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Will Hosting on Fox Sports Baseball Help Get Pete Rose Reinstated?

It was announced this past Saturday afternoon that Pete Rose had been hired by Fox Sports to be a guest analyst on the MLB pregame shows airing on the broadcast network and on Fox Sports 1, as well as being a commentator on several other Fox baseball programs. Since Fox Sports is not part of Major League Baseball—at least not technically—Rose’s permanent ineligibility status does not extend to its game broadcasts.

“No, I am not Elton John. Why the hell are you asking me that!?”
View image | gettyimages.com

 

In the FoxSports.com article that broke the story, “Rose said that he is not joining FOX with the idea that it will help him gain reinstatement.  ‘I don’t even worry about that. I’ve never thought about that,’ Rose said. “I’m just trying to give back to baseball …'”

If that sounds disingenuous to you, don’t blame yourself for being a nasty person not willing to give poor Pete the benefit of the doubt. Pete Rose is, after all, a proven liar when it comes to how his gambling behavior interfaced with his roles as an active performer either playing or managing in major league baseball contests.  At first he claimed he never bet on baseball games he was involved in.  But then he said that he had indeed done so, but admitted such only once he believed that coming clean would help his case for reinstatement. But hey, don’t worry, Rose says: I never bet on my team to lose.

We’ll never know the truth about that one, though, since Baseball agreed to halt its continuing investigation of Rose once he agreed to accept the permanent ineligibility penalty for the involvement he did admit to.  In the final analysis, Pete struck out with his delayed honesty strategy.

I suspect the last couple of paragraphs read as though I am anti-Pete Rose. I’m really not, as far as it goes.  It’s true I’m not a fan of the guy—never have been. Maybe that’s why I’m not clamoring for his reinstatement as are so many of my age peers who grew up with Charlie Hustle as their #1 baseball hero. I do recognize, though, that other things being equal, a man with his on-field résumé should receive a slam-dunk, first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame. Other things are decidedly not equal, though, and a Hall of Fame induction can’t happen for Rose until Baseball reinstates him.

And despite that Rob Manfred has said that he be taking “a full and fresh look” at the Pete Rose case, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict, right now, that there is no way Manfred, or any number of his successors, ever reinstate Rose. I believe that the only way Baseball can reinstate Pete is if they change the rules and start allowing players and managers to bet on baseball games they are involved in. But as long as they intend to keep the rules intact, they have to keep him out.

(There is a third alternative: keep the rule intact for everyone except Pete. Baseball would have to explain why they are making an exception for Pete, though, and they definitely don’t want any part of that.)

I get why a lot of people want Pete Rose in, and I am sympathetic to their argument that after 25 years, Pete Rose has suffered enough and should be reinstated so he can take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.  But even granting that, I have no sympathy for Pete Rose himself, because since 1921 or thereabouts, posted in every major league clubhouse is rule 21(d):

BETTING ON BALL GAMES.  Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared
ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

This is as clear and unambiguous as it gets.  Bet on a game you’re not involved in: one-year ban.  Bet on a game you are involved in: permanent ineligibility.  Not a “lifetime ban”.  But permanent ineligibility.

Pete Rose and his supporters might have a case if his penalty had been applied capriciously or dictated by personal fiat.  Neither is the case. The penalty is written in plain black and white and was posted in the clubhouse for Pete to see during every one of the 3,562 games he played in and the 785 games he managed in.  No one can claim ignorance of either the rule or its consequences, least of all Pete himself.

To reinstate Pete Rose would be to open up every other case of permanent ineligibility handed down for gambling on baseball games in which the baseballer had a duty to perform, including the eight men put out for the Black Sox scandal. That might suit many people just fine, perhaps including many of our friends on the Black Sox Scandal Committee, but it would also call into question how Baseball can maintain such penalty for future infractions.  They couldn’t, of course, so they would have to take a considerable amount of time and effort to debate what an alternative proper penalty should be.

Pete Rose Baseball
                  I know you are, Pete. I know.

Such a debate, in addition to an actual reinstatement of Rose, would dominate the baseball headlines for years afterwards, casting a pall on the sport, including on all the current games that Baseball is working so hard to market to fans so they can continuing reaping their annual billions in revenue and profits. All this while trying to maintain, with a straight face, that the competitive integrity of the game of baseball is now as ever above reproach, even as they ease up on the strictures and penalties against players and coaches gambling on games they are involved in.

Given that, why on Earth would Major League Baseball ever reinstate Pete Rose?  Besides creating a lot of noise around the game for years and years, what’s in it for them?  Where is the “there” there?

I don’t think there is a “there” there.  Baseball depends on the goodwill of not only its fan base and corporate sponsors, but of Congress, the guarantor of its precious Sherman antitrust exemption. Because although the exemption is worth billions to Baseball, it also gives Congress the right to stick its nose in Baseball’s business when it feels like it.  And the last thing Baseball wants, or needs, is congressional oversight in the wake of its weakening its stance on in-game gambling by people in a position to affect the game’s outcome. Just give us our antitrust exemption, please, and you won’t hear a peep out of us.  We promise to be good boys.

