MLB TV networks, amid games played with no fans, have a chance to offer a unique perspective putting fans “in the game.” Will they be bold enough to do so?
ESPN, the first MLB TV Network to broadcast a game last night with no fans in the stands, offered little to move away from “the usual,” even though the setting for the game was anything but ordinary.
If you consider it a novelty, there was all of the expected piped in “drama” of manufactured crowd noise and blasted walk-up music as each batter approached the plate.
There was also the drone of ESPN analyst Alex Rodriguez trying to do his best but failing to offer nuggets of interest that went beyond the scope and knowledge of kindergarten fans of baseball.
MLB TV Networks have a unique opportunity to introduce new elements into the art of broadcasting a major league ballgame in 2020.
Major League Baseball (MLB), with a need to replace lost revenues, is looking to the networks to recoup losses sustained, as well as to grow the sport in the absence of games played by the NFL, NHL, and the NBA.
The restrictions imposed on the media by MLB, due to a need to provide for the safety of all, are warranted, though not necessarily “the law.”
The weight carried by MLB and the CDC is considerable, but that cannot be an excuse for networks not to ask for consideration in making their telecasts more “user friendly.”
MLB TV Networks: Try This
No fans in the stands offer an opportunity to showcase each of the thirty major league ballparks from a variety of seating locations and views of the game being played.
For instance, in last night’s ESPN telecast, there is an upper left-field deck location that offers a magnificent view of the U.S. Capitol Building from afar.
With fans all around, it’s a long and arduous journey for a camera and lighting crew to make their way up there with a color-commentator for a new look at the game. But not the case last night.
And where was that camera planted in the dirt at home plate to show a better’s eye view of Gerrit Cole‘s 97 mph fastball coming in on the hitter’s hands?
Or, the tempting slider just off the plate that Gary Sanchez couldn’t resist from Max Scherzer?
MLB TV Networks: Ask, And You Just Might Receive
Any MLB TV network broadcast’s staff must be awarded “considerations” not available to regional broadcasts (RSN’s), beat reporters, and the like to grow the game by adding something different to the usual.
Microphones need to be placed in every nook and corner of the field to pick up the Sounds Of Baseball.
The crunch of a runner sliding into second or the thud of a runner reaching first base ahead of a throw touching the fielder’s glove (exactly what an umpire listens for) – MLB TV networks are missing the boat for not asking.
Pete Alonso, the Mets 2019 Rookie of the Year, can’t wait to be mic’d up. Are there others equally motivated? Can’t know without asking.
Why, for instance, can’t the seating directly behind home plate, an area currently off-limits to all media, be reserved for a network to conduct in-game chats with managers and players who are but a few steps away from their dugout?
A Portent Of The Future – Or Is There Something More
If ESPN’s broadcast of Thursday night’s show between the Yankees and Nationals is any indication, we are looking at nothing but ho-hum, you’re going to watch anyway, so what do we care, broadcasting by the major MLB TV networks.
The sad truth is that, like many fans of baseball, perhaps, I was simply enamored with the reality of major league baseball in my living room during a pandemic.
But MLB should be pushing for, and subsequently acceding to requests they receive from MLB TV networks to bend the rules when it comes to nationally televised broadcasts.
Soon, we’ll see what FOX and TBS have to offer, but I’m not holding my breath.