by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email
Quick post to get some discussion going on the subject of the Blue Jays radio pairings.
As I wrote here, I thought Mike Wilner was not treated especially well by management during the hiring of the excellent Ben Wagner. It seems someone listened, as Mr. Wilner has been quietly promoted to traveling radio guy, as opposed to being the third man in for home games.
In case you need a memory jog, the first month of the season featured Wagner and Shulman, Wagner and Kevin Mae-Barker, Wagner and Josh Thole. Thole left for other opportunities and this seems to have created a vacuum in the Sportsnet depth chart, leading to Wilner’s promotion. This despite the fact that the season opening press release claimed there would be a rotation of analysts joining Wagner. It’s unclear who they had in mind, if anyone, beyond Thole.
The current pairing is Wilner and Blair. The cynical part of me thinks that this is an attempt to get Blair some reps in a format where he can’t take 5 minutes to tell a 30 second anecdote. The more realistic interpretation is that Moore et al are having a hard time attracting a qualified candidate to take over the chair next to Wagner’s.
Part of that is due to the timing: Jerry’s sudden departure left the team at 590 scrambling. That is not great management since his health issues have been a public matter for several years now. Another part is money. Sportsnet just finished Year 4 of their massive NHL deal and ratings have been well below projections. The lack of cash can be seen in all aspects of their hiring decisions (outside of PTS) over the last couple of years.
What does this all mean? It’s going to be the summer of George! Look for every male Sportsnet name to get a shot at participating in the Jays radio broadcasts over the next few months. Presumably at some point they will convince a JP Arencibia or Robbie Alomar or David Wells to come in for the rest of the season.
My own opinion is that their current strategy is deeply devaluing the brand that 590 built up with Tom and Jerry over the last 25+ years. Think of the familiarity all Ontarians have with 590. The station has been the sound of summer on lakes and cottages across thousands of kilometres and several generations. Now they have lost all of that familiarity and substituted it with more airtime for the only Jays personality whose brand involves demeaning the fanbase. That might play well with some subset of the listenership, but I’d argue not with the majority.
A much safer strategy would have been to keep the affable Siddall in his previous role and to allow fans to get used to him and Wagner. Siddall has the Howarth stamp of approval and operates in a similar family-friendly ballpark. However Scott Moore is known for shaking things up so this state of affairs is consistent with past management decisions at HNIC.
Over to you: is the lack of consistency on radio affecting your listening? Has any pairing jumped out as the obvious way forward? How much money can Alan Ashby possibly cost?
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)