Here we are at the Baseball All-Star break, which means it is time for media coverage reflections on the first half of the season. As always, that includes both positives and not-so-positives.
On the plus side, as I have been saying since day 1, the MLB Network on cable has already exceeded high expectations for coverage of the game. The live "look ins" the contstant updating, and the panel of experts continue to offer superior coverage. I never thought anyone could compete with, let alone exceed at times, ESPN Baseball Tonight, but MLB Network maintains that on a nightly basis.
On the other side of the page, too much of the baseball coverage got way too caught up in needless hype to the point that it was somewhat of a slap in the face to hardcore baseball fans.
A single example was the recent return of Manny Ramirez from his 50 game suspension. All of the "coverage" leading up to the first few at-bats. It was going to be big news either way. Fox-TV cutting in on the July 4th regional telecasts to show the entire country his first at-bat of his SECOND game back. A lot of media decision makers seem to have overlooked the fact that he returned from a serious suspension. Not from a serious injury or a premature retirement where his level of performance would be in question. It was as if he was glorified for having been suspended. Considering that the cause of his being suspended was really another black eye for baseball, one would think that the stations and networks which broadcast and televise the games (as a big chunk of their overall revenue) would not want to call significant attention to the performance enhancing drugs problem.
If it were up to me, there would have been no extra hype or coverage until Manny hit a homerun in his 2nd game back. And I would have gone with the "and think of how many more homeruns he might have hit by now....." approach.
My other big concern is actually caused by Baseball, which seems to be way way too concerned about observing holidays and anniversaries. This recent element is making many baseball games too much of a challenge to watch.
While I understand honoring Jackie Robinson each year, showing every player and coach on the field wearing the same uniform number made the games that day a nightmare for the TV viewing fans. Honoring Mothers Day is fine, but frankly pink bats and uniform patches are not part of Baseball. Same with Fathers Day in that we didn't need blue armbands to remind us. Then all of the teams wearing red caps throughout the July 4th weekend? Where, for example, was the outrage of the Chicago Cubs having to wear caps which are St. Louis Cardinals color?
Sorry, but I already knew it was July 4th weekend and its importance. I shouldn't have had to endure teams that do not wear any red have to change their uniform for a weekend to remind me.
The old saying "You can't tell the players without a scorecard" is ringing true again, and unfortunately will continue as long as the fans and the TV stations and network put up with it. But at this rate, and with different uniforms for every weekend or holiday, we can't tell the players WITH a scorecard from watching on TV.
Then again, the upcoming NFL season will find the Tennessee Titans wearing Houston Oilers uniforms while the Houston Texans won't on certain game days.
The college football season is shaping up for couch potatoes across the country. (The ESPN Thursday Night schedule has just been released, and appears on the http://MajorLeaguePrograms.blogspot.com version of this blog.)
ABC/ESPN has also announced some broadcast booth changes, including a "higher" than originally thought role for Matt Millen. Millen and play-by-play voice Sean McDonough become the lead broadcast team ahead of Brad Nessler and Bob Griese (as well as a reduced role for Paul Maguire). Nessler will now call the ESPN Saturday night game with Todd Blackledge on color, while Griese will work an early ESPN Saturday game with Dave Pasch on the call. The ABC prime-time Saturday night telecast team remains in tact with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. Doug Flutie was not brought back at all by ABC or ESPN.
Chris Fowler, Palmer, James and Andrews will call the ESPN Thursday telecasts. Other pairings for regional telecasts include Mark Jones and Bob Davie, Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham, Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore, Clay Matvick and David Diaz-Infante, and Charlie Neal and Jay Walker.
On the college hoops side, Compass Media Networks continues its aggressive pursuit of national broadcasts of regular and post-season games. Their regular season slate reportedly already includes such as UCLA at Stanford, Maryland at Indiana, Kansas at Missouri, Texas at Oklahoma, and Duke at Wisconsin. Compass will provide the first 2 rounds of the Big Ten tournament games, expanding to include all rounds for the 2010-11 season. Those rights were pried away from Westwood One. Compass also plans on competing with Westwood One for out of market NFL radio broadcasts, as we detailed a few weeks ago.
Dan Patrick conintues to expand his media duties, adding a 9 AM to Noon ET show on DirecTV starting for the upcoming football season.
TBS has announced its next two Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts, both with Chip Caray joined by Ron Darling. On July 19th it will be Detroit at the Yankees, while July 26th features St. Louis at Philadelphia. However, TBS continues to not have the authority to change game times, which definitely hurts viewer continuity. The July 19 telecast starts at 2:00 ET, while the game on the 26th starts at 1:30 PM ET. Compare this to Fox-TV and its Saturday telecasts (with the exception of a couple of NASCAR telecast days) starting at 4:00 ET practically every week.
LOS ANGELES: KSPN 710 has brought back the team of Steve Mason and John Ireland for 3 to 7 PM as of this week. The duo actually returns to the spot they occupied into late 2007 when Mason was moved to middays. This move is in part due to the moving of Lakers radio to KSPN, for which Mason will also host the Lakers pre-game show. So is the new midday pairing from 11 AM to 3 PM, which puts former Laker Mychal Thompson along side of Andrew Siciliano, which starts next week (7/20). Siciliano is expected to continue with Fox Sports Net's "Final Score" and the DirecTV "Red Zone" show during the NFL season.
