Alright, so spring has begun in earnest, and while I guess I can sorta understand people losing their shit for every pitch of the exhibition season like it was the fucking World Series (note: not really), I consider myself more of a big picture kinda guy.
Or… OK, fuck, I’m mostly just saying that to excuse the fact that I’ve been lazy as fuck keeping up with the camp minutia and have like five days worth of links to unleash in some way or another. And instead of just shitting them all out into a monster motherfucker of a post (think twice the size of this monstrosity), let’s break it up a little bit– specifically, let’s take a look at a few media-related things that we should have touched on over the last couple of weeks, but that got overlooked, mostly thanks to the Jays making a signing of some sort or another (and, of course, my seeming inability to handle anything more than a post a day at this point– if that).
Changes At Sportsnet
Way old news, but just to be official about it, it was reported late last week, as you can read here from the National Post, that Rance Mulliniks and Sam Cosentino have been dropped from Sportsnet’s telecasts of Jays games, meaning (as far as I know) Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler will be your full-time TV crew. Though Shi Davidi, according to a tweet from Steve Simmons (and… I’m not sure where else, exactly), has been snatched away from the Canadian Press and will join the Rogers empire. I have no idea whether that means he’ll be part of the broadcast, or if he’ll simply be helping their Jays web coverage go from “completely fucking useless” to “completely fucking useless, except for Shi Davidi.”
I avoid the Sportsnet broadcast of games enough of the time to not really have much of an opinion on the broadcast changes– streams are probably split 50/50 between the home and visitor broadcasts, and I catch huge numbers of games either at the park or on radio– but I suspect I’ll miss ol’ Swami Rance and his predicting every single fucking pitch, if only to break up the Tabler-Martinez combo every once in a while. I didn’t mind Rance at all, to be frank, though I always got the impression I was in the minority on that.
Islands In The Stream
Speaking of streams, FanGraphs recently asked users how much of a premium they’d be willing to pay to get a blackout-free version of MLB.tv, and more than 50% said they’d pay $40 or more on top of the cost of their MLB.tv package, and 17% saying they’d pay over $100 extra. I’m somewhere in the middle, but I’d definitely pony up some cash for a thing like that.
Cable? No, the last time I paid for cable I found it way to easy to sit on the couch like a lump of shit cycling endlessly through the channels, and that’s just not the way I want to spend my time or money, personally.
Of course, the completely-not-greedy fucks at Rogers would surely be an obstacle to getting MLB.tv blackouts removed– though, to be fair, I don’t know what would have to be done, contractually, to make it happen. But it’s a thing that should happen, yet I suspect that for the foreseeable future industrious young cable-free baseball fans (note: but certainly not me) will have to keep on scraping the bowels of the internet for ways to get for free something that they’d gladly pay a fair price for,* because… y’know, worrying about how things might actually make a shitload of sense doesn’t seem to be part of the business model over at .
* I know this kind of sounds a lot like the rather weak argument made by many music pirates about the exorbitant cost of CDs (you know, back when people actually bought CDs) being the main factor driving them to get music for free off the net, which never really held up. However, the quality and reliability of streaming sites is so hit-or-miss that it would seem to me that someone providing a legit, high quality, reliable stream could justify asking for a premium, and would be able to get people to bite. Keep in mind, though, that I’m completely talking out my ass on all this.
And Speaking of Rogers And Shit That Doesn’t Make Sense…
Sportsnet One, everybody!
Ho ho ho! See what I just did there?
Ahhh, but OK, it’s slightly unfair of me to suggest that Sportsnet One doesn’t make sense. The completely fucking useless and unnecessary– beyond being home to poker reruns and replays of year-old Olympic events– fifth Sportsnet channel absolutely has a clear, obvious, and completely sensible purpose to the greedsters at Bloor and Jarvis: blackmail. Straight up fucking unambiguous, unrepentant, you just keep on wasting your time banning shitty Dire Straits songs there, CRTC blackmail.
And hey! Maybe it worked and now your humbled local cable provider will allow you to pay some extra money in order to get it and watch the 38 games that will be shown exclusively on the otherwise completely fucking useless network this year.
