DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
by Quinn Sweetzir
Throughout all the high and lows of this eventful Blue Jays season, there’s almost always been one very consistent and unique characteristic of this team; Sportsnet’s broadcast of Jays games. Like any broadcast, some members of the team are better than others, therefore making it important to assess each member of the broadcast individually. After all, what is it about each member which either causes ourselves to become glued to our televisions, or make us turn away and run upstairs? In order to answer this question and provide Sportsnet with valuable feedback, these grades need to be given out so improvements can be made in the future.
Buck Martinez: C+
Martinez was fairly difficult to grade, because he has moments where he is actually quite good, but every once in awhile develops an over-fascination with Aaron Judge or Kevin Kiermaier and it all goes to waste. One of Martinez’s more enjoyable features is a unique and emotional home run call, which brings hope to the homes of Blue Jays fans once the ball comes off the bat. Unfortunately, he often struggles to identify whether a ball is going to be caught or going to go over the fence, making some calls rather interesting. Martinez also has occasional lapses in focus leading him forget the number of outs or the score, but does provide decent, albeit imperfect analysis. Overall, I think he would fit better doing colour commentary as opposed to play by play, but he does do a reasonable enough job to earn a passing grade.
Jamie Campbell: B
Tasked with the difficult job of keeping Gregg Zaun in line during Blue Jays Central and ingame segments, Campbell does a solid overall in his role as host of these features. I would like to see him do a better job of standing up to and questioning Zaun as opposed to acting like his puppet, however Campbell’s stability and calmness is certainly a welcome sight on the broadcast. Campbell also does a solid job segwaying between segments, introducing topics, and avoiding general mistakes, leading him to a fairly generous grade.
Dan Schulman: Incomplete
It’s hard to argue that Schulman is the best overall member of the broadcast. His play by play coverage is superb, and his words roll of the tongue as if they were words of god. His lack of playing experience is also a welcome contrast to his booth mates in Martinez and Tabler, which gives him a unique perspective to what’s going on during the game itself. The only thing stopping Schulman from receiving an A+ grade is his unfortunate commitment to ESPN, which prevents him from regularly broadcasting Jays games. As a result of this, Schulman unfortunately fails to qualify for a grade, therefore leaving him with an incomplete instead.
Arash Madani: D+
Show me someone who claims to be more boring than Arash Madani and I’ll show you a liar. His role on the broadcast consists almost entirely of asking uninteresting questions to players, lifelessly reading experiences, and serving to relay forgettable messages on forgettable topics such as the my Blue Jays codes and future game information. Madani also struggles to deliver captivating segments, and instead provides depressing dialogue. He also has a bad habit of name-searching himself during Jays games on social media, often creating awkward interactions with viewers by responding to criticism. All put together, Madani gets a bad grade for his lack of emotion and charisma during his segments.
Sportsnet Now Commercials: F
Much like Donald Trump’s stupidity, the Sportsnet Now commercials are almost universally hated among Jays fans, yet continue to be a regular feature in daily life. If you’ve managed to avoid this epidemic, they’re attempting to convince viewers to use Sportsnet Now by having two annoying and unwanted men make awful jokes and undesirable statements. Amazingly, these commercials possibly rival the BMO talking ball commercials they have on Toronto Raptors broadcasts in terms of the irritation they cause. Hopefully Sportsnet will eventually acknowledge that these commercials are an utter disaster, but until then I'm not left with no choice but to give a failing grade to these part of the broadcast.
Pat Tabler: D
If Fangraphs gave out WAR for broadcasters, Tabler would manage to achieve a lower total than he achieved in his Blue Jays career. As the colour guy, Tabler adds very little to the conversation, either pointing out things which are incredibly obvious, inputting ineffective ideas, or just generally adding nothing to what’s going on the field. His additional lack modern baseball knowledge is especially apparent when he discusses topics such as infield shifts, further enforced by a lack of acknowledgement to new and relevant statistics. Overall, Tabler just fails to provide the viewer with anything which benefits the broadcast, resulting in his poor grade.
Gregg Zaun: Imagine the worst grade you can, it’s worse than that
Where do I begin? In the past, I've written about Gregg Zaun's lack of character from a personal side, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll instead only going to discuss his value to the Jays broadcasts as a whole. Zaun has incredibly conservative baseball views, often rejecting “new-school” ideas outright, supporting the unhelpful fundamentals of the past. Zaun regularly makes statements which even the casual fan recognizes to be inaccurate, and some of his features such as the Sunday Roast have become so associated with irrationality, they’re almost unwatchable. I’ve only scratched the surface of Zaun’s lunacy, and this grade shouldn’t be much of a surprise to a regular viewer of Jays games on Sportsnet.
Hazel Mae: A
If there was a competition for most underappreciated sportscaster in baseball, Mae could easily be among the favourites. She was incredibly loved in Boston before she came to Sportsnet, and has done a incredible job despite being somewhat hidden by the persona of bigger names on the broadcast. Mae’s best feature is probably her interviewing skills, which are often taken for granted despite being rather strong. She also has more baseball knowledge than people give her credit for. As a result of her strong work, Mae receives the highest grade of any member of the Sportsnet Blue Jays TV broadcast. I hope you appreciate this esteemed recognition Hazel!
Even though the broadcast has many faults, we should give them some credit; despite its issues, it’s not Fox Sports. We should at least be blessed by the fact that we don’t have to listen to Harold Reynolds question Canada's passion for baseball on the regular, who's possibly the only broadcaster who can rival Zaun in terms of irrationality. Hopefully Sportsnet can recognize the problems with their current broadcast and can take action to improve it down the road. It will go a long way towards making Jays games more watchable (especially when the team is struggling).