Saturday, June 14, 2008

In Defence of Mike Toth

(Yes, somehow Neate's mortal enemy and pain in the proverbial posterior, the incomparable, interesting, intense, infuriating, incontinent Tyler King has been granted access to the rarely matched rostrum that is Canada's best sports blog — as voted on by me, myself, and myself's self. A good move, or the beginning of the end? Only the following post can stand as the first clue towards this nationwide enigma.)

Forgiveness will surely be required as a result of my desire to differ from the clearly emerging consensus of the Canadian blogosphere regarding the aptly-named Tothilnergate. Full credit to Drunk Jays Fans for their Globe & Mail quality scandal-naming, though their own sycophantic take on the issue will be a major theme of the coming paragraphs.

Recounting the controversy is a needless task; OOLF has already done it. But what remains notably absent from the debate is a comprehensive third-party opinion that doesn't consist of a variety of attacks on this man, the product and pride of such markets as Estevan, Saskatchewan and Stettler, Alberta.

"I’m not a fan of Toth’s style," our own Duane Rollins easily admits. "Toth broke a simple rule," is Neate's take on it, and this is pretty well where blogosphere civility ends. "A little weasel" is DJF's analysis of the man, while The Tao of Stieb admonishes "Mr. Fun Stuff" for "burying vastly superior broadcasters on the air." Even the down-and-out Bugs & Cranks manages to throw out a "Mike Toth is a knob" after crying about the aforementioned Drunks not returning their calls.

So let's get the controversy out there; there is nothing wrong with what Mike Toth did or said, and you're all a bunch of suckups to Mr. Wilner for thinking there was.

This is an unusual stance for a blog, considering that the general blogophere protocol is one of consistently marvelling over whatever observations the popular Jays Talk host puts over the air. For some, it extends to marvelling over the comedic genius of adding "-age" and "-itude" to the ends of words. For fewer, the obsession extends to profiling in detail the varying inflections of the man's voice. Though we can't all be the unfailing and blinding Wilner fan that Dustin Parkes exemplifies, the consensus is pretty consistent; the buzzwords are "logic," "intelligent," "correct," and/or "awesome" (Sorry, Neate).

To preface my disagreement, I should make clear that I'm no Wilner hater. I'm on record as saying he should be the Jays' TV voice on Sportsnet right now (and I'm no jamiecampbell hater either). The man even appeared on my lowly college sports talk radio show during spring training, despite me taking five times the amount of time I asked him for. His dedication to fans through his FAN 590 blog is unmatched, and unquestionable.

But just as his fans profile him as the sole source of "logic" or "intelligence" in the Toronto media, they omit his and their reliance on the supposed "stupid" callers that make up the bulk of Jays Talk. When I asked Wilner what the "perfect call" would be for him, his first example was that "the perfect call could be a complete idiot." It's the conflict between the two that makes the show entertaining, which is why it's so baffling when Wilner fans honestly wish that he didn't take those callers, or leave them on as long. If he followed that advice, he'd be out of a job, because he'd have the most boring show on the station.

As for the logic bit, let's defend Mike Toth here for a second. Sure, his suggestion to hire Gary Carter seems a little farfetched and illogical (then again, they said the same about Garth Snow). But how can the Wilner fans, who oppose the panic-induced firing of John Gibbons because the manager has a supposedly low impact on wins, simultaneouly say that hiring Carter would be a bad move based on his likely impact on the team? Either a manager has an effect on the team or he doesn't, and Wilner fans can't seem to decide which it is in their blind rage against the Tother.

Frankly, there's a reason Mike Toth has been successful despite regularly infuriating the self-proclaimed sports intelligentsia. He's not afraid to stir up a bit of controversy, and in this case he's doing a great job of it. Who among us would be talking about the usually tame 4:00 hour of Prime Time Sports, or even listening to it, if not for the stream of anti-Wilner callers? Nobody would've wanted to listen to an hour of people raving about how awesome Wilner is — we can listen to the DJF podcast for that.

