The Predictable Bias of MLB Network

MLB Network is happy to talk about all teams, as long as they’re one of these five. (via Anthony Storo, slgckgc, Ken Lund, Ian Ransley & Eddie Welker)

The date: Monday, April 18, 2016.

The time: I don’t remember, exactly, but call it Eastern.

On MLB Network’s MLB Now, host Brian Kenny sat with David Duchovny and discussed the actor-turned-author’s novel, Bucky F*cking Dent.

“It speaks our New York language,” the host declared.

I thought, “Our New York language?”

I kept watching as the men discussed fiction based on fact: Yankee Bucky Dent’s unlikely home run in the 1978 American League East tie-breaker against the Red Sox, a three-run blast over Fenway’s Green Monster that provided Dent an enduring middle name in Boston.

“You speak the language of ’70s and ’80s New York so perfectly,” Kenny continued. “Because all our people here”–he waved a hand across the studio–“all our producers and everything…The Scooter and Bill White. This a great entertainment vehicle, right? For our Yankee baseball.”

I’ve been around enough to know that East Coast Bias–say it with capital letters, folks–isn’t fiction. It’s something the rest of us just live with, like noise from leaf blowers. I also realize the Yankees are baseball’s flagship franchise, an organization so powerful they buy free agents in bulk, lead the league in farewell tours and boast their own TV network.

I wondered: Even if the bias is entrenched, do the Yankees really need another network?

I decided to perform an experiment. To determine if MLB Network really does serve as the Yankees’ second mouthpiece, or if, perhaps, the bias extends to other teams, I would watch MLB Now or MLB Central each day of one randomly selected week per month of the season.

The experiment had begun.

Following a network ad that featured actor Kevin James, of King of Queens; actor Ed Burns, from Queens; and actor Hank Azaria, from Queens, the show welcomed analysts Ken Rosenthal and Dave Valle. I glanced at the internet. Sure enough, both are from New York, as are Kenny and Duchovny.

Much as I often do, I began using italics to ponder the state of affairs.

Good gravy! Imagine a network inviting four Georgia guys to discuss baseball!

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

The men welcomed former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry, by phone, for an interview. They discussed the 1978 pennant race and showed clips of Guidry pitching with the Green Monster in the background. Later, Valle looked into the camera to pose a question to Guidry.

“Growing up in Queens, a Yankee fan my entire life,” the former big league catcher said in reference to himself, “what was the best part”–he paused–“of being a New York Yankee.”

Cast in an expectant glow, Valle gazed into the camera as if the question itself, separate of the answer it anticipated, had been enough to honor the Yankee exaltedness. And truly, it had been.

MLB Now, Tuesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 21

The Gut Reaction segment had arrived. The analysts–Kenny, Valle, Rosenthal and writer Joe Lemire, a Massachusetts native–were posed a question: Is Cubs-Cardinals the top rivalry in MLB?

Rosenthal chuckled. “Hey, I’m not going to get sucked into this regional madness,” he replied, perhaps presaging a colossal irony. “They’re all good.”

The previous day had continued with separate discussions of Yogi Berra and Alex Rodriguez, each a former Yankee, so it felt refreshing to hear about a pair of Central teams.

“It’s not the top rivalry,” Lemire said. “Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants, for my money, are still a little ahead.”

Valle agreed. “I do like this budding rivalry,” he said of a Cubs-Cards rivalry that had entered its 124th year. “I don’t think it matches up…with the Yankees-Red Sox because of just the long history that [New York and Boston] have had.”

On Thursday, following a Wednesday when an afternoon game had preempted MLB Now, the show featured host Kenny; former Yankees beat writer Joel Sherman, from Brooklyn; former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, from New Jersey; and SABR president Vince Gennaro, who, per the Wall Street Journal, is a New Jerseyan “who grew up rooting for the Yankees.”

I had identified a potential problem. Not only did MLB Now’s subject matter appear to lean toward the coast, and, moreso, to New York, the voices bore a distinct regional tone. Lively discourse has its basis in a variety of inflections, but everybody here had Big Apple breath.

MLB Now, Friday, April 22

Friday featured a replacement for Vince Gennaro. His name: Sparky Lyle. Kenny introduced him as “two-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees.” The words “New York” had seemed unnecessary, but I could’ve been wrong. Talk turned to the Astros’ slow start. It remained there only briefly.

Kenny: “Another team that is struggling, the Yankees have lost seven of eight. So let’s play the media-overreaction game. Nothing new to you, Sparky Lyle…the Yankees feel different.”

Lyle nodded. “You’re so expected to win there…I actually believe in my heart that putting those pinstripes on made me a better player.”

Kenny: “There ya go!”

In Digging Into The Data, Kenny and Lyle discussed relievers’ roles. Accompanying the conversation were video clips of just two relievers: Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage, each in a Yankees uniform despite the fact that Lyle pitched for four other teams and Gossage eight.

Next, the men discussed Lyle’s 1979 memoir, The Bronx Zoo. Complementing the discussion were clips of Lyle pitching in a Yankees uniform, the Yankees celebrating their 1977 World Series victory, and Lyle in a vintage interview: “To win one as a Yankee in New York, it was absolutely unbelievable.”

Lyle then told an anecdote: During spring training one year, Boston’s Ted Williams gave him advice about his slider.

Cue footage of Williams in a Red Sox uniform.

Said Kenny, “Now to get to the Yankees.”

On Friday evening I turned on the TV. I had recorded a couple other MLB Network shows in hopes of coverage that didn’t bend toward the Bronx. After all, following a Lyle interview that centered on the Yankees, MLB Now had continued with the Gut Reaction segment.

Kenny: “We’ll start with Aroldis Chapman coming back for the New York Yankees.”

It had continued with Now Or Never.

Kenny: “Let’s go back in time: Yankees-Royals”

It had ended with the ninth set of Yankees clips.

Now on MLB Central, host Matt Vasgersian interviewed writer/director Garry Marshall.

Vasgersian: “Your hometown Yankees…were playing the Dodgers [in the 1978 World Series], your adopted home. Where were your partisanships?”

Had I just glimpsed the network blueprint? Was it to start in New York, to celebrate New York, then to fly over flyover country to the West Coast?

“Well, I rooted for the Yankees my whole life,” Marshall replied. “So I go way back with the Yankees. And now I’ve been in Los Angeles so long, I like the Dodgers.”

Vasgersian spoke of the CBS reboot of Marshall’s The Odd Couple.

“And it is about the Mets,” Marshall said.

Onscreen was an image of the show’s stars in Mets uniforms.

Following the interview, Vasgersian turned to the camera. “When we come back, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry renews again tonight at Fenway.”

I confess. Without realizing it, I had begun the exercise on a week that would end with Yankees-Red Sox. Maybe–just maybe?–the ensuing weeks would be less Yankee-centric.

After three more sets of Yankees clips, the Golden Ticket segment began.

Question: If you could go to one game this weekend, what would it be?

Former big leaguer Mark DeRosa, a New Jersey native, said, “I’m gonna stay here and go to Citi Field to see the Gigantes play the Mets.”

Former big leaguer Eric Byrnes, a California native, said, “I’m going back to the Bay, the East Bay.”

Vasgersian, a California native, said, “I’d go to L.A. for Padres-Dodgers. Not that I care about the matchup. I don’t. Sorry. It’s nothing personal. I just want to go to Southern California.”

Lauren Shehadi, a metro D.C. native, said, “I want to go to Target Field to watch the Twins and Tigers.”

The others stared in silence.

“I know that’s surprising,” she added.

They proceeded to laugh at “ice fishing and ice hockey.”

In the lead-up to the Yankees-Red Sox telecast, MLB Tonight host Fran Charles asked announcer Bob Costas, “Is the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry still one of the top in the game?”

“Well, it is,” said Costas, “because of the history and because of the regional passion. But as a matter of fact, the teams have not each won 90 games in a season in the last five years.”

To the screen came footage of Boston’s “Spaceman” Bill Lee screaming at the ’76 Yankees, punches, beanballs, Don Zimmer, Pedro Martinez, the whole thing. “You have to say it’s lost some of its luster,” Costas went on, “but Yankees-Red Sox always has more appeal than most matchups.”

He shrugged. “Otherwise, why would we be here all the time?”

Indeed.

MLB Central, Monday, May 16

The hosts–Vasgersian, DeRosa, Byrnes–welcomed actor Gary Valentine.

Onscreen: Played Role Of Danny Heffernan On “The King of Queens.”

The men began by discussing Valentine’s hometown Mets.

Vasgersian: “Mets-Dodgers is always fun…We’ve seen that out in L.A. last week. You make your home out in Los Angeles.”

Valentine: “Yeah, I do.”

Vasgersian: “So describe for the lay fan”–repeat: the lay fan–“the difference in atmosphere. They’re both great fan bases. Dodgers fans love their team, Mets fans love their team.”

