Blue Jays' radio broadcaster Ben Wagner in 2018. Blue Jays’ radio broadcaster Ben Wagner in 2018. (WIVBTV on YouTube.)

Remote broadcasting is a big issue, and one that keeps growing. The latest case is with the Toronto Blue Jays’ radio broadcast.

The Blue Jays have done several unusual things there in recent years, first cutting out radio entirely in 2021 and replacing it with a TV simulcast (they defended that for a long while, but then brought a separate radio feed back late that summer), then keeping radio broadcaster Ben Wagner to only calling home games in person (and road games off monitors) for the first part of 2022 before restoring him to a more typical travel schedule later that year. Now, heading into the 2023 MLB season, they (well, radio rightsholder Sportsnet, which, like the team, is owned by Rogers Sports and Media) again plan to only have Wagner call home games in person. Gregory Strong of The Canadian Press has more on that, including some notable criticisms:

Sportsnet, the team’s radio rightsholder, will not resume on-site radio broadcasts for road games this season and will instead provide remote coverage from its downtown Toronto studio.

“I’m very disappointed in the network for making that decision,” said longtime Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth, who retired in 2018.

…“When you’re going to describe to someone who’s not there what’s going on, you need background and stories … you’ll never get that if you’re sitting in (front of a) monitor,” longtime sports broadcaster Mark Hebscher said from Toronto.

Interestingly enough, though, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred declined to weigh in in any substantive manner when asked:

“Honestly I listen to baseball on the radio a fair amount actually,” Manfred said. “I can’t tell you that I really have discerned a significant difference in part because I’m not sure which clubs are doing what.

“So I’m just not qualified to give you a good answer on that one.”

As of the start of last year, there were only four teams declining to send their radio broadcasts on the road: the Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Los Angeles Dodgers (with the latter two citing “broadcaster preference“). The Orioles and the Washington Nationals also declined to send their TV crews on the road at first, but corrected that after the season’s first month. So it’s a pretty small list of MLB teams opting for remote radio broadcasts. But the Blue Jays are now back on it.

[The Toronto Star; Wagner image at top screengrabbed from a 2018 WIVB interview with him on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.