In a post on his Facebook page Tuesday, Dirk Hayhurst confirmed that he would not be returning to Sportsnet next season. Bob Elliott had first grumbled about the possibility around the end of December, burying the news in the middle of some silly listicle he wrote for the Toronto Sun.
I contacted Dirk to see if there was anything else that he could add, but he politely declined, explaining only that their parting of the ways was amicable, and that he doesn’t have any future broadcasting plans to divulge at this time.
The year-and-a-half that he was here wasn’t without controversy, but it was mostly of the lighthearted variety. Of course, Clay Buchholz may disagree. And, actually, the whole Buchholz/cheating incident actually did get a little bit nastier — and awesomer, as in the insta-classic Jack Morris quip, “Salty, this isn’t my first fuckin’ rodeo” — than we might remember. Even the Arencibia stuff and the David Price thing from the ALDS maybe don’t quite meet the standards of “lighthearted,” but they sure as hell were entertaining. More importantly, those incidents really only represent a small portion of a body of work that was, among other things, strong enough to get Dirk noticed by TBS.
It was around that time — when Hayhurst joined Keith Olbermann, Tom Verducci, Gary Sheffield, and Pedro Martinez as that network’s postgame playoff studio crew — that a lot of us around got the inkling that his days in what remains, if we’re being honest with ourselves, a baseball backwater might be shortly numbered. It didn’t help when we saw praise for his work, like when Will Leitch wrote for Sports On Earth that Dirk was “an impressive, unconventional choice as a studio guy; he has proven to be an outstanding one. Hayhurst is 32 years old and is going to be on your television screen for a long, long time.”
I know that there are folks out there — I mean, unless we’re talking about Vin Scully there are bound to be – who won’t be particularly troubled by the move, but that’s far from my view, and I know I’m far from alone in that. Dirk brought more than just standard ex-ballplayer fare to broadcasts and to Baseball Central, in much the way that he does in his books, telling personal stories and toeing the line of what those in the room might find acceptable to divulge, just to provide us with insight into how he sees the game, and doing so with uncommon wit, intelligence, and flair — at least for a baseball broadcast in this city.
You’d think that Rogers might see enough value in that, validated as it was by the interest last fall from TBS and the praise their man received for it, to maybe fight a little harder to keep him around, but… well… it’s Rogers, and the only value they seem to see is the kind where they end up with more cash in their pocket at the end of the day. And since we have no idea what’s actually going on, raising the spectre of Dan Shulman is perhaps a little premature. Whatever’s happened, someone’s going to be better off for it, just not Sportsnet, and not us.
Hey, and maybe it’ll work out for the best for Dirk, especially since his new book, Bigger Than The Game, focuses on his time with the Jays and comes out in early March. I haven’t dug into my review copy just yet, so I can’t speak to any lurid details, and I know a lot of faces have changed since then, but I’m pretty sure no organization is real fond of being written about so openly… which is exactly why Jays fans are going to want to pick it up. Speaking of: you can pre-order it right now by way of a number of sellers (including Canadian ones) provided at Dirk’s website.