Know who else loves their teams? FANS OF ALL THE OTHER TEAMS.

Vasgersian: “But they’re completely different animals on the two coasts.”

There are three coasts, actually. The Gulf Coast physically exists. It is 1,631 miles in length and features many seafood restaurants. You can look it up!

Valentine: “They [Dodgers fans] get up for their team, but it’s not like being at Citi Field. There’s just something electric about New York. I mean, you guys know. You played all over. You know, St. Louis is a great fan base. But different. Cincinnati, same thing. But different. It’s not –”

He paused, searching for just the right words.

“– New York.

Later they welcomed a second interviewee.

Vasgersian: “We were introduced to our next guest as Ryan Atwood on The O.C. He’s now Jim Gordon on Gotham.”

Appearing “live from New York” was Ben McKenzie.

Appearing next was a photo of McKenzie in a Dodgers jersey.

MLB Central, Tuesday, May 17

“Which game do we have on the network?” asked Vasgersian as the show began.

Shehadi: “We have Syndergaard and Scherzer tonight at Citi Field.”

“Oh!” replied Vasgersian. “It’s almost as if we rehearsed that!”

Later came an interview with singer Cassadee Pope. I turned to the internet and learned Pope is a Florida native. As such, she was the first non-New Yorker/Angeleno to appear on an MLB Network show during the experiment.

I waited for Vasgersian to ask about her favorite team.

He did not.

Following the Oppo-Taco Tuesday segment, whose screen graphic features former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, the hosts began a 20-minute conversation about the Dodgers. After a break, they welcomed actor Paul Reiser to the program.

For the uninitiated, Reiser spent seven seasons in a sitcom about two people sitting around a New York City apartment in comfortable pajamas.

They began by discussing Diner, the 1982 film in which Reiser appeared.

Vasgersian: “So you’re a New Yorker.”

Aaaaaaaand we’re off.

Vasgersian: “And Diner [is] about a bunch of guys who grew up loving the Baltimore Colts, and I would imagine that as a New Yorker you had some baseball skin in the game.”

Reiser: “Yeah, I was a Yankee fan.”

No foolin’?

Analyst Sean Casey joined the discussion. “What about when you went out to L.A.?…Did you become a Dodger fan when you went out there?”

Reiser: “I became a Dodger fan. My loyalty is kind of fluid. Five summers ago my son and I did every stadium, and I realized…I would just be loudly supporting whoever’s stadium we were visiting. Like, ‘Let’s go, Twins!’”

Casey let out a bellowing laugh.

MLB Central, Wednesday, May 18

The morning moved to Syndergaard’s postgame interview.

“Great to come home and pitch in front of…the best fans in baseball.”

The analysts discussed Mets-Nationals for the next seven minutes. Meanwhile, a graphic had appeared onscreen–Afternoon Baseball On MLB Network: Boston at Kansas City.

I had noticed a not-shocking trend. If the featured game included a small-market, non-coastal team, it typically included a large-market, coastal team–in this case, Boston.

Yeah. News at 11.

Talk turned to the Giants.

Vasgersian: “The Giants have gotten hot, and we’re not talking about them perhaps as much as we should be here because we’re always focused on the Northeast corridor.”

I nearly tumbled from my chair. Here, for the first time, the network had said what it had consistently shown.

Vasgersian looked into the camera. “And for that I apologize, Western U.S.”

It’s worthing noting, I suppose, that Vasgersian apologized–ironically, mind you–only to the Western U.S. and not to, y’know, the Middle U.S.

“Sometimes,” he added, “we should just talk about how great [the Giants] are.”

They began by praising Madison Bumgarner for being “a genuine person” after his staredown of Wil Myers a night earlier. Later, they discussed Rougned Odor’s right jab to Jose Bautista’s left cheek two days prior.

Byrnes: “Here’s a guy”–Bautista–“plays hard on an everyday basis”

DeRosa: “There’s been articles written about people celebrating what Rougned Odor did!”

“Pffffttt,” Vasgersian intoned. “It’s that close to being a cheap shot, in my mind.”

Odor hadn’t been properly genuine, I assumed, or else properly coastal.

Your fault, Rougie. You should’ve played for the ’76 Yankees.

Following a Gam Cam segment on which Boston’s Peter Gammons talked about the Dodgers and Ted Williams, the third hour began with Vasgersian discussing former Mets infielder Daniel Murphy.

Vasgersian: “Last night, Daniel Murphy returned to New York.”

Onscreen were images of Mets fans giving Murphy a standing ovation.

Vasgersian: “It was a nice moment at Citi Field.”

Byrnes: “It really was. I was there at Citi Field.”

Byrnes continued. “And then the next at-bat…[Murphy] comes up and you wonder, ‘What’s the next reaction going to be?’ And it was, ‘Boooooooooooo! Booooooooooooooooo!’

“I’m like, ‘This. Is. Why. I. Love — ’

Three New York bagels if you guess what’s next.

“‘– New York City.’”

Want cream cheese with that?

The message: New York exceptionalism holds sway. Do it in some other city…well, you’re being gauche. Do it in New York…hey, you’re being a New Yorker! You’re being electric.

The festival continued with footage of Mike Piazza returning to Shea Stadium as a member of the Padres, and handmade signs that read, “We Love You Mike Piazza.”

It didn’t end there.

Shehadi: “The Mets did something pretty classy for Murphy. Check this out.”

Did we have a choice?

Later, Vasgersian interviewed former big league catcher and current Brewers broadcaster Bill Schroeder. I marked it as a win. After Cassadee Pope, Schroeder was the first non-coastal interviewee.

His first anecdote: “The Carnegie Deli,” he said of the Gotham restaurant.

The conversation ended with Schroeder recounting the time he caught both ends of a doubleheader in Arlington “in 100-degree heat.” With the benefit of hindsight, I can now say this: It would become a theme.

MLB Central, Thursday, May 19

Fran Charles, who, according to a bio, holds degrees from Stanford (in greater San Francisco) and Columbia (in New York), had stepped in as guest host. “Let’s go out west, shall we?” he said.

The show opened with highlights of the Giants’ defeat of San Diego and continued with a report featuring Instagram photos of starter Johnny Cueto.

Charles: “It looks like Cueto, with the Instagram, he fits in that clubhouse.”

As it often had on MLB Network, the term “that clubhouse,” in reference to San Francisco’s, had just been uttered with a reverence typically reserved for the 5th Marine Regiment.

DeRosa: “He’s locked into that clubhouse.”

Later, more Yankees highlights gave way to an interview with Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of Yogi Berra. They discussed his relationship with recently deceased Joe Garagiola. They discussed former Yankee and current musician Bernie Williams. They talked about Williams’ performance in the Rainbow Room, “where Sinatra played.” They talked about his graduation from the Manhattan School of Music. To the screen came a photo of retired baseball player Derek Jeter. It wouldn’t be the last I’d see of Jeter.

MLB Central, Friday, May 20

Talk turned from NY to SF.

Byrnes: “There’s something about that place.”

He continued. “I don’t know if it’s the water, Alcatraz Island, maybe the seals, the Bay Bridge, the beautiful rolling hills…”

Charles: “It’s gorgeous, brother, the Bay Area.”

Byrnes wasn’t finished. “…the cable cars, the way the fans have gotten behind the team.”

What’s that you say? A team has won three titles in five years and the fans are BEHIND it?

Byrnes:Denard Span, Cueto, Shark, they’re all having better years just because they went to San Francisco.”

DeRosa: “He’s onto something there. The weather there keeps the guys fresh…It’s not like playing in Texas, where you’re taking batting practice in a furnace for four months.”

Charles took the baton. “The [San Francisco] park is unbelievable. The fans are great as well. And here’s the interesting thing. If this were the Yankees –”

There it was.

As if sensing a Gotham-shaped gap in the love-in, Charles had brought it back to New York.

“– and they had an opportunity to win four World Series in seven years…this would be all over sports media right now.”

So there you have it: The host had just talked about the Yankees by saying that if the Giants were the Yankees, they’d talk more about the Yankees. I needed a stiff drink.

Charles wasn’t done. He ascribed the Giants’ lack of exposure to Buster Posey’s “humility.”

Said he, “Buster Posey might be the most non-talked-about superstar in all of sports.”

What?

Byrnes nodded. “The guy I think I would compare him to is Derek Jeter.”

Whaaaaaaat?

Charles: “Both guys play the game the right way.”

Hmmm.

“They’re in it for the right reasons.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

“They’re not looking for the congratulatory adulation.”

Make it stop.

“They just go out there and do their thing.”

A commercial break came to the rescue. It failed.

Network voice: “He’s a Red Sox legend tearing it up on his farewell tour. Now on MLB’s Friday Night Baseball, the ageless wonder, David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz and his Red Sox host a showdown at Fenway with Kipnis and the Indians.”

