For couch potatoes who are sports fans, it is hours away from the greatest time of the year, as in April and May. This season, in addition to the flood of NBA and NHL playoff game telecasts, baseball joins the mix more than ever.
For the first time ever, the baseball season's first month just might be its most nationally televised month EVER, and that works for me. The only downer about the extended national schedule is that in most instances there are still blackout regions.
MLB needs to realize that fans pay for cable or satellite and are entitled to have a complete choice of programming which is offered.
At any rate, ESPN follows its season opening Sunday Night Baseball telecast of Yankees vs. Red Sox with 5 games on Monday April 5th:
ESPN - opening day (ET):
St. Louis at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. on ESPN HD and ESPN3.com – Brent Musburger and Rick Sutcliffe;
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox, 2 p.m. on ESPN2 – Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Chris Singleton
Chicago Cubs at Atlanta, 4 p.m. on ESPN – Sean McDonough and Orel Hershiser;
San Francisco at Houston, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 – Jon Miller and Joe Morgan
Minnesota at Los Angeles Angels, 10 p.m. on ESPN2 – Steve Levy and Buck Showalter.
ESPN will also bring in new analyst Nomar Garciaparra on some of its Wednesday Night Baseball telecasts to work along with Rick Sutcliffe and play-by-play voice Dave O'Brien.
But this year, it doesn't stop there. The incredible MLB Network has announced it will showcase all 30 teams during the first 30 days of the regular season. It's hard to believe such an innovative network continues to come up with "wow" great ideas.
With all times Eastern, here is when they will feature each team at least once:
April 6, 7:00 p.m., Yankees @ Red Sox
April 6, 10:00 p.m., Twins @ Angels
April 7, 1:00 p.m., Rockies @ Brewers
April 8, 12:30 p.m., Dodgers @ Pirates
April 8, 3:30 p.m., Mariners @ Athletics
April 8, 7:00 p.m., Cubs @ Braves
April 9, 4:30 p.m., Braves at Giants
April 10, 9:00 p.m., Athletics @ Angels
April 12, 7:00 p.m., Reds @ Marlins
April 13, 1:00 p.m., Angels @ Yankees
April 13, 4:00 p.m., Diamondbacks @ Dodgers
April 14, 1:00 p.m., Red Sox @ Twins
April 15, 3:00 p.m., Nationals @ Phillies
April 15, 7:00 p.m., Angels @ Yankees
April 16, 2:15 p.m., Astros @ Cubs
April 17, 9:00 p.m., Tigers @ Mariners
April 19, 11:00 a.m., Rays @ Red Sox
April 20, 7:00 p.m., Phillies @ Braves
April 21, 12:30 p.m., Royals @ Blue Jays
April 22, 1:00 p.m., Indians @ Twins
April 22, 7:00 p.m., Dodgers @ Reds
April 23, 8:00 p.m., Tigers @ Rangers
April 24, 9:00 p.m., Cardinals @ Giants
April 27, 7:00 p.m., Dodgers @ Mets
April 28, 12:00 p.m., Padres @ Marlins
April 28, 3:30 p.m., Phillies @ Giants
April 29, 2:00 p.m., White Sox @ Rangers
April 29, 7:00 p.m., Yankees @ Orioles
April 30, 2:15 p.m., Diamondbacks @ Cubs
April 30, 7:00 p.m., Twins @ Indians
Most will be picking up one of the local telecasts, but the Network will begin its Thursday Night Baseball series of originating telecasts.
These telecasts will be in addition to ESPN telecasts on Sunday and Wednesday nights, along with most Mondays, the TBS Sunday afternoon telecasts, and Fox regional games on Saturday afternoons.
With the increase in ratings from the most recent NFL season and current NBA season, my hunch is that baseball TV ratings will benefit from this early season influx of games. In addition to fans enjoying HD telecasts and the like, this also gives fans early season looks at players on fantasy teams, and catches a lot of the north and east fans still at home more often before the weather improves.
