I want to preface this by saying that I am not the most polished writer (if you haven’t found that out already) which is why we hired Monty and staff to handle the writing duties. I do dabble from time to time, but I’m smart enough to know my strengths lie elsewhere. Which leads me into the reason for this blog series…
Every now and then I get an idea for baseball that I wonder why it hasn’t yet been implemented. I’m not talking about the Universal DH, but rather other game-saving ideas that would grow the audience. In this case, I’m going to try and tackle one of the issues in all sports, but one that seems to impact baseball the most: accessibility.
If you are even a casual baseball fan, you know that blackouts are the devil. Unfortunately for us fans, you also know, or at least have a feeling, that blackouts are here to stay. Money talks and the MLB is not about to sacrifice billions of dollars from TV revenue. MLB.tv is pretty cool, but the blackouts for your local team make it almost not worth it. And if you’re unlucky enough to live in places like Iowa, you might have up to seven different teams blacked out due to restrictions. If all seven of those teams are playing different teams, that’s almost half the league you’re already cut off from watching. Like I said, blackouts are the devil. Anything short of removing blackouts altogether won’t be the perfect fix, but like Major League Baseball should be doing, I’m looking at the NFL for ideas.
Whereas baseball is an extremely regionalized sport, in large part due to accessibility, the NFL is king; king of content and king of viewers. And while the NFL has blackout restrictions for their version of MLB.tv (Sunday Ticket), they don’t really have an issue with accessibility. Yes, there are less games which makes it easier for fans to follow, but beyond that, their highlights are always available right away on social media and the national games are typically on a widely available channel, like NBC/FOX/CBS or ESPN. For baseball you get a social media strike if you even try to post a highlight. Baseball does have Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, which typically gets buried by other programs, but otherwise their “nationally televised games” are buried themselves on MLB Network, which is not exactly a widely available channel. And if you couldn’t tell by what just happened to Ken Rosenthal, MLB Network is not necessarily the best source for your baseball fix even if you do get the channel.
We’ll save that for another article, so let’s get back to the NFL. Not only do they have Sunday Ticket, but they also have RedZone (a channel just for instant highlights) available as an add-on to your cable package. The MLB has MLB.tv, but they don’t have anything remotely resembling RedZone, which is the best part of Sunday Ticket and arguably watching football outside of your favorite time. It’s a heavy dose of nonstop football for football addicts. It’s awesome.
Now what if baseball did have something resembling RedZone?
Imagine if every weeknight from 630p to 130a EST you got nonstop, instant baseball highlights on a channel or platform that was widely accessible? Like RedZone, this would have a host that would chime in and navigate through the games and highlights, but would also be able to tap into the home team’s broadcast. This way not only are you getting exposed to other players and teams, but other broadcasts and broadcast styles as well. It could be named: StrikeZone.
For fans that complain baseball is too slow, well now StrikeZone is here to give you all of the action and highlights without having to sift through the games yourself. For fans that aren’t night owls and constantly miss the 9 or 10 o’clock starts on the east coast, well you can watch or listen to the StrikeZone Recap the next morning with a summation of all of the games from the night prior. And for the fans that aren’t going to pay exorbitant cable prices just to get an obscure, antiquated TV station that lucked into winning the TV rights to your favorite baseball team forever ago (Shoutout to MASN), StrikeZone at least shows you the key events from the games of your team no matter who, when or where they’re playing. Sounds pretty great, right? Well let’s take it one step further.
Currently, you get an MLB.tv free game of the day, which is a good start, but it’s not always the most exciting game or most convenient time for us East Coast folks. Now imagine that game, but with commentary from some of the baseball legends you grew up idolizing?
MLB Network does have a show called “MLB Network Showcase: Clubhouse Edition” (terrible name) with some recently retired players who just talk while watching games, which is cool, but again, MLB Network has a plethora of issues, including accessibility issues of its own. If you don’t market or promote the show, and not many people even have the network to begin with, then it is not very accessible, is it? That is why I am proposing a widely accessible broadcast, both on StrikeZone and hopefully even on a big TV network, that features MLB greats sitting down, shooting the shit between them and great guests, while watching the premier game fans were already dialed in to watch.
Yep, I’m talking ManningCast, but for the MLB. The ManningCast on ESPN2 on Monday Nights has been a revelation for football. Just imagine what it could do for baseball. They’re not retired yet, but picture a duo like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander doing a couple games a week where they just break down a game in such an advanced way that is nothing short of a baseball die-hard’s wet dream. No affiliations to teams either, so you don’t get all of the bias you get from some announcers like Alex Rodriguez. Just pure, unadulterated baseball nerding out. And like the ManningCast, they could have guests join the show, such as current players, for more knowledge, stories and overall exposure to fans. It just seems like a no-brainer. Which is precisely the reason it’ll never happen.
I can’t explain why the MLB is the way it is. There are people who are paid much more than I am in charge of making those decisions, but I can’t necessarily say that they are smarter. There are a myriad of examples as to how baseball is not doing itself any favors in terms of growing the game, but you would think just making your product accessible and as accessible as possible to viewers should be near, if not at the top of your priority list. Instead, we have a corrupt commissioner whose primary focus is controlling the media narrative and public opinion on himself while representing greedy, money-hungry owners who don’t care about the players at the end of the day if it saves them a buck.
Again, we’ll save that for another article. But during a lockout like we are currently in, one can’t help but think of ways to make the game better and prevent anything like this from ever happening again. This is all one big brain-dump, but I really hope part of the negotiations include addressing accessibility in some way, cause it really sucks to see the sport I love dying due to inadequate leadership from those in charge.