Notable Comment

I sometimes pick up comments from threads that are a couple of days old and give them their own post so more people can see them. I don’t have a name for this little featurette, however. “Comment of the Day” is kind of bland and often not accurate given that the comment may have happened yesterday or the day before. If anyone has any good ideas, fire away.

Anyway, here’s a notable comment from reader Bob Rittner re: the first day or two of the MLB Network (note: I don’t get it where I live, so I’m taking his assessment at face value). After commenting on Costas, Bob writes:

Unfortunately, the rest of what I have seen on the new network has been less satisfactory appealing again to the lowest common denominator rather than using its platform to raise the level of discussion. The “in the moments” pieces are typical fluff, more hagiography than history and with no real effort at analysis.

And the “hot stove” segment is aping similar football shows with lots of sophomoric humor and cliched analyses. I think Leiter is an excellent color man and Larkin seems articulate, but Reynolds is just another ESPN personality and the conversation seems to break down into sound bites and people yelling over each other.

I don’t so much object to the lack of creativity in the programming or the typically lightweight features, but given that it is a 24/7 baseball network, couldn’t there be some room for more serious and more progressive analysts to stimulate thinking in new ways? Even if they put them on at 3:00 am, just to appease those who are looking for something more than blazers and blonds.

Clearly the network if entitled to a lot more time before judgment can be passed. Still, the point about “blazers and blonds” is worth thinking about. Obviously the MLB Network wants to run programming that the masses will like. I do hope, however, that they find a little room for something a bit different and maybe more challenging.

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  1. Jon said...

    I didn’t watch any of it – this is football season, not baseball – but a friend who did says the NFL Network went through similar growing pains, so there is hope in the bright spots.

  2. Chadillac said...

    Yeah, the Hot Stove show is similar in style and format to Baseball Tonight, but on the upside, it is 100% Chris Berman free.

    The MLB network is also airing an episode of Ken Burns’ Baseball every Tuesday night (in HD on Directv). The way I see it, they have a few months to work out the kinks until baseball season finally starts up again. They’ll be the good and the bad along the way.

  3. Andrew said...

    I’m cautiously optimistic based on what I’ve seen so far, with pause given for two concerns:

    1) Check your program guide or their internet program guide, and then turn the channel on – two totally different worlds that they’ll have to get on the same page if they want to attract an audience.  I tuned in at 12:30 today to see game 7 of this year’s ALCS and got the 1956 perfect game…again.  And yeah, probably just a first-week “hey, we’re new!” error, but with such a large roll-out (they brag that they’re reaching 50 million homes on day 1 whenever given the opportunity), you’d think they’d expect a few critical eyes would be watching and expecting the programming they say they’ll provide.

    2) The station is owned in majority by MLB.  When bad news breaks, what shade of bad will we get in terms of coverage and commentary?  On their Hot Stove Live program they discussed the Manny Ramirez free-agency situation, but carefully avoided mentioning Manny’s age in relation to the hesitancy of teams to go long-term with him, or the alleged fact that “he quit on the team” regarding his final days in Boston. 

    For baseball news or commentary I rarely go to – they don’t usually break any news, and I’ve always felt that the editorials are watered-down because big brother is watching.  Conflict of interest has been brought up time and again regarding broadcasting rights and creative control in other arenas, perhaps the most famous example being the ESPN/NFL/Playmakers fiasco.  This network is the direct mouthpiece of the league – unfortunately, I feel that their cup o’ news and commentary will probably always come with too much sugar for my taste.

  4. Pete Toms said...

    We don’t get it – yet – in Canada, so I haven’t seen it yet either.  A lot of the BTF crowd don’t seem to like it ( no surprises ).  I did read one comment @ BTF along the lines of ” of course we don’t like it, it’s not aimed at us “.  I suspect that commenter is correct.  We aren’t the casually interested in these internet forums.

    I would watch the nightly “look in” show ( don’t recall the title of it ) during the season but again…we’ll see if my cable provider ( who owns the Jays ) picks it up.

