Full disclosure: Many years ago, I hosted the pre and post game shows on the Bluejays radio network. I know what it’s like to have to talk to angry callers after a Bluejay loss. I used to hang up on many of them. The others I would engage in airy badinage. I wish Mike Wilner would do the same on his radio show.

 By Mark Hebscher

It really is a delicate balance when your job requires you to listen to
Bluejays fanatics every single day and then offer up your own opinions while not pissing off the people who sign your paycheque. That’s a dilemma for Mike Wilner, who does just about everything on the Bluejays radio network. When the Jays are winning, Wilner is a perfect team player. He cites statistics, tells pessimistic fans that they are wrong and generally backs the organization on any move that is made. However, when the team is losing, and the fans are angry, Wilner can get personal. Too personal. Recently, when Jose Bautista was in the midst of a terrible slump, the Jays were sinking like a stone. Bautista had already gone on record, saying he was “disappointed” that the team hadn’t made any significant upgrades at the trade deadline. I went on Twitter and wrote that Bautista and his mates seemed to have “mentally checked out”. That’s it. They didn’t seem interested, and had a built-in excuse because the General Manager hadn’t made any trades.

Imagine my surprise when Wilner tweeted this in response “@hebsyman I used to love you, but that comment was lazy and easy”. Sorry Mike, but those are the words of a man who badly needs a vacation. You need a break from the game. You need to go away for a rest for a week or so. Maybe longer. When someone you used to love (thanks for that) tweets something that you don’t appreciate, don’t call him “lazy”. And don’t suggest that the comment was an easy way out. It’s a comment. People make them all the time. The fact that you disagree with it doesn’t give you the right to tell your 36,600 followers that you no longer love me. That’s personal. Even though I disagree with a lot of things you say, I still love listening to your show. I don’t take your comments personally. I understand that you have a job to do. I’ve been there before.

Maybe Wilner is acting this way because he too can’t believe how far the Jays have fallen this year. Back on June 6th they had a six game lead in the American League East. At the end of July, at the trade deadline, they were only 1.5 games back of the Orioles and still very much in it. But August was a disaster, and as the dog days wore on, Wilner became more and more of a Bluejay apologist. He even tried to back Colby Rasmus after he had a (rare) good game, stealing second and scoring the winning run in the 10th inning. But I digress. Wilner’s job does not allow him to be critical of the Jays, no matter how bad they are. He tried this a few years ago when Cito Gaston was the manager of the Bluejays, and it earned him a weekend suspension. You see, Wilner had the gall to question Gaston’s use of his bullpen during the managers post-game Q and A. A few weeks earlier, he had questioned Gaston’s use of first baseman Lyle Overbay. During his radio show, he frequently criticized Gaston’s managerial moves. The owners of the Jays, Rogers Communications, suspended him after Gaston complained. Since then, Wilner has toed the company line. That’s what you do when you want to keep your job.

When I did the Jays radio games, Bobby Cox was the manager. He didn’t take shit from anybody, not even me. I called him out plenty of times over the years and he never went to management to have me muzzled. He and I dealt with any problems in person and behind closed doors. Had there been social media back then, I doubt either one of us would’ve tweeted our dislike for each other. Nowadays, it’s a different story. Wilner works for Rogers. Rogers owns the Jays. Rogers owns the radio station he works for and the website he blogs for and the TV station he appears on. If they don’t like what he’s saying about their baseball team, they can discipline him (again) or even fire him. But the more the Jays fall out of the playoff chase, the more Wilner feels he needs to challenge and chastise his callers and twitter followers who are being critical of the team.

I happen to be a member of the media as well, and I don’t appreciate it when guys like Wilner call me out on social media. It’s cheap and, dare I say it, lazy. Show some professional courtesy. I’ve been in this business for nearly 40 years and I’ve never ripped another media member in print or on a broadcast. You don’t see doctors taking shots at each other. You don’t see writers ripping other writers in print (except for Steve Simmons and James Mirtle). Here’s hoping the Jays start playing better ball so that their post-game radio host doesn’t have to resort to these types of comments. He’s bigger than that.