It was nice of them to mention the Indians.

In the second hour came a segment connected to Play Ball, MLB’s effort to bring more children into the sport. On screen were three children sitting in chairs, a boy in the middle and two girls at his sides. The boy wore a Yankees cap. One girl wore a Dodgers cap, the other a Rangers cap.

Analyst Harold Reynolds faced them.

“I’ve got something I gotta do for Matt,” he said, pointing at the boy. “I understand Alex Rodriguez is your favorite player, right? Wanna talk to him?”

Matt: “Sure!”

Reynolds connected A-Rod via Facetime, and he and Matt chatted.

The girls were excited for Matt.

“You are so stoked” said one.

“Sweet!” said the other.

Indoctrinated into New York dominion, even the Dodgers girl didn’t get to meet her hero.

Bonus Coverage

I had to wonder: Am I just picking the wrong weeks? Like a scientist trying to disprove his own theory, I would attack my premise with an additional five days.

MLB Central, Monday, May 23

Interview with actor Mark Feuerstein.

DeRosa: “Who was your team as a kid?”

Feuerstein: “You know, I grew up with the Yankees.”

Cue Yankees footage. It really was as if they knew.

MLB Central, Tuesday, May 24

Short episode due to day game–no guests.

MLB Central, Wednesday, May 25

Shehadi: “Comedian and diehard Mets fan Jim Breuer, live in studio!”

Kill me now.

More talk of the Mets. More signs from Citi Field.

First nine minutes, it’s all Matt Harvey.

Next nine minutes, it’s all Jackie Bradley Jr.

Next four minutes, it’s San Fran’s Jeff Samardzija.

Next four minutes, it’s L.A.’s Yasiel Puig.

Now to the Gam Cam, with Peter Gammons.

Shehadi: “With all the Boston talk about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hitting streak and Big Papi and what he’s doing at the plate, a few guys get overlooked. Who’s at the top of that list, Peter?”

Finally! Coverage of someone other than…

“I don’t think there’s any question: Xander Bogaerts.”

Deliver me, O Death.

After three minutes of Bogaerts, it’s L.A.’s Trayce Thompson.

Later: “Some of the discussion here around the Cardinals may have been muted –”

May have been?

“–because of Matt Harvey’s struggles.”

Later, Mets “superfan” Breuer arrives.

Vasgersian: “You’ll do a club gig and Mets fans will be there!”

Breuer: “In San Diego there was about 300 Mets fans there. And I walked out and they started chanting, ‘Let’s go, Mets! Let’s go, Mets!’”

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Next: musical duo Saint Ansonia.

Vasgersian suggests they write a song about JBJ’s hit streak.

Did he ask anyone to write a song about Dan Uggla’s hit streak?

MLB Central, Thursday, May 26

Talk returns to Matt Harvey.

Research confirms that other good pitchers are struggling, too

Wily Peralta, 6.99 ERA, but no word on him. Sonny Gray, 6.19 ERA. Anibal Sanchez, 6.04. Dallas Keuchel, 5.92. Adam Wainwright, 5.77. Michael Wacha, 5.04. And Shelby Miller? He can’t stop dragging his knuckles on the mound. Still, no word on him or the others.

Turns out, Harvey refused to speak to the press.

Rosenthal: “There has to be at some point an understanding that it’s your job to be there, win or lose. Jeter got it.”

MLB Central, Friday, May 27

“It’s a holiday weekend in major league baseball,” says Vasgersian to open.

He holds up a Mets jersey.

“So teams are rolling out the big-time giveaways. Tonight, Mets-Dodgers.”

Next it’s the Wake-Up Call, featuring highlights of the Boston ceremony retiring Wade Boggs’ number, four minutes on the end of JBJ’s streak, two more minutes about Boston, then another minute on JBJ’s streak. Next, it’s The Inside Corner: L.A.’s Julio Urias, Boston’s Clay Buchholz, Boston’s JBJ and, oh yeah, we almost forgot, Mike Moustakas of the defending world champion Royals tearing his ACL and being lost for the rest of the season.

Should’ve torn your ACL in a Mets uniform, Moose. Bad planning, bro.

June and July

A note to skeptics: Lest I be accused of cherry-picking, I’m holding 68 pages of notes that say otherwise. In fact, for the sake of readability, I’ve omitted information that supports the developing thesis. Example: At the end of the May 23-27 week, Rangers ace Yu Darvish returned to the mound for the first time since August 9, 2014. Did MLB Central mention it?

I’ll let you guess.

In the meantime…Matt Harvey, everyone!

On MLB Central and MLB Now, the days came as the days went — from far beyond the Heartland.

Celebrity interview No. 1: actor Eric Dane, Giants fan.

Celebrity interview No. 2: actor Jack Griffo, Dodgers fan.

Celebrity interview No. 3: actor Donald Faison, Yankees fan.

Sample sentence: “It would be dope if New York still had three baseball teams.”

It really would be dope.

Celebrity interview No. 4: “Mets superfan” Jim Breuer.

Sample sentence: “The All-Star Game is ruined for me. It’s been ruined for me for years…I gotta worry about Bill in Wisconsin, whose team is out by April, picking his favorite player.”

Celebrity interview No. 5: pro softball player Monica Abbott.

Sample sentence: “My family is die-hard San Francisco Giants fans.”

DeRosa reaction: “Yyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Analyst discussion No. 1: All agree that Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford is deserving of the All-Star nod because–quote–“he practices relay throws.”

Gammons: “That defines the Giants.”

Apparently, in the Central divisions, shortstops merely hope for good relays.

Quality Take Of The Night: Boston’s Bogaerts.

DraftKings Stat Spotlight: L.A.’s Trayce Thompson.

Brian Kenny: “We begin Tonight’s Ticket in San Francisco, with the Red Sox and Giants.”

I’m so tired.

“And finally, it’s the MLB Showcase Game as the Yankees face the Angels.”

Arrival Board: Madbum Mania!

Vasgersian: “Boy, the folks at the national TV networks are salivating at the thought of maybe a David Price-Madison Bumgarner meeting–say, in the fall.”

DeRosa: “Because of the legend of MadBum…Look at him!”

Cue footage of MadBum shouting at Puig and staring down Myers and umpire Joe West.

Vasgersian, later: “Speaking of Baltimore’s Chris Tillman, this guy might not get the kind of national play he deserves.”

It’s a common tactic. After talking up the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers, they find a nexus to a player on another team and talk about the fact that he isn’t talked about–as if, you know, it’s the stupid media’s fault.

But listen, fellas: You are the stupid media.

Later, it’s Storytime with DeRosa: “I love telling this story about MadBum.”

Indeed. It’s the second time we’ve heard it.

Vasgersian, later: “When we come back, she sang the anthem for the Yankees.”

Cue footage of eight-year-old Christina Skleros singing at Yankee Stadium in 1996.

Vasgersian, to Skleros: “I would imagine that you were a Yankee fan at the time.”

Skleros: “Right. My dad grew up in New York City in Hell’s Kitchen, and my granddad was a New York City cop. Everyone was huge Yankees fans.”

To the screen comes a photo of Skleros with Derek Jeter.

Later: After performing live in-studio, members of the musical duo Jeffrey Perez and Anointed S shake hands with Vasgersian.

Vasgersian: “You guys are both Yankees fans.”

Guys: “Yes!”

Later: Following three more mentions of Derek Jeter, the show cuts to Ballpark Cam from Globe Life Park in Arlington on Wildlife Day. Onscreen are children and players gathered around animals.

Hey, favorable coverage!

Vasgersian: “How a penguin can live in that sweltering summer heat is beyond me.”

Oh.

First on the Friday agenda: Astros vs. Rangers. I privately celebrate.

Introducing the segment are graphics of longhorns, boots, cowboy hats, your typical Old West imagery. Next come the highlights–set to hillbilly music.

Yeehaw?

Following discussions of the Yankees and Mets–discussions unaccompanied by images of mob bodies floating down the East River or whatever–the conversation turns to Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall.

Vasgersian: “This is a kid we haven’t talk about at all. Obviously, one of the reasons is that–”

He doesn’t play in New York?

“–Cincinnati hasn’t been good.”

Well, you got me there.

After a break, they return for the “new hour.”

Vasgersian: “For the purposes of our discussion, let’s focus on the teams that are five-and-a-half and six-and-a-half games back, respectively.”

By coincidence, that latter team is the Yankees.

After another break, they welcome Detroit’s Nick Castellanos and Michael Fulmer, in town for a series against the Yankees. If for nothing else, it’s a way for the host to say “Yankees.”

Says Vasgersian, “Good luck tonight against the Yankees.”

Later comes a discussion about ballpark food.

Shehadi: “We enlisted the help of superchef and”– wait for it– “Yankee fan Scott Conant.”

Following a segment featuring Conant discussing the Yankees, Yankees catcher Brian McCann arrives in case we forgot about the Yankees.

