...and all the pain that it invokes.
(From "T.V. Talkin' Song," Under the Red Sky)
A rare treat today, as the Royals played before the FOX network cameras for the first time all season (treating FOX as separate from Fox Sports). This was an actual, honest-to-God appearance on broadcast television. Sure, it probably had more to do with the opponent (the dreaded and despised White Sox), but it was nice to see the powder blues, even if it was just a regional telecast.
Ever since today's game was picked a few weeks ago to be televised for FOX's Saturday coverage, I had been excited. It is another little sign that things are getting better.
But I also started thinking about baseball on TV. Even before this blog existed, it was a long-held belief here at Tangled Up In Blue headquarters that baseball needs a better TV policy. Specifically, it needs a better policy in regards to the crown jewel of baseball on TV, ESPN's Sunday night game.
Baseball only has two real regular national TV windows: TBS on Sunday afternoons and ESPN on Sunday nights; FOX normally shows regional coverage on Saturdays. The TBS telecasts just started this year; the ESPN telecasts have been on for almost 20 years (which makes me feel old, but that's another story). There is no question ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is the biggest regular-season game broadcast of the week.
It has always seemed to me that baseball should take advantage of that platform to market the game. It's true that the Sunday night game is not an event on the order of Monday Night Football in the '70s. But it is a great vehicle to market the game and old and new stars. If only baseball would pressure ESPN to show all of those stars.
In the first four months of the season, we have seen the Red Sox five times, the Yankees, Mets, Angels, White Sox and Cubs four times. That's 25 of the 38 spots so far. The Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies and Tigers have all been on twice each. Then there's the Rockies, Twins and Nationals, who have all been on once. And the Nationals were only on because they opened a new ballpark. One wonders if the renovated Kauffman Stadium will be featured on SNB. But one doesn't wonder that very long.
We have been treated to consecutive weeks of Cubs-White Sox games. We have seen the defending NL champs once, while teams who missed the playoffs in 2007 have been on 18 times. We haven't seen the best story of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays, although that could change when ESPN decides what games they would like to show in September (ESPN can pick games three weeks in advance in the second two months of the season and two weeks in advance during the final two months). We haven't seen the Diamondbacks, even though they have led the NL West since Opening Day. We haven't seen Milwaukee or Florida, two contenders this year who feature some of the game's best young players. Even worse, the Brewers were in the playoff hunt until the last week last season, so it's not like they came out of nowhere.
Of course, ESPN is concerned about their ratings. And yes, the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Cubs and Dodgers are the most popular teams. They should be--they're on ESPN every other Sunday night. It's time for MLB to insist that all teams have a chance to be showcased. There are 26 Sunday night games a year. That gives ESPN plenty of chances to show everyone. I'm not saying they have to show the Pirates playing the Nationals; they could show a Pirates-Cardinals game and a Nationals-Mets game.
The best way for MLB to ensure continued success is to let fans meet the new generation of stars. The best way to do that is to get them as much exposure as possible. Showing games from the same pool of 12 teams every week on baseball's best showcase game is not helping.