Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email

 

Good morning sports media fans. Here’s a grab bag of sports media news from the past couple of weeks. As always, if there are things you think we missed please add links in the comments or email/DM me.

 

Checking in on the Jays

 

With the Raptors and Leafs well into golf season, the local attention turns to the infuriating Blue Jays. Their lineup boasts an exciting young core, some decent veterans, and all around fun offensive approach. On the pitching side, things are somewhat grim. The starters are holding it together despite a steep falloff after slots one and two. But all of the attention lately has been on the bullpen, which has been spectacularly bad for the last month.

 

Bullpen management, along with the timing of pulling the starer, falls squarely on the manager. One of the talking points this week has been whether Charlie Montoyo or Shapiro/Atkins are to blame for the poor performance. The manager has been choosing his words carefully, implying that he’s doing the best he can with the arms he has been given.

 

 

Montoyo then tried to change the narrative by suggesting that the team is thriving despite the recent challenges:

 

 

For some more commentary, here’s a quick roundup of some notable local writing:

 

“With each loss there have been an increasing number of calls for change: The Jays must address the bullpen before it’s too late! A trade needs to happen yesterday! Manager Charlie Montoyo or GM Ross Atkins must go! The hysteria seems a bit over the top. Still, there’s no vaccine to cure what ails this team. The Jays aren’t one reliever away from turning this around, they need an entirely new group of high-leverage arms.” – Gregor Chisholm, The Star

 

I don’t understand why some media feel the need to frame their points in response to “hysterical” fans. If you’re responding to the dumbest segment of the fanbase, why would anyone other than those same people want to read what you have to say? The point about this team not being one reliever away is a good one, and stands on its own.

 

It’s difficult to imagine that frustration isn’t running deep by now as the Jays are losing touch with the division leaders and are firmly in fourth place in the AL East. There is zero confidence in the bullpen — a well-earned sentiment as we saw yet again on Thursday — and the team has noticeably regressed on defence in recent days.” – Rob Longley, The Sun

 

What’s striking about this statement is that, other than MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson, there are no media on the ground in Buffalo to gauge the pulse of the locker room. (Correction: Buffalo sports writers are there. Sorry for the oversight). So statements about frustration or confidence levels are guesses. As readers, we are not getting the best coverage right now, through no fault of the writers covering the team. Having watched a decent amount of zoom press conferences, it is pretty clear that players have learned how to get in and out as quickly as possible. This may change in August or September if the border re-opens, but by then the season may be over.

 

“Will Montoyo be fired? He should be but almost certainly won’t be because that blood would be on the hands of general manager Ross Atkins, and that’s sticky even in a season played outside of Toronto. It was Atkins’ sloppy work that provided Montoyo with a long list of wonky, broken down, seemingly incapable relief pitchers, almost none of whom have grabbed the big league opportunity provided for them.” – Steve Simmons, The Sun

 

Who else write that kind of sentence? Like him or not, Simmons adds some much needed frankness to the conversation. The Jays made some high (injury) risk – high reward gambles. When those don’t work out then you have to own the opportunity cost of those choices. If there’s no more money, then it’s far for observers and fans to point to all the dead money sitting on the sidelines

 

“Debating strategy and matchups is what makes baseball so fun. You can make what’s considered the right move and have it backfire, and the so-called wrong move and see it work.This sport can be ridiculous. But if you think the Blue Jays’ problems closing out games — Monday’s gutting 6-5 setback to the New York Yankees serving as the latest example — are a matter of strategy rather than personnel, then you’re clearly looking for a scapegoat rather than root causes.The Blue Jays are 5-8 in one-run games, 5-11 in two-run contests, have lost six times when leading after six and are 3-7 when tied after six. That’s not predominantly strategic error, that’s leaky roster construction. No matter how the relievers are structured, especially lately, it blows up in the manager’s face.” – Shi Davidi, Sportsnet

 

This is the best thing I read on the topic; a great mix of stats and analysis. The Jays need to pitch better, but it is unclear where that is going to come from without significant additions. We have yet to see this administration make the kind of deadline deals that save a season. As Shi notes in his piece, the pressure now falls to the front office to fix this, or flush away an amazing offensive season and a better than expected output from the starting rotation.