And Now I Say Something Nice About Rogers…
Actually, there was some interestingness from the Rogers announcement linked in the section above, though I don’t quite know what to make of it:
“Viewers and listeners will see a much more integrated broadcast in our television and radio production,” said Rob Corte, Executive Producer, Live Events, Rogers Sportsnet. “We’re excited about the opportunity to engage Blue Jays fans like never before.”
Um… does he mean integration between TV and radio? Because that can only be a good thing, I think. Then again, it might just be a meaningless buzzword.
And still with the Sportsnet crew, here are a couple of tidbits from Buck Martinez last week– before the first intersquad games had taken place– during a chat with Bob McCown on the Fan 590, which, if nothing else, serve to remind us that, whatever we think of Buck as a play-by-play man (and I don’t dislike him, necessarily), he can be a hell of an interesting analyst when he wants to. (Though… I’m not quite sure about all the references to guys’ bodies there Buck– especially when you include his comments about Eric Thames being “chiseled” and Edwin Encarnacion being in great shape from Scott Carson’s latest front office slobber job at Sportsnet.com. People are gonna start to wonder, Buck.)
On Brett Lawrie:
“Is he what I anticipated? He’s stronger. He’s more impressive physically. He runs well. He’s got a stronger arm than I had thought. Last year he played second base– he’s going to play third base all spring long. He hits the ball out of the ballpark and [yet] he doesn’t have his timing down yet. And his approach at the plate is ‘hit everything to the right side of second base’– that’s a great approach. He’s 20 years old! I’m tellin’ you what, that’s an impressive quality to find in a young hitter, because most young hitters come to camp and they want to jerk the ball out of the ballpark down the left field line as a right-handed hitter. He’s working on something– he has a gameplan.
“This kid had 60 extra-base hits in Double-A– sixty! He had 16 triples. Now, you’ve got to think that’s a pretty impressive number of extra-base hits in Double-A, because he’s still maturing physically. He looks like a super-charged Dan Uggla right now: big forearms, Popeye forearms, great quads, good body, and he can run! He’s an exceptional base runner, and in his head he knows timing, he knows breaks, he knows reads in the outfield, he runs the bases very well. He’s got an exceptional arm that plays well at third base. I’m with you, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Brett Lawrie sooner than later. That being said, I haven’t seen him in a game yet. But physically, he’s pretty impressive.”
On Travis Snider (with a twist of Lawrie at the end):
“Let me qualify Snider last year. He had a tough time a couple times last year. But when he hurt his wrist initially, I think at the end of May, he was as hot as anybody in the American League at that time. Foul line to foul line, bullets all over the ballpark. It took him longer to come back from the wrist injury than I think anybody anticipated, but we started to see that stroke at the end of the season. Mind you, just like you said: very young man, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of roller coaster rides emotionally and physically, but he too, I think, is on the verge of busting out. And you’re right, it takes a while for these guys. And every one of them, I don’t care how gifted physically they are, every one of them handles it differently mentally. They handle the failures differently mentally– my impression, and it’s only an impression early, of Brett Lawrie is, he’ll be able to handle anything.”
Alan Ashby FTW
I say this every year, but the level of stupidity required by the Houston Astros to have let Alan Ashby go as their analyst back in 2007 still boggles my fucking mind. He showed up on Monday afternoon’s Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590, and nailed it as usual, telling us about how he thinks today’s players have a tendency to over-train in the off-season, leading to things like rib injuries once they come in and start hitting (*cough* *Snider* *cough*), that he thinks Zach Stewart is still a year away, that he was surprised that Scott Richmond doesn’t get included enough in the conversations as one of the candidates for the back two spots in the rotation, and that he’s also surprised that Drabek even needs to battle for a job.
“To me, Kyle Drabek is the four starter,” he said. “I saw enough of Kyle Drabek late last year, and also combine that with the way he pitched in the minor leagues, to believe this guy’s ready to pitch on the big league level. He right now has the second best stuff on the staff, so I’m a little bit surprised to see his name as one of the ‘candidates’ for the back two spots of the rotation.”
And you’ll never believe this, but my favourite part was what he said about John Farrell, and how he insisted he wasn’t contrasting him with Cito, but… come on…
“He’s a big guy, so he brings a presence,” Ashby said of Farrell, who he says he just met the other day. “On top of that, he’s very intelligent. I think he’s going to articulate things maybe better than we’ve had in the past. And I think that’s important, not only in terms of speaking with the players, but with the media, to present your views, and the reasoning into moves or lack of moves during the course of a ballgame. I think it’s very important that articulates well to the media, to the fan, and then you get a better sense as to what’s going on, why things are going on. To me, that’s a big step forward.”