Toth makes an excellent point when defending himself; Mike Wilner doesn't, and shouldn't, need to be defended. This apparent rule that you can't attack someone who isn't there to defend himself is not any canonical regulation — it's just something that Wilner says (and is thus regurgitated by his fans as law). Sportscasters attack all kinds of people who aren't there to defend themselves. As to the crowd who say Toth's callers could have, and should have, just called the man himself on Jays Talk; calling into a person's show to attack them is the last thing any savvy sports talk caller thinks of doing. You're putting yourself at their mercy, and the frequent/popular strategy of hosts cutting off the caller and then proceeding to rip on them for five minutes afterwards is, while not a staple of Wilner's show, an omnipresent threat.

Perhaps Toth did "egg on" the callers, but for Wilner to then make a post on his blog clearly fishing for compliments? That's not taking the high road, especially coupled with his doing nothing to prevent or discourage the rash of vulgar attacks on Toth that followed in the post comments. Toth wasn't there to defend himself, and his reaction in his letter to DJF is certainly a more classy reply to an attack than Wilner's reaction was; not to mention that Toth faced far worse from the Internet hordes than Wilner faced from forty minutes of PTS callers.

In all, let's lay off Toth. Don't enter into the debate of who the superior broadcaster is, because they are apples and oranges. Mike Toth has to cover every sport imaginable, and can't be expected to be at a Wilner level on all of them, even baseball. But I will say this much; if junior hockey were popular enough to justify a Jays Talk-style show, then Mike Toth would be the Mike Wilner of junior hockey. It's all based on where your beat is, and we're in a sense spoiled by Wilner's ability to dedicate his entire career to the sport he's most passionate about.

To end off, a thought for the future; I'm surprised nobody's yet brought up the fact that last year around Christmastime, Toth and Wilner were in fact the regular co-hosts of Prime Time Sports, and in my opinion produced some pretty entertaining stuff. Here's hoping they get paired up again — I'd certainly be listening.

27 comments:

sager said...

Fair enough, classic Toth, though.

PTS roundtable on Friday ... what are they talking about instead of say, a historic NBA comeback, the U.S. Open, Tim Donaghy...

wait for it, Father's Day.

Jeff Blair teed off on him for the Carter piece: "Were you on crack when you wrote that?"

He went on to call Carter "an idiot ... not a very intelligent person, not a very well-liked person," and all Toth could stammer out was that he met him at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in "beautiful St. Mary's, Ontario" a few years ago and Carter "was so excited he hugged me."

Anyway, Blair put Gibby in a good perspective:

"The problem I have with a lot of people who keep criticizing Gibbons is I think a lot of them don't go to enough baseball games. A lot of them view the manager in the same way they would view an offensive co-ordinator (in football) or an assistant coach. A lot of them think the manager is responsible for scoring runs. Well, he isn't ... One thing that manager has control of is the pitching. Gibbons does a good job with the pitching."

Lloyd the Barber said...

I don't know that they are apples and oranges, because Mike Toth is a sub-standard broadcaster. Cheesy, hokey one-liners and knowledge of where guys played in junior does not a good broadcaster make.

Blair exposed him a wannabe shockjock who makes statements with only the hope provoking a reaction in mind. It is tiresome to watch him stir the pot with a very short spoon.

sager said...

Tyler's point seems to be that the blogetariat might have been too quick to side with Wilner and condemn Toth -- which I did concede on his show yesterday.

Anyways, I'll still maintain that Rogers/FAN 590 could do a lot better for a long-term replacement for The Franchise as the host of PTS. Stirring the pot like Toth does doesn't make a guy Howard Stern, let alone Lenny Bruce, not by a long shot.

The interview that Tony Bruno with Deadspin made me wonder why the FAN wouldn't open the vault to bring him in. I used to listen to him quite a bit back around 2000-01; always impressed, wasn't gimmicky, wasn't dull. If Rome and Dan Patrick were Coke and Pepsi, he was RC Cola.

He also summed up Tothilnergate very well:

"The biggest problem with sports radio as I see it is – something that I’ve always been able to do differently – is if you keep talking about hardcore sports, you’re really, really limiting self to the people who are going to listen. That kind of radio, while it works in New York and Philly and some other shows, you’ve got to mix some entertainment in. That’s what you hear on radio now: you’ve got guys who are trying to be entertainers with very limited sports knowledge, then you’ve got guys with no entertainment knowledge who are just sports geeks trying to impress people with their sports knowledge."