I just can’t see any other alternative for Baseball, regardless of how well Pete Rose does in his new broadcast gig on Fox.  If they want to continue to limit the amount of noise surrounding the game and keep Congress, the majority of fans, its corporate sponsors and random moralists at bay, I don’t see any other practical choice for them but to deny Pete Rose’s request for reinstatement yet again, now and probably forever.

How To Improve TV Ratings For Nationally Televised Games

Steve Lepore is mostly an NHL media guy, writing about that pucking sport for SB Nation and Awful Announcing, as well as being a correspondent for SiriusXM radio’s NHL Network.

But Lepore does write about other sports and topics, and he has in fact recently written an article for Awful Announcing about the problem, as he sees it, that Baseball has as a national broadcast property.

Lepore proffers a cogent hypothesis as to why nationally televised baseball games continue to suffer in the ratings—e.g., ratings for one network are down double digit percents in 2014 versus last year—and makes suggestions to fix it.

It’s a good read and I would recommend giving it a look, but I can give you some spoilers here.

The two biggest problems, as Lepore sees it:

  • There are simply too many national games on TV: ESPN airs them on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays; Fox has Saturdays; TBS has Sunday afternoons in the second half of the season; and MLB Network picks up the remaining days.  Yet in this era of game ubiquity through vehicles like MLB.TV and Extra Innings, why watch a national game with a so-so matchup over a game involving a team you actually care about?
  • Baseball has what Lepore might term a “matchups problem”, concentrating too much on both (1) showing traditional big market teams which had pulled good numbers in the past, and (2) trying to be fair and featuring as many of the 29 American teams as they can.

Lepore’s suggestions for Baseball to fix this state of affairs:

  • Dump Saturday national broadcasts, which is a relic of viewership patterns from over a half a century ago, since people simply do not watch live TV on Saturdays, period.
  • Develop exclusive national broadcast game events on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the season, with all other games played during the day, and split those nights between ESPN and Fox (or more exactly, their new FS1 property).
  • Keep schedules flexible in order to choose top matchups for those Monday and Thursday games, making the decision roughly two weeks out, rather than committing to certain games and teams at the beginning of the season, when no one knows what the color of the season is going to be.

These may not make for “must see TV”, necessarily, but Lepore believes these changes could drive better ratings than Baseball gets for nationally televised games today.

Read the full article here:

RETHINKING BASEBALL ON NATIONAL TELEVISION

Costas cracks top ten; Chappell, Wedge, Virk, FS1 break in

Three new announcers, a new network, and one NBC stalwart replacing another in the top ten highlight today’s update to the national-telecast listing.

Fox Sports 1 became the first new network since 2009 to air an MLB regular-season game when it presented the Twins-Indians tilt from Cleveland on Saturday, April 5. MLB Network was previously the newest network in the fold; while TNT has aired five full games in the past (plus about 22 innings’ worth of overflow from TBS games that ran long), all of those were in the playoffs.

The Sydney Cricket Ground, home of the two-game LA/Arizona set in March is the 70th stadium to host a U.S. national television audience. With its first game, the Ground passed Colt Stadium (Houston),  Wrigley Field (Los Angeles) and Seals Stadium in San Francisco, which never hosted national TV. Later that night, based on Eastern time, the second broadcast from Sydney vaulted that venue past Aloha Stadium (Honolulu), Estadio de Beisbol Monterey and Sicks’ Stadium (Seattle), which each hosted but one game. The Ground now has 656 broadcasts to go before it catches Fenway Park for the most common host venue.

(Yes, even the lowly expansion Pilots hosted national television. The game was against the Tigers on May 31, 1969.)

That Australia series also introduced America to the 409th national commentator. Ian Chappell, the former captain of Australia’s national cricket team who now works for Channel Nine in that country, presided as a field reporter for the opening series.

Speaking of field reporters, FS1 used both Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews on the Giants/Dodgers game April 5. That was the first regular-season game with two reporters since Yankees/Tigers, on Fox April 6 of last year, and the first game to employ five commentators since Sept. 21, 2011.

ESPN’s Adnan Virk and Eric Wedge became the 410th and 411th announcers as the season continued stateside. Wedge analyzed the Red Sox/Orioles game on March 31 with Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe, while Virk teamed with Eduardo Perez to handle play-by-play of Astros/Blue Jays on April 9.

With the departure of Tim McCarver from Fox (and thus the dissolution of the Buck/McCarver tandem that had handled many Fox games for 19 years), O’Brien and Sutcliffe become the elder statesmen of active national-broadcast duos. The March 31 game, their only appearance to date this year, was their 220th game together. The pairing has appeared regularly for ESPN since 2002, also covering two games together since 2000.