 

I struggled to find noteworthy analysis beyond what is mentioned above. Cathal Kelly had a forgettable column on the topic. The Athletic continues to operate without a Jays opinion writer, which is a major downgrade from last year’s coverage. One interesting thing to watch is whether the relationship between the Montoyo and the media shifts if this season spins out. While Shapiro and Atkins have been heavily scrutinized, Montoyo has led a comparatively easy existence in his tenure as manager, despite replacing John Gibbons who was wildly popular with the media who cover the team.

 


 

In other Jays news, the radio experiment continues to be a massive failure. As many have pointed out, it is not getting better. At this time many teams are starting to send their radio crews back on the road, with TV announcers to follow. The Jays currently have no radio crew, but could easily have one with the stroke of a pen. This is the lowest of low hanging fruit for Rogers management. “The sound of summer is back! Join fully vaccinated Ben Wagner and (insert rotating cast of ex-players) for all the action.” According to Sportsnet’s Rob Corte, when asked about the quality of the radio broadcast: “so far, so good.” If you work for someone other than Rogers, this should on your list of questions every week.

 

Another Jays topic this week is when teams would be allowed to travel in and out of the Dome. Recent federal exceptions for the NHL (and Gary Bettman) suggest that something similar could be worked out for MLB. It will be interesting to see whether Rogers bothers getting the Dome set up for baseball if the season is a competitive write-off. That sounds very expensive for 30-40 games. Conversely, what better incentive could there be to invest in this roster than the prospect of a packed stadium (roof open, proof of vaccine at time of ticket purchase) cheering on a playoff run?

 

Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News has a great opinion piece on price gouging at Sahlen Field:

 

“The Jays went to dynamically priced concessions, marking up every food and beverage item at the ballpark by $2. Shame on them. A couple of workers whom I talked to said they were embarrassed to have to tell people who had been to games the previous week what the increased prices were. Your $10 cheeseburger suddenly was $12. Your $5 and $6 pizza slices were $7 and $8. A hot dog was $8, an Italian sausage $11. A bottle of pop was $7. A can of beer ran as high as $18. The Jays should knock this stuff off. It should be beneath them. Don’t do it on July 4 weekend against Tampa Bay, or when the Red Sox or Indians are here, or if the Yankees return in September. Be better than this and don’t just drop at the altar of the almighty buck.”

 

Last thought on the Jays for today: the studio show of Siddall and the eternally youthful Campbell is really hitting their stride. If you haven’t seen it, here is an excellent clip of quick to the point analysis in real-time. Campbell does a great job steering conversation without getting in the way (for contrast, see last month’s discussion of Ron MacLean). Moving Siddall to TV has been a great move by Sportsnet.

 

Radio Poll

 

The hottest topic in our corner of the world is predicting what the future of sports radio looks like post-pandemic. Obviously lots of commuters will return to their usual travel routines. However, many won’t. Radio is a medium that relies on habit and captivity: you are stuck in your car in traffic, and your dial is already tuned to whatever you last listened to. Radio faces the double-whammy of losing a bunch of listeners to work from home arrangements, and losing a share of the remainder to podcasts and streaming options that listeners discovered during the shutdown.

 

There is no going back to the old business model. What that means is that sports radio will either have to do the same with smaller revenues, or do less with less. We have already seen what the former option looks like: you fire all your high priced staff and replace them with cheaper options, or you simply abandon the format. The latter option has also been tried: syndicated American content. Some readers will remember The Fabulous Sports Babe, and her penchant for hanging up on callers wanting to talk about hockey. Not exactly compelling content for this market. Would Toronto listeners tolerate a 10am-4pm schedule full of Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and Dan LeBatard? Would anyone notice? This has been tried before, and might be tried again.

 

Neither option looks compelling, but in light of recent ratings there is simply no way that Bell or Rogers can justify continuing to do business as usual. How do you pivot to podcasts when you are committed to live local content from 6am to 7pm? Adding to that thorny question, there is also the issue that few Canadian podcasts have broken into the lucrative advertising space we see in the US.

 

So my poll question for you today is simple. If you’ve never been a radio listener this poll doesn’t apply to you. I want to hear from traditional listeners – people who tuned in regularly over the past decade. With line-up changes currently being discussed, what would it take to lure you back to live radio (either streamed or over the air)? Please discuss your answer below. Results hidden for the first 24 hours. If you are in management, you are not permitted to view results without written permission from TSM.

