Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No Victor For This No-Hitter

I'm not sure if it was big moon or what it was, but it's a week of bizarre stories, and the strange decisions that go along with them, dominating the sports media news.

Last Wednesday (5/2), while the Angels' Jared Weaver was pitching a no-hitter, viewers tuning into Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza on the Angels' telecast had no idea of what was taking place unless they saw the graphics at the end of a half inning. There were no audio difficulties. Viewers were not told because (and get this) of the superstition about "not talking" about a no-hitter in progress. Funny, but I thought the announcers were on the scene to "report" the game.

The very least they could have done was to do as I have heard some announcers do, which is to make constant references to the totals and/or indirect references that clue in even the casual fan. A simple "Mauer, like his teammates, is still looking for his first hit of the night", or "and no hits again in the 7th, same as the first 6 innings", would have done the job. That Rojas and Gubicza could have cost themselves some viewers over their dumb superstition means nothing to me as a baseball fan. It's the fact that many baseball fans would stick around and probably notify friends and family members who are fans to tune in to hopefully witness history but weren't given that chance that stinks.

Although I have thought over the years that Rojas does an excellent job, and was disappointed that he left MLB Network to take on the Angels' TV position, he's going to have to do something to make up for lost ground. Then again, the Angels' broadcast teams have a bit of a history on being weak when it comes to no-hitters.

I flash back to September 19, 1986 when Joe Cowley of the White Sox no-hit the Angels in Anaheim. Even though they were the home team radio call and the game was not televised locally, then Angels voices Al Conin and Ken Brett did not get Cowley on their post-game show. That was understandable to some degree, since the White Sox broadcast wanted "their" pitcher on the air right after.

So, I tuned in specifically for the Angels' pre-game show the next day prior to the interview segment. And what do the fans hear? Nothing but Al Conin "explaining" how Cowley was still being mobbed by the media about the no-hitter and how they were not able to get him for their pre-game show. They only had HOURS before the game and were, for pete's sake, a Los Angeles radio station at the stadium the no-hitter took place. An unexcusable and weak broadcasting moment back then, too.

For those who think that social media played a role in the Weaver no-hitter, look again. Rojas tweeted things such as the number of strikeouts Weaver had and to "tune in", and still did not indicate a no-hitter in progress. What a way to let down some of the fans who had been following him.

Then we forward ahead to Sunday (5/6) when a segment of Orioles fans were denied the opportunity to see the live conclusion of their epic 17 inning game vs. Boston that made baseball history. (The first time a designated hitter was also the winning pitcher.) WJZ-TV management made a programming decision to dump the telecast during the 15th inning in order to show "60 Minutes" at its scheduled time.

WJZ-TV has the excuse that the game was being shown on MASN at the same time, and did advise viewers where to tune for the conclusion of the game. However, many viewing on WJZ do so because they do not have cable or satellite access to the games on MASN. What makes this more infuriating is that "60 Minutes" is NOT a live event. The show would have had exactly 100% of the same content an hour later.

Ironically, this blunder comes as the Orioles are finally playing decent ball and starting to attract some better ratings. Now chances are that some of the casual fans will be less trusting of the games on WJZ. Station officials reportedly cited the "60 Minutes" segment with Olympian Michael Phelps, who is from the Baltimore area, as the reason for making the (note here) pre-recorded segment such a priority. The station could just as easily have given the viewers the thrilling 17 inning game until its conclusion AND had been promoting the Phelps segment coming up, and kept everybody happy. Or did they forget that the Orioles are "from the area" too?

Earlier this week, SNY, the Comcast SportsNet for the New York City region, announced that it has added the University of Connecticut women's basketball games to its roster of games, which already includes UConn football and selected men's basketball games. Even though UConn has one of the most successful women's hoops programs anywhere, this announcement normally would not attract much attention.

What is worthy of note is learning that the UConn women's games had previously been shown on Connecticut Public Television. Just as I started to think that UConn fans who choose not to pay for SNY are now screwed out of those telecasts and that cable subscribers paying for SNY are now financially supporting UConn whether they intend to, want to, or not, this story got even more interesting.

It seems that Connecticut Public Television had been, according to published reports, paying UConn $900,000 per year for the telecast rights. Say what? This means that the people of Connecticut have endured "pledge night" interrupting the few quality shows Public TV has all year and been shown pitches to donate and contribute money - only to have 90% of one million dollars of those funds paid to a single university? At least that has now been stopped due to the SNY contract. Or is it worse that SNY is paying over a million dollars to show "at least" 17 women's games per year?

NBC Sports is touting their Kentucky Derby ratings from last Saturday (5/5), putting these ratings among its three highest since 1989. The initial showing of a 6% increase over last year is impressive.

While I'm not knocking the audience NBC got, it appears and a big percentage of their viewers came from "non-baseball" markets, considering that Fox had its MLB telecast up against NBC's Debry telecast. A review of the top 22 metered markets for the hour in which the Kentucky Derby was on against Fox's MLB telecasts reveals that only seven of those markets were "major league" markets. And one of those was Cincinnati, which is barely 100 miles from Louisville, where the Derby takes place (on a day when the Reds were not playing on Fox during that time). Cinci was the only one of the "top 8" metered markets which even has a MLB team locally.

Earlier this week, NBC Sports Network announced a 2-yeaer contract to televise Ivy League football and basketball. NBCSN will show "6 to 10" football and a like number of basketball games per season. With all due respect to Harvard, Yale, and the other Ivy League schools, this contract does not shape up as a sure thing ratings bonanza. It's more like "filler" material that at the very least counts a live sports instead of infomercials for workout kits.

On the bright side, NBC Sports continues to generate huge ratings for its thorough and innovative NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage, and is being justifiably rewarded for finally having every post-season game shown nationally.

Yahoo Sports Radio has added a new show to begin next week on Thursday May 17th from 8 to 10 PM ET. Columnists Pat Forde (college sports reporter) and Dan Wetzel will co-host the show. Hopefully this show will become a college football weekend preview show over the next few weeks, as it seems odd at a once-per-week show would only air on Thursday nights on a national network for any other reason.

Now that the moon seems to be returning to regulation size, the sports media news is returning closer to normal.

MLB Network begins another season showing select minor league contests live, starting this Thursday (5/10) with the Lehigh Valley at Indianapolis AAA game airing at 11:00 AM ET. These will be the minor league feeds from one of the teams, with the positive being that MLB Network will show the games without blackouts in the local markets.

• May 10, 11:05 AM ET, Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Indianapolis Indians

• May 14, 12:05 PM ET, Rochester Red Wings at Syracuse Chiefs

• May 22, 11:05 AM ET, Gwinnett Braves at Rochester Red Wings

• May 31, 10:35 AM ET, Columbus Clippers at Buffalo Bisons

• June 12, 12:05 PM ET, Toledo Mud Hens at Durham Bulls

• June 25, 12:05 PM ET, Buffalo Bisons at Durham Bulls

Former outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. has joined ESPN to report on baseball in a dual capacity. Cruz will appear on Baseball Tonight, beginning on May 16th, and also do his analysis in Spanish for ESPN Deportes.

Here's hoping the moon remains at regulation size, at least for the sports media.

1 comment:

Morgan Wick said...

Dear Orioles fans,

Stop your whining.


NHL fans who have had to put up with NHL overtime games being cut short for Kentucky Derby and Preakness prerace coverage. Not a race, not a race, we're talking about prerace.

PS: In the age of DVR, even a prerecorded show is more "live" than you might think.