DeRosa: “Tell us a story of when you went up there as a free agent.”

McCann speaks of a fateful phone call. “The minute I put on the pinstripes,” he goes on, “it was on a whole other level for me…There’s no other place I want to play. This is where I need to be. It ended up being the best decision I ever made.”

We interrupt this propaganda to bring you a timely question: What’s McCann think now that he’s in Houston?

After airing a Yankees in-house ad, the show continues with a taped Kevin Millar interview of McCann. Sample question: “What’s the vibe in the Yankees clubhouse?”

It isn’t the first time Millar has softballed McCann. He did so back in April.

Sample exchange:

Millar: “Here you are, a free agent, you sign with the Pinstripes.”

Cue Yankees footage.

McCann: “It’s just next-level. It’s the best decision I ever made. This place, I wouldn’t want to be playing anywhere else.”

Millar: “Mmm-hmm. They always say that.”

Aaaaaaaaaaaand cut! Another Yankees PSA is complete!

Number of times they said “Yankee” or “Yankees” on today’s show: 66, plus three “Pinstripes” and one “Bombers.” Number of times they said “New York:” 12. Number of times they said “Derek Jeter:” Three. Number of times they mentioned the league’s other .500 team, the White Sox: two.

Prior to show’s end, Vasgersian and DeRosa revisit the food discussion.

Vasgersian: “I still can’t get over the ringing endorsement you gave to sushi in a landlocked state.”

It had been the lone mention of the World Series-champion city.

Exhausted? Coastal Bias got ya down?

Let’s roll.

On the July 25 MLB Central, the three analysts–Vasgersian, DeRosa and Casey–explore a question: Which free-falling team, the Giants or Rangers, are you more worried about?

“We know about the guys who are hurt in San Francisco,” says Vasgersian, without mentioning the guys who are hurt in Texas. “As a matter of fact, pop that up there, because this is a legit list.”

Up goes the list of injured Giants.

“And Brandon Belt is two for his last 33,” he adds. “Brandon Crawford is six for his last 33.”

Apparently, in San Francisco, slumps are “injuries.”

The consensus: Texas will crater.

The reason: “That clubhouse,” says DeRosa of San Francisco’s.

A day later, after DeRosa has reminded us once more that “it’s a furnace in Arlington,” the crew welcomes actor Scott Wolf.

Vasgersian: “We know you were born in Boston, you grew up in New Jersey. So I’m just wondering where your partisanship lies in regard to our game. Are you a Red Sox guy? Yankees? Mets?”

Next: a David Ortiz tribute.

Sample phrase: “What he’s done for that city…”

On Wednesday, DeRosa proposes a trade that brings Mike Trout to Boston.

“Big Papi’s retiring. We need a DH!”

Thursday: an interview with an author who wrote a book about the 1960s Dodgers.

Vasgersian: “Fortunately, so many of these guys are still around the Dodgers family.”

Most teams are just…teams, one supposes.

Friday: After creating various scenarios by which the Dodgers and/or Red Sox acquire baseball’s best players, the crew welcomes guest Adam Richman of The Food Network.

Analyst Al Leiter: “Who’s your favorite baseball team?”

Richman: “I’m a Yankees fan.”

Stop the presses.

August

In hopes of a fresh start–perhaps a bias-free week?–I recommenced the experiment on the first day of the month. Joining the show, however, was High Heat host Christopher Russo, the man for whom I named my mute button. Before I could reach the remote control, I heard him say a Cubs-Indians matchup would make for an excellent World Series.

“So watch, we’ll get a lousy one!” he shrieked. “Texas and somebody!”

Everybody laughed.

In the uproar, Fran Charles said something about “lousy cities.”

To which Russo replied, “Oh, well, it’ll be Houston and Texas, then!”

Again they laughed–at which point Russo remembered he’s a baseball expert.

“Oh, wait! They’re in the same division! So that can’t happen!”

MLB Central, Tuesday, August 2

Celebrity interview No. 1: actor Troy Garity, a fan of…

Place your bets, America!

…the Dodgers.

Garity: “Let me preface this: I’m married to a Yankees fan. So every morning, I wake up in hell.”

Welcome to hell, Garity.

Later, the analysts agreed that the Yankees received excellent prospects in deadline deals.

Carlos Pena: “For Yankees fans, let’s just say this is not going to take long…And there’s a big-time free-agent class coming up in 2018. So, you know–”

We do.

“–the Yankees are gonna be on that.”

Up went a list of 2018 free agents.

Pena: “Think about McCutchen in a Yankee uniform, or Manny Machado. How about that? It’s looking bright. That’s what’s going to be out there for them. This is great for the Yankees.”

It wasn’t the first time MLB Network–majority-owned by Major League Baseball–had placed future free agents in pinstripes. When Bryce Harper stepped to the plate during the May 19 Thursday Night Showcase, Bob Costas had said, “You think about Bryce Harper at Yankee Stadium with that short right-field porch. My gosh!…So many different things can happen, but you look at it from, let’s say, one team’s perspective–the Yankees.”

Uh-huh.

The strategy is clear: Lay groundwork for the Empire to land free-agent superstars by making it seem a fait accompli. No need to imagine Machado in a Twins uniform, or Harper in the colors of the White Sox. And if not the Yankees, well, okay–how about the Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers or Giants?

Talk turned to the Giants.

DeRosa: “I never doubt. Being in that organization, there’s so many smart men in that front office…And then you come to that atmosphere.”

Charles: “And it’s an even year, too, so if you’re a Giants fan…”

But here’s the thing, Fran. I’m not.

This had become A Clockwork Orange, only they weren’t forcing me to watch violent imagery. They were forcing me to watch the opposite: fawning imagery–of just five teams. Following the Tuesday edition, I decided to take three days off. I could bear it no longer. I would make up the difference–and then some–the following week.

MLB Central, Monday, August 8: Today came a reward, albeit marginal, for my deferral. Appearing were members of Texas band Whiskey Myers. Yup, hats off to MLB Central, though it must be said that the singer, Cody Cannon, conformed conveniently to the network’s caricaturized image of Lone Star folk. He was so country, he made Jethro Bodine look like Pierce Brosnan.

MLB Now, Tuesday, August 9: Mentions of still-retired Derek Jeter: 3.

MLB Central, Wednesday, August 10: Mentions of “the most amazing fanbase, New York City:” 1.

MLB Central, Thursday, August 11: Mentions of Derek Jeter: 2.

MLB Central, Friday, August 12: Mentions of Derek Jeter: 7.

Mentions of Arlington heat: 1.

Charles: “And it’s a thousand degrees down there in Texas, as well. I mean, no doubt.”

Actual facts: Gametime temperature in Arlington that night: 80 degrees.

Gametime temperature in New York that night: 77 degrees.

Gametime temperature in Arlington on Sunday, August 14: 80 degrees.

Gametime temperature in New York on Sunday, August 14: 95 degrees.

September

It was the final week of September, and though Texas had clinched the AL West over the weekend, MLB Central waited until the 92-minute mark of the Tuesday edition to first make mention of the Rangers winning the division. The report began with a highlight of Jose Bautista’s infamous ALDS bat flip and concluded with DeRosa saying that Rangers deadline acquisition Jonathan Lucroy had decided “to go down to Arlington and sweat a little bit.”

After showing the bat flip for the second time in four minutes, the program continued with #HashTaggingUp, which showcased David Ortiz’s open letter to Yankees fans.

Sample sentence: “Let’s show the world how much we love our cities and teams…”

Wednesday welcomed reliever Brad Ziegler, who’d gone to Boston in a trade.

Rosenthal: “Brad, you said you immediately noticed the fanbase was crazy”–the word had been used in a complimentary context. “How have you noticed that? Is it on the streets? Just seeing the people?”

Ziegler: “Honestly, on Twitter a lot.”

Rosenthal seemed eager to support a narrative, but Ziegler had thrown a curveball.

Ziegler: “Basically, if you give up a run, you hear about it. If you don’t give up a run, you’re well-loved in this city. David Price…he had won eight games in a row and had been tremendous for us down the stretch but had a little bit of a rough one last night, and they’re just crushing him.”

Rosenthal, it appeared, had expected first-hand acknowledgment of the Boston mystique. Instead he was getting this.

Ziegler: “It’s just, you know, ‘What have you done for me lately?’”

Later, as if to salvage the script, DeRosa said to Ziegler, “Just coming into Boston, like, what’s the one thing about your teammates that’s blown you away?”

You could see the thought bubble above DeRosa’s head: “Papi!”

Ziegler: “The guy that surprised me a little bit was Hanley Ramirez.”

Brad Ziegler: American hero.

