I appreciate your balanced presentation of the StubHub matter. I also recommend Brendon Kuhn’s piece at Blue Jays Nation.

    https://bluejaysnation.com/2018/03/29/on-the-blue-jays-stubhub-expose/

    With respect to the decision to replace Jerry Howarth with Ben Wagner, I think it was a good move by Management. Mike Wilner has a lot of baggage with many listeners and, as a friend noted, radio is an intimate medium and you want to like the person on the other end of the microphone. I suspect that many listeners would not be able to warm up to Mike Wilner as the play-by-play announcer given his history.

    I do agree that Management badly handled the process of selecting Jerry’s replacement. If I recall correctly, when the announcement of Jerry’s retirement was made, both Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt said that Jerry’s decision was known for at least a few weeks. Given Jerry’s recent health issues, it would have been prudent to have a list of possible replacements prepared by the end of the 2017 season. Also, given Ben Wagner’s previous position as the Bison’s play-by-play guy and given the occasional broadcast of those games on the Fan 590, I find it odd that Management would not have been thoroughly familiar with his broadcasting strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, I find it odd that the decision of Jerry’s replacement was not announced the day after Jerry’s retirement was made public. Based on the comments of Blair and Brunt, it would appear that there was enough time to conduct the search and reach a decision by then.

  • comment-avatar
    Drumanchor 9 months ago

    As a good friend of mine likes to say, “I feel no sorry” for Mike Wilner.

    He is, unquestionably, a divisive figure and, as Bob Canuck correctly states, baseball on the radio is an intimate affair. Unlike most sports, the best baseball broadcasters create the illusion of a one-on-one conversation, coupled with a warmness that endeavours to make the listener comfortable. Tom and Jerry both had that quality. Wilner, however, has been anything but warm and friendly. Although I feel he is a decent play-by-play guy, his clear history as an antagonist with callers on Jays Talk would, to me, seriously hinder any real opportunity to be awarded the position as the main guy. 

    Now, could the transition have been handled more professionally? Well, we are talking about Rogers here, so….

  • comment-avatar

    I think Wagner sounds very good, but I also feel very bad for Wilner. Even if his Jays Talk schtick is not for you, I think most would have enjoyed his play by play, it was getting pretty solid I think. Even if he was to split duties with Wagner I think that could have worked. Ah well.

    I think the show that gives the best baseball coverage is the Blair show, but I do like Scott MacArthur as well. Stoeten has been my go to Jays analyst for years now. I find he’s a good mix of not too ‘rah rah I work for Rogers’ but also not too hot takey, reactionary, the sky is falling, like Cathal Kelly. He’s really carved a niche for himself and I’m glad he’s got this gig with the Athletic.

    As for the Jays this year? I think they’ll win in the low 80s? Maybe get lucky and push 85 and get into the second wild card discussion. Their offence looks terrible right now, but maybe when Alford, Hernandez and maybe even Vlad and Bo get here that should help.

  • comment-avatar
    ZaunFan 9 months ago

    I’m miss Gregg Zaun already. I have been watching his manalyst tv channel on youtube, much better mlb coverage than sportsnet can provide.

  • comment-avatar

    I can’t help but feel that Shapiro was acting like a CEO and addressing shareholders when discussing the profits of opening day as opposed to being a president of a baseball club address the fans of said team. It again goes towards the idea or feeling of a real disconnect with him and the Blue Jay fans.

    I think it’s almost dismissive towards the radio listeners regarding the new play by play caller announcement. Reading Scott Moore’s tweet it really looks like “ho hum ,here’s the new radio guy”.

  • comment-avatar

    Would love for Scott MacArthur to do a regular, weekly Blue Jays/baseball podcast again with Richard Griffin and Gregor Chisolm.

  • comment-avatar

    Thanks for another good read, Mike!