 

What would lure you back to live sports talk radio?

 

Quick Hits

 

Scott Stinson has a good article on the state of things with the Hockey Diversity Alliance. This has been an embarrassing relationship for the NHL.

 

Rick Westhead – welcome back Rick! – has a well-sourced article on a sexual assault civil suit involving the Chicago Blackhawks. Every serious reporter covering hockey should jump on this bandwagon and start asking questions about who knew what and when. The hockey community has a bad history of covering up for each other.

 

Mexico will be playing their FIFA World Cup qualifiers (including one against Canada) in an empty stadium as a penalty for their fans’ homophobic chants. Good.

 

The Athletic is for sale, and has twice failed to close the deal, most recently over disagreements about the value of the company. Despite claiming that 40% off sales would come to an end, these have persisted in recent months for new subscribers, along with generous retention offers for existing or returning users. This makes evaluating real revenue difficult. As the article notes, there is also a question of how to compensate early employees who were given equity in the company. Interesting story to watch.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Kes’ House is a Sportsnet show about the lifestyle of NHLer Ryan Kesler and his entourage. He recently called out NFLer JJ Watt in a video and promoted tweet that was quickly ratioed and then deleted. This is the uncomfortable middle space for corporate-branded edgy content.

 

 

  • John Shannon wants to know how you are enjoying the Bob McCown podcast (no longer on the air at Sauga960). So do I. Who is still listening to the BobCat?

 

 

  • The average for the all Canadian round 2 matchup is about the same as Sportsnet usually gets for a regular season Saturday night game. Is that good or bad? I’m going to say bad, since the NHL playoffs are supposed to be a premium TV product.

 

 

  • Ron MacLean has heard enough from Elliotte Friedman, and people are noticing:

 

 

  • Amazing work by TSN’s soccer crew of De Guzman, Kilbane, and Wileman dealing with the scary Eriksen collapse on the pitch. As an audience member some part of me wanted them to speculate but I was very glad that they didn’t.

 

  • Remember when we cared what Gregg Zaun had to say about the Blue Jays?

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 15
  • comment-avatar
    Darren 1 month ago

    I used to listen to fan590 all the time. On my way to work, at work, on the way home and after Blue Jays games. I stopped listening that much years ago, but now I dont even turn on my radio.

    Im not interested in their content as much. I do enjoy Good Show, and I’ll check out Writers Bloc when they have good guests. But I listen to them on Spotify, to avoid ads. Theres no incentive to listen to them live, unless theres breaking news. Dont listen to anything else on Fan590 and dont listen to overdrive unless something big happens in hockey. Those guys pretty much dont know anything outside of hockey and golf.

    Podcasts generally give better insight since a lot of podcasts focus on an individual sport. A baseball podcast, for example, gives you much better insight into the game than a sports radio show where they only dabble in each sport and never really get to dig into it.

    Podcasts are the way to go. Better insight and you dont have to sit through 15 minutes of ads every hour. You can skip ahead if there are parts that dont interest you. Theres no incentive to listen to the radio anymore, especially with them posting their shows as podcasts and giving no incentive to listen live.

    Sports talk radio, in my opinion, is dead.

  • comment-avatar

    According to Tabby and Buck (who is probably still talking right now) the Jays are the best team in baseball and as Hazel Mae keeps reminding us, they’re also the most wonderful people in the sport. Is there anything more aggravating than a puff piece in the middle of an awful performance from the Jays. Please stop patronizing us, we know what we’re watching for Christ’s sake it’s not 1977 any more.

  • comment-avatar

    I’ve been listening to McCowan’s podcast as I was interested to see what he’d do with it given free rein from Sportsnet – especially as part of his schtick there was about him standing up to corporate knuckleheads trying to tell him what to do.
    My observations:
    – It turns out Bob actually loves talking hockey. Half the shows are hockey talk with Bob’s rotating cast of rolodex octogenarians. Are there actually people dying to hear from the President of Hockey Operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets, or the Vice President of Equipment Management for the Florida Panthers?

