Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun reported Sunday evening that Ben Wagner, the longtime voice of the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, is rumoured to be replacing Jerry Howarth as the play-by-play man for the Toronto Blue Jays on radio in 2018. Longley said that the decision on who Wagner’s partner in the booth will be has yet to be made, and that the role could instead be filled by a “revolving cast of folks.”
I think I speak for many when I say I expected Mike Wilner to be the new play-by-play man, especially after the time he spent last season in the role. Another surprise — to me, at least — is that Wilner won’t be Wagner’s partner/colour commentator. It seemed like a given that Wilner would take on some expanded role in 2018.
I wasn’t alone in my thinking, apparently. Here’s some comments from this post about Joe Siddall moving to the TV side of things:
- andrewkw666: I think Mike stays even if he’s not their first choice. For all his shortcomings he’s fine at play by play and does love the blue jays which is not something you are going to get if you import someone. You might not want that which is fine too, but I think he’s a realistic option.
- dexfarkin: I can’t imagine a scenario where Wilner isn’t the lead play by play man. If they didn’t intend him to take that chair, they would have brought in someone else to share the play by play duties a few years ago when Jerry’s stamina started to become an issue.
- fishedin: you know, Ben Wagner doesn’t sound so bad. actually he’s down right listenable.
- FrankDrakman: Please give Mike W. the play-by-play; he’s energetic, involved, and not so much a homer that he won’t call out a player from time to time.
When we surveyed readers on February 28 on who they would like to do radio play-by-play, only four percent voted for Wagner. By comparison, 44 percent voted for Rob Fai and 23 percent for Mike Wilner.
All that being said, even if the move unexpected, it’s not that I don’t like it. Listening to Wagner in spring training has been a pleasure, and after all of his work with the Bisons, he certainly deserves a chance to let his talents shine in the majors. It’s exciting to have a new voice and new take to listen to for this season.