    From reading Maury, I think an early problem is that more carriers than MLB anticipated are NOT broadcasting it in HD.  I think HD is hugely important for any sports broadcast.  ( we sports fans are big into HD ).

  5. Harry Pavlidis said...

    I’ve watched a bit.  The debut of Hot Stove was too high-paced.  They wanted to introduce everyone and hype every last bit they can do. 

    I had never seen Hazel Mae before (she should be at least replacement level anchor), but Trenni Kantspellhername I’ve seen doing the sideline/fluff stuff on Brewers games, and she’s actually alright.  No issues with the “blonde”. 

    It is rough now with the in studio guys.  Given time, I think they’ll be alright.  I just wish there was another pitcher or a catcher on staff – but I guess we’ll get good middle infield analysis.

  6. TLA said...

    For better or worse, my cable provider has the network. 

    I don’t mind the fluffy nature of the retrospectives that they have aired to date.  No matter how you dress it up, I think this specific type of programming (retrospective) is always fluffy.  On the other hand, I would like to see a show that “rolls up the sleeves” so-to-speak and provides in-depth analysis. 

    I have watched each episode of MLB Hot Stove and the show has left me less than impressed for a couple of reasons unrelated to the content of the show which I presume will get better.

    First, they switch around to the various studios or parts to the studio too frequently.  This kills the flow of the show.  If the network is committed to having the multi-studio or multi-part studio format, it should sit down and watch how ESPN handles the transitions from analyst desk-to-news desk-to-field studio on NFL Countdown.  Take notes fellas.

    Second, they need to scrap Victor Rojas as the anchor/moderator and bring someone in with a more significant presence or a stronger personality and resume.  In the alternative, they need to put a muzzle on Harold Reynolds, give him his own segment or get rid of him.  Victor Rojas’ personality, presence or resume is not strong enough to deal with the ego of HR and its not the role of the other panel members to pull in the reins on HR.  This is such a problem that I actually thought HR was the anchor/moderator at first.  I liked HR on Baseball Tonight but, after a few shows of MLB Hot Stove, I can’t stand him on the network.  He cuts the other members off, speaks over them and engages in a host of conduct that is annoying to say the least. 

    Larkin and Leiter are well-spoken and should be key members of the broadcast.  Mae and Kusnierek (the women) will do just fine.

  7. The Common Man said...

    I tend to agree with Bob.  The Larsen/Berra stuff was interesting, and I have a review up on my site ( I felt like the Hot Stove show was too many bells and whistles for no more substance than I could get reading every day.  The only difference is that I have to endure Harold Reynolds on MLB.  The one exception was a fairly interesting discussion on stealing home (framed around Jackie’s steal in 1955).

    Did anybody else see that?  And, more importantly, should Yogi have been called for Catcher’s Interference, as he clearly stepped out over the plate before the pitch reached it?

  8. Chuck Gentile said...

    While i applaud the effort, they will need to go through the growing pains every new venture must to find their level. Do they plan to air real-time games, or will that require the season ticket package from the cable provider again??

  9. Alan said...

    I’d love to see the network do what Bob suggests, but assuming we’re not about to see “The Baseball Prospectus Show” anytime soon I’d settle for some face time for the more SABR-friendly columnists out there. And despite the evidence of “Around the Horn,” there are quite a few, Posnanski being just the most obvious example. How about Bernie Miklasz at the Post-Dispatch, or Alan Schwarz at the Times?

  10. Luke said...

    I actually agree almost 100% with what TLA said (less than impressed with Hot Stove, that I liked HR on ESPN but can’t seem to stand him in this forum, I enjoy Larkin and Leiter, and who is this Victor Rojas guy and why is he in charge?).  I also agree with Jon that it’s very early and they hopefully will have some growing pains worked out.

    It was a double-edged sword starting when they did. First, it’s still football season, and the off-season movement right now is slow…I could see more of a reason to have started in November than now, honestly. They would’ve had the “flurry” of free agent signings to report, the winter meetings that they could have reported on, etc. 

