Tuesday brought about two items of news that caught nobody by surprise, but are worthy of discussion regardless.
The White Sox formally named Andy Masur to replace Ed Farmer as the lead voice in the radio booth, even if Masur’s quote in the press release suggests he isn’t comfortable with that word:
“I am truly honored and humbled to join my friend Darrin Jackson in the White Sox radio booth this season,” said Masur. “Many people before me have said legends cannot be replaced, and the great Ed Farmer is truly irreplaceable. As a fellow Chicagoan, I hope my passion for the city and the game of baseball connects with White Sox fans in a way that Ed would be proud. I want to thank the White Sox and WGN Radio for this fantastic opportunity.”
Masur already had experience filling in for Farmer, including handling Farmer’s dates during spring training this year. When Farmer passed on April 1st, giving Masur a full-time shot was the logical move. The potential of live games a few weeks from now put the broadcasting logistics back in motion after the pandemic stoppage delayed the announcement.
FROM MARCH: Getting Ed Farmer took work, but paid off
NBC Sports Chicago interviewed Masur in conjunction with the announcement, and Masur gave his own brief bio:
I started with WGN the first time around in 1999. I was doing weekend pre- and post-game shows and then Ron Santo got sick with diabetes and lost one of his legs below the knee and the club asked me to travel with him to make sure he was good and he was OK. That kind of morphed into me doing all the pregame shows from every location we were at and then it morphed into half-an-inning of play-by-play, filling in for Pat Hughes every once in a while, and I turned that into getting a job with the San Diego Padres just before the 2007 season. Went through three ownership groups there and did not have my contract renewed after the 2013 season so I decided to come back home to Chicago and WGN was warm enough to welcome me back. I’ve been there ever since. I did some Blackhawks stuff for them for a little bit, and of course anchoring and reporting and now the last couple of seasons in the White Sox booth. I couldn’t be happier. It’s worked out very well. WGN is the station I grew up with and grew up as a broadcaster in and I’m really happy this experience is coming with them.
I don’t believe I’ve been able to catch Masur for longer than his midgame appearances alongside Farmer and Darrin Jackson, but I’ve liked what I heard. The NBC Sports Chicago interview cites Masur’s call of Eloy Jiménez’s game-winning homer at Wrigley Field. It isn’t available anywhere online, but I wanted to hear it for myself, and maybe you’d like to as well.
Hopefully this season offers enough games to give Masur a chance to showcase his abilities, but I’m more curious what this means for Jackson, who enters his 21st season as a broadcaster for the White Sox, but his first alongside a traditional play-by-play man. Jackson has spent the entirety of his career in the analyst role next to two idiosyncratic broadcasters in Farmer and Hawk Harrelson. Both were former players, so they both moved between play-by-play and analysis, and the lack of the standard broadcast booth rhythm forced their partners to create their own spaces, with varying degrees of success. Also, Farmer (tonally) and Harrelson (emotionally) tended to end up in darker, quieter places, which might have encouraged Jackson to compensate with lighter antics.
The booth’s transition creates a unique opportunity for a veteran broadcaster. Assuming Masur defers to Jackson for the nuts-and-bolts breakdowns, this will be the first time that Jackson will be in charge of the baseball gravitas, at least for extended periods of time. To borrow the parlance of his other former partner, we’ve known Jackson for all or parts of two decades, but as he opens a third decade, he’s going to get a regular chance to be heard in a way he wasn’t before. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it.
* * * * * * * * *
Minor League Baseball officially announced the cancellation of its regular season. It’s news that catches nobody by surprise, but that doesn’t lessen the pain. MiLB president Pat O’Conner painted a grim picture:
“It’s north of half (of MiLB teams) who could either have to sell (or go insolvent without government or other help),” O’Conner said. “This is the perfect storm. There are many teams that are not liquid, not solvent.” […]
O’Conner noted that some clubs have gone through as many as three rounds of furloughs and the league office has gone through one round of pay cuts and furloughs and was preparing for a second group of furloughs in the coming days.
“It’s extremely difficult for us to project, because there is no end in sight in the immediate future,” O’Conner said. “Our clubs are committed. They are capitalized as best can be expected. We are in dire straits, and I still have grave concerns. What happens every day doesn’t alleviate any of my concerns.”