    The whole Blue Jays/Stubhub thing is a non-story, imo. I'm not sure about the NHL or NBA, but the NFL has had a deal with TicketMaster for reselling tickets above face value for years, and every team is making a profit from it. You can't really blame the teams. If some shady guy in a trench coat can stand outside the stadium, selling their tickets for double, or triple the amount they're selling for at the teams box office, they would be insane not to take a piece of that action for themselves. I don't agree with it, but I do understand it.

  • comment-avatar

    While there was a lot of drama surrounding the Jay’s new radio voice, the bottom line is that they got the right guy. Even with the team’s poor start, the broadcast is already more fun than in Jerry’s tenure and thankfully lacks his ham fisted proselytizing.

  • comment-avatar
    Justin 8 months ago

    Compared to only a few years ago, Jays fans really do have an embarrassment of riches in terms of quality media content. I gripe a ton about Rogers’ ownership of the Jays, but there’s no denying they’ve done a fantastic job with Blue Jays coverage across multiple platforms on Sportsnet. Meanwhile, Lott/Stoeten alone is worth the price of an Athletic subscription, to say nothing of the baseball powerhouse they’ve built nationally (Gammons/Rosenthal/Bowden/Stark). It’s almost comical how worth it an Athletic subscription is, and this is coming from someone who refuses to pay for Netflix/Spotify/etc.

    Also – would be remiss not to comment on how much better PTS has been lately. Brunt being back has reminded me that he is quite literally the best in the business an Deitsch has also been great. Bob’s new co-hosts and the baseball season starting up have clearly reinvigorated him; the show is sounding better than it has in years. Monday’s spotlight 1 hour interview has been a must-listen every week, too.

  • comment-avatar
    Gary M 8 months ago

    Bob Canuck nails the Wilner problem but I completely disagree with all those who say it was handled poorly, which seems to be everyone.

    Wagner ‘put in the time’ way more than Wilner: over a decade with AAA Buffalo. It made great sense to give him a tryout. But that’s what it was: a tryout. To hear how he sounded calling a lot of Jays games and how he fared in the clubhouse and all the other stuff that goes with the job. So they couldn’t announce it when Jerry retired, and they couldn’t rule out Wilner either.

    btw, this whole thing reminds me a lot of the Who Will Replace Johnny Carson saga, with Wagner being Letterman and Wilner being Leno.

  • comment-avatar
    Steve Jones 8 months ago

    There’s only one person to blame for Wilner not getting the play by play gig. Wilner. He’s fully aware how he is perceived by much of the fan base but has decided to continue to be antagonistic in his approach. Which is his right. Personally I don’t know why he feels the need to push back on every minor issue he disagrees with. No other call in host manages themselves in this manner. I guess he wants to put on display what he perceives is his superior insight. Like his station counterpart Bunkis maybe he needs more coaching on in depth insight versus being engaging and entertaining. 

    As for ticket prices teams will just charge what they can. If the team sucks prices will come down but a lot of people won’t bother going because of the resentment built up over the good years. It’s this mentality that puts short term profits over long term business success but like most corporations it’s what managers are incentivized to do. Me, I think sporting prices are just ridiculous. 

  • comment-avatar
    howard 8 months ago

    Boo hoo Wilner, there isn’t going to be much outrage over your losing out. Rogers made the right decision for a change. He just isn’t right for play by play much less a baseball analyst, despite his journalism degree. It’s pretty easy to rhyme off a bunch of stats but the amount of baseball knowledge he has is about the same as thousands of people who grew up playing and watching. Bye Bye Michael.

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    Wilner made his bed with the fan base years ago. No one forced him to chose his style and while he has stood his ground against those who criticize him; the play by play slot is one that necessitates a bond with the listeners. The lack of such a bond is one of the consequences of his decision to do it “his way’.

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    Gary M 8 months ago

    Well put, Paul. So here’s a question. Having been passed over for the bond-with-the-listeners gig, will he ramp up the antagonist persona further? Or become more easygoing to cling to the innings he currently gets to call?

