Friday, August 3, 2012

Mike Wilner: Eternal Optimist

Rogers Shill, positive guy, or none of the above.

Let me say off the top that I like Mike Wilner. He is an essential piece of the radio broadcast for the Jays and connects the fans to the game. He hosts the pregame show on the Fan Radio network, and he hosts the Blue Jays talk after the game. Today, he writes daily blogs on the Jays. Up until the beginning of this year, you were able to comment on his blogs and he would usually respond if your opinions were thoughtful enough.

Wilner isn't a baseball guy, in that he wasn't a former major leaguer, but he brings great knowledge of the game which he uses to his advantage when arguing with the fans. And he's pretty smart. The knowledge, enthusiasm, his love for radio, and dedication will bring him a play-by-play job in the coming years, and I think he'll do well. What I like about him is that he is usually "rational and reasonable" and usually doesn't make statements that are completely unfactual.

Normally, on the Jays Talk, he instills calm to the Blue Jays fandom, assuring them that indeed the sky is not falling, and when the team is doing really well, reminding the fans that it's a long season.

Now, with his blog (found here), his Wilnerness no longer responds, and this leaves fans to leave comments at will without fear of reprisals. Comments on the blogs include a wide assortment of opinions such as this gem:

"Professor Wilmer's comments are hardly worth taking seriously.  I could provide a list of the crazy things he has said over the years.  But, we all need a job."

So the question is, is Mike a shill for Rogers Media, a positive guy, or a realist? Mike himself will argue that he's a realist.

Mike learned the hard way that improper behaviour will get you censured, as he was "suspended" for a weekend back in June 2010 for an exchange with Cito and perhaps the blog post he posted later was Rogers' breaking point. He was pretty openly critical of Cito, as were alot of fans.

But it seems lately that Wilner is really really positive about the Jays, to the point where there are alot of people commenting on the blog about it. When you listen to the Blue Jays talk, he points out (today) that they are "only 5.5 games out of a wild card" and comments today that the Jays are likely to win 3 of 4 in Oakland (yesterday) when that series starts tonight. He accuses fans (via Twitter) of getting off the bandwagon when people tell him that the team won't make the playoffs.  

You can be a realistic fan of the Blue Jays, but facts are facts. There are 57 games left, and the Jays have to win more games than four of Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa, Oakland, and California. Likely the Jays will need to win at least 37 of the last 57 games. The Jays are short three strong bats, and the starting pitching hasn't been fixed and won't be until Brandon Morrow and another free agent comes in to fill the top of the rotation.

In his homage to Travis Snider, Wilner wrote: "I'm going to miss Travis Snider a lot, and I hope he becomes the star so many Blue Jays fans hoped he would become. And I'm going to hope that Brad Lincoln - and Anthony Gose, who appears to have been given the keys to a full-time spot in the outfield from here on out - reward Anthopoulos' faith and become big parts of what's going to be a very, very good Blue Jays team very, very soon."

I wish that Wilner would tone down on the positive rhetoric and be more realistic. You can be a great fan of the Jays and be realistic on the fact that they probably won't make the playoffs. It seems that, especially this year, he is overly optimistic. I think that some of the optimism is just his personality but that some part of it too is Rogers' Media messaging.

And I think that's wrong. Jays fans are disappointed this year because the team is hovering within 3 games of the .500 mark, while the Orioles and Oakland are succeeding. They blame AA for not bolstering the starting pitching (for me, at the beginning of the season -- for others, at the trade deadline). I think that's a fair criticism. In my opinion, blaming AA for anything else is not right. Thames underperformed, especially in May. Snider was hurt, leaving a hole in LF. Adam Lind's nagging back injuries is another problem. Rasmus had a very slow start, as did Bautista and Arencibia. None of this could have been predicted from the preseason performance. Only in late June and July did the team experience a hitting resurgence based on Lind, Arencibia, and Bautista, only to have all three of them get injured. It's very difficult to recover when 3 of your starters go down in a week, as well as your closer and middle reliever. Add to that Romero's breakdown, and what can you do???

There just seems to be a disconnect between the fans and the message that Wilner is delivering which I think needs to be reconciled -- an acknowledgement from Wilner that things are not peachy-keen in Blue Jays land. A more realistic message and admission from Mike - that the Jays are very very unlikely to make the playoffs given the team makeup today and the teams that they need to pass, would reconnect Wilner with the fans. Otherwise, he just comes across as a Rogers shill, and I don't think Mike wants to be that.

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