Versus has added a couple of NHL regular season telecasts as the playoff races heat up over the last couple of weeks (ET):
March 31 - Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm
April 1 - Atlanta at Washington, 7:00 pm
April 5 - Boston at Washington, 7:00 pm
April 6 - Washington at Pittsburgh, 7:30 pm
April 6 - Colorado at Vancouver, 10:00 pm
I can't believe others haven't pointed out how absurd it is for CBS to include NCAA softball scores on the bottom of the screen during its basketball tournament telecasts. They can't tell me that anybody other than the friends and families of the players are awaiting those scores. Clearly this is one of the ways that CBS (like ESPN in some instances) are forced to suck up to the NCAA in order to have the rights to the events that people want to see. Yet, I don't recall seeing any NCAA softball score updates, results, or highlights during any other forum offered by CBS during the entire softball season. So why are games on basketball tournament games so important?
This falls in the same category as local TV sportscasts which on certain nights will show highlights of an out-of-town game because they have nothing else local to feature as if they cover national sports. Then, the very next night, they go back to not even giving ANY out of town scores, let alone showing highlights. Aren't sports directors supposed to oversee consistent coverage?
CHICAGO: Speaking of a lack of continuity, WGN Radio is doing just that with its 7 to 9 PM weeknight time. After more than 25 years, the station is dropping its "Sports Central" call-in and interview show, in favor of another general talk show.
What makes this decision odd is that it begins the week of April 12th, just as Cubs baseball has returned, pre-empting regular programming on many weeknights, as will Blackhawks hockey throughout their upcoming playoff run. During the winter, the station airs Northwestern basketball in addition to the Blackhawks. So much for listeners in the habit of tuning to WGN for sports programming during that time. Now, on the few nights when there are no game broadcasts, sports fans will be given the opportunity to sample either of the city's 2 sports stations. Yikes. Host David Kaplan will shift over to more Cubs related programming and reporting at other times, along with afternoon drive updates.
DALLAS: A powerful AM signal still makes a difference in certain situations. TCU football moves to 820 WBAP and its strong regional signal for the upcoming season, along with its KPMZ-FM simulcast. These broadcasts were on KESN, the ESPN affiliate.
Over at The Fan 105.3, Gavin Dawson moves into the 2 to 6 PM spot along with Gregg Henson as of this week.
SAN JOSE: The NHL Sharks have extended their radio agreement with 98.5 KUFX, giving K-Fox a multi-year extension which takes effect in the fall for next season. Dan Rusanowsky will then begin his 19th season of play-by-play. The station will add a Tuesday morning Sharks feature with players visiting the Greg Kihn Morning Show. First, there is this season, as the Sharks are currently in a battle for the most points and home advantage through the NHL Western Conference playoffs.
PITTSBURGH: FSN Pittsburgh and the Pirates have announced a contract extension resulting in 150 or more Pirates games to be televised each season. The Network also plans to increase its year-round Pirates programming. Now the trick is for the Pirates to become worth watching that often. Can't help but wonder about the demand for rights to the pro team with the longest active streak of non-winning seasons.
SAD NEWS: The sports media world lost 2 more members over the past few days.
Cleveland sports fans mourn last Thursday's (Mar. 25) passing of Geoff Sindelar of WKNR-AM throughout most of the 90's, and earlier of "3 W E" WWWE Cleveland. He was only 62.
Former KDWN Las Vegas host Lee Pete passed away in West Toledo OH that same day at the age of 85. Vegas and Southern California sports fans might recall his sports betting radio show which broadcast years ago from the Stardust and sometimes had guests from the entertainment industry. NFL legend Jim Brown was his co-host for a while on that show. Pete called University of Toledo football games back in Ohio many years ago.
MONTGOMERY AL: WTXK "The Ticket" begins on both 1210 AM and 107.5 FM with strong signals which do not entirely overlap. Owned by 35+ year market veteran Al Stroh, the stations give his outlets a stronger signal than WMSP 740. Stroh is reportedly pursuing local play-by-play, along with adding NFL and other national broadcasts to the mix.
ABILENE TX: KZQQ 1560 becomes another small market station to give up on ESPN, citing contract negotiations, and the market loses its sports station. Although Abilene High School sports and McMurry University sports will continue to air on the station, it has gone to a classic rock format. It remains to be seen how classic rock at 1560 on the AM dial will do instead of sports.