The final MLB Central began the way I reckoned it might: with a segment on David Ortiz and his impending farewell. Two days earlier, MLB Central had made 15 mentions of Ortiz. A day earlier, the show had used his name seven times. Now a ticker was running: “Ortiz Taken Of (sic) Game In 4th Inning After Walk In His Final At-Bat At Yankee Stadium.”

Following talk of the Boston bullpen, Vasgersian said, “Another Boston story…”

Airing for the third time in three days was a segment on Ortiz disguised as a Lyft driver.

Vasgersian, afterward: “Speaking of David Ortiz…”

To the screen came Papi’s likeness mowed into Fenway grass.

Following another mention of “that clubhouse,” the show resumed with another Ortiz segment. The tribute lasted seven minutes and 20 seconds.

Later came an interview with former big leaguer Kurt Bevacqua, live from San Diego.

Sweet relief!

Vasgersian: “Hey, let me ask you about David Ortiz making his farewell tour.”

Oh.

Next came Sean Casey’s interview of David Ortiz.

Casey: “Talk about the city of Boston and what they’ve meant to you.”

Where’s Brad Ziegler when you need him?

Mentions of David Ortiz/Big Papi on today’s MLB Central: 70.

Mentions of the Rangers, owners of the AL’s best record: zero.

Mentions of Derek Jeter: Hey, just one.

I had at last reached the conclusion.

My conclusion? All times are Eastern, and the sun goes down in the West.

MLB Central, Monday, April 3, 2017

Vasgersian: “To celebrate Opening Day, Yankee Stadium organist Ed Alstrom is with us today.”

On set, in a glittering NY cap, Alstrum played Take Me Out to the Ballgame.


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
114 Comments
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Jerry S Wieder
5 years ago

It seems to me you are also ignoring an issue.

Yankees fans are everywhere in the country. But more importantly people who HATE the Yankees are everywhere.

The content works for 2 specific markets at the same time , that is a huge advantage.

Mlb teams use the Yankees to gouge fans for additional ticket prices. Shouldn’t MLB network excercise the same?

Finally, the Cubs coverage was smothering.

Lanidrac
5 years ago
Reply to  Jerry S Wieder

Why would fans want biased coverage on a team they hate? If they were going that route, then you’d expect a bunch of the excessive Yankees coverage to also be of a negative nature.

Shauncore
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.
Pig Vomit: How can that be?
Researcher: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
Pig Vomit: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
Pig Vomit: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?
Researcher: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Teddy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jerry S Wieder

Part of the reason for the hatred of the Yankees throughout the country is because of the media bias.

Lanidrac
5 years ago

Cheese, they don’t even bother with the other coastal teams like the Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, Marlins, Mariners, Padres; or even the A’s or Angels who actually share markets with two of their Beloved Five. There’s not even any Chicago bias, which don’t forget is the third largest city in the country. Man, they suck!

Thanks for bringing some sunshine to middle America this morning!

Garth Iorg
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

And forget any mention ever of the third-largest city in MLB and the largest city with only one team. That would be Toronto.

Careless
5 years ago
Reply to  Garth Iorg

While Toronto has a few thousand more people than Chicago, the Chicago metro area is substantially more populous.

Aaron
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

I don’t think it’s even so much a “coastal” bias that brings in the Giants and Dodgers. Baseball fandom, much more than other sports, is a generational thing more than a regional thing. The Giants and Dodgers were once in New York as well, so for fans who learned the game from their parents who learned from THEIR parents, the genesis of fandom for a lot of people of a certain age (think, media producers) all get their biases from the same place.

Most of the offices of MLB, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and other influential media giants are based in New York or the surrounding areas. It becomes a vicious self-sustaining cycle of reporting on local affairs, consuming local affairs (because that’s what everybody else is reporting), and then thinking that’s all that exists, so reporting on more local affairs.

Carl
5 years ago

John,

You’re forgetting that a major reason for the NY coverage and Yankee fandom of the guests is that the Major League Studios are all in NYC. They draw local celebrities and draw local stars who are NYC metro based and therefore more likely to be Yankee/Mets/Dodger/Giants fans.

Even at that though, the flyover teams need a lot more coverage.

MetsMind
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

As Carl said, the location of the studio (NJ) plays a part. It breeds financial and intellectual laziness. It’s true not just of sports shows but news shows as well.

Franko McTanko
5 years ago
Reply to  Carl

I’m not clear on why local stars and celebrities in NYC are likely fans of the Dodgers or Giants.

Carl
5 years ago
Reply to  Franko McTanko

Frank,

Somewhat generational as they grew up in homes that were Dodger/Giants fans from the 1950s. Probably not a huge percentage, but enough to tip the scales a bit more to those two teams as opposed to say the Tigers or Mariners.

Mike
5 years ago

It’s not just MLB. All other national news organizations or web sites are the same way. Try being a fan of the Twins, Rockies or Marlins. You’ll rarely see your team mentioned. Even the Royals in their world series years didn’t receive much attention.

Darren
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Every time I turn to MLB.com, the main stories are about the big five. Even after noteworthy moments happen for the Rockies, INCLUDING beating the Dodgers or Giants (the Rockies have done that three times this year and have a combined record of 9-3 vs. them), the focus was on the Giants and Rockies. Mark Reynolds is off to a monster start, but nobody outside the market knows that. The best leadoff hitter in baseball, Charlie Blackmon, plays for the Rockies. Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are basically the same players, but hardly anyone recognizes Nolan.

The worst part about the Rockies is the tag line. This article mentioned the Texas Rangers furnace. The Colorado Rockies, in the national news, are synonymous with “the ball travels farther at elevation,” and there is no more analysis about the team.

If the Rockies ever get mentioned in the national news for even a moment, it is exciting.

Goober
5 years ago

tl;dr, so sorry the big networks don’t go on and on about dustin garneau to satisfy the three rockies fans tuning in.

Mark
5 years ago
Reply to  Goober

Lol. Way to choose a no-name player just to support your theory. We don’t expect MLB Network to go on and on about our back-up catcher, but the Rockies roster is full of stars. Arenado is a top 10 player in all of baseball, Blackmon, LeMahieu, and CarGo have been winning awards for years now. Story and Dahl broke on the scene last year in a big way. And now they have young starters (Senzatela, Freeland, Anderson, Gray) and a bullpen that are bucking the “Coors Field myth”. Rag on Garneau, but don’t sleep on the Rockies this year. They deserve to be covered, just like the Rangers deserved it last year.

Also, it’s possible there are only 3 Rockies fans tuning in because they know they will never hear their team mentioned, but I anticipate that there are actually many more. Denver is one of the fastest growing markets in the country. The Rockies, who have not been very good the last few years, have still be around the top 10 in attendance.

Chan
5 years ago

Shout out to Fangraphs who I think does an excellent job in covering the entire country. Without you guys I would never know that teams like the Brewers exist!

As a As a yankee fan I didn’t really notice lack of mentions on other teams. I wonder what the numbers are for times when Jeff or Dave go on the Network and if they expand ideas a bit.

I hope they make some mention of this on IT.

Mike
5 years ago
Reply to  Chan

Actually Fangraphs has a similar problem, just not to the extreme of MLB. I just checked the article count. There were 488 articles about the Yankees. The Rockies and the Twins were in the 250’s.

Cool Lester Smooth
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike

How many .500 or better seasons do the Rockies and Twins have over the course of FG’s existence?

MP
5 years ago

Let’s find the r^2 of team payroll to team article count at FG (or team mentions on MLBN).

Anyone whining about disproportionate coverage should also be clamoring for a hard salary cap.

Tony
5 years ago

People always have the same complaints about TV that ignore the real logic and reasoning. I only could stomach about 1/3 of this article complaining like a spoiled child that their favorite cartoon isn’t on TV as much as Mom and Dads popular sitcom. People think there is some big conspiracy in the TV and media world. As if there is some big powerful person pulling strings for a vindictive agenda. It’s called RATINGS. Not some shadowy bias. You mention all the NY guests and people on the shows. Guess where MLB Network is located… I’ll wait why you google it… you know since you do such great research. So for daily shows you want them to convince guests from all over the country to fly over to NJ. And you also want MLB Network to pay for all these flights. Also… good on air talent usually make their way to larger higher paying markets which increases their audience overall. Vasgersian is from the west coast. He’s here on the east coast because that’s where he can get paid. He also talks about his favorite team the A’s whenever they are relevant enough and he can… because once again… RATINGS. If you want to watch TV about teams and people and things no oe cares about… start your own network and let me know how the ratings are…

MarylandBill
5 years ago
Reply to  Tony

You do realize that we are in the second decade of the 21st century right? You don’t need to have your guests fly in to NY these days. Heck, news organizations have been doing remote interviews since at least the 1980s.

Also ratings are not an indicator of a lack of bias, not unless they explicitly tried a less biased version of the program and the ratings plunged. Decent ratings built on top of the assumption that you need to concentrate on New York Teams or former New York Teams essentially is an example of confirmation bias.

