Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Thing of the Past?

A few appetizers, with the usual suspects on a Lazy Sunday, before the main course arrives on something that’s been bothering me for a while.
First a Lazy Fathers’ Sunday:
Sheldon Ocker sees what is in his perpetually half-empty glass.

It takes a while to get to something noteworthy from Paul Hoynes, but he has a nice perspective on whether this Indians team will capture the imagination of Cleveland.

Finally, Jim Ingraham provides a Kevin Millwood update. Even with Byrd’s past three forgettable starts, that 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd for Byrd is looking better than the 5 guaranteed years Millwood received from the Rangers with each passing day.

Ah, here comes the server with the Fathers’ Day dish, the death of Saturday afternoon baseball at the hands of MLB and FOX.

About 5 years ago, while planning my Bachelor Party, the group of us decided that that perfect way to spend the day was to buy a block of seats in the bleachers for a Saturday afternoon game, then have our way with the city after the game. Considering that the game ended about 4:00, the city was our oyster and spending the day under the sun in the LF bleachers at the Jake couldn’t have been a better start to the day/night.

Going even further back, my grandfather took me to a Saturday afternoon baseball game at Municipal Stadium as the Erie Warriors faced off against the Bash Brothers version of the Oakland A’s in the late 80’s. The day was memorable in that we had seats behind the visiting dugout and we marveled at the size of the players under the glare of the Saturday sun. While our astonishment at the size of those particular players has since been affected by subsequent findings, it’s not the only lost innocence that the day represented.

The glory that Saturday baseball represents, sitting under the sun with your friends or family, watching baseball the way it was intended to be viewed has been forever altered by (surprise, surprise) the shortsightedness of MLB and the greed associated with the exclusive contract with FOX for the Saturday Game of the Week.

The current set-up works like this:
FOX looks at the Saturday match-ups throughout the league and selects the 2 or 3 games to feature in a 4PM EST game to different parts of the country. For example, the Indians/Braves game yesterday was selected and was available to about 26% of the country. The decision-making process and the selection of where the games are viewed is not the problem though.

Because FOX has an exclusive contract to broadcast MLB games on Saturdays, most teams schedule their games for night games as if they schedule an afternoon game (say, 1PM EST), the game is blacked out locally and can only be broadcast later in the day on a tape delay so as not to conflict with the FOX broadcast. Again, using yesterday as an example, the Yankees/Mets game was played at 1PM, but (since it was not a FOX game) it was blacked out locally and was shown later in the day on a tape delay as it is not allowed to be shown live as it may conflict with (and take viewers away) from the FOX games.

Now, of course, FOX being what they are, the Saturday games that are chosen are invariably Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Astros, and Cubs games. Do you think that the folks in Kansas City have seen Saturday afternoon baseball in a few years, or that it’s going to happen anytime soon?

Essentially what this does is prevent teams from scheduling Saturday afternoon games as they are not allowed to broadcast them in real time. Even if they are chosen for the FOX game, the game does not occur until 4PM, ending sometime around 7PM in the Eastern Time zone. This eliminates the best part of the Saturday game, getting to the park about noon on a Saturday, having lunch at or near the park, enjoying a summer afternoon at the ballpark, and making it home (or going out somewhere) to catch dinner and still have Sunday in front of you for the completion of your weekend.

Saturday baseball (not Sunday baseball) was the time for parents to take their children down to the park and for friends to gather downtown for an afternoon out, all without the specter of a Monday morning coming up quickly.

What MLB and FOX have done, with the goal of lining their pockets with money, is eliminate the 1PM Saturday baseballs game for a generation of fans. And, unlike basketball, which is played indoors (although a 9PM NBA Finals start time is laughable), baseball was meant to be played outside, under the sun, in front of their young fans.

Unfortunately, it represents another poor decision in a long line of them made by MLB that are meant to be in “the best interests of the game”, but couldn’t be further from the truth.

While I’m on that topic of misguided, short-sighted decisions by MLB (and the view from this soapbox is so nice), let’s have a look at the debacle that is inter-league play.

This season, the Phillies play as many games at the Jake as old Tribe AL East divisional rivals the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, and the Orioles. Also, due to the games moved to Milwaukee for weather reasons, the AL West leading Angels won’t make a trip to Cleveland. So, if the Indians and Angels meet in the playoffs, the Angels will be making their first 2007 trip to the Jake.
How, exactly, does that make an ounce of sense?
So, this week, instead of seeing another AL team come to Jacobs Field, I’ll sit through two games against the Phillies, a team that the Indians have no history or interest in.

