The Toronto Blue Jays will drop radio-only broadcasts for the 2021 season, instead going for a TV-radio simulcast led by Buck Martinez, Dan Shulman and Pat Tabler.
The move is being billed as a temporary measure to minimize spring-training travels, “in an effort to minimize travel and closely adhere to team, league, and government protocols related to the pandemic,” according to the press release issues by Rogers, the Canadian megacorp that owns both the Blue Jays and Sportsnet, where radio and TV broadcasts live. Ben Wagner will remain a part of the Blue Jays broadcast plans, as will studio hosts Jamie Campbell, Joe Siddall, Hazel Mae and Arash Madani.
That these measures are being taken during a 2021 season where the Blue Jays will likely spend much of their time on the road may not be totally surprising: with no tickets to sell at Rogers Centre, obviously there’s less economic justification for the Blue Jays to embark on radio-only broadcasts. And there’s a rich, albeit slim history of teams simulcasting radio and TV broadcasts.
But they never really work: the verbal techniques used to colorfully narrate a game on the radio come off as busy and fussy on TV, and the story-based broadcasting on the TV, where fans can see the action for themselves, don’t work on the road. So Dan Schulman will have his work cut out for him this summer.
A larger issue is whether this is the start of a trend or whether it’s a one-year blip due to COVID-19 economics. We are seeing all sorts of COVID-19 measures in place–KOA is broadcasting spring games remotely from Coors Field, as Jack Corrigan and Mike Rice will not leave the broadcast booth. Keith Olbermann argues that none but the largest markets will have radio-only broadcasts in coming years:
Get used to this: it’s going to happen almost everywhere within the next ten years https://t.co/sL4NfWoyyb— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) February 27, 2021
That may be true, but we think there’s far less decade-long planning going on in MLB front offices than many assume. The sports industry is still a largely improvised endeavor thanks to the uncertainty causes by COVID-19.