The announcement allows affiliates to salvage the summer in whatever ways they can, whether it’s by hosting alternative training sites for MLB clubs, staging collegiate summer league games, or just trying to self-isolate and hope to recoup some losses in 2021.
The White Sox’s affiliates all put out statements, which you can read here:
They’re all struggling, and it’s especially tough for Kannapolis, which was supposed to open its brand new downtown ballpark. However, they should all be back in one form or another.
The Great Falls Voyagers probably won’t be so lucky. Their league was already the target of minor-league contraction, and both the White Sox’s minor league cuts and muted activity after the draft are tacit acknowledgments of one less roster to fill. Given this context, the Voyagers’ statement takes on a darker tone.
(Photo of Andy Masur from WGN Radio)
I’ve grown to really admire DJ. Here’s hoping that he and Masur mesh well, which I suspect they will do.
Oh, and beyond the economic damage and the disruption to the players’ and employees’ lives and livelihoods, this is depressing because some of my sweetest summer memories involve visiting towns and checking out their minor leagues teams and parks, from lowly A to shiny AAA. Asheville, Akron, Charlotte, Columbus, Durham, Kane County, Hillsboro, Toledo, et al, I’ll miss you this summer.
I’m not really a fan of Masur, but I guess it could be worse.
Excellent. Masur is the professional voice they’ve lacked since Rooney’s departure. I’m not optimistic that Jackson will suddenly become enjoyable after 20 years of not, but I’m happy to have a reason to hope for it. We should all be thankful that Masur was there to make it an easy call; they could very easily have pulled a White Sox and moved Jackson to the big chair alongside, like, Scott Caroll.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Masur, but I’m in favor of putting a real PBP voice in that seat. Will be interesting to see how this affects Jackson (if at all). As I’m sure many would agree, Benetti coming in really helped bring out the best in Stone. I don’t think Farmer and Jackson had the obvious issues that Stone and Hawk did at times, but they also didn’t have the usual back and forth rhythm of a typical PBP/anlayst team. Maybe this helps Jackson find his niche a bit better.
Will the broadcasters be traveling with the team or are they going to be doing some type of remote broadcast?
I picture Benetti accusing Steve of feeding his dog and not paying attention if they do something remote.
From what Mike Ferrin said on the Effectively Wild podcast, I’m guessing they’ll do a remote broadcast, but they’ll be in a room so they can see more screens besides what the TV feed is giving them.
I heard that the radio broadcaster will travel and the TV guys stay put.
Very happy for Andy! From what I have read about him, he has worked hard to pay his dues. I think he and Jackson will work well together. In the past, Jackson has occasionally been paired with a traditional play-by-play man on Fox broadcasts, and his work in those situations was very good.
In regard to the minor-league season, it’s not surprising at all, because even the abbreviated major-league season will be difficult to complete this year. It’s horrible, though, when you think about all the people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed because of this. Let’s hope minor-league ball can come back next year.
The Field of Dreams game is still on the schedule, but the new opponent is St. Louis. Because the Field of Dreams has such significance in my life, I was going to make ever effort to secure a ticket. Now, even if they open it to fans, I won’t be there.
It seems like a bad idea to unnecessarily add another venue and all the attendant variables to this disrupted season. I just assumed they would postpone it until next year.
Ah, yes. We’ll be able to hearken back to the days of Shoeless Joe and the White Sox facing Rogers Hornsby’s Cardinals. Wait. That never happened???
I completely forgot about this. Yeah looks like they’re still planning on having it. I was also really looking forward to this game. Won’t be the same, but would still be cool to see.
I’ve never heard Andy Masur before that snippet, but I like the sound of a play by play man on radio who keeps us in the action the whole time. I think that’s the point of the job. Farmer’s dry silences didn’t play well for me. I’m looking forward to listening to games on the radio this summer. For however long they last at least.
He did give the score. That’s a good sign. In recent years, I sometimes had to check the score on my phone even though I had the game on the radio.
Loved Ed as a color man and a dedicated southsider and a good charitable person who coped with serious physical problems in his life.. That being said he was never a good by play man so I am glad to have a Masur a an excellent play by play man in the booth.