Posted by: Asher Roth | December 13, 2009

Buck shows Campbell the Door

And you can kiss that guy goodbye!

Jays fans and gamers that, once upon a time, enjoyed the EA Sports Triple Play series will be pleased to hear that Buck Martinez, former Jays catcher, colour commentator and manager (whoops) is returning to the broadcast booth at the ‘Dome. Only this time, he’s calling the game, not providing the analysis.

This of course means that Jamie Campbell, the man whose sweet, baritone voice has unfortunately put the Jays’ TV audience to sleep with his drone for the last few years has been replaced. I know that I certainly, on more than one occasion, resorted to muting my television and tuning into the FAN to listen to Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby; a fantastic broadcast duo if I ever heard one.

Now, don’t get me wrong; Campbell is a pretty cool guy in general. Some friends and I visited Fenway this past summer, and after the 7-0 drubbing that the Sox laid on Doc and the Jays, my buddies and I found the back of the stadium where the Jays players and media were getting on the team bus (where we cheered everyone except J.P. Ricciardi and V-Dub).

Jamie Campbell was the last one out, and after we cheered him too, he came right out and shook our hands; something nobody else did. Following asking us how we were, he said:

“You drove down for this crap??”

I’ve always suspected that working for Rogers (which owns both the Jays AND Sportsnet), there is a certain degree of pressure to be somewhat artificially optimistic about the team. Clearly, Jamie had more of a realistic grasp on the team’s situation than the impression he gave off on the air.

But what drove me particularly crazy about Jamie’s style was how he (and Rance Mulliniks) would anticipate certain things happening, as opposed to letting them happen. For example, say the Jays are down by two, and Vernon Wells comes up to the plate. And Jamie would say something along the lines of “Here’s Vernon, who would sure like to smack a home run here to get the Jays back in it.”

Clearly, most major league ballplayers, especially sluggers (not that I’m calling Vernon Wells a slugger) like to hit home runs, and would clearly like to in most at-bats. There is no need to point that out.

Despite the elements of Jamie’s call that drove us all crazy, you can’t really blame him entirely. After all, Sportsnet has had a habit, ever since its inception, of misusing its personalities. For example, has anyone listened to Peter Loubardias call hockey? (HE SCUUUUERSSSSSH!) And let’s not forget the Joe Carter colour commentary experiment all those years ago. Joe, my favourite Blue Jay of all-time, I should add, coined such Bush-esque words as “misconfused” and “per-eminition” during his time as colour commentator. They seemed to have it right, all those years ago, when they added Jerry Howarth to the TV booth – except that he was calling colour, for some reason – and for ROD BLACK of all people (who, like Jamie at the time, had never before called baseball).

Thus, you can’t really blame Jamie for being thrown under the bus, in a way. Yes, it was his dream job, and Sportsnet charitably handed him the opportunity, but what kind of screening process did they use before handing the job over on a silver platter? Not to mention the fact that the job was given to him right after John Cerutti tragically passed away. Though it was never really stated out loud, I suspect that Rob Faulds lost his play-by-play job so that fans wouldn’t be reminded of Cerutti’s absense.

Sportsnet wanted to start fresh – so they handed the job to someone within the organization. They gave it to a creditable, talented in-studio host/news anchor who wanted the commentating job real bad.

The problem, which I can personally attest to, is that you can’t just jump into the driver’s seat of commentary. I, myself, am trying to break into that very industry, and although, with experience, your abilities develop naturally, you really have to work your way through the industry and prove your worth. This is why I volunteer for a website and make no money. Jamie, I’m almost certain, didn’t do that. He covered many events, but I suspect it was as a reporter, not a commentator. The roles are very different, and there are many fine news anchors who, I am sure, are not good in-game commentators.

Most teams employ well-established, experienced commentators. For example, the Raptors, after losing Chuck Swirsky to Chicago, hired Matt Devlin. While Devlin is no Swirsk, he at least had experience calling NBA games before he was hired by the Raps. They wanted to make sure Chuck’s replacement knew what he was doing. Compare that to the Jays, who hired someone who had never done it before. Can you really blame Jamie Campbell? I don’t think so.

It’s really too bad that he was put in that position. Look around at the many creditable Jays blogs that made fun of Jamie’s call. If Sportsnet had been wise, and had given the job to someone with proven experience, then Jamie would never been been subjected to such heavy criticism (which, unfortunately, was much-deserved). This is the major leagues, and those employed in this business need to be of quality, major league talent. Paul Beeston recognizes that, and this is why an experienced, well-known voice has been hired in Jamie’s place. It’s hard to take a team seriously if you can’t take their broadcast seriously.

Anyway, I wish Jamie the best, and figure that he will more than likely find himself comfortably back in the studio – and who can really complain about getting more face-time, and not having to travel nearly as much – a favourable position to be in with a family, as Jamie has.

So I bring it back to Buck. As I spoke about Sportsnet’s habit of hiring those with a lack of experience, Buck sits on both sides of this debate. He’s been a broadcaster for almost 30 years, but has little to no experience doing play-by-play. I don’t believe this will be an issue though. As Buck has pointed out, he has sat alongside some of the best. Jim Hughson’s voice and style make every moment sound epic, while Dan Shulman has one of the smoothest voices in the biz. Buck’s voice is a little raspy, but it will add flavour to Sportsnet’s airwaves, which have never really experienced any sort of flavour on baseball broadcasts.

And to those that question whether a former-player, as opposed to a trained broadcaster, can call games, I again turn your attention to Alan Ashby on the radio; a former catcher who calls games as descriptively and professionally as anyone.

However, the question that nobody seems to be asking is who will call colour for Buck? I would have to say that a major weak spot ever since Cerutti’s death is that Sportsnet has employed a revolving door of colour commentators. Pat Tabler is arguably the best, but he is incredibly boring and a little too cynical for my liking. Rance Mulliniks knows his stuff, but he also tends to studder (not a great attribute for broadcasters) and everything is either a “mistake ” pitch (if it’s hit off of) or a “good hard” pitch (if it’s missed by the batter). Darrin Fletcher has a sense of humour, but more than once, I have caught him going on tangents that make absolutely no sense. It certainly can’t have helped Jamie Campbell to have had to work with not one, but three colour commentators with lacking skills. Ironically, one of the best colour men in the business for years was Buck Martinez. So, perhaps he’ll impart his skills to whoever his partner is.

Either way, I look forward to the Buck Martinez experiment, while it lasts. Let’s not forget that Buck signed a five-year deal, and at the conclusion of said deal, he’ll be 66 years old. One has to question just how many more years he’s gonna want to sit in the booth before he hangs up the mic and headphones for good. In the meantime, Jays fans should expect a television broadcast that is far more pleasing to the ear than it has been in a long time.




    Guest blogger?

  2. HAHA, hilarious

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