Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Capping off baseball on TV

It seems to me that almost within minutes of Baseball taking steps to bolster their ratings for the League Championship and World Series telecasts this fall they started taking steps backward.
Marketing vs. television might become a better contest than a first place team against a last place team coming down the stretch. Sorry, but I don't see these two factions coming together like they should.

Baseball continues to go overboard with marketing and timeliness issues. Memorial Day turned into another example. Of course, I understand and appreciate the meaning of the holiday as much as anyone. (My father is a Veteran of WWII.) But, come on, the MLB teams did not all have to wear red caps during their game on Memorial Day to show it.

I tuned into the telecast of the NY Yankees game from Texas, and was astounded to see the Yankees wearing red caps with the Yankees logo. Red?? Red has never been a part of the Yankees color or logo. Let alone that it is a Texas Rangers color and the Rangers were the home team. Later on I tuned by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs telecast. Both of those teams with red? You have to be kidding. Or wishing they were.

OK, this is not nearly as disastrous as when every player and coach on the field wore number 42 last month on Jackie Robinson, but it goes in the same category. I know it is Memorial Day and the players and teams salute it. But does it have to be by making it difficult to identify the players on TV? I have to believe there were some fans tuning around with their remote looking for the Yankees game or Cubs game or Dodgers game and saw Red caps and thought they couldn't find "their" team on TV.

Marketing seems to be leaning toward having a different uniform every day, maybe so they can sell caps and bats and jerseys to souvenir hunters. But TV should have a consistent brand on the field at all times so that fans can instantly and easily identify. The teams on the field are supposed to be rivals willing to dive and charge and stretch and do whatever it takes to win that game. If they are all going to be made to look alike, it won't matter how much earlier the World Series telecasts start.

Meanwhile, MLB Network announces it will actually televise some of the "Youth Baseball Championships" this August with a schedule of games. It's fine that August is "Youth Baseball Month" and I'm all for it. But to make a big deal about it and televise games??

The big deal to me is that these are games played by boys no older than 12 years old. National TV? Entire games?

Don't get me wrong. I love the MLB Network. I never thought any baseball show could top ESPN Baseball Tonight, but MLB Tonight does on many nights hour after hour. Yet, in August as the division races heat up, they will take hours away to show a bunch of 10 and 12 year old boys for entire games?

All they need to do is let, for example, the winning pitcher of a Youth Baseball Championship throw out the first pitch at a nationally televised game or something. Give it the 30 seconds it deserves. Not hour after hour. Even if they get to wear different caps for the different teams.
Dennis Eckersley made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame after becoming a tremendous relief pitcher, but he may need some relief from the broadcast booth after last Friday night.

Eck, continuing to fill in as analyst on NESN Red Sox telecasts for the seriously ailing Jerry Remy, was commenting about a tense situation in Friday's Red Sox vs. Mets game. When out came the s-word clear as a bell. He then did an "oops" but realized it right away.

Yet, during that same telecast, Eckersley was referring to pitcher Masterson and said "masturbate" before quickly correcting that. In addition, one of the reporters commenting about this claims that he heard Eck use the s-word another time during that same telecast.

In this instance, it was a broadcaster and not a player, coach, or fan, letting out an obscenity on the air. And Eck knew he was on the air live at the time. TV stations and networks have gotten away with someone not on the broadcast crew putting out an obscenity. This time it was a member of the broadcast team doing it. As of this writing, Dave Roberts is handling the analyst roll for the current Red Sox vs. Minnesota series, with Eckersley scheduled to re-join the team in Detroit. Nothing yet about any change in status from TBS. In fact, Eckersley is scheduled to do analysis this coming Sunday (May 31) with Chip Caray on the TBS telecast of the Yankees game from Cleveland. (He is not scheduled for the Sunday June 7 TBS telecast of Texas at Boston, which will have Ron Darling and David Wells working with Caray.)

There was the incident a couple years ago with Bert Blyleven saying the F-word on a Twins telecast, but he did not think he was live on the air at the time. Yet, there was the recent incident in Des Moines where two radio hosts were fired because of an off-the-air argument containing profanities leaked onto the air.

Will the Hall of Fame reliever be relieved of his duties? And if not, what happens to others using those words knowing they are live on the air?

As for the Des Moines radio incident, Marty Tirrell, who was terminated by KXNO in March over the profanity filled argument not intended for the airwaves, could return to local radio next week (June 1). Tirrell is scheduled to begin an advertiser supported sports talk show from 4 to 6 PM on KBGG 1700. Marty will host the broadcast from a sponsoring auto dealership. It remains to be seen whether or not KXNO will pursue a possible non-compete clause.

Larry Cotlar, also terminated by KXNO following the March 20 incident, is already with KBGG.

On the college football front, CBS-TV is putting its SEC Football schedule together for the first season of its 15 year multi-million dollar contract extension. Highlighting the schedule is a September 19th telecast with national champion Florida taking on Tennessee at 3:30 PM ET.

Others on the docket include Alabama vs. Auburn on Nov. 27 and the SEC Championship game on Dec. 5 at 4 PM ET. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will handle the play-by-play and analysis.

In addition, CBS has announced the Army vs. Navy game for December 12th.

MEMPHIS: Speaking of the University of Tennessee, 680 AM, the ESPN station in Memphis, just signed a 3 year extension to carry UT football and basketball broadcasts through 2012. This includes carrying the coaches shows with Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl in season.

BANGOR: Congrats to George Hale on his upcoming induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday (May 31). The 76 year old Hale has more than 55 years of radio and TV experience, including 54 seasons as the play-by-play voice of University of Maine football. Yet, George still doesn't have an "off season" period. He co-hosts mornings on WVOM Radio with Ric Tyler, as he has for nearly 5 years.

Ft. WAYNE: Bob Chase is slowing down a bit at the age of 83 after 56 years with WOWO. Chase will retire from the morning show (sports) as of next Monday (June 1). But the word is he'll be back in October to do play-by-play of the minor league (hockey) Ft. Wayne Comets. We do mean "back". This coming season would be his 57th season of calling their games.

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