    John Shannon was always the worst cohost on PTS and now he is the permanent cohost. I hate criticizing John as he seems genuinely like a nice man and he seems to be really well liked but having someone with that level of stuttering on the radio is criminal. That and his hockey boys club proclivity to never criticize anyone or anything makes for bland listening.
    It’s an amateur production as expected, The ad breaks and music cues are a bit mis-timed, which is fine I wasn’t expecting much more – but they can’t even turn their phones off for gods’ sake. Every episode is riddled with the sound of iphone dings, I know John and Bob are in the age group that dares not venture into iphone settings but you would think the radio pros that they are would at least get this right?

  • comment-avatar

    I am an avid fan of TSN1050, Fan590 and WGR550. I actually enjoy the US content in the evenings and overnight, and would much prefer Colin Cowherd or The Rich Eisen show over a lot of what passes for TOR specific content these days. Eisen in particular is a great communicator, interviewer and storyteller regardless of the sport (or non-sport) topic he is discussing. One of the TOR stations picking up his show would be welcome by me.

  • comment-avatar

    @Bob Jones couldn’t agree more. It feels very infomercial doesn’t it? I know other teams do it to but when it comes on I usually go do something else until it’s done

    @Dan also agreed there is a definite lack of polish on the pod

    Also, it’s hilarious that that FIFA who is always my moral arbiter comes down on FMF for a homophobic chant that’s not homophobic. Hey let’s host a World Cup to a country that uses slave labour to build the stadiums but hey let’s take the moral high ground on a swear word. Also excellent SJW work MIB Way to earn virtue points for something you don’t understand in a language you don’t speak

  • comment-avatar

    @Dan 11:51am – The Yahoo article discusses why some Mexico supporters don’t think the term is homophobic. Yet FIFA saw fit to impose sanctions. I have an open mind. If there are additional layers to this topic, I’m all ears.

  • comment-avatar

    I selected the “it’s over” option for the poll. It’s over for live traditional radio – an outdated and inferior delivery model. That said, you have differentiate between sports radio as a method of delivery and sports radio as a product. Despite declining radio ratings, with the rise of podcasts, the product of sports talk has arguably NEVER been more popular than it is right now. Far more people in my life listen to sports podcasts than ever listened to sports radio. It’s a paradox that’s also found in the news industry – newspaper subscribers have fallen off a cliff but news readership overall has never been higher.

    Podcasts are more personality-driven than traditional radio; with such an endless selection out there, listeners will gravitate to personalities that resonate. It’s more of a meritocracy – rather than listening to a show because it happens to be on air at that time, the best overall product wins the day. It’s no longer enough to provide compelling analysis or have a roster of good guests, hosts have to be likeable, engaging, and entertaining. The end result for listeners is a MUCH higher quality listening experience than traditional radio. That’s a big part of why sports talk has risen in popularity (just not in its historical format).

    For me, it doesn’t matter whether a sports talk show is on radio or not. I’ll seek out the most entertaining options regardless of whether they have a radio platform. Overdrive is an incredible show because of the personalities involved; that it happens to be on TSN 1050 is largely irrelevant. If 1050 or 590 had other high-quality personality-driven shows, I’d listen to those too. Just not on the actual radio!

  • comment-avatar

    Brilliant comment Justin. You’re totally right that sports talk has never been more popular.

    I don’t see a way for sports radio (supported by local ads, with some national ads mixed in) to keep doing what they are doing. They are constrained by the format, which demands 15-20 mins of ads. But it’s the lack of ad breaks + the unconstrained format that makes podcasts such a better listening experience. The only advantage the traditional model has is that it is live, but listeners seem to care less about that than ever before, judging by the declining ratings share.

  • comment-avatar
    David Smith 1 month ago

    Saw a clip of Kes’ House. Yikes. Hard Pass. My guess is that Sportsnet views this as their version of Spittin Chicklets….I guess. At one time it appeared that Biz was desitined for a spot on HNIC and/or Sportsnet as he seemed to pop up everywhere on the network before COVID. But it looks like the executives realized that would not be a great idea which I’m in total agreement with.

    As far as MacLean goes, he can leave anytime. As someone here pointed out last time he acts like he is both host and guest on his own show for sometime now.