If MLB wants to create a rivalry with Cincinnati…fine. Have a home and home with the Reds and limit it to that. This extension into the Indians playing the NL teams instead of seeing their OWN league rivals borders on the absurd.

Now, MLB says generates that inter-league play draws more fans than intra-league games, but have they ever considered that most inter-league games are played ON THE WEEKENDS when families are able to make it to the ballpark? The Indians played Cincinnati last weekend, have Atlanta this weekend and will face off with Washington next weekend. Do you think that those weekend games will draw more than a Tuesday night against Oakland? Sure, but it’s not because of who the Indians are playing.

MLB is setting attendance records IN SPITE OF decisions made regarding the scheduling of inter-league games and the elimination of the Saturday afternoon game. It speaks more to the appeal of the game, that it is able to overcome shoddy decision-making from the MLB offices, than it does that they are making the right decisions.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue – fans (and specifically families) WANT to attend weekend afternoon games, but the money grab by MLB and FOX have removed a full ½ of those games from the equation through their poor policies and seemingly endless ignorance of their fan base and the burgeoning fan base of youngsters that are continually shorted in the MLB decision-making process.

On this Fathers’ Day, it’s time for MLB to recognize the error of their ways and embrace their next generation of fans by revising their obviously ill-advised decisions regarding Saturday baseball.


Rockdawg said...

First off, going back to the last post, Kline's performance in A Fish Called Wanda is easily one of the best of all time ("I'm Harvey......Man-fren-gen-sen-fren" plus the move where he constantly smells his armpit to psyche himself up) Secondly, did anyone else here the TBS announcer call John Adams "The yo-yo with the drum", then proceeded to tell Adam's to "Get a life?" My already existing hatred for that man just tripled. Lastly, is it a bad thing that I was pleased with Borowski's performance today, even though he gave up two ninth-inning hits? My patience with this guy is just about out.

Baltimoran said...

the TBS announcer also referred to the greatest night in Cleveland for a long time (game 6) as a "mess" downtown because there were too many people watching the CAVS on the outdoor tvs so noone could get out of the jake...i've talked to many people who were there and have ye to hear a sister and her husband actually gave up and stayed downtown at a friends but rather than complaining about traffic she was gushing about the racial harmony she witnessed in the celebration (an older african american woman gets out of her car and dances with a young white kid), she sounded like seinfeld talking about the black and white cookie.

fox sucks...i got stuck with barry vs. the Sawx

Eric Fingerhut said...

Actually, your Saturday baseball rant is wrong. I live in the Washington, D.C. area and watched the Nationals-Blue Jays game this Saturday afternoon. It started at 1:00 p.m. and was broadcast live on MASN, the network the Nats are carried on in the D.C. area. And earlier in the year, I watched a 1 p.m. first-pitch game from Shea Stadium with the Mets and Nats on MASN. I believe any team can play a Saturday afternoon game as long as they start it by 1 p.m, so that theoretically it will be over by the time the Fox game starts around 4 p.m. Are you really sure that the Mets-Yankees game on Saturday ran on tape delay in NYC? I just can't imagine that.

long time listener said...

I second this. I saw the Yankees-Mets game live in NY. It's not on tape-delay - the teams just have to schedule the game at 1 or at night to aviod Fox's exclusive 4 pm window.

The Feed said...

Eric's right, the Mets-Yankees game was on live Saturday afternoon. 1 P.M. games are unaffected if the Fox game starts at 3:55. Only games that aren't part of the Fox telecasts but still start at 3:55 would be affected by the local media blackout.

Paul Cousineau said...

Going to have to lay into my buddy in NJ who told me that the Yanks-Mets game was on tape delay.

I say Finger, you say Hut...Finger-Hut, Finger-Hut.

Unknown said...

I watched the NYM/NYY game live as well, but the idea of the rant is correct. However, the better focus would have been against the archaic MLB blackout rules in general. It seems to me the best interests of the game wouldn't include making people watch a black screen or reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond," but I'm not Bud Selig - and he makes 12 million dollars/yr. for a reason -- he's a true genius.

Your Humble Correspondent said...

They are right, the premise of the post is wrong. Games can be shown locally, and the Cubs are shown on WGN when their games start at noon (100p EDT).

Blame the owners who think they will draw better on Saturday nights, not Fox.

Blame Fox for the lame in-game manager interviews and the pondersous "analysis" by Mark Grace.

Unknown said...

in re: to mlb/fox blacking games out - i have mlb extra innings and the nyy game was blacked out in austin,tx. happens every weekend unless nyy are the fox(sucks) game of the week.

t-bone said...

Roger Clemens in 2057.