It will be interesting over the coming months to see how the Mason and Ireland show performs against Petros Papadakis and Matt "Money" Smith which remains on KLAC 570.
MIAMI: The TV sportscaster fraternity continues to lose members. WPLG-TV Channel 10 is now going with one sportscaster, asking the question, Will Manso? Looks as though he "will", as Manso will be the only on-air sportscaster for the station. The station that brought viewers Jimmy Cefalo, Jim Mandich, and Frank Forte over the years will now go with a news anchor for sportscasts on the nights that Manso is off or on vacation.
I continue to point out how local TV stations cutting back on sports will drive sports fans to regional networks and ESPN for sports highlights shows which go head-to-head with local news, and that some TV stations will lose male viewers in the long run over this.
This Channel 10 development comes on the heels of Channel 6 ending their Sunday night "Sports Final" show.
St. LOUIS: A wonderful addition to Blues NHL telecasts for the coming season with the announcement that Darren Pang joins the telecast team working with John Kelly starting this coming season. In keeping this a positive development, Bernie Federko remains with the broadcast team, being moved to ice level (the NHL equivalent of sideline reporter) and will have a heavier involvement in the Fox Sports Midwest pre and post-game coverage. Federko has been broadcasting for the Blues for 12 seasons (both radio and TV). Pang is expected to continue with NBC-TV in a limited role, such as the New Year's Day game. If and when Pang has a Blues conflict, Federko will work in the booth with Kelly. The radio team remains in place for next season with Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase.
HOUSTON / DALLAS: You might say there have been some executive decisions regarding sports talk stations in Texas' two largest markets. KILT 610 Houston has a new Program Director, as Gavin Spittle after helping Dallas' KRLD-FM convert to sports and become the flagship station for the Cowboys broadcasts. Tom Bigby takes over in Dallas. His resume includes having programmed sports radio power WIP Philadelphia and V.P. for Strategic Programming for CBS Radio.
PITTSBURGH: It is getting to the point where TV sportscasters will never want to vacation. Stan Savran returned from a vacation to learn that Monday night (July 13) was his final show as host of "SportsBeat" on Fox Sports Pittsburgh after 18 years with the regional network. Savran continues as a host on WEAE Radio, while Fox Sports has canceled "SportsBeat". The possibility remains that Stan could do other work for Fox Sports.
LOUISVILLE: So much for the intense rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky - at least in the TV booth. WHAS-TV has named its new play-by-play voice for Louisville football and basketball telecasts starting this season. While Drew Deener is known locally for his sports show on WRKD 790 and an earlier stint on WHAS Radio, he has served as a sideline reporter for 5 seasons on U. of Kentucky telecasts and handled basketball play-by-play for 3 seasons early in the zeroes. His University of Louisville football debut will be on Sept. 5th against Indiana State in prime time.
DES MOINES: While it remains to be seen how much the delay could hurt the audience response, sports talker Marty Tirrell has received legal clearance to begin his new show on KBGG 1700 AM within the next few weeks. This comes after KXNO Radio threatened to enforce a non-compete clause after Tirrell was dismissed over that profanity filled argument which mistakenly went over the air early this year.
COLUMBUS: The NHL Blue Jackets have a new member of their broadcast team on WBNS 1460 The Fan and WWCD 101 FM starting with the coming season. Bob McElligott will also handle pre and post-game programming. He comes to Columbus from Syracuse after calling more than 800 Syracuse Crunch AHL games along with having called Chiefs AAA Baseball games.
SCHENECTADY: Back to radio for another "take a day off" story. The past 2 Fridays (July 3 and 10) WOFX 980 host Rodger Wyland was off from the "Big Board Sports" show. As it goes these days, so was the entire show. The station instead ran a live feed of The Dan Patrick Show. Is reminding the local audience that Patrick's show does not normally air live a way to keep the audience in touch? And before you comment that this is only Schenectady, it seems that this is a Clearance Channel station.
NEW YORK: For those into Army football, WABC continues as the flagship station again this season. A change has been made for local affiliates in the Middletown and Poughkeepsie areas. WALL 1340 Middletown and WEOK 1390 in Poughkeepsie will now air the football games, along with Army basketball and hockey games starting this season. WKDT 89.3, the West Point cadet station, will also carry these broadcasts. John Minko continues with play-by-play and Dean Darling as analyst.
ESPN College Football Primetime Schedule
Sep 3 - 7 p.m. South Carolina at N.C. State ESPN
Sep 3 10:15 p.m. Oregon at Boise State ESPN
Sep 10 7:30 p.m. Clemson at Georgia Tech ESPN
Sep 17 7:30 p.m. Georgia Tech at Miami ESPN
Sep 24 7:30 p.m. Mississippi at South Carolina ESPN
Oct 1 7:30 p.m. Colorado at West Virginia ESPN
Oct 8 9 p.m. Nebraska at Missouri ESPN
Oct 15 7:30 p.m. Cincinnati at South Florida ESPN
Oct 22 8 p.m. Florida State at North Carolina ESPN
Oct 29 7:30 p.m. North Carolina at Virginia Tech ESPN
Nov 5 7:30 p.m. Virginia Tech at East Carolina ESPN
Nov 12 7:30 p.m. South Florida at Rutgers ESPN
Nov 19 7:30 p.m. Colorado at Oklahoma State ESPN
Nov 26 8 p.m. Texas at Texas A&M ESPN
Dec 3 9 p.m. Oregon State at Oregon ESPN