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    John in Buffalo 8 months ago

    I agree with those who think Rogers made the right decision on Wagner over Wilner. The problem with Mike – other than the fact that he’s a jerk – is that he has no storytelling abilities. A radio play-by-play person needs to fill a lot of time; they need to be able to paint mental pictures for listeners during lulls in the action. Tom and Jerry were masterful storytellers, able to engage and hold listeners all throughout their broadcasts. Wilner doesn’t have that ability. He has no people skills and no talent for storytelling.

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    Regardless of how you feel about Wilner, Sportsnet’s made a great hire in Ben Wagner. He had a fantastic opening series and I am really looking forward to having him as the voice of the Jays (with the occasional Shulman visit) for a long time. 

    My only note is to tone down the one-liners. The other folks in the booth seemed intent on trying to be funny and this was pretty hit and miss. Wagner would do better to steer clear of that. A few times he opted to add a bad joke to the pile when he could have just stayed silent until the next pitch.

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    The hit-and-miss attempts at humour reminded me of the funniest line I ever heard in a Blue Jays radio broadcast. It was a Jays-Angels game and Alan Ashby and Jerry were in the booth. Either Jerry or Alan stated that rookie Mike Trout was leading the AL in batting average. It was further noted that, if Trout were to win the batting title, he would be the first rookie to lead the AL in batting since Al Kaline. Alan then said that, in honour of Al Kaline’s achievement, a battery was named after him.

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    Andrew Stoeten 8 months ago

    I got an e-mail from someone claiming that you’re not allowing any comments are favourable about the Blue Jays or the current front office, any comment?

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    After several decades in newspapers, I’m out. Finally.

    Happy to take any questions about the state of the newspaper business and why we should all care that
    Toronto Star reporters are now writing game stories from their living rooms, watching games on TV.

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    @Gary M. Good question. I don’t know about ramping it up but I would be surprised if he tones it down much.

    While not a fan myself, he has stayed true to what he believes is right. After all these years such a change would be an ackniwlegment that his approach was not the best.

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    Shapiro is in a no-win situation. The team needs revenue and this is a way to get some extra dollars from the few dates that are going to sell out no matter what. He answers to Rogers not the fans and certainly not to the Toronto Star. Truth.

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    Gary M 8 months ago

    Sounds right to me, Paul. Stay with what got him this far.

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    I thought Dan Shulman had stopped doing baseball on ESPN, yet he did the Angels-Indians game last night.

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    Mike V 8 months ago

    He stopped doing Sunday Night Baseball to cut back on his travel. Would think his contract still calls for him to do some games but less frequent.

    So it appears the Facebook exclusivity for select MLB games doesn’t stop at the border. Jays-Royals are one of the games on April 18 and as of right now, it’s not listed on Sportsnet’s website (Cubs-Cardinals is on instead).

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    After the 2017 season, Shulman decided to leave the Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts to spend more time in Toronto. His revised ESPN contract calls for him to cover approximately 60 MLB regular season games on TV and the post season Radio games.

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    Starting Lineup had zero Leafs talk on a Leafs game day.
    Inexcusable.

    No Jays tonight. No Raps tonight, though both played  last night but the name of the show is STARTING LINEUP. I don’t have any serious criticisms of the show but this iteration of Brady and blank has me listening less than Brady and Walker, Brady and Lang, Brady and Watters. Did any of those shows hijack the program wi 40% useless score highlights twice an hour?

    At least Overdrive only abuses listeners with irrelevant and annoying traffic ‘updates’. Worst is when they ‘break for traffic at 5:26, come back from commercial and take 90 seconds to tease the same fing this they just teased 6 minutes ago and say ‘now it’s time for traffic’. No! 6 minutes later is NOT time for another useless traffic report about a puddle in the southbound lane of Yonge St and Wellesly ( big commuter route). Here’s …( nobody, Hayes has completely given up as the new traffic anchor has an even more unpronounceable name than the former Adwoa Nsiah-Yeboah. I would post her name but could not find it. Honesly, she has more airtime than Odog and as much as I loathe any traffic report, give her simple professionall respect by introducing her by name. If it were a male traffic reporter you can bet Hayes would introduce him by name. 

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    @Yaz. …..lol I hear what you’re saying.

