Canadian media conglomerate Sportsnet has come under a lot of fire in recent years for their limiting travel for radio announcers. With the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, they’ve had their radio crews calling games remotely for a while. That led to an embarrassing moment in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, where announcer Joe Bowen incorrectly identified a goalscorer thanks to what the TV feed showed, and that led to the company reversing course and letting Bowen and Jim Ralph go on the road for the second round.
The network has also been restrictive on radio for the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that’s owned by Sportsnet parent company Rogers Communications. In 2021, they replaced their Jays’ radio broadcasts with a simulcast of the TV feed, which they stuck with despite criticism before eventually changing course late that summer. In 2022, they continued with a separate radio feed, but kept radio announcer Ben Wagner at home for most of the season before changing course late in the year.
This year, Sportsnet again kept Wagner (who worked many games solo, but some with a rotating cast of analysts) at home for the regular season. And they took a lot of criticism for that. But, as Rob Longley reported at The Toronto Sun Thursday, if the team does make the playoffs (they were 87-71 and half a game up on the Houston Astros in the race for the second wild-card spot as of Thursday afternooon), Wagner and analyst Chris Leroux will be allowed to go on the road for that:
They need the team to take care of business and get in first, but once the Blue Jays lock up a wild-card spot, Sportsnet is planning to go all-in on post-season coverage.
According to sources, included in the coverage plans will be a return to the road of the team’s radio play-by-play voice, Ben Wagner, who will work alongside analyst Chris Leroux.
On the television side, Sportsnet plans to send a full on-air and production crew to handle the post-season action, which is scheduled to begin with American League wild-card play next Tuesday.
Sportsnet only doing this this late in the year meant they still got a lot of criticism, though:
Congrats on doing the bare minimum, @Sportsnet! Now get your radio announcers on the road for full seasons and give the fans the quality coverage they deserve and not this half-assed attempt to save $30k US you've subjected them to this year. https://t.co/sWfkz2pRgf
— Mike Ferrin (@Mike_Ferrin) September 28, 2023
Holy moly, how did they manage to crack open their wallets just now?
— Mark E. Mark (@TheFunkyBunch4) September 28, 2023
What a poverty franchise
— GOATish Behavior (@ClutchGene23) September 28, 2023
The Los Angeles Angels are the only other MLB team that don’t currently regularly send their radio announcers on the road. (The Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers also didn’t send their announcers on the road regularly at points in recent years, but the Dodgers changed that ahead of the 2022 season and the Orioles changed that this year.) But, at 71-88 entering Thursday, the Angels don’t have to worry about the playoffs. They’ve taken lots of criticism for their stance as well, though, similar to what’s happened with the Jays.