Later, after McCown asks about Farrell’s “presence,” Ashby adds, “because he’s that, because he’s a guy who shows that he’s an intelligent guy– and I don’t want to imply that other people haven’t been– but he is. I think he brings all of that. He’s been an executive, a minor league director already in his young life in professional baseball, so he’s got a track record, though he has never managed in the big leagues– and I think that has been a bit of an issue to this point. But I will say that players, early on in this camp, have been impressed with how the camp has been run. … Players like what they’ve seen to this point.”
Of course Ashby doesn’t want to imply such a thing, he’ll just kinda do it anyway.
Worse Than Baltimore?
A reader recently emailed me to ask me to rip the shit out of Jim Bowden for a FoxSports video in which he says that the Jays will finish last in the division.
Now, Jim Bowden is an idiot– of that there is no doubt, and even if there was doubt, he eliminated it by stating in the video that Jose Bautista signed a $50-million contract (it was $64-million) and that Adrian Beltre had once hit 50 home runs (he hit 48 in 2004)– but this reader wasn’t the first person I’ve seen beside himself at the suggestion that the Orioles might be better than the Jays in 2011, and the thing is… it’s really not that crazy.
Would I bet on the O’s finishing ahead of the Jays? No. But there’s talent in Baltimore: Like Lind and Hill, Jones and Markakis can be a lot better than they’ve shown. You’d love to see Travis Snider come near the 27 HR .902 OPS season Luke Scott had last year. Wieters is still an immense prospect waiting to break out. Vlad, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds were horribly short-sighted additions, but might have some juice left. And there’s big talent in the arms of Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman.
I do think Keith Law has it right when he tells Steve Melewski of MASN, in a hilarious piece (and don’t forget the comments!) where he really shits all over the O’s off-season, that “the Orioles are clearly the worst team in a five-team division.” But he adds that “the only way [they have a winning record] is if Matusz, Arrieta, Tilllman, Wieters, Jones and Markakis, four of those guys take big steps forward.”
It’s a lot to ask, but… so much so that Jays fans should be angry at the suggestion it could happen? I just don’t get it. (Hey, some bullshit formula from the Wall Street Journal even suggests the O’s had the best off-season of anyone!)
The baseball world is mourning the death of sport psyschologist Harvey Dorfman today at the age of 75. Jays fans will remember him as the author of Roy Halladay’s robot manual The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, though personally, I remember him most from his mid-80s golf videos.
Meanwhile, legendary Dodger Duke Snider also passed away this week, but at least in this part of the world he’ll be remembered as much for his broadcasting work alongside Dave Van Horne with the Montreal Expos. At FanGraphs Montrealer Jonah Keri reminisces about growing up listening to Snider’s calls, while former Expos PR-man (hey, did you guys know that he worked for the Expos???) Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star eloquently toasts his hall-of-fame friend.
Speaking of Montreal’s baseball legacy, on Monday the home Jackie Robinson lived in while a member of the minor league Montreal Royals was commemorated with a plaque. You can read about it from the Globe and Mail, though that’s not the site where I found this link to the Google street view of the house, which is at 8232 Avenue de Gaspé, a short distance from Jarry Park.
The Jays’ new ad campaign is up and viewable (y’know, for like two weeks) at BlueJays.com. And… uh… “Hustle and Heart”? Just… ugh.
Lastly, Mike Wilner has up and joined the world of Twitter (@IntoTheWilnerness). Now, if you’re an NHL reporter, I know you’re probably in a rush, but maybe take the two fucking seconds necessary to make sure that’s spelled right and that it looks like a legit account before going and retweeting something you think is from him. There could be fakes lurking out there!
Tuesday Afternoon Amendments:
Ahhh, would you look at that, I put in the wrong Twitter address up there for Wilner. Now, you might think that, given what I was saying regarding yesterday’s hockey Twitter flap, I was just being super clever. Nope, I’m just an idiot. The link has been corrected.
And speaking of corrections, I think you get my point re: the CRTC way back there in the comment about Sportsnet One, but it’s been pointed out to me that it was actually the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council who actually gave enough of a shit about a 25-year-old song to ban it.