    Question: Why does 680 have better (more depth/information) sports updates than 590? One would think an all sports station would have a more finished product but no the all news station is far superior.

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    @yaz

    Her name is Elene Stamatatos, but it sounds different when she pronounces it.

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    McIvor 8 months ago

    ” Is there something wrong with the Jays profiting off almost half of their opening day tickets being sold twice?”

    There is definitely something wrong about you not mentioning that EVERY TEAM HAS THE SAME DEAL WITH STUBHUB. EVERY. TEAM. IN. BASEBALL.

    What happened to ethics in journalism, eh?

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    McIvor 8 months ago

    So any comment that is pro-Jays or not anti-Shapior won’t get approved, eh? Good to know!

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    sperk 8 months ago

    I agree that Wagner has gotten off to a great start….Kevin Barker though, yikes! His commentary adds absolutely nothing to the broadcasts.

    I have to say that the Raptors broadcasts are devolving to a whole new low while the team is having it’s best season. Wednesday’s game vs. Boston was in-arguably the most important game of the season for the team yet Jack and Devlin basically payed no attention to the game. While the play was going on, they’d sidetrack into five minute stories about three point shots (which they do every broadcast without fail and without any new material), jack’s wife’s spending habits, coach of the year discussions, random NBA gossip, who the Raptors are playing next week, their dinner at the Keg the next night…

    The only time they’d describe what was happening on the court is when they had an opportunity to leverage their catch phrases like “Lowry for threee from Halifax” or “a little blow by” which is a blatant steal from Bill Rafferty. The broadcasts seem to be more about them and their takes then what is going on the court. I fear I may break my TV if the Raps make a deep playoff run and I am subjected to stories about Matt’s love of ice cream or where Jack golfs during the summer during the 4th Quarter of a Game 7.

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    I didn’t realize until this week that it looks like Sportsnet has also taken away Wilner’s time to call the 5th and 6th in home games (as he has the last couple years I believe). I know he’s a super divisive guy, but the whole thing just seems harsh. Even if you can’t stand his on air persona, the guy’s a human being at the end of the day, and I think he’s good at play by play (I’m also biased because I met him once and he was extremely nice in person). You could still make Wagner the lead guy, and let Mike call his couple innings. Personally, I liked the Tom/Jerry arrangement more than one play by play guy and one ex player.

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    Also – the new Dan Shulman podcast is excellent. More of a storytelling style kind of podcast. Super excited to see Shulman more involved in Toronto.

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    Gary M 8 months ago

    Daniel, I’m sure they intend to have a Tom and Jerry arrangement. But Mike will not be part of that mix. He was filling in because Jerry had health issues. That situation is over now and they are pursuing a real long term plan. You don’t assign someone major league announcing duties to be humane.

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    Daniel, “the guy’s a human being at the end of the day”. Yes and so are all the callers he belittles and “dehumanizes”.

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    Here are my weekly musings. Again, these are all MY opinions and may not be true or accurate. They’re simply OPINIONS.

    1) Scotty Mac. He handled Bell Lets Talk day admirably, but he did a spectacular job today with Humboldt. He is the best in the city at handling serious issues with the right amount of empathy and information. Love his work.

    2) Overdrive. Again, the best show. Zero complaints at all and wouldn’t change much. It’s good that Noodles is back, but even when Craig Button comes in it’s quite enjoyable.

    3) I’ve given the “Starting Lineup” a chance. I work from home and always have some type of sports radio on. This show is terrible. I actually don’t mind Brady that much anymore, but Price is nauseating. He makes borderline inappropriate jokes that are just terrible. He has a radio voice, but my god…he’s dull. Lastly, I feel bad for Hugh. I know he does other things to make ends meet like consult, but he gets abused by the other two and it’s not okay.

    4) Blair. Where do I start with this debacle? He berates co-hosts. He legit sounds like he has throat cancer. Seriously…the coughing needs to stop. Go see a doctor man. For your own health. I just have a suspicion he’s not well-liked by anyone. I know people at the Globe couldn’t stand him. Not saying everyone, but those who I know there sure as hell had some interesting things to say about him. I think he’s got some serious skeletons.