Good for Tyler to stick up for Toth, though.

Tyler King said...

Again, I'm baffled at the bloggists' sudden generalizations about Toth. People obviously just don't listen to him, because he's no 'wannabe shock jock'. When's he done anything, beyond this comparatively tame Wilner thing, to justify that characterization? His April Fool's Joke? Hardly Howard Stern.

sager said...

1) Pretended to be drunk during a sportscast on New Year's Eve.

2) Routinely makes sexist comments on-air about being "distracted" when Evanka Osmak walks through the studio.

3) Suggested Gary Carter should be the Jays manager.

That's not shock-jock material, but it's borderline clownish.

Tyler King said...

Hang on, #2 just doesn't jive for me.

"How dare he imply that Evanka Osmak is physically attractive! That is so offensive!"

I mean, isn't she? We're hardly talking 1950s stay-in-the-home stuff here. It's not "routine" either.

By the way, there's a marked difference between being a shock-jock and being clownish - in fact I'd argue the two are mutually exclusive. So I think my point stands there.

sager said...

Tyler, if I made jokes like that in my office, in my job, I would be in trouble. It's not cool to make comments like that — and like Ms. Osmak needs to hear it from Toth that she meets most men's standards of feminine beauty. I think she knows already and doesn't need a man pointing it out.

People did overreact to Toth a bit, that is true, but that reaction doesn't make him anything more than he is, which is a decent, serviceable broadcast voice.

Robert C. said...

I missed all the 4pm hours last week but just watching the hours on Sportnet I chalk it up to Toth having a "strange week".

He had on Scott Moore after they lost the HNIC song. Mike first talks to him about NBC Coverage, Pierre McGuire between the benches, Craig Simpson, Kelly Hrudey, PJ Stock... and then he finally talked about the song?

Since both have done interviews with CFRC I have no problem with either one. :)

sager said...

Yeah, in that situation, you're on the No. 1 all-sports radio show in the country, first question has to be about the song.

When you're a blog or you're from the No. 2 paper, then maybe you go at it differently.

Duane Rollins said...

For the record, I said that I didn't care for Toth's style, which is a far cry from throwing him under the bus. I followed up that statement by indicating that I felt that it was fair that Wilner face criticism (even when he wasn't on air), since criticizing athletes is commonplace on talk radio (and a perfectly acceptable use of the medium).

I just don't find Toth entertaining and even he would likely admit that he isn't particularly informative. I feel a similar way about Swirsky, who I know is popular here and elsewhere in the blogosphere.

As an aside, a lot of people have suggested that the Fan is preparing Toth to take over PTS when McCown moves on in four years. I don't think that's the case. Toth's style is far more inline with a morning drive show, which is where I suspect he'll end up. I think they have him as the PTS replacement host now because his style contrasts with McCown so much. When a guy is coming in for a week at a time, you want him to bring something a lot different than the typical host does otherwise he or she just seems like an imitator.

We've yet to hear of McCown's replacement yet, I suspect. He or she is probably a 27-year-old working in Saskatoon.

Stoeten said...

Thanks for the links, Tyler, I guess, but we're going to have to disagree on this. That's somewhat difficult for me, because honestly, most of what you're saying just doesn't make sense as an argument.

What does JaysTalk's need for dumb callers have to do with anything here? Or the fact that Toth got people talking about the 4 o'clock hour of PTS by doing this? Or anything about what people think of Toth? Interesting background, I guess, but not much in the way of defending the key point here.

You've made one interesting statement, which was: there is nothing wrong with what Mike Toth did or said, and you're all a bunch of suckups to Mr. Wilner for thinking there was.

But then you spend 12 or 13 paragraphs dancing around how to back it up-- including the places where you've just assumed that we're Wilner-loving robots, incapable of critical thought, and then pulled thoughts out your ass to put in our heads.

