How often are you glued to a television watching men chat in a hotel?
If you’re like me, that’s what you did during the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings, held Dec. 7-11 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. But don’t feel too bad for spending hours of tube time on what many baseball outsiders may see as the TV equivalent of watching paint dry.
Since launching into our living rooms in 2008, the MLB Network has been a game changer in terms of how we get our baseball fix. It’s baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a concept I couldn’t imagine while growing up in the 80s and reading box scores and game recaps in the morning newspaper.
The network offers its viewers a plethora of options from games and highlights to loads of chatter from a talented, knowledgeable and entertaining – I could listen to Billy Ripken talk all day about baseball – group of studio hosts and reporters.
MLB Network has developed a successful formula for attracting viewers and giving them a reason to put down the remote. Its live coverage of the Winter Meetings serves as a prime example.
According to Forbes’ Maury Brown, MLB Network’s primetime coverage set a new ratings high for the network by attracting 179,000 viewers, an increase of 48 percent over the previous record.
“The record speaks much to how deals that go down during the meetings, when there is so much interest, and yet often times, when the meetings yield little in terms of such critical contracts that create a domino effect, can affect television ratings,” wrote Brown on Forbes.com.
Much of the interests, as Brown notes, was the Jon Lester watch. For which team would the lefty sign and when. Would it be the Cubs? Or, the World Series Champion Giants? How about a return to Boston? There was even talk the Yankees were lurking, waiting to swoop in at the right moment.
That’s a lot of drama, even for night-time TV.
I’m not a fan of any of the teams that were reported to be targeting Lester at the time, but being a baseball fan, I wanted to know the minute he committed to a team, a city. I knew MLB Network had us covered.
And sure enough, when I hoped out of bed at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and turned on the television – the channel was still, of course, on MLB Network from my previous night’s viewing – I saw in a little red box on the bottom right of my screen that Lester had indeed agreed to be a Cubbie.
“Yes,” I said with a half-hearted fist pump. As I said, I’m not a Cubs fan, but I was excited for their fans, one of which is my 9-year old son, Ty.
But it wasn’t just Lester drawing us in. This was one of the most active Winter Meetings, in terms of players swapping teams, in recent memory. Free agent signings, trades and persistent rumors of both types of transactions left us feeling like we couldn’t turn away from MLB Network.
Being a Nationals’ fan, my ears perked up even more when there was talk of my team potentially making a trade that would “blow the roof off this place.”
According to MLB.com, 79 players – 15 of those were All-Stars – changed teams during the 2014 Winter Meetings through free agency, trades or the Rule 5 Draft.
“Teams handed out more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts and signing bonuses this week in deals that either became official or were agreed upon at the Winter Meetings,” MLB.com reported after the meetings broke up.
The Winter Meetings were gold, and so was MLB Network. It provided us baseball enthusiasts with the ability sit in our living rooms and man caves and track the hot stove league in front of, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, “TV’s warm glowing warming glow.”