    Instead, they start on some arbitrary day when nothing is happening in the baseball world.  I think the hope was other than the initial broadcast, that people would fade out because it was still football season and they could work these kinks out before pre-season baseball.  Ok, maybe it’s just me (well, US) that hope that.

    I hope they get things settled in time.  That includes not barraging us with constant studio shifts, moving Reynolds somewhere else (seriously, we do need a catcher on the staff-did you see them talking about the Jackie Robinson steal of home and one of the infielders had to play catcher?) and offering more in-depth and intellectual pieces.  I didn’t even catch it when they were discussing Manny that they didn’t mention his own personal “strike”, his age and salary demands or any of that…I kinda tuned out because they all seemed to agree that Manny would be a welcome addition to any team…really?  All this talk about chemistry in the past dozen or so years and they’d all throw that away, along with $25 Million a year for the headache?

    And, they’re going to have to be able to be critical of players and teams alike to make it worthwhile watching…I’ll be honest, I’ll watch every night during the season unless it just doesn’t get better, and I won’t give up real easy (I’m already watching Hot Stove daily just to get into it), but if ESPN scoops them constantly, just as scoops (not to even mention the Blogosphere), then what are they going to report that’s going to be worthwhile?

    Really, do they think that there are die-hard baseball neophytes that are watching this 24/7 baseball programming?  No, it’s those of us who have been watching the sport for 20+ years…you have to give us new ways to look at things, otherwise you’re just reporting what we already know because this isn’t the 1990’s when all we had was SportsCenter, Baseball Weekly, the Sporting News and Baseball Digest.  There’s a wealth of baseball information out there, we don’t need simple recaps and fluff pieces.

  11. Bob Rittner said...

    Thank you for linking to a comment I made. I agree it is too early to make judgments, and to be fair I have only seen a few segments so far. I also doubt the network will be willing to give time to people who might be critical of MLB itself.

    Nonetheless, given that it 24/7, it would be nice if they could recognize the progressive analyst community as a niche audience at least. I have hopes for the historical programs, even if only to be able to see the actual games and players. But who needs more hyperbolic commentary about Ryan or any other featured player! We get it; every player featured on a program is the greatest ever, is unmatched, has lots of teammates and opponents who will swear he was the core of his team’s winning ways and inspired terror in all who faced him.

    It’s like watching a segment of A & E’s “Biography” in which we know that some poor celebrity will, at the height of his/her success, meet misfortune in personal relations because of the pressures of fame.

  12. Mike McClary said...

    I’m not impressed so far but am willing to give it some time. Still, MLB totally blew it by choosing to launch on Jan. 1 instead of Dec. 1, to coincide with the Winter Meetings.

  13. Pete Toms said...

    Nothing happened at the winter meetings ( I thought BIRCO was the big story – but that’s just me )….it would have been Yankee talk 24/7, just like internet baseball.

  14. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    I enjoyed the hype of having the network on almost all day on Thursday, even though I saw the, “Game Five Perfect Game” several times. On that note, I wonder if there really weren’t any tobacco ads, or if they weren’t allowed to show them? I’m having a hard time accepting Gillette was the ONLY sponsor of the World Series TV broadcast.
    As far as Victor Rojas, I’ll share he’s been on the Texas Rangers broadcast team for a few years, and easily the most opinionated baseball broadcaster I’ve ever heard. He’s also Cookie Rojas’s kid, so that may give him some industry cred, but he played himself for years. I’ve shared in other comments that I was surprised he kept his job with The Rangers, because he would scorch them mercilessly – on a regular basis.  In the whopping four days I’ve seen the network, and the one episode of ‘Hot Stove’ I’ve seen, he strikes me as a bit nervous, but depending on the direction he’s getting from his Producers, I think he’ll eventually open up.  If he’s half as critical and articulate in his views of the upcoming season as I’ve heard him on the radio for the last few years, he’ll do fine.  I’m not planning to defend him all season, but so far, I’m giving Victor and the entire staff some breathing room.

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