The one place that you do attempt to back up what I think I've reasonably assumed to be your main point, which itself is swimming in a sea of nonsense, you completely miss the point-- exactly like Toth.

"Sportscasters attack all kinds of people who aren't there to defend themselves.

True, but you seriously don't think there's a huge difference between a sports broadcaster being critical of athletes or callers who've just been on air and the colleague who has just hosted the previous show?

I'm not sure what kind of jobs you've had or working environments you've ever been in, but there's a difference.

If I'm reading this correctly, you'd figure it would be OK for Richard Griffin to publish-- and agree with-- mail bag questions that dump on Mark Zwolinski? Or for Doug Smith to do the same with questions that dump on Griffin?

Sure...

sp said...

But how can the Wilner fans, who oppose the panic-induced firing of John Gibbons because the manager has a supposedly low impact on wins, simultaneouly say that hiring Carter would be a bad move based on his likely impact on the team?


Because you still have to actually have some EXPERIENCE doing it. Just like with anything else in life. Being a cashier is easy as shit but I bet someone who has done it is going to be better than me.

And like Blair said when he was embarrassing Toth on his show, managing in baseball comes down to how you handle the pitching staff and bullpen because that's the side that controls the ball. And most fans agree he has done an awesome job with that.

The thing that isn't getting enough attention about Toth is his use of the word "gas" as a slur. He has done it multiple times in writing and on the air so it's not just some slip up. He wrote in a fire-Gibby article that JP should "gas Gibby". That is completely wrong and he still hasn't apologized for it, even after Wilner brought it up.

About Wilner. He is a champion of using sound reasoning and facts to back up claims. I don't know how that makes people hate him but I feel sorry for them. If he comes off as rude or bullying then you must have insecurities because I find that absolutely refreshing. Saying stupid and baseless things shouldn't be tolerated in this world.

sager said...

The thing that isn't getting enough attention about Toth is his use of the word "gas" as a slur. He has done it multiple times in writing and on the air so it's not just some slip up. He wrote in a fire-Gibby article that JP should "gas Gibby". That is completely wrong and he still hasn't apologized for it, even after Wilner brought it up.

I did point this out on the comments somewhere and again last week when I was on Tyler's show ... it's offensive and for Toth to be using it with a colleague who is Jewish is brutal.

Incidentally, we should take Toth's ill logic to its absurd apotheosis. Gary Carter had 105 RBI in 1986, so he should manage the Jays?

Well, hell, in '86 Mike Schmidt led the league in RBI, and he managed one year in low Class A, so wouldn't he be better manager? Joe Carter had even more RBI than Schmidt that season, so let's make him the Jays skipper.

J├ęsus.

sager said...

Actually, it's brutal for him to be using it, period.

sp said...

This is an unusual stance for a blog, considering that the general blogophere protocol is one of consistently marvelling over whatever observations the popular Jays Talk host puts over the air. For some, it extends to marvelling over the comedic genius of adding "-age" and "-itude" to the ends of words. For fewer, the obsession extends to profiling in detail the varying inflections of the man's voice. Though we can't all be the unfailing and blinding Wilner fan that Dustin Parkes exemplifies, the consensus is pretty consistent; the buzzwords are "logic," "intelligent," "correct," and/or "awesome" (Sorry, Neate).

Frankly, there's a reason Mike Toth has been successful despite regularly infuriating the self-proclaimed sports intelligentsia. He's not afraid to stir up a bit of controversy, and in this case he's doing a great job of it.

Sorry to post again, but I read your post again and I noticed something weird. You make it sound ugly to be "intelligent" and "correct" and to use "logic". Yea, that cocky "sports intelligentsia" is really holding the world back.

That's it, in my best Kanye West impression...

"Tyler King doesn't care about smart people"

sager said...

Toth got the Fire Joe Morgan>treatment.

Tyler King said...

@Stoeten: JaysTalk's need for dumb callers is relevant because it's one of the main points that Wilneraniacs use to put him up on some broadcast pedestel - the idea that he's some valiant defender against the idiots who populate the show, and by extension were the ones being egged on by Toth that day. In reality, he is dependent on those very people who are supposedly evil for attacking him.

