Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Whispers About Jerry Howarth’s Future?

There are few people who I would pass along a tweet like this from, outside of the obvious mainstream sources, but Jonah — aka @yyzsportsmedia — has proven time and again that he definitely does have some good sources in the local sports media world (and I think radio stuff is a particular strength), and so here’s something interesting…

Aaaaand now you know as much as I know.

What to make of this? First of all, whether this is true or not or whatever, I hope everything is OK with Jerry’s health. Beyond that, though, I really don’t know what to make of it. I’ll say that I’d be mighty surprised if Jerry left the booth quietly, or on anybody’s terms but Jerry’s — he’s been there over 30 years, after all — but what the hell do I know?

And that would be the end of the story, I think, if not for one other perhaps important (and at the very least intriguing) thing: the fact that it was announced earlier this summer that Dan Shulman will step away from ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball franchise following this season.

Now, one thing doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other, but it sure is curious.

Back in July, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated reported that Shulman “is getting remarried next year and wanted a schedule to better fit being at home more in Toronto.” He added that, without Sunday night baseball, “he’ll probably be down to about 60 dates per year for ESPN,” including the MLB postseason for ESPN Radio, college basketball, and a “limited number of weeknight MLB television games for ESPN.”

I don’t know how frequently Shulman is away from home under the setup he’s walking away from, so speculating about him potentially taking on more duties with the Jays doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Uh… but let’s do it anyway! So he’s doing about 60 days for ESPN. Add in 81 Jays road games, plus off days, travel days, a Montréal series, and maybe a bit of spring training, and that’s… a hell of a lot of time away from home! But it would also make for more than a full six months per year in Toronto. And if he had it in his contract with Sportsnet to only do, say, 60 road games — or even fewer — then maybe it gets even more palatable.

Orrrrrr maybe that’s far more work than he was already doing and precisely the thing he wouldn’t want to do. But if people are whispering about Jerry’s future — and specifically whispering as though his tenure may not end with a proper send-off (and therefore perhaps soon and not on his terms) — it’s not very difficult to see Shulman’s recent arrival back in Toronto for all but 60 days of the year and to do the math from there.

Pure speculation, all of this! Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t the fuckiest fogging idea. Maybe this is all absolutely nothing. I’m definitely not saying that it is something. But perhaps we’ve got here another layer of off-season intrigue. I guess we shall see…

  • gcostanza

    I enjoy Jerry’s voice & work. I’d be thrilled if Dan came on board. So either is fine with me. Just don’t let Wilner behind that microphone any more than he always is. He’s painful to listen to.

    • Barry

      Wilner’s actually pretty solid doing play by play. If he were doing that full time, he’d probably no longer be doing Jays Talk, which is where he pisses people off. I’d be great with that.

      • RickVaughn

        I agree. Wilner’s play by play is remarkable especially considering his act on Jays talk, which is basically painful to listen too. It’s hard to tell if he’s really good or if it’s because your expectations are well below zero, buts it’s possible that he is really good.

      • The Humungus

        I was really impressed with Ben Wagner’s work this year, both on the odd Bison’s broadcast and when he did that stint with the big club during Wilner’s time off.

        I enjoy Wilner on pbp, but he still comes off as a bit of a character. Plus, he yells when he gets excited, rather than merely raising his voice. I’d rather he stayed doing what he’s doing and have Wagner take over full-time.

  • RickVaughn

    I could, and likely have, listened to Jerry describe grass growing for a couple hours. For me, Joe Siddall has come a long way, and is getting a lot more polished on the play by play end of things. His colour commentary has always been good with a lot of interesting anecdotes. Very patient guy too, Jerry requires that. I think Jerry has taught him a lot and I think once the reins are off that Joe will become a very good radio guy. He and Wilner get along ok, but I can’t see them being the main guys but you never know. The job has to be Jerry’s as long as he wants it. I do hope his health is holding up, he’d be the kind of guy that might not want to say much if he wasn’t well.

  • Seguaro

    I’ve been listening to Jerry since day one and am more than ready to say goodbye. Clearly a gentleman and friendly personality I’ve grown tired of his Christian work ethic and evangelical leanings. Bring on Shulman the sooner the better.

    • Spinner_Spencer

      I couldn’t agree more. I loved Tom Cheek but could never really fully embrace Jerry. I also found the evangelical stuff off-putting. There is absolutely no doubt he is a very good broadcaster but, after 30 years, maybe it is time for some new blood. I hope this move if it happens, isn’t health-related.

  • Jays of Thunder

    I’ve been annoyed, or maybe disappointed by some of Jerry’s questionable old timey baseball takes the past few years (i.e. “street ball”), but the man has given voice to thousands of hours of my life from childhood right on through to this week. I can’t recall pretty well anyone having a bad thing to say about him. Whatever Shulman wants, it’s unimaginable that the team would commit such a monstrous PR fail as to push him out. If he is leaving, I certainly hope he is in good health, and everyone gets to know in plenty of time to say a proper goodbye.

