Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Your Blue Jays Broadcast Team

Because our gateway to the Blue Jays is mediated by the media, I thought an Opening Day primer about the Jays' broadcast team was in order.

The play-by-play man on the TV side of things is former Jays catcher and manager, Buck Martinez.  The right-handed hitting half of the Whitt/Martinez catching tandem for the Jays, he's probably best known these days for his expertly coifed head of hair, and this play, in which he was run over, breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle while still making 2 putouts: WATCH.

While Buck is a solid, professional broadcaster, I think that he was at his best working with (now ESPN broadcaster) Dan Schulman.  With Schulman as the play-by-play man and Martinez as the colour analyst, the Blue Jays broadcasting was at its peak.  I think that Martinez is slightly miscast as a play-by-play man although he does a good job letting his partner do most of the analysis.

Most nights, Buck's partner on TV is former Blue Jay Pat Tabler whose two seasons with the Jays culminated in a 1992 World Series victory.  While Pat is a very humble fellow and (from my brief meeting of him) a very nice person, I feel that he gets very repetitive on the air and is a victim of the "obviousness" disease.  While watching a pair of spring training games on TV, I actually switched to listening to the radio broadcast after Pat made the same comment about Adam Lind several times.  I understand that there's a fine balance in addressing both occasional and habitual audiences, but I'm sure there's something you can find to say about Adam Lind that is interesting to both groups of people without repeating yourself.

On the radio side, we have the long-time commentator Jerry Howarth anchoring the broadcasts.  For me (along with soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tom Cheek) Jerry's is the voice of summer.  He is one of the few broadcasters that I've found to be not only quite impartial, but also knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He makes it sound effortless, particularly on the radio and his little proprietary comments (... And there she goes!.... The Blue Jays are in flight!) really make the game a Blue Jays game.

Pairing up with Jerry this season will be Jack Morris.  While Morris has big shoes to fill after Alan Ashby departed to take a job with the Astros closer to home, I still don't really have a good read on him after listening to him a few times.  He doesn't muster the enthusiasm that other broadcasters do, always sounding somewhat tired or bored.  Maybe with all of the excitement of his borderline Hall of Fame playing career, nothing he sees in broadcasting thrills him.  The sample size is still too small to really form a lasting opinion of Morris as a broadcaster, so we'll see what he brings as the season progresses.

Hosting duties and studio analysis on the TV side has been done by the team of Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun.  It's an interesting pairing that kind of reminds a lot of people of Ron McLean and Don Cherry over on CBC for the hockey.  Zaun doesn't shy away from the controversial, but unlike Cherry, he actually has valuable, relevant baseball information to share.  Zaun has run into controversy with some tweets that have been derogatory towards women.  Campbell, who seems like a very nice fellow (I very briefly met him down at the Jays' minor league complex in Dunedin), had the play-by-play duties for the TV side for a year or two before Martinez returned to Toronto and is also a very professional, well prepared broadcaster.  He's at his best in the studio, setting up Zaun and seamlessly bridging topics.

Getting some radio game-calling time this spring were pre- and post-game host Mike Wilner and former Blue Jay and author Dirk Hayhurst.  These guys understood that they were calling exhibition games on the radio and not the World Series and kept the mood light and fun.  Wilner has subbed in on regular season broadcasts in the past and has modulated his game-calling by catering to the different situations of Spring Training and regular season games.  I've found him to be a very good broadcaster for his play-by-play duties and have enjoyed his work both calling games and doing his pre-game and post-game Jays Talk duties.  Some criticize him about being too much of a "know-it-all," but maybe we're just two peas in a pod (i.e., we're both "know-it-alls") because I appreciate the fact that he doesn't let callers get away with the kind of nonsense that frequently arises in those types of call-in shows.*

Both Wilner and Hayhurst were frequently humourous in their Spring Training broadcasts but I think that Hayhurst falls into the "I played with that guy" trap a little too frequently (particularly with the "TOD" - Teammate of Dirk - designation).  While for Spring Training games, his insight into behind-the-scenes part of the game was refreshing, if I was listening to regular season or (hopefully this season) playoff games, I'd want to hear more of a dissection of strategy and analysis of what happened on the field.  I think that Hayhurst, who is still new to the broadcasting realm, will find that balance going forward, and will eventually take over for Morris. Whereas Morris sounds like he's less than thrilled to be working in radio, Hayhurst oozes charisma and energy.

For those of us who aren't at every game (or who might even prefer to watch/listen at home), These are the guys that bring Blue Jays baseball to us.  I've heard and watched other teams when I've been away or traveling through other cities,** and I have to say that watching and listening to Blue Jays broadcasts is always one of my favourite ways to catch the Jays.


* I find listening to post-game Maple Leaf call-in shows intolerable due to the host's encouragment of the morons who call in.

**Listening to Chicago Cubs or White Sox games on the radio is especially painful/hilarious depending on your view of the unique Chicago brand of homerism.

Both Mike Wilner and Dirk Hayhurst are active Twitterers

Mike Wilner: @Wilnerness590

Dirk Hayhurst: @thegarfoose

Blue Jays from Away: @Jaysfromaway

No comments:

Post a Comment