Friday, May 9, 2008

ESPN Looooves them some northeast baseball

(Typical action on a summer evening at ESPN studios)

This is not breaking news by any stretch of the imagination, but it just gets so frustrating to have to deal with ESPN's love affair with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. I bring this up because once again this weekend, Sunday Night Baseball will feature one of these two teams. This will mark the 4th time already this season that Boston has been on baseball's featured game of the week, and that doesn't even count all the times they've been shown on a mid-week game. What makes this frustrating is how ESPN puts them on TV against mediocre teams even though there are much better games available. This week they play against a decent Twins team, which is a good matchup but definitely not the best of the weekend. Instead, ESPN could have shown the Diamondbacks (Currently the best team in baseball) versus the Cubs (a team with a better record than the Twins), or possibly shown matchups like the Cardinals-Brewers or Angels-Rays, all of whom have over .500 records. Fox is also choosing to make Yankees-Tigers the featured game of their weekend. Both these teams have struggled greatly making this game much less interesting than originally thought.

This weekend's selection of games brings up the greater point of how narrow ESPN's baseball focus has become. The Sox or Yanks are pretty much guaranteed to lead off Baseball Tonight telecasts, often at the expense of more important and exciting games. Sportscenter barely mentions any other team on its telecasts, and buries games not featuring Boston or New York deep in its telecast. ESPN has also done away with showing any late-night games, which means west coast teams get virtually ignored. This is an especially dubious decision in 2008, because western teams like the D'Backs, Dodgers, Angels and Athletics are all solid teams and could very well factor in not only the playoff race but the World Series. Yet these teams barely get mentioned, while non-stories such as Joba Chamberlain yelling after a strike out becomes newsworthy somehow.

The Yankees and Sox have always been popular teams, but in recent years as their rivalry has become exceedingly overblown and overhyped, their nonstop coverage has begun to hurt the rest of the league. I bet 80% of fans can't name 5 hitters in the Diamondback lineup, or name any starter on the Angels besides John Lackey. While to some this may not be a big deal, isn't it the media's responsibility to completely cover a story from all angles to inform the viewer to the best of their power? And therefore shouldn't ESPN be responsible for informing their viewers to all of the best teams in baseball equally, so that viewers can be as knowledgeable as possible about the events taking place? I guess its too much to ask from a network more interested in creating the news than actually reporting it (Tejada, Clemens, etc.), but hopefully more voices can speak out so that ESPN realizes that baseball fans actually exist outside of the northeast, and that we demand a much more balanced description of what is happening in MLB on a nightly, weekly, and season-long basis.


Young Knuckleballer said...

I've got news for you Swole, it isn't about bringing the best matchup for the die hard baseball fans out there. ESPN (and any smart TV station) is about the bottom line. Cash money makes the world go round and that's why ESPN shows games that will draw the highest ratings. Sure, D-backs/Cubs would be a great matchup to watch, but Arizona fans don't show up in hoardes like New Yorkers and Red Sox Nation. The "World Leader" is a monopoly for a reason, they know what will bring attract the most viewers and in turn generate the most advertising dollars. Even though the yanks aren't playing great ball, people are still going to watch because of the name value. Finally, your mention of an Angels/Rays matchup is an absolute joke. Nobody watches baseball in Tampa and they've got almost the same record as the Yankees anyway. I can see why you are upset, but it's not gonna change the way things are done at ESPN.

Young Swole said...

The Angels/Rays is a *perfect* example of what i'm trying to say. Its a game between a legit WS contender and a rising team, which sadly as Tiger fans is something we can't say about our series this weekend. If games like TB/Anaheim are never shown, how does ESPN plan to grow viewership going forward? Both teams are only getting better, but by ignoring them ESPN creates ignorant viewers and therefore weak viewership.

So while Sox and Yanks pull in good ratings, it hurts baseball in general because the other teams are so unknown. And just look at World Series viewer ratings if you think ESPN and Fox are making the right decision in showing the 2 teams nonstop. Unknown teams = Nonexistent viewers, which is something ESPN can't grasp.