The FAN 590's new brain trust has made no secret that it's going to make changes. Soon. So if you're a prospective employee for the Toronto-based all-sports station, what would you make of the suspension of baseball host Mike Wilner in the aftermath of his run-in with Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston last week? The two men clashed (not for the first time) in a media scrum. The host for the Blue Jays call-in show took to his blog to claim Gaston had embarrassed him in front of other reporters. Wilner said they were likely done talking for a while.
Then we learned that the radio host was getting an unrequested weekend off. Was it Cito shock or the culmination of a series of issues with Wilner? Just who made the call to suspend Wilner? Wilner's not elaborating and new Fan 590 program director, Don Kollins, would only tell Usual Suspects, "With all due respect I can't comment on it. All I can say is Mike has the weekend off." Let's put the pieces together. Gaston has been sensitive to criticism from non-baseball folk in both stints as Jays manager. But the club says it didn't instigate the suspension.
Rogers owns both the Fan 590 and the Jays. That's led some to say Kollins made the call - flubbing one of his first challenges at the helm of the station by succumbing to pressure from the team. But wait, Rogers execs refused to run tape of the FAN's meal ticket, Don Cherry, last winter when he was caught swearing on tape by a 680 News reporter. That schmozzle predated Kollins. No, this call seems consistent with Rogers' traditional treatment of favoured friends.
And the Blue Jays would be very favoured friends within the Rogers firmament. Clearly the optics of the Wilner suspension raise flags about media concentration where TV networks and teams are owned by the same corporation. (Although there wasn't much trouble when Tribune Corp. owned the Chicago Cubs.) The same issue of team influence arose with the removal of Jamie Campbell as Rogers Sportsnet's Toronto voice in favour of Paul Beeston fave Buck Martinez. With the Jays finally looking respectable, attention and criticism will only mount. Will the Rogers' suits be more or less prone to intervene again?
The conclusion for a potential FAN 590 employee? The line between the corporate cousins is wafer thin. Uncomfortable dissent will be scrutinized unless your name is Bob McCown. Proceed at your own risk.
Listening to the media fallout from umpire Jim Joyce's botched perfect-game call last week in Detroit, all we heard from the baseball culture was something like, "Let's not lose the human element in the game." Excuse us, but since when did "let's screw up in front of the world" become a core value? When did "Let's not have the umpires consult before ruining a perfect game" become quaint? When did "we can do better with a simple video replay system" become a negative? Sometimes baseball people make the hockey culture look positively enlightened by comparison.
Did the Canadian Hockey League pay for the prospect segment on Hockey Night In Canada during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final? Looked like it. As each of the five top 2010 draft prospects introduced himself during the intermission piece, he also gave a stilted why-I-chose-the-CHL speech. While it's a CHL-heavy draft, could Hockey Night not have found one non-CHL prospect to explain why he chose the National Collegiate Athletic Association or Europe? Or maybe that was not the point of the exercise? … As the Chicago Blackhawks mounted their comeback Friday, CBC announcer Jim Hughson remarked how big Ville Leino's 4-1 goal had become for the Philadelphia Flyers. True - but not. Any sage who knows the NHL's situational handbook can tell you, Chicago would never had received a 5-on-3 power play if the Flyers had just a one-goal lead in the third period. Ain't going to happen. … The press corps story-du-jour is the reversion to home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup final. Many in the media are shocked - shocked! - by this occurrence after the pattern of the early rounds. But a reader e-mails us that since the lockout, including the first four games of this series, home teams are 22-7 in the Cup final. (The last time home teams enjoyed this distinct of an edge in the championship series for a five-year period was from 1984 through 1988 when home teams went 19-6.) So no surprise at all.