Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Divsion Among Baseball Scores

Baseball fans are being blessed with a season that as of mid-August still has the majority of its Major League teams still within playoff contention, along with every one of the six divisions (as of press time) having a leader no more than six games in front while still having to face the immediate rival at least once more. Often by this time at least one or two of the divisions are virtually locked up.

Yet, many of the radio and TV stations, as well as some of the online scoreboards, seem to overlook this unusual occurence. It seems that many more updates are just "baseball scores" with no rhyme or reason, often mixing in scores from both leagues, not to mention failing to highlight division races.

It always made sense to follow, for example, a Yankees score with the score of the Baltimore, Tampa, Toronto, or Boston score based on which team(s) were closest to the Yankees. The other night I heard an all sports station follow the Yankees score with the Pittsburgh Pirates score. Granted, the Pirates are, surprisingly, in second place and a big story. But they also play in the National League. I'm hearing less of "and in the National League......." and more of "Here are the scores" with both leagues and their various divisions all mashed together.

This season also marks the debut of a second Wild Card team for each league, and a one game "play-in". Here we are in mid-August with every division race still up in the air, and some media members are bringing as much, or more, attention to the two Wild Card races than they are to the division battles. They seem to forget that the Division winners get into a best of seven Division Series game, while one of the Wild Card winners will only play one more game. Which is really more important?

At least when loking at the scores online, most of the scoreboards are based on the starting time for each game, regardless of which league, and maintain a steady order for the various scores throughout the day/night based on that. This does allow fans interested in their team and the division it is in to easily track the games they are most interested in.

However, the growing failure of radio and TV stations and networks, including some actual game broadcasts, makes this a reason to use these stations or networks as a "go to" for the important scores.

As it is, social media is making steady gains in terms of providing the most and best information for fans. Radio and TV score coverage has almost always presented the scoreboards with separation by league and often by game importance. Now many are reducing the quality of their coverage, and without good reason other than laziness or lack of caring.

It can't be due to the increased number of fantasy league players. Many of the scoreboard updates are just that, and do not include information about how specific players are performing.

If the "reporters" or the TV graphics people responsible for presenting the scores to us fans continue to slack off in this regard, it will leave us with fewer reasons to "go to" the station or network for important score coverage. If they are too lazy to present the scores as they should be, how fast will they be to report on transactions?

Meanwhile, a good move by Comcast SportsNet's regional networks to no longer carry The Dan Patrick Show in markets such as Philadelphia, Chicago, New England, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. as of this month. It has enabled the regional CSN Networks to return to expanded "sports update" shows complete with late night results and highlights, game replays from the previous night, and in many cases more timely programming. Although the CSN Networks carried Patrick live, the failure to have a replacement and be a live show anytime Patrick himself was off was getting to be downright embarassing. The holiday mornings would especially hurt these networks, as well as many radio stations, when they would have a re-run of an obviously outdated segment instead of live discussion about the big games and events of any holiday. The Friday after Thanksgiving was perhaps the most glaring example.

However, the CSN Networks are also now without an agreement with Fox Sports to air Big 12 and Conference USA football telecasts which begin next month. Although it is understandable that Fox Sports wants to keep NBC Sports to time-filler telecasts other than the NHL, it would be a shame for football fans to lose out on some quality telecasts on weekends because of it. From a strategic standpoint, Fox Sports should allow the CSN Networks to carry those football telecasts, and blanket them with Fox Sports promos throughout, such as its NFL and MLB post-season telecasts.

NBC Sports is clearly looking to add something of quality other than the NHL. In an obvious effort to prepare MLB for a near future baseball bid, NBC Sports Group has begun "Caught Looking", a series of fresh weekly one hour episodes going in-depth to one important MLB weekend series. These episodes will then be produced on the Monday and Tuesday and air on Thursdays in prime time through the regular season (with the final one on Oct. 4th). The series will then show a World Series wrap up episode on November 8th. At the same time, MLB Network, which always televises a game on Thursday nights (during the time that "Caught Looking" airs on NBC Sports Network), will be exclusively showing one Division Series game for each league in October as it enters into the baseball package.

Fox Sports prepares for its regular season NFL coverage by adding two new game telecast analysts. Former assistant coach Mike Martz joins the staff and will be paired with Ron Pitts on regional coverage, while former fullback Heath Evans will work other regional telecasts with Sam Rosen. In addition to Joe Buck and Kenny Albert as Fox's two play-by-play leaders, Thom Brennaman, Dick Stockton, and Chris Myers will also be calling games for Fox again this season.

NEW YORK: ESPN 98.7 hopes to cut into the popularlity of Mike Francesa on WFAN with its roster of NFL and Giants/Jets analysis during its afternoon Michael Kay Show. Bill Parcells has been signed for a Thursday afternoon (to start) segment. Jets coach Rex Ryan will guest each Monday (moved to Tuesdays when the Jets will play on Monday nights), while other analysts with weekly afternoon segments will include Steve Young and Joe Namath. In fact, on most Mondays, Rex Ryan, Steve Young, AND Joe Namath will each appear to review the weekend games.

If the Giants and Jets get off to decent starts, and with the Yankees likely headed for the MLB post-season (Kay is their TV play-by-play voice), this could prove to be a big chance for ESPN Radio to make some inroads in the market.

BOSTON: As expected, Scott Zolak was officially named as lead analyst on Patriots radio, working with Gil Santos on 98.5 WBZ-FM Sports Hub. Zolak had been the "third man" in the booth prior to the retirement of Gino Cappelletti as lead analyst a few weeks back.

CINCINNATI: Fans have taken notice of the Reds hot streak and continue to watch the Fox Sports telecasts. The month of July, which included a 10 game win streak, is reportedly the highest viewed month ever of Reds baseball for Fox. Overall season ratings are up about 10% compared with last season, and remained solid against the Olympics as well.

DENVER: KKFN-FM 104.3 The Fan has a new multi-year agreement to air the Air Force football broadcasts including pre and post-game shows, along with the weekly (coach) Troy Calhoun show.

TOLEDO: WLQR is ending the AM/FM all sports to only air "The Ticket" on 106.5 FM. WLQR-AM 1470 will now turn to syndicated news/talk programming.

MOBILE: SportsRadio 105.5 has brought in Chip Ramsey as Program Director. Ramsey has programmed sports stations in Nashville and Milwaukee previously.

LAFAYETTE: 103.7 The Game has hired Amy Jones to host a weekly sports talk show, although it will only be for one hour to start. Although Jones has some sportscasting experience, she most recently has served as an executive for public relations firms which have worked with NFL teams (as well as political campaigns), and therefore brings a behind-the-scenes point of view. In a curious move, The Game has placed her show on Tuesday mornings from 8 to 9 AM. This is an interesting move, but it may depend on fans remembering to tune in at 8 AM on Tuesdays to make it a success.

TUSCOLA MI: 92.1 FM brings back "Let's Talk Sports" this coming Saturday (8/18), which focuses only on local high school sports. This will be the fourth year of this show, hosted by Derek Bosley and Christian Selich, who also call Friday night game broadcasts for the station. The show will air at 10 AM on Saturdays through the high school football season.

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