  • comment-avatar

    I am simply put off by the ads – I realize someone has to pay the freight but it seems like in all of sports radio there have only been 6 or 7 ads produced and they grind them at you time after time – For that reason I started to listen to the Bob McCown podcast – I was always a fan of John(Repeat) Sssshannon but his continuous repetition drove me up the wall – And I found it disappointing that Bobcat for all his bluster never really commented on controversial topics like some of LeBron James statements or the Roberto Alomar fiasco so I just tuned him out – I have no idea what the answer is and really don’t care any more – For me the continual repetitive ads on both radio and TV have ruined things for me – I don’t watch TV at all and rarely tune into radio anymore –

  • comment-avatar
    Dan (2) 1 month ago

    @MIB So what Yunel Escobar wrote on his eye black, is 10000% a slur. It’s actually used quite casually in conversation, which is pretty off putting, but that’s about behavior needing to be corrected.

    While the word is sexually explicit it’s not aimed at gay men, or even men… and in the context in which they’re using it, the english equivalent (again not literal, simply in context of use) would be asshole. You don’t necessarily want it yelled in stadiums, but it’s not a homophobic slur in literal translation or context. it just feels nit picky. With FIFA handing a world cup to Quatar who has 0 soccer teams but lots of bribery money. Then for Quatar to then use migrant Indian and Pakistani labour, underpay them, withhold their passports and make them sleep in shacks while they build a bunch of stadiums which will be landfills 2 weeks after the games… Choosing a non homophobic slur to be morally altruistic about just smacks of tone deafness.

    @David I thought the exact same thing the first 17 times I saw the adds. Horray! another bro humor show with zero substance and peacocks everywhere. But I’m not the target demo so I don’t think they really care

  • comment-avatar

    Simmons reporting that MacLean may be in his way out. He and HNIC are tired of each other.

    I’d welcome the change. His act has just worn thin. Too many puns, too much weird refereeing talk, just too much everything.

  • comment-avatar

    If you were hoping that the OverDrive gang would stay together until the hockey season is over it sounds like you are out of luck………….apparently Jeff O’Neill will be starting his two month summer sabbatical very soon, and probably Jamie McLennan too………..hockey has always been the main focus of their show and the next four or five weeks will be the busiest time for hockey news (Stanley Cup Final, expansion draft, entry draft, free agency, trades, etc)………..but I guess that doesn’t matter because summer vacation takes priority over all of that

    Meanwhile the best segment on OverDrive (Ray Ferraro) will be downgraded from every day to once in a while in the future because of Ferraro’s new ESPN duties……….that’s a big blow to the most listened to sports radio show in Toronto

  • comment-avatar

    I wouldn’t mind so much Jeff and Jamie going on vacation in the summer if TSN would get some halfway decent co-hosts to fill in on Overdrive. But pretty much every sub that they get in the summer is not enjoyable to listen to for me.

    Dave Feschuk thinks he know baseball but seems to spend most of his time being very critical about the Jays front office and how much worse he thinks they are than Anthopoulos. His tendency to speak as though he is writing a newspaper column with quirky headline-esque catch phrases really gets on my nerves. I have similar thoughts about Dave Poulin – he sure loves to brag about his “successes” as an NHL executive. Jonas Siegel is pretty level-headed and rational but is also pretty boring. Steve Simmons is surprisingly one of the best of the bunch but after the Matthews covid “scandal” I’m not sure what is relationship is with TSN anymore.

    Those weeks where Bryan Hayes goes on vacation make Overdrive completely unlistenable. I find Mark Roe a very boring host who doesn’t really bring any interesting ideas/takes to the table on any sport, and I don’t find him a particularly good interviewer either.

    On a positive note, unlike a lot of Jays fans it seems, I do enjoy listening to Kevin Barker a lot on Baseball Central during the summer. He isn’t a guy with a lot of expertise on analytics or big picture transactions, but he’s great at breaking down the ins and outs of a baseball game. He and Jeff Blair have pretty good chemistry and I find it a much more fun show than Writers Bloc with Richard Deitsch. Doesn’t beat Stephen Brunt though for me.

  • comment-avatar
    James 3 weeks ago

    Vendetta out at 590? After his Canada Day comments on Twitter his account is no more and Fan590 is broadcasting CBS radio in Joey’s usual Saturday 12-3 slot.