    5) Leafs Lunch is great. I love listening to Andi. I take the show for what it is and I enjoy it.

    6) The best thing I’ve done is subscribe to the Athletic. If you complain about the cost then you have some serious issues in life that need fixing. What is it like…$5 a month? Get off your wallets and support the great coverage it provides.

    That’s all for now from hot and sunny Los Angeles.

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    Tighthead 8 months ago

    I hope the next column brings up Simmons callling out of Marc Savard, and Savard’s rebuttal. Simmons seems to exist with zero conscience or accountability. 

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    You’d think that idiot Simmons would know by now. I was wondering why he decided to take a cheapshot out of nowhere in his Sunday notes column.

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    Original Mitch 8 months ago

    Simmons like many with giant egos have personal inexplicable vendettas against certain people and Savard is clearly one of them. God-complex entails never forgetting who “betrayed” you, so I am certain at some point a few years back, Savard either snubbed Simmons or declined an interview or didn’t wave back in the bowels of the ACC after a game. Something likely minor but that’s all it takes for people with this mental state. 

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    Chance Vought 8 months ago

    So where is all the criticism of the Leafs for doing the same thing that the Jays do?

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    Warren 8 months ago

    Anyone listening to the BlueJays radio broadcasts? I’ve popped in and out listening to bits of several games.
    Ben Wagner is a real pro. He’s a little on the bland side, but may loosen up as time goes on. A great pick, I think.

    As to those who’ve accompanied him on the airwaves? Wow, not good at all. Who thought Josh Thole could do this gig? I’d expect some kind of broadcast experience would be a pre-requisite; doesn’t seem like he has any of that. Looks to be in way over his head.

    There’s bits to like about Kevin Barker – at least he’s done some radio work. Would be good if everything he says isn’t prefaced by “When I was playing . . . “

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    MattK 8 months ago

    I don’t have a problem with Wilner not getting the #1 chair, Ben Wagner has been calling minor league games for over 10 years vs Wilner who has a lot less experience at it. I didn’t mind Wilner too much calling just he can be too much of a homer or get too excited at times. I wouldn’t mind him being the #2. I didn’t mind Thole too much but he just needs more experience. He wouldn’t overtalk and really only joined in when he had something of value to say which many could learn from.

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    monologue 8 months ago

    Thole sounds unpolished because he’s inexperienced, but if you think about it he provides more insight into the considerations of those on the field than a lot of former players I’ve heard on broadcasts before.

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    Good call by HNIC to pull player interviews out of the soul sucking banality of cinder block hallways onto the bench which draws from the energy of the crowd.  Although I don’t know who had the idea first, NBC or HNIC; saw Rielly leaving the bench from a McGuire interview as the post-game Bukauskas/Matthews interview was ending. 

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    Listening to Dan Shulman on the radio today has really been a treat.

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    No Dan Shulman fan here as I find him vastly over rated – Tuned in to the Jays the last two days and it seemed Shulman was doing the bulk of the PbP – I find his voice monotonous and droning and he never shuts up – Then to cap it off they had that insufferable jerk Wilner on trying to be cute – Enough is enough and I turned off the broadcast – Leave the radio PbP as it has been – Ben Wagner and a colour guy – I like Wagner and as an added bonus when they are on the road there is no Wilner in the booth – Just leave Wagner to get established as he has been doing fine – If I don’t listen I watch the updates on MLB Sportsnet.ca –

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    Drumanchor 8 months ago

    A quick question about the Jays TV broadcasts. Has anyone else noticed that the audio and the visuals seem to be a tad out of synch? I haven’t watched too many games on TV, and only road games, but I have noticed in all of them that, for instance, the sound of a pitch hitting a bat or the catcher’s glove is about a half a second before the visual.

    You can tell if someone hits the ball before you see it. 

    I suspect I may be the only one bothered by this but can anyone explain how this happens?