Look, I get that these teams have national fan bases.. The Yankees because they are the Yankees, the Giants and the Dodgers because of their history, The Mets because.. well. umm.. they are the team for New Yorkers who hate the Yankees? But come on, because of their previous easy access on Super Stations, the Cubs and the Braves have big national followings as well. And Saint Louis because of its history has a big fan base as well. Finally of course, hot teams should get coverage, especially when their performance is unexpected.

Tony
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

Ha, do do…
1) Actually your responses are waaaay less whiney and I do appreciate you taking the time.

2) While showcasing you ability to cherry pick and point out where people employed by MLB Network are from you left out others that were not from the area that have openly showcased their personal bias for other teams. So while it was not a research based piece cherry picking is usually open for criticism. I believe any enlightened person would agree.

Also Kenny is not an analyst he’s a host (nit picky I know but neither of us is being completely mature) and was, until recently, openly mocked by most on the network on air for constantly talking about the Astros as the team of the future the past couple of years.

3) While you are keen that they travel for work your research (quickly googling) only talked about who was from that area and again completely ignored others. You showcased such a small sample size for the sake of your argument but presented it as if it was much more. Did you google where any one else from the Network is from and conveniently leave it out?

It predisposes talent to talk about what will get people to listen to them. Since the more people that listen to you means you are getting better ratings… I think you can see where I’m going with this. Moral of the story is if you don’t like something, don’t watch. But more and more people are watching.

4) Are you really going to pretend you don’t understand what a budget is. So you want MLB Network to daily fly in people from all over so they can do 1 hour of TV for them… Explain how that financially would work.

5) It tells me that they don’t understand how TV works or basic supply and demand. Ratings for MLB Network are going up while other sports channels are hurting.

Also can you please link me to all the articles you have written about every team. I’m sure they are equal in amounts for each team and length.

Cool Lester Smooth
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

The issue isn’t whether MLB Network can afford to fly people out to NYC.

It’s that no sane person would choose to fly in to NYC from Chicago or LA for a segment on a talk show.

Andrew
5 years ago

I don’t really care about or watch MLB Network, but this is symptomatic of the problems with the way the league promotes itself. They seemed to be very focused on cashing in on the white coastal Baby Boomer nostalgia aspect of baseball fandom and I think that is going to hurt the growth of the sport in the long run. They’re also too invested in the success of a few key franchises so they have to try to perpetuate a cycle where those teams dominate the sport.

Andrew
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

Yeah, thanks for responding John, totally agreed about the majority owned aspect as well. It seems like the better approach would be to use the network to promote teams and players that aren’t widely recognized by the national media. There would probably be less short term profitability in that approach, but it would help grow interest in smaller market teams. I think this is the only American major league sport where there is such a clear hierarchy of teams in terms of market size. A big part of that is the lack of a salary cap, but I also think media coverage is a big part of it as well.

MP
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

“the network is majority-owned by Major League Baseball. Let that sink in for a few minutes, then go watch these shows.”

The might have already sunk in for most of us….seconds after seeing that the network is called “MLB Network.”

In your next hard-hitting investigation, please find out who owns the NFL Network. But break it to us in long-form with hours of transcripts.

Chuck Hildebrandt
5 years ago

To be fair, the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants and Mets are all the favorite teams of people who don’t really know that much or care that much about baseball in the first place.

This is not to say that the native fans of these teams don’t know or care about baseball. They all have some of the best, most knowledgeable fans in the game.

But when you ask someone who’s guesting on a baseball show, someone who’s an actress or singer or chef or whatever, and who doesn’t really follow the game at all, who their favorite baseball team is, what do we expect? That they’re going to eeny-meemy-miney-moe the Rangers or Rockies or Rays as their favorite team? As if.

I get that there’s chicken-and-egg going on here, that the media force-feed these teams to the American public so these teams are always top-of-mind. But when a business is trying to fish where the fish are, they’re going to focus on what the fish like, so they can sell more fish food to them.

Also, remember this: one out of every seven people in the United States live in either the New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco DMAs. That’s a lot. So there’s that, too.

Scott
5 years ago

Just a note. There are 4 coasts, the North Coast being the longest, with 6 teams on the Great Lakes and 3 more within 3 hours.

But as others have said it’s not about the coasts. When I went to college in NY, I was faced with the practical reality that those around me thought there were only 5 “real” cities in the US: New York, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago (the last being just an outpost in flyover country).

Applied to baseball that meant only Yankees and Dodgers and Mets were worthy of discussion. The Red Sox were often mentioned, but only in relation to the Yankees. And the Mets only because it was still only a few years removed from their beating the Bosox in the World Series. My Twins’ title was a quaint oddity there, as was the Bay Series. So the regional myopia is nothing new for me, but it’s still disappointing for a network billing itself as “MLB TV.”

RP
5 years ago

An article worthy of enshrinement at firejoemorgan.com. Cheers mate.

Bob
5 years ago

Was there a point here? That was one long and tedious article.

Paul G.
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob

The article was meant to funny and insightful, tasks at which it succeeded quite well. *applause*

MP
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

When they let you write a 20-page article filled with second-hand material, I don’t think they also signed on for 100 repetitive comments from the author.

2017 total word count

John Pascal: 20,000
The rest of THT: 10,000

You have the lead. Please bring in your closer and go away.

Steve
5 years ago

I suggest the author cut the cord and watch commercial free, unauthorized streams of mlb games on the inter-webs. Most of the time one is free from the phony narratives that spew from east coast based network television and their Madison avenue cronies.

Isn’t it ironic that the most famous voice of the “Yankees” was from the deep south.

How about that?

Franko McTanko
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, is putting Yankees in quotes meant to imply there is a team impersonating the Yankees? WHERE ARE THE REAL YANKEES? Who are these impostors? Is it the Red Sox? Giants? Dodgers? METS??? I’ve exhausted my options. I can’t think of who else it could possibly be.

Jacob
5 years ago

In fairness, they’re still better with this than ESPN. And every now and then they’ll mention my White Sox, though almost never in a scripted way (just a side comment without any elaboration/analysis).

bucdaddy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jacob

Hmmm, not sure about that. Last year some guy plays basketball for some team in … wait, it’ll come to me … oh yeah, Cleveland, got mentioned about eleventy billion times on ESPN. Mercifully, you see a lot less of him now that that storyline finally exhausted itself.

ESPN has to hype up rivalries, both personal and team vs. team, else it would be forced to acknowledge just how tedious, really, a random Wednesday game in an 82 or 162 game regular season really is.

ESPN’s real purpose in life is … plugging ESPN.

87 Cards
5 years ago

I throw shade on the whole “talking-head” premise. MLB owns all the broadcast and re-broadcast rights to all of its game (…”express written consent)”. I would watch MLB Network more if baseball-the-game was the programming and the suited -sycophants were assigned to Twitter, ESPN or Access Hollywood. More Bob Uecker; less Chris Rose.

mando3b
5 years ago

Jerry Wieder: So, “the Cubs coverage was smothering”?!?!? They won the freakin’ World Series! They won 103 games and were the favorites from Day 1!! Plus, they won the Series for the first time in 108 years, appearing in it for the first time in 71!!! You sound like the clown on ESPN who said late-summer (literally) that the best story for MLB in 2016 would be “A-Rod leading the Yankees to the World Series after being suspended for a year” . . .

This is not a problem about “my favorite team isn’t getting coverage”, it’s about what national baseball coverage should look like. Local reporters are always going to be homers–that’s true everywhere, has been true from time immemorial, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the MLB Network (and ESPN, and Fox Sports, etc.) is supposed to cover the entire sport nationally; it shouldn’t matter what teams their reporters root for or where their headquarters are located. Go where the stories are, like good journalists are supposed to do. The last two WS champions are from KC and Chicago. The most surprising teams this year (so far) are in Denver, Phoenix and Cincinnati. The single most intense post-season series I recall ever watching was between Texas and Toronto in 2015. That’s a lot of good, interesting baseball in the heartland; in any event, this is the kind of stuff I want to encounter on the supposedly national media, as opposed to stories that would be viewed as puff pieces even in the cities involved. (Derek Jeter! David Ortiz! Yasiel Puig!) Saying the coastal bias is due to the fact that “there are so many Yankees and Dodgers fans all over the country” is just disingenuous: as MarylandBill says above, the Cubs and Braves (to take two other teams) have fans all over the country, too, and here in New England I encounter fans of lots of other teams all the time. As Chuck Hildebrant points out, this is a chicken-egg dispute: if the only team you get to watch nationally is the Yankssauxmetsdodgersgiants, naturally that’s the team you’re going to say you like the best. But I don’t believe this is purely “fishing where the fish are”: It’s more artificially stocking one part of the pond and then saying “look, we have to fish here, ’cause this is where the fish are”. But the point ultimately is that it would be nice to hear more about all the good players from outside NY/Boston/LA/SF; see more incisive commentary about interesting developments involving other teams; have some sense of what interesting trends there are in baseball outside of the East & West Coasts; etc.