As for the problem with being critical of a colleague who has just hosted the previous show, I repeat my earlier argument which you omitted - calling into a host who you disagree with is faux pas #1 for sports radio callers - you are at the mercy of the host and oftentimes his ability to cut you off and retain the last word. Having never called in to disagree with Mike Wilner, I wouldn't expect you'd have much experience with that.

And yeah, I'd be fine with Griffin ripping Zwolinski in his mail bag. Wouldn't you find it more interesting if he did?

(As a sidenote, hope you don't take my comments personally or anything... it's all in good fun)

@SP: Is experience required as a big league manager or just as a big league coach? Because if it's the former, nobody would ever get their shot at the bigs. I have a feeling that with a decent support staff around him, you wouldn't exactly see Gary Carter prancing around warming up the closer in the 4th inning or anything. It's not rocket science, especially for someone with big league experience.

And I'm not sure I should even start to take issue with your assertion that "most fans agree he has done an awesome job" with the bullpen... I mean seriously? John Gibbons? Awesome bullpen management? Even your beloved Mike Wilner doesn't believe that!

As to your later comment, I've got no problem with intelligence. I have trouble with people who assert that their views are "logical" and "rational" not because of any actual reasoning, but because they happen to be their own views.

But good to hear you read the article twice.

sp said...

(Beware, I'm about to pull a Wilneresque stat smackdown)

Dear Tyler, not only did I say Gibbons has done an awesome job with the bullpen, I said the WHOLE pitching staff. So while you make mock incredulous comments like "I mean seriously? John Gibbons? Awesome bullpen management?", I'll come with some actual factage, logicness, and intelligenceosity.

According to Yahoo's MLB stats, the Jays ML pitching rankings are...

-3rd best ERA overall
-The 2nd best ERA in innings 1-6 (starters)
-3rd best WHIP overall
-10th best ERA in innings 7+ (bullpen)
-Best ERA with RISP
-Best ERA with RISP w/ 2 outs
-3rd best ERA with bases loaded
-6th in most Ks and 6th in least walks

Also, the Wall Street Journal did a study on managers for last season and they found that Gibbons was the #1 manager in close games, 7th in player performance, and 6th overall. (Click on my name for the link)

So, like I said, managing is a job of mostly obvious moves and luck on the offensive side and a combination of luck, instinct, and using split numbers on the pitching side. I would personally give 95% of the credit to the actual pitchers, but I'll also credit the manager who has the power to put them in the game and take them out.

So there you have it. Actual FACTS instead of arguments like "Huh??? John Gibbons and awesome in the same sentence?? Really? Are you serious?"

Tyler King said...

Seriously? Good pitching stats immediately imply the manager is responsible for them?

I'm reminded of a slightly modified scene from Homer at the Bat.

Gibbons: "You, Halladay, throw a complete game!"
Halladay: "Okay, skip!"
Gibbons: "Hahaha! I *told* him to do that!"
Butterfield: "Brilliant strategy, sir."

And amazing that you're calling yourself "Wilneresque" and then citing the Wall Street Journal's admiration of John Gibbons. Wilner was actually asked about that study directly on an episode of JaysTalk this season and dismissed it out of hand, saying that the WSJ is, firstly, not an authority on baseball, and secondly, probably only likes Gibbons because he's an ardent George W. Bush supporter.

Stoeten said...

Tyler,
Of course I'd be interested in Griffin ripping Zwolinski, but that doesn't mean that Griffin wouldn't have completely had to cross the line to do it.

As for whatever other nonsense you're saying, you're still missing the point. Callers aren't "evil" for ripping on Wilner-- even if it's not on Wilner's show. Nobody HAS to like Wilner. The problem-- which you continue to misunderstand-- is that Toth allowed people to shit on a colleague (regardless of whether it's Wilner or anybody else).

The dumb shit argument you're trying to pull out here, which says that it's OK for Toth to let callers shit on Wilner because those people were naturally too afraid to call in and shit on Wilner to his face is astonishing pussy bullshit.

Please, take a minute here and try to let sink in what incredibly ball-less position it is you're trying to take here.

