There’s a long, interesting story over at SportsBusiness Journal today, breaking down the different philosophies between ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” and MLB Newtwork’s “MLB Tonight” shows. It starts out with a behind the scenes look at how Bobby Valentine reacted after he found out that he wouldn’t be the Marlins’ next manager.
The scene: Valentine, Kruk and the others are watching games on video screens in the BBTN conference room. Jeff Loria comes on the broadcast of the Mets-Marlins game from Puerto Rico and says that Edwin Rodriguez has the job. Valentine already knew he wasn’t getting the job, but apparently had not heard from Jeff Loria about it yet and didn’t know that Rodriguez was keeping the job. Valentine flipped just a little bit:
“I can’t believe this,” he exclaimed to a room of around a dozen
employees and on-air talent preparing for the nightly “Baseball
Tonight” broadcast. “That’s not where he [Loria] told me he was.”
“Are you saying that he lied?” asked John Kruk, a .300 hitter over a
decade as major leaguer and now one of the ESPN show’s most popular
“I’m just saying that he told me he was in a different place than
where I just saw him,” Valentine said.
He grabbed his cell phone and left the room. He returned a few
minutes later, still fixated on the Mets-Marlins game on the screen.
Based on the account I’m surprised that Valentine — though he got his digs in — was as civil as he was about it all by the time he actually went on the air and talked about it.
And about that: the SBJ story spends a lot of time talking about the differences between “Baseball Tonight” and “MLB Tonight.” And there’s a reason the Valentine anecdote serves as the lead in. Check this out:
[The Bobby Valentine] interview is exactly what [ESPN’s Norby] Williamson wants from “Baseball
Tonight.” He’s looking for talent that will be in the news and will
have to talk about it on ESPN.
Look, I’m not going to dispute the fact that ESPN has been wildly successful over the years, but do we as fans really benefit by ESPN personnel to “be in the news?” That’s the same kind of thinking that led to the LeBron James fiasco and which chips away at the network’s credibility as a news source daily. Most notably when the news is bad for ESPN people and athletes who are closely associated with the network like Ben Roethlisberger. In those cases we can never be sure if what we’re getting from ESPN is the whole story.
MLB Network has its own issues in this regard, I suppose. For example, I think there’s an open question as to how critical of Major League Baseball’s decisions is the network really free to be. But it’s not like the network has a desire to insert itself into the story like that either.
At the end of the day I think I’d just prefer someone knowledgeable to tell me what happened on the field that night and leave the intrigue to reality shows and stuff.