Postscript: All this extends beyond baseball journalism, too. One of the flaws in Ken Burns’s “Baseball” was having both a Red Sox fan and a Brooklyn Dodgers fan as talking heads representing fandom–i.e., choosing not one, but both, of the smuggest, most over-romanticized franchises in the history of the universe. I can see not wanting, say, me talking about my Cubs; but couldn’t you find an articulate fan of one of the other old Midwestern franchises to go along with someone back east? . . .

Lanidrac
5 years ago
Reply to  mando3b

Yeah, I was kind of disappointed when the “10th Inning” aired. For example, they spent a lot of time on the Red Sox breaking their curse in 2004, yet they didn’t touch on just about as interesting World Series Champions such as the White Sox breaking a curse nearly as long just the next year, the Diamondbacks riding Johnson and Schilling over the Yankees in 2001 in just their fourth year of existence, or the Cardinals defying all odds to nab the 2006 title after just 83 regular season wins.

steex
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

To be fair, most fellow White Sox fans I know hated that the national media tried to push the “curse” angle on the 2005 White Sox following the 2004 Red Sox. Perhaps I was in the minority, but I never saw most South Siders put any credence into the idea of a curse the way North Siders embraced the billy goat or Red Sox fans bought into the curse of the Bambino.

Roberto
5 years ago
Reply to  steex

Being a White Sox fan myself, I didn’t feel like the national media was trying to label the White Sox as “cursed”, but the 1919 talk did grow tiresome. The ESPN coverage of the White Sox/Red Sox series was dreadful nonetheless. The fat old blowhole screeching “Noooooooo” when the ball went through Graffanino’s legs was shameful at best. That was the end of my ESPN baseball viewing for life.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

I have never been able to get through all of “Baseball.” Although he has done some good things, I find much of Burns’ work, especially “Baseball” to be pretentious dribble.

To the extent that “bias” is a problem, it’s not just MLBN. Look at how little is written about the history of the Cardinals, one of the great franchises in baseball history. How many books have been written about the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers, primarily because so many writers grew up on the East Coast. The Yankees obviously deserve it, but why is Ted Williams, for example, so much bigger a figure in baseball history than Stan Musial. (In fairness, it’s probably not all bias, but a matter of personality). The fact is, most of the population in the United States is concentrated on the coasts and in big cities and they have always gotten most of the attention from the media-whether it was TV/radio, newspapers or whatever. It’s probably not fair, but to single out MLBN seems misguided.

In a slightly different way, it’s interesting how the Cubs winning was national news, yet people simply ignored the White Sox having won in 2005. If you are a White Sox player or fan, it must be awful to be such a second banana. And we know why; the North Side is a more affluent, upscale area that has marketed the Cubs and the ambience of Wrigley Field. No one has ever talked about any of the White Sox parks having ambience.

Cool Lester Smooth
5 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

I can give you a three digit number as to why Ted figures so much more prominently into the history of baseball:

.406

More importantly, Ted Williams is the greatest non-Ruth hitter of all time. His .482 OBP is the highest of all time, and his career wRC+ is closer to Ruth’s than any other hitter in baseball history‘s is to Williams’.

Ruth is at 197, the Splinter is at 188, and Gehrig, Hornsby and Bonds are tied for third at 173.

If anything, Williams is underrated.

Roberto
5 years ago

Hmmmm, maybe I just watched too much ESPN baseball coverage in the 90s and 00s, because I find the MLB Network’s coverage to pretty good for all teams. I smile every time they mention the small market teams and I feel like they have me smiling a lot.

Roberto
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

Thanks John. Hopefully the Network will continue to improve its content because of articles like yours.

hopbitters
5 years ago

Good Morning, Hardball Times Readers,

Please excuse me for sending this out to your entire group via your comments section, but I was alerted by a member in your group and I wanted to let everyone know that the reason for the change to NY Yankees coverage.

The reason for the change is that a decision from the current administration administrative officials has requested that all media, under our control, broadcasing or on the internets, report NY Yankees-related news.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but I am unable to change any of the reporting to any other team coverage at this time.

If you have other questions, please feel free to contact me at this email: media@yankees.com

Takiar
5 years ago

You forget one thing. Apart from the Red Sox, all these teams are or have been based in New York.

The A’s were from Philly, and the Angels are an expansion team, so even though they share the Giants’ and Dodgers’ markets, they are not mentioned half as much. The Boston Braves are forgotten, that team moved around too much, and not to big markets.

Brian Mangan
5 years ago

This is an incredible collection of information, and it appears, a real labor of love.

Is there data to be mined from all this? Is there a way to see the number of mentions or air time?

Stephen Dudas
5 years ago

Do you/have you watched MLB Tonight at all? I feel like it is a staple of MLB Network and from what I remember it is not as biased the insanity you have observed from these other shows.

careagan
5 years ago

I agree that these five teams get a lot of play, but I really can’t see how the Cubs are left out-they have a similar national fanbase as these teams and they were the big story last year. I remember them being discussed a ton on MLB Network. I know this article is focused on that channel’s coverage, but I guarantee if you go back and watch the three playoff series featuring the Cubs you will find the broadcast spending a disproportionate amount of time discussing the Cubs vs. the other three teams, two of which are on this list.

tz
5 years ago

The only surprising thing in this article: Chris Freaking Russo correctly predicting that a Cubs-Indians World Series would be excellent.

(Though at the pace at which Russo’s jaws flap, I suppose this is only slightly less likely than a copy of Othello personally typed by Marcel the Monkey.)

playright21
5 years ago

Life-long Yankee fan that very much enjoyed your article. I knew there was bias, but man, what you’ve described is unabashed favoritism. There are, absolutely, reasons for it. However, I agree that it is a short-sighted approach. On the network, I’ve often heard lamentations regarding the absence of MLB players in commercials for top brands and in the national conversation, generally. Looks like change needs to start at home.

I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I can only imagine myself, a Cowboys hater, being subjected to endless fluffing of “America’s Team,” Which makes me wonder, are there equally strong biases in the NFL and NBA? My guess would be not to the same extent despite Celtics, Lakers and Cowboys; but I’m not going to put in the time to prove it…batter up!

bucdaddy
5 years ago
Reply to  playright21

Well, ESPN rode LeBron all last season like a 10 cent pony in a shopping mall, but I guess that’s not the same thing as showing a bias for Cleveland. What I notice more is that if ESPN owns the rights, as it does largely with the NBA, then the NBA (and its cult of personality stars, since it’s easier for one player to dominate in the NBA than for probably any other sport) leads, and you might hear something about the NHL 20 or 30 minutes into a SportsCenter. So the bias is for 1) ESPN properties, over those of other networks, and, by extension, 2) the stars of those properties.

Damian
5 years ago

How much weight to you lend the reality that the big markets drive viewership (I recall an article about ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” that showed that in markets all over the country, Red Sox vs. Yankees are the top rated matchup–even over local teams, excepting Cardinals vs. Cubs in those respective cities). I imagine if the numbers supported showing more matchups not featuring the big five, then the big five wouldn’t feature so prominently.

Expect the Cubs to make the big five a big six, or perhaps supplant the Giants if the Giants become and remain mediocre.

How much weight do you lend to the fact that the entertainment industry is disproportionately represented by native and transplanted New Yorkers and Los Angelinos, and that of course the studio is located in a bog near the Big Apple? This obviously drives the nature of the guests appearing on the program.

How much weight do you assign to the assertion that if you did deeper analysis you would find that the Mets–despite their presence in New York–were likely not part of the big five a few years ago? Or that if you extended the big five to a big seven you’d likely ensnare the Cubs, and perhaps the Cardinals, and that coincidentally the seven franchises in question likely have both the largest fan bases of all MLB teams as well as the most storied history, with caveats? While the Mets are not that storied, they are the spiritual successors to the most relevant of any MLB teams that have ever relocated [as well as being a natural local foil to the polarizing Yankees], whereas the A’s–legitimate claimants to at minimum a fifth position amongst a list of successful franchises (if championships are a a key criterion)–suffer due to several factors: wrong side of the bay; inadequate stadium by the standards of major modern sports; and perhaps one relocation too many.

I’m not denying that there is bias–there is. I am (perhaps unncessarily, or even ineptly) trying to demonstrate that there are natural factors that lend to that bias–some of them quite pragmatic–even before taking natural human biases into account. I’m certain I could reasonably approximate the nature of the bias MLB Network evinces without any much knowledge of baseball or the network itself merely by knowing the factor local and coastal geography plays of the booking of non-baseball guests and their origins and residences (as well as on-camera personnel); analysis of ratings for national and postseason telecasts; basic information on historical and recent success for franchises; and additional minor details.