In other news of longevity, Bob Costas cracked the top ten play-by-play announcers list, and he knocked out an NBC mainstay of an earlier age in the process. Costas, who started as a backup voice on the Game of the Week in 1982, then handled parts of three World Series and ten League Championship Series for the peacock network, called his 334th game when the Brewers met the Red Sox on April 4. That broke a tie with Jim Simpson, who appeared on NBC’s  Game of the Week from 1966 to 1979.

On tap: Fox Sports 1’s next game will be its fifth, as many full games as have aired on TNT … Tropicana Field is two appearances shy of 100 … The MLB Network broadcast Thursday night between Washington and St. Louis will make and break several ties in the record books as Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz and Sam Ryan each appear … Tom Verducci‘s next game will tie him with Peter Gammons at 74 appearances.

Fox Press Release Consolidates the Main Details on 2014 MLB Broadcasts

There have been a lot of scattershot stories and tweets from various sources reporting who will be making up the broadcast team, studio analysts and other talent for Fox’s various baseball products airing during the season.   Earlier today, Fox themselves released the key details for their MLB broadcasts to the press.

In a nutshell:

  • Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci will be the “Lead Game Broadcast Team”; Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews will continue on as on-field reporters all season.  Kenny Albert and Thom Brennaman will also take on play-by-play assignments during the season.
  • Kevin Burkhardt will host the new pregame show; Frank Thomas, Eric Karros, Gabe Kapler and C.J. Nitkowski will also join as analysts.
  • A new weeknightly show called “MLB WHIPAROUND” (all caps sic) will debut on FS1 starting on March 31, hosted by Chris Myers along with one or two of the analysts named above, and will feature “quick-turnaround highlights of in-progress games, news and analysis”. 

Read more here:

MLB on FOX Ushers in New Era

How Did Five Teams Get Shut Out of Fox Baseball Broadcasts For 2014?

With the release of the baseball broadcast schedules by Fox for their broadcast network and nascent FS1 property, a counting of appearances by the various teams yields some unsurprising results (e.g., the Yankees lead all teams with 11 appearances; the Cardinals lead Senior Circuit teams with ten).

But not all results are unsurprises.  Some are very surprising indeed, as you will see from this table shared with the world by the folks at Awful Announcing (click on the table to go to the article):

MLB on Fox-FS1 Appearances by Team 2014

Some surprises include the Indians, Pirates and Nationals all outpulling the star-laden Dodgers; and the Mets, non-contenders though they may be but still occupying the nation’s #1 DMA last we checked, represented by a single telecast along with the A’s and the Marlins.

But the most surprising factoid gleaned from the schedule is that fully 16.67% of all major league teams will not be appearing on a single telecast on either the FS1 network or the Fox broadcast network.  The absence of the Blue Jays from an American Broadcasting network can be rationalized, of course, and the Astros and Rockies expect to be various shades of awful and anonymous.  But the White Sox?  Even if they end up being a poor team, a complete whitewash of a #3 DMA major league ballclub is something of a surprise.  And both Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez will make no impact on the baseball ratings of national Fox telecasting entities at any point this season, as well.

Of course, in this world of baseball broadcast ubiquity via streaming and subscription packages, it’s not as though practically every game any of these five shut out teams play won’t be available in those forms anyway.  But what kind of statement does it make for so many teams to be unrepresented in this way?  It means either Fox puts so little stock in these franchises that they can’t risk broadcasting them at any point on their national networks, or perhaps it means that national or regional exposure on these networks means not much if not nothing anyway.

MLB on Fox Releases Entire 2014 Schedule (Including FS1)

mlbonfox_logo

Following up on the heels of the announcement from the Springfield, MO Fox affiliate from a couple of days prior, MLB on Fox utilized their sister website to breathlessly announce their full MLB schedule for 2014.

According to the story:

FOX Sports, MLB’s primary broadcast rights holder since 1996 and exclusive national broadcast partner since 2001, will begin a new eight-year, multiplatform media rights agreement that adds national cable and digital coverage to its portfolio, doubling regular-season exposures, mostly on Saturdays, from 26 to 52 games combined on the FOX Broadcast Network and FOX Sports 1, with 20 Saturday doubleheaders, 10 exclusively on FOX Sports 1 and 10 split between FOX Sports 1 and the FOX Broadcast Network.

FS1 gets down to business right away with an April 5 tilt pitting the Twins and the Indians—not the most marquee of matchups, but it’s a start—followed immediately by Giants at Dodgers.

As you will see for yourself on the schedule in the story, there will be many regional broadcasts on Fox itself, so don’t forget to avail yourself of the keen maps over at 506 Sports to see what’s playing in your market.

Click here to read more.

Clayton Kershaw's Dodgers have seven national FOX or FOX Sports 1 games this season.

Clayton Kershaw’s Dodgers have seven national FOX or FOX Sports 1 games this season.   Photo by: Christian Petersen