It's OK for Toth to encourage people to shit on Wilner because they're too afraid of shitting on Wilner himself? Um... I'm sure you'll get better at this kind of thing in the future, but you seriously ought to stop before you embarrass yourself any further.

Tyler King said...

Calling me ball-less?

What's more ball-less - me sitting here, taking and responding to the vulgar (in a fun way) counter-arguments you're making.

Or if I had made a long blog post about how hurt I was, how inappropriate you were, and attempting to form a long string of comments praising me and attacking you?

I think to have broadcasting cojones you need to be able to take a punch - something Mike Toth has proved an ability to do, and which Wilner for some reason or another can't or won't.

And I know you're taking as a fundamental rule that you must never speak ill of a colleague; that's not a rule, that's just something Wilner (and by extension, the Nerdinista) believes.

You're saying that it's not OK "for Toth to let callers shit on Wilner." Yet it's perfectly fine for Wilner to let his commenters shit, to a far more vulgar extent, on Toth.

That's because you guys are the Mike Wilner fan club and anything he does is beyond question; not because of any legitimate reasoning you've got.

I'd put in some condescending BS about not embarrassing yourself or something, but I'm too nice for that.

sp said...

Holy fuck Tyler, way to misread my post, read it again. I said I give 95% of the credit to the guys who actually put up those stats and 5% credit to the guy who has the power to control their playing time. That's the same reason why 95% of the offensive woes is on the players. Unlike you who selectively shits on Gibbons for the offense sucking but doesn't credit him for the pitching being awesome.

As for the WSJ study, read the note at the bottom, they used stats from Baseball Info Solutions for the first two categories. For the 3rd category they got a Hardball Times writer to do whatever he did to get that stat. You're right, they're no authority on baseball but it's not like they got some random writers to make up numbers and opinions. It's an impartial numbers-based study using stats, Pythag, whatever else, etc.

You gotta admit it has SOME value, instead of conveniently calling BS on it. At least they have something substantive whereas you make blanket statements without even explaining them. Would you care to at least give some examples of Gibbons fucking up a pitching decision? I love how Gibbons haters roast him but then don't even tell us what he's done wrong. It's always some pussy-ass cop out excuse like "he can't motivate" (how would you know?) or "he walks around with his shirt untucked" (I actually heard this on Wilner) or "get him and his stupid aw-shucks accent outta here" (read this on DJF) or some other BS comparing him to George W Bush like you implied.

I'm still waiting on your fact-based analysis of Gibbons' faults and fuckups. I challenge you to write a post with detailed examples of where he fucked up and why you think that decision hurt the team.

Until then...

"Tyler King doesn't care about the truthiness, factage, logicness, and intelligenceosity" - Kanye Wilner

Tyler King said...

Mmmkay, again, you're trying to do a Mike Wilner impression while citing a study that he publicly dismissed.

I also didn't poo-poo Gibbons for the offensive woes. The problem is the general malaise and inability to win. The offensive woes are a cause of that, but I didn't specifically say that John Gibbons is the reason why they're not hitting. That's for insane JaysTalk callers to do.

I'm not going to go any further into this because you're swearing at me, and I don't really appreciate that.

Tyler King said...

Oh, and truthiness is a Stephen Colbert-ism, not a Wilner-ism.

sp said...

Oh boy, now you're whining over syntax and dirty words. Yet another cop out. I wasn't doing a "Wilner impression" in the last post by the way; that was my own voice. Sorry if I hurt your feelings though.

And why do you keep bringing up Wilner's take on the WSJ study? What does his opinion have to do with yours? Form your opinion of it on its own merits.

And you still haven't accepted my challenge. Speaking for your fellow Gibbons haters, please enlighten us.

Tyler King said...

The post was about defending Mike Toth, not attacking John Gibbons. I wouldn't call myself a Gibbons hater.

I do love though that signing a post "Kanye Wilner" is actually your "own voice" and not a Wilner impression.

I also wouldn't characterize refusing to entertain some hostile and vulgar comments as a "cop-out". But I guess I'm just old fashioned that way.

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