FOX may make its Game of the Week to 100% prime time next year

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old TV.jpgFOX will air a handful of its Saturday games in prime time this year, and if it works they move the whole shebang into prime time next year, USA Today reports (Stop gawking at Erin Andrews and scroll down to the second story).

If they do that, they’re thinking about doing more renationalized games as opposed to the maybe two or three games they divy up across the country now. The thinking: prime time means better ratings and going more regional draws in more metropolitan areas, also leading to better ratings.

This may all work for FOX and might be better than the current day game setup, but I’m struggling to see how a national game of the week — even if its chopped up into a few regions — really accomplishes in this day and age.

Baseball is far more local a thing than the other sports, and unlike 15 or 20 years ago, nearly every baseball team is covered by a RSN of some kind that broadcasts virtually all of its games to its local area. Baseball obsessives like me, on the other hand, have the option of getting MLB.tv or Extra Innings to watch virtually every single game there is.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of unmet demand for baseball broadcasts.

What does the national broadcast add?  Especially in light of baseball’s blackout rules. If Fox moves into the evening on a regular basis and the current rules stay in effect, there will be fewer games available to fans in the aggregate, and that rubs me the wrong way. It’d be less of a problem if fans could — as they do during ESPN’s weeknight broadcasts — switch between the national game and the local game at their leisure, but I doubt that’s in the cards with respect to the FOX games.

I’ll admit, I’m a simple caveman and the ways of broadcasting frighten and confuse me, so I might just be missing something critical here. It strikes me, however, that national broadcasts during the regular season are an anachronism. The casual fans have all of their home team’s games. The nuts have all 15 games a night. All of these games are being broadcast by knowledgeable and, for the most part, competent local crews. Why do I need Buck and McCarver and those guys in my living room once a week?

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: