Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
At some point early Saturday afternoon, Bob McCown — venerable-ish host of the Fan 590’s drive-time radio program, Prime Time Sports, and a man who clearly delights in lobbing grenades at his Rogers bosses — tweeted that Jose Bautista has cancelled his golf tournament in Toronto this year, and that he expects to be traded.
The “report” was such self-evident trash that it’s really not worth exploring on its face.
Through a Jays PR spokesperson Bautista was forced to declare that the tournament is, in fact, still on. Left unsaid in that is the fact that McCown won; he created a fire that the club needed to take action to put out. Surely it doesn’t matter to him that they were rolling their eyes the whole time.
And evidently it doesn’t matter that fans seeing the “report” were, too.
Frankly, if I wasn’t so sure it was complete and utter bullshit, I’d be less worried about the idea that Bautista expects to be traded than the idea that somebody inside the new front office is leaking information to Bob McCown of all people.
When Beeston was still there this kind of stuff was worth at least listening to. But even after Beeston was unceremoniously (if justifiably) dumped, it still feels like McCown is acting as his mouthpiece sometimes, going negative and shit-disturbing while Beeston takes the high road.
Or maybe he simply does it on his own, chafing on his good friend’s behalf in a way that Beeston never would (or so the hagiography would have you believe).
Either way, it’s hard to see this as anything else — and therefore hard to take it seriously, since it’s more than a little implausible that McCown has sources like this with Beeston and Anthopoulos gone, and since we’ve seen so many rumours come from his direction and immediately turn to dust. That’s a shame, because I actually like McCown — though I’ve all but stopped listening to his show since Stephen Brunt left (I think it would be quite pleasant to have cheese and crackers with John Shannon, but I don’t need to listen to him on my radio) — and because sometimes his inside information can be quite interesting and valuable.
To wit (and forgive me if I’ve buried the lede a bit here), this was from the opening segment of McCown’s show back on Friday, June 3rd:
“So let me say something I’ve never said before, and I run the risk of making some people angry — people I work for angry” began McCown, responding to a caller asking about the sudden retirement of Toronto Sun reporter Bob Elliott, who has frequently been a guest on the program.
“Bob Elliott has been a friend of mine for over 20 years. Bob Elliott has been on this program intermittently for over 20 years — has been in studio here, has done round-tables here. Bob Elliott, in the last couple of years, has written some things about Rogers and about the people at Rogers. He wrote something about a very close friend of mine, who is no longer at Rogers. And he wrote about ownership. Do I agree with what Mr. Elliott said? No. Did I take it seriously? Knowing Bob Elliott, no! But some thin-skinned, quite frankly, people didn’t like what he had to say. And I have, for the first time in my 40-plus years in this business have been told not to have him on — that he was not to be on this show.
“Now, we let some time pass — I had a conversation with Bob about it — and he understood. I think it was extremely thin-skinned and petty, but I follow the rules and regulations. We let time pass, hoping that the feud would end — that saner heads would prevail — and brought Mr. Elliott back. Not long after I was told again, can’t have Bob Elliott on the program. Yesterday — day before yesterday? — Bob Elliott appeared on this program on his last day writing for the Toronto Sun. I intend to have Bob Elliott back on this program on something of a regular basis. And if the people here are going to stick their noses in my business, then they’re going to have to deal with me. And that’s all I’m going to stay about that topic. So stay tuned — it might get interesting around here.”
That’s not quite the same as Rogers higher-ups spiking a story from one of their own reporters on an uncomfortable subject, or the recent saga involving MMA reporter Ariel Helwani and the UFC, but it’s not exactly nothing either. It is, in fact, complete fucking horseshit.
And it’s not difficult to figure out the executive bunglefuckery to which he’s referring, or the critical words.
Elliott provided the definitive timeline of the bungled attempt to replace Beeston, first with Ken Williams, then Dan Duquette, following the 2014 season, removing any doubt of which side he was on with this salty opening line: “We’re not sure if this is the way Harvard Business School teaches Forbes 500 companies on how to make upper management changes.”
His big piece on the departure of Alex Anthopoulos said (in the title, likely written by an editor) that Rogers not getting the GM to re-sign was “shameful,” featured a cavalcade of quotes from puzzled (and no doubt painfully old-school) scouts and GMs, and marvelled that “Eddie Rogers has done something we did not think was possible, topping the bungled December-January search for a new president while president Paul Beeston was in office.”
When Stephen Brooks was let go by the club this spring (in a move that, it has been suggested to me, was somewhat expected, given the recent regime change), Elliott waved the flag, pitting Rogers’ new stewards of the club against virtually the entire, wholesome Canadian nation.
You understand why the parent company might not like him. And I guess I can’t blame Rogers folks who might not be very attuned to the way journalism is supposed to work for not happily giving unfriendly voices a platform. I also think it’s a bit hard to get righteously indignant about the journalistic integrity of Prime Time Sports. Still, Rogers’ action here cuts dangerously close to a really big, and I think genuine, fear that fans have about how the company shapes coverage of their team — especially when they are the dominant media voice in this country, particularly when it comes to the Blue Jays.
Maybe people are savvy enough to understand the necessary bargaining that underpins coverage of just about everything everywhere and have come to terms with it, and so maybe this really doesn’t matter to them. Maybe sports reporting is far too trivial to bother getting worked up about this kind of stuff. But I think it’s a conversation worth having. And yet McCown undermines this actual interesting stuff by so constantly demonstrating that he is not to be taken seriously in his reportage.
Could the griping about Rogers meddling in his editorial affairs be just another empty salvo in his war with certain executives there? My sense is that it’s not, but who the hell even knows anymore? Because that Bautista tweet? Yeah… no.
I suppose that maybe someone could have said something somewhere to someone that filtered its way to McCown, but let’s be fucking serious. The golf tournament wasn’t cancelled (McCown corrected his tweet about an hour later), we don’t even know yet if Bautista will be healthy by the time the trade deadline rolls around on August 1st, and last I checked the Blue Jays are in the thick of a playoff race. That will hardly be different six weeks from now.
Some fans have fantasies about the Jays moving Bautista (who, FYI, can block any deal because of his 10-and-5 rights) for a bunch of prospects regardless, just as fans have fantasies about Mark Shapiro being desperate to throw this team into a rebuild (because he hates winning and loves prospects that much!), but it’s obvious nonsense. The 2016 Jays are better with Bautista than they would be with whatever they might get back for him, and not even the cartoon villain some folks seem to believe Shapiro is would be dumb enough to punt on this season with the team they have and a shot at making real noise in October.
I mean, why bother handing out millions to J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada last winter if that was the case? And it’s just… do we even need to have this conversation?
I guess we do, because McCown caused a stir. And I guess what this piece has gone too long a way to say is: maybe let’s just not.