Maybe you know all these things and acknowledge them; I read a few comments and you seem to address some of the points made by others. I’m commenting because I see you swimming in an ocean of salt about this, and I see nowhere within the body of the article an intelligent breakdown of natural (and again, perhaps even pragmatic) factors that facilitate the bias.

Maybe this article is meant to just be a long, documented groan and gripe about the bias without anything resembling an attempt at insight into why it exists. If so, then it’s spot on, and you were successful, and you don’t have to feel like there’s anything you need to defend or clarify. I just thought that I was going to be treated to something more substantive and I ended up disappointed that this article ended up being simply the literary equivalent of an impressive trek up Mt. Salt.

Damian
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

Thanks for the response. Even as I wrote my response I thought it likely you crafted this article for precisely the reasons you specified, and as I was finishing it up I began to think that HBT readers are generally pretty smart anyway. The readers whom are generally unfamiliar with the shallow insights provided in my comment are unlikely to read it, or would be unlikely to acknowledge the veracity of general statements of a similar ilk had they been in your original article anyway. So I appreciate you reading my comment in full considering that in retrospect I find its authorship quite unnecessary.

87 Cards
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

John P,

I salute your tenacity and verbosity in this set of comments.

Grand Canyon, Mt. Salt, Machu Picchuu, Mont Blanc and Mt. Salt….I offer the claim that you lead the HBT in intentional walks.

Henry Quinn
5 years ago

“I would watch MLB Now or MLB Central each day of one randomly selected week.”

And you though this was somehow going to be a decent sampling of the network’s team coverage…why? You don’t actually explain why you chose these two shows, so I’m guessing it’s just “I’m really lazy”. I’m happy your brand of scientific analysis won’t ever go any farther than a baseball blog.

Kevin
5 years ago

Thank you for the post and all the effort that went into it.

The comments, though, oy. I’ve run out of popcorn.

Actually, I do have something to add. I have to endure water-cooler type conversations re sports media all too often that trot out that old “the ratings justify the coverage, therefore it isn’t a bias” nonsense.

I just shake my head, it’s too repulsive to try to interrupt that type of mental masturbation.

MP
5 years ago

Whoever wrote or read this entire article has way, way too much time on his/her hands.

Find a hobby, volunteer, do something besides writing a 20-page book report on a daily television show!

Roberto
5 years ago
Reply to  MP

What a rude, unnecessary comment. Take your own advice, cretin…

MP
5 years ago
Reply to  Roberto

‘Bert:

Two sentences of criticism != 20 pages of whining.

BDM
5 years ago

Fabulously researched/documented piece of reporting. You should get an award, well done! As to substance, this is why I almost never watch MLB TV, as I discovered this ridiculous and boring bias. Don’t understand why owners haven’t stepped in regarding what is clearly propaganda pieces against the interests of the 25 teams.

Andrew
5 years ago

Great analysis. Nice to see some actual proof.

According to the the national media, the only important thing about Machado is that he could sign with Yankeesin 2018, which is when they’ll start treating his career like it’s really begun.

Morris Buttermaker
5 years ago

Great article. Exhausting comments. Who would expect what we all already knew could be so polarizing. But I have to add to the 6500 words of comments that the West coast bias really is just a LA bias. I know it was touched on in the article but don’t tell a Pads fan (like me) there is a west coast bias. Or god forbid the angels fans who have to call their team the LA Angels of Anaheim. Last I checked Anaheim is not in LA. Besides most of OC hates LA as much as SD does. Plus the A’s are a laughing stock. And not even this article or the commenters remembered that Seattle is on the West coast.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago
Reply to  John Paschal

The weather at Candlestick Park was atrocious, I suppose because of where the park was built. Seems like you don’t see as many people wearing parkas at the new stadium.

7stringsarebetterthan6
5 years ago

As an Astros fan in Texas and contrarian shithead, I really enjoyed this article. Especially the roasting of Mark Derosa, that dude is more full of hot air than my state. Thanks for writing!

David Scott
5 years ago

Mr. Paschal, you forgot something! The Giants and the Dodgers both originated in . . . wait for it . . . New York! So that makes four out of the Big Five with a New York connection!

Michael Bacon
5 years ago

I was born in the South, as we say, “by the grace of God.” I listened to the St. Louis Cardinals, everyone’s favorite team for obvious reasons, until the Braves moved South. When I began playing Baseball the game of the week on Saturday was announced by Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese. I can still hear ol’ Diz singing the “Wabash Cannonball.” Mickey Mantle may have been the favorite Baseball player of the day in most of the country, but in the South it was Stan Musial. The New York Yankees were on the GOTW much more often than any other team. Not knowing any better I became a New York Yankee, and Mickey Mantle, fan. Until, that is, uncle Arth asked me why I liked “Them Goddamned Yankees,” before spitting a wad from his chew into a spittoon. After telling him he said with dripping vitriol, “I HATE THEM GODDAMNED YANKEES.!!!” He then spit a wad of chewin’ tobaccee on my new baseball shoes…Upon returning home I asked my mother why Uncle Arth acted like that. My mother sat me down and told me the story of the War of Northern Aggression, and of Sherman’s march through the South, perpetuating war crimes against Southern civilians (https://www.amazon.com/War-Crimes-Against-Southern-Civilians/dp/158980466X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494444823&sr=1-1&keywords=war+crimes+against+southern+civilians). What I felt then, and what I feel now, goes far beyond hatred for the New York Yankees. I LOATHE and DETEST them! Since they play in an altered league which violates the rules of Baseball (Our NINE vs your NINE) I never watch them. The only exception was when they played the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

Some years ago (I believe it was when MLB Now first began) Brian Kenny said something about “The Yankees winning is good for Baseball.” I sent MLB TV an email asking why it was so good for Baseball to have a winning New York Yankees Baseball team. Why was it not good to have a winning team in, say, Seattle, or Houston? I did so knowing full-well that New York is the media capital of the country. It is why New York players have won so many awards. I recall reading something about Frank Malzone finishing second to some NY Yankee in a ROY award vote…Derek Jeter will, most probably, be a first-ballot HOFer, even though he is the worst shortstop in the history of the game. If he played LF for any other team during a normal scoring era would he be voted into the HOF? (http://deadspin.com/two-unrecognized-hall-of-fame-shortstops-1640079170)

From the bottom of my old heart, I THANK YOU for this article.

Cool Lester Smooth
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael Bacon

Yeah, imagine if Jeter spent his entire career in Cleveland (which had a 102 Park Factor in 2015, to YSIII’s 101, and inflates doubles to a far greater extent), while putting up the same defensive value in LF as he did at SS (which translates to a career UZR/150 of ~+7).

With only a .360 career wOBA and 3,465 hits, he wouldn’t have a chance at sniffing the Hall!

3rd Inning Stretch
5 years ago

Wonderful piece, thank you.

I think this is part of what has contributed to ESPN’s demise: awful, centralized coverage that doesnt attempt to captivate the very same super fan it created.

For example, when I randomly tune in to Premier League chatter, sure as someone who could probably name 80% of the teams and is vaguely interested, sure I can deal with talks on the same 4 teams. However, if that same program draws me in daily/weekly to the point I’m knowledgeable, I’ll outgrow their coverage.

There are so many broadly appealing storylines, development, MLB network and ESPN provide laughably bad content and then appear shocked when people are no longer (or never were) interested.

Trent
5 years ago

I do not place ESPN and foxsports and others of their ilk in the same category as the MLB network. It is ESPN’s job to market ESPN. For them, the ratings matter to a far greater extent than they do for the MLB Network.

Major League Baseball needs to make money. The games need to get good ratings. The MLB Network commentary shows do not–definitively, NOT–need to be all about ratings.

Let’s suppose the coverage is more equivalent, giving somewhat equal airtime to all teams, with justifiable emphasis being placed in favor of those teams and/or players playing better (or stars struggling). Maybe that does cause some loss in viewership. But it gains some too. Probably not as many as it loses, but enough to make it passable, both in terms of viewability for EVERYONE and ratings.

I am a Braves fan transplanted to the Northeast, and married into Orioles fandom. I get that my favorite team(s) aren’t going to be the”MLB Network Showcase game” or “ESPN’s Sunday/Monday/Wednesday Night Baseball” very often. I knowhow it works. I understand ratings. Truly, I do. No hard feelings. I’ll even watch occasionally and root against the Mets/Yankees/Red Sox. In exchange, the analysis shows on a network owned by ALL of the MLB and CALLED the MLB Network can be more measured. Deal?

Dr Doom
5 years ago

Amen, brother. Right on, right On, RIGHT ON!

Ben
5 years ago

Thanks for the article. You clearly care and put a lot of time into it. And how can anyone not like Brad Ziegler?

bucdaddy
5 years ago

John,

Did you time this post for JeterFest or is that just a happy accident?

seguridad toledo
5 years ago

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