In recent days, the Blue Jays have traded for a couple of big stars. Too bad they didn’t ship out TV announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler in the deals.
I’d watch every game, beginning to end, if there was a switch on my remote to turn off the Sportsnet mouthpieces and listen to the natural sounds of the ballpark.
Instead, I’m compelled to engage the mute button or click away to ice my ears for long stretches of a broadcast.
Buck and Pat can wear you down – pitch by pitch, batter by batter, inning after inning, game after game, season after season, Tylenol after Tylenol.
It’s now a year since I began talking baseball via email with a trio of old pals: one in San Francisco, another in Vancouver, a third in Toronto.
For more than 30 years, we’ve shared a love of baseball. And the messages have mined that vein: an appreciation of players such as Kershaw and Bumgarner and Trout, remembrances of Koufax and Marichal, Willie, Mickey and the Duke.
But the three of us in Canada often wind up ranting about the dreadfulness of Martinez and Tabler.
- “Buck just said these teams are evenly matched. I am going insane.”
- “They sound like a couple of high school dropouts doing a cable-cast in their basement.”
- “It’s only spring and Buck and Pat are in mid-season form – inane and annoying.”
- “I realize how hard it is to do a three-hour broadcast – and how easy it is to find some mistakes or bad takes – but these guys are awful.”
I was born in the Bronx, a Ballantine blast away from Yankee Stadium, grew up listening to Red Barber, Mel Allen and Vin Scully.
These days, I occasionally get to hear Vin’s poetry on Dodgers’ games; enjoy the mellow banter of the Giants’ guys, Kuiper and Krukow, and sometimes catch the contagious giggles of Orsillo and Remy with the Red Sox.
Each contributes something to the experience, the enjoyment of watching a game.
Buck and Pat add nothing. They detract.
It all comes across as a fractured rendition of Who’s on First.
Buck: “Bautista is two for three on the night so far.”
Pat: “He and Melky are both perfect at the plate.”
Buck: “Machado lays down a perfect bunt that just rolls foul.”
Yet more imperfect perfection.
Pat: “He’s a nice little hitter.”
The batter is six-foot-two and weighs 225 pounds.
Pat: “Hutchison has retired 20 batters in a row.”
Buck adds immediately: “Hutchison has retired 20 straight batters.”
Buck, in the Bronx, declared: “Manhattan is about seven or eight miles from Yankee Stadium.”
Dear Mr. Martinez: Just outside the ballpark is a little bridge. If you cross it – it takes only a minute or so – you will be in Manhattan.
The geographically challenged struck again recently on the Left Coast.
Buck: “When you think about it, Seattle is not that far from Vancouver.”
Most of us don’t think about it. We know where Seattle and Vancouver are.
Other sportscasters make mistakes, are boring, or stupid. The bar is already low, particularly for ex-jocks.
But Buck and Pat are in a class all their own – perhaps a remedial speech class at a middle school in Embarrass, Wisconsin (pop. 405).
They offer no insight into the game they played or the players who play it now.
They just yak and yak and yak, non-stop, often at high volume, stating the obvious, occasionally erupting in laughter for no imaginable reason. (Is Tabler the sole person on Earth who finds Buck funny – besides Buck?)
Only their unabashed flackey can explain why Rogers, which owns both the Jays and Sportsnet, gave these guys new five-year contracts last fall.
“Jaysus,” one of my email correspondents cried, “now I can’t have the audio on until 2020.”
I covered the Jays for the Toronto Sun in 1978, when the workmanlike Don Chevrier and Hall of Fame broadcaster Tony Kubek manned the TV booth. It’s been pretty much downhill since.
Because I was a Red Sox fan until they won a second World Series in 2007, I didn’t care much.
I’ve since tried to root for the team down the road in Toronto, the one that gives me 162 games a year on free TV.
I really want to see the remainder of this season, after this week’s additions of Tulowitski and Price, to join the likes of Bautista, Donaldson and Martin.
Regrettably, I’ll continue to stay tuned only if it’s a crucial juncture in the game, or the final inning when the score is close.
I did linger recently when I heard Buck and Pat talking about all the fans from Canada they meet on the road, who ask for photos and autographs.
“And they’re starting to bring us gifts, Buck,” Pat said with a chuckle. “What did we do to deserve that?”
Excellent question, Mr. Tabler.