    • The Humungus

      Tabby is great when he’s doing Zaun’s job. He’s much better if he doesn’t have to think on his feet. He’s a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I’d rather see Zaun fired into the sun and have Tabby take his job.

      • Barry

        I could get on board with this. Unfortunately, Zaun will stick around because his simplistic views and Don Cherry emulation appeal to casual fans, and those are the people broadcasters covet. (The die-hards will tune in no matter what. I mean, we’ve watched through some pretty bad broadcasts in the past.)

        I like Tabby better in that role than his current role, because he and Buck are just so damned repetitive from game to game.

        But if I had a choice, I’d love to see Cliff Floyd as the Jays’ analysts. I don’t think he did any games this year, but he did a few last year and I thought he was pretty darn good. He’s the only person I’ve enjoyed in that role in some time.

        Realistically, though, if Zaun were to be replaced, it would be with Kevin Barker. I think if the Jays were to move Tabby out of the booth they’d just send him packing. It would be a demotion, and demotions rarely work with contract employees like Tabby.

        • The Humungus

          Oh God. Please don’t put any more of Teeth* on the broadcasts than we already have.

          *My wife and I call him Teeth for the extremely pronounced way his upper lip raises and exposes his top teeth when he speaks; as a side note, if you intentionally pull your top lip over your teeth so as to expose them, then speak, you will sound like you are from Virginia. Just like Teeth!

        • The Humungus

          While we’re filling that rocket, can we toss the entire clan of jokers from Hockeycentral @ Noon in there as well? Christ, that is one grating hour if I ever get stuck on it. I only get in the vehicle at that time about once a week and it still makes my Sirius subscription worth every penny.

  • DoubleHappys

    As the “Voice of the Blue Jays” Jerry would be sadly missed.

    Yet his commentary beyond play by play is where I have strong objections, and I think it’s contributed greatly to emboldening certain segments of the fanbase to look at certain players with rose coloured glasses. People are too quick to forget how in recent years Jerry has increasingly injected his opinions on the way the game should be played. Replacement level players like Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney can do no wrong because they have a good glove and a quiet steady worth ethic that Jerry values over the ‘show off’ players. He couldn’t wait to see the backside of Reyes (think about it in context, and not in terms of what happened after he left) and was far too critical of Bautista’s “leadership qualities” prior to 2015. Yet he won’t miss a chance to make a John McDonald reference in a broadcast still to this day. Jerry’s all about guys who pass his eye test regardless of what their stat line says at the end of the year. There always a dose of homerism in the radio and TV booths but Pat and Buck have been taken to task far more often for their comments than Jerry ever has.

  • Kate

    I have been wondering about Jerry’s future myself. He has had voice trouble the past two years and even now it has a tendency to break sometimes. I have noticed as well that he is not as quick with the play calling as he used to be. He stumbles over his words and players’ names. That said, he has given me countless hours of entertainment over the years and his emphatic ‘There. She. Goes.’ after Jose Bautista’s bat flip home run was perfect.

  • Matty

    For whatever reason I find Jerry more and more annoying every time I hear him. All I hear is him breathing in through his nose while licking his lips.

    I much prefer Winer’s call

  • Jeff2sayshi

    There is also the possibility that Wilner & Siddall do road while Shulman/Siddall do home. Wilner/Siddall was on for the first month while Jerry was sick, so it wouldn’t be foreign at all.

    I’ve also got to agree that the play by play from Jerry seems ok, but there’s a lot of grimace moments at stuff too.

  • The Humungus

    Baseball season officially starts for me the first time I hear Jerry say “Hello friends!” It wouldn’t be the same without it.

    That said, I could do without his constant old-time baseball takes and he’s probably past his best before date. I think he mentioned when they profiled him after the cancer hit that he’s done something like 6300 games in his career (majors and minors combined). That’s a hell of a run.

    These guys rarely retire, and usually die while still working. It seems to be the way of a voice of a franchise. It would be odd if they tried to push him out, I’m pretty sure it would have to be 100% Jerry’s decision to go.

  • ErnieWhitt

    Jerry was a huge part of the sound of baseball in my youth. To me that doesn’t mean he needs to be the sound of baseball as I’m staring down my 40s. I fully support and hope for a healthy retirement. I think the game has passed him by and although there are worse announcers out there, his kitschy, “and that’s what it’s all about” delivery is long passed it’s prime. I love Shulman and will gladly listen if he’s on the radio but I expect they would want him on TV with those big audiences. I don’t hate Wilner and Siddall.. I actually like their pre-season irreverence.