For the past half dozen years I purchased the Major League Baseball Extra Innings package and enjoyed the fact that if I wanted to watch a game – even late at night – one was usually available.
The problem was, however, that I was rarely home to enjoy a Dodgers game at 1 a.m. with Vin Scully painting portraits over the microphone. On most nights during the summer I was at the ballpark and the Extra Innings package didn’t get used as much as it should have.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to get it. After all, I’m one of those people who is a baseball fan, but not necessarily a sports fan. Ever since I was a little kid I always thought that sports were for playing, not watching. To a large degree I still think that way. Nevertheless, last season I bought the online version of the Extra Innings package. Since I was never at home, but was always travelling with my laptop or within reach of a computer, it made sense to make baseball games portable. That way I could watch whatever games needed to be seen when I was at the ballpark, at the house in Colorado, on an Amtrak train, or even in a Starbucks.
As Jello Biafra said, “give me convenience or give me death.”
Rallying cries or the portability of baseball watching aside, I expect the online version of the Extra Innings package to increase its sales this season. Needless to say, any cable subscriber who is also a big baseball fan is going to agree with me after MLB told their fans, essentially, to “go to hell.” Perhaps since MLB couldn’t take away the statistics (they called it “intellectual property” and were laughed out of court) from the rotisserie leagues and online fantasy games, the league decided to take their games to Direct TV.
Now I have nothing against Direct TV, because I have never seen it nor do I know anyone who has it. As a Comcast subscriber (and shareholder), I’m very happy with what choices I have, the various offerings and the so-called on Demand features. Yes, it’s probably overpriced, but to me television is kind of like Trans fats. Sure, it tastes good, but you really don’t want to ingest too much of it. As far as cable goes, most people’s complaints lie with the local stations and affiliates.
Jayson Stark and Buster Olney wrote very eloquently about MLB’s move to the satellite company, while The New York Times thoroughly broke down the ins and outs of the deal though they left out the answer to one really big question:
What is MLB thinking?
I think MLB is attempting to enhance its web presence and believe that the era of pay-per-view sports is here and here to stay. I also believe that the Direct TV deal will be the big push to turn sports on television into something as archaic as games on the radio with the World Wide Web reaping all the benefits.
Time to increase your bandwidth, folks.
On another note…
Here in Lancaster – just a little more than an hour from the Philadelphia city limits – Phillies games will not be available on “free” TV in 2007. To watch the “hometown” team, fans need Comcast SportsNet or a nationally broadcast FOX or ESPN offering. Additionally, WLPA, the long-time home of the Phillies on the radio, will broadcast Lancaster Barnstormers (an independent league team) for a second straight year.
Needless to say, most people are a little peeved. Who wants to listen to a glorified sandlot team on the radio when the Major League team that everyone has followed for their entire lives is making a run for the playoffs?
I remember a time during the latter portion of the 2000 season when Phillies' pitcher Chris Brock gave up a home run to Mike Piazza that hugged the right-field line before clanging off the façade at the Vet. Afterwards I asked Brock about the home run he surrendered and he not-so subtly insinuated that in order to hit a ball the way Piazza had, the player had to be dabbling with performance-enhancing substances.
So with Brock’s quote in tow, I marched over to the Mets’ clubhouse and told Piazza what the Phillies’ pitcher had said about his home run (the second of that game, I should add).
“Who,” Piazza deadpanned, “is Chris Brock?”
That’s kind of what I thought when I read the story from Pittsburgh about Pirates’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez not being jealous of Chase Utley’s new contract with the Phillies.
To be fair, Sanchez is a nice ballplayer who probably never gave Utley’s contract a second thought. What probably happened was a writer or two were sitting around and saw that Sanchez won the batting title last season and had some statistics that were a bit better than Utley’s. So rather than think the subject through they went with the notion that Sanchez is OK with the fact that Utley is getting $85 million even though he hit .344 and the Phillies’ All-Star only hit .309.
Never mind that Utley is one of the best 10 to 15 players in the game and not simply one of the better infielders in the National League. Plus, Sanchez plays for a dreadful team that will probably be equally as bad for another generation. That means he doesn’t have the pressure of pennant races or little things like situational hitting or winning games to worry about. In Pittsburgh, Sanchez and Jason Bay can go out there and play any kind of game they want as long as they get their statistics. That way a few writers will look at them and think, “Look, he hit .344. He’s gotta be as good as Chase Utley… ”
Meanwhile, people outside of the Three Rivers area wonder just who is this Freddy Sanchez dude.