Saturday, February 21, 2009

Three Things I'd Change About MLB Network


SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote a glowingly positive review of the MLB Network's first 50-some days on the air. It's a little over-the-top and I can't say I agree with everything (I'll believe the network "is no house organ" the next first time any of the talking heads criticizes a team for signing, say, Raul Ibanez to a three-year $30 million deal), but as I noted last month, Bud Selig and baseball inexplicably got this right.

I've got three constructive suggestions I'd like to see implemented going forward, though.

(1) Documentary Interviewee Camera Angle - I've been absolutely blown away by MLB Network's Baseball's Season series. Most recently, the archival Rickey footage from the "1982" show and a rare televised appearance from the reclusive Bo Jackson discussing the White Sox's 1993 season have been awesome to watch. That said…what's with the interview subjects staring straight into the camera? From my living room, it looks like high-definition hostage footage. Can't someone seat them just off-center and angle their eyes away from my soul? No more reverse voyeurism.

(2) Classic Games On-Screen Scores - As I type this, I'm watching a re-broadcast of Gaylord Perry's 300th win in May 1982. I'm not sure what I love most: the pullover polyester uniforms, the nascent days of the jock jheri curl or the news that "top Yankees prospect Steve Balboni" had just been called up from Triple-A Columbus. MLB Network utilizes the VH-1 Pop-Up Video thingie with occasional on-screen factoids, too. I'd like to see it taken one step further with the insertion of a permanent, unobtrusive score/inning graphic onscreen, as well. I get that the "classic" games are more about celebrating a specific achievement, but when my son asks me what the score is…

(3) The "Baseball Tonight" Moments - The Network's Hot Stove show is changing its name to MLB Tonight as we get closer to the start of the regular season. I'm not crazy about the format – one traditional studio host with a rotation of three ex-ballplayers offering clich├ęd "analysis" – but, the show's got potential to be more than the caricature that ESPN's Baseball Tonight has turned into. Recently, the analysts were asked to pick the best closer in baseball and, in the classically forced banter of televised sports talk, everyone picked a different guy. Just like always. In another discussion about the absence of players wearing glasses, everyone on the set wore an ironic set of specs. It was as unfunny as it sounds.

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