It’s that time of year: the time when (a) ESPN announces its Sunday Night Baseball schedule, filled with the Yankees, the Red Sox and other big market teams; and (b) people complain about ESPN’s big market and/or east coast bias.
And yes, in an ideal world everyone should get a turn in the spotlight and we’d all enjoy a couple of Seattle-Oakland Sunday night matchups. But ESPN is in the business of drawing viewers and making money, so these complaints, while understandable on one level, are rather pointless on all the levels that matter to ESPN.
I’ll also note that, as an employee of a company which has an all-sports network, it’s something I can’t criticize with any level of intellectual honesty. We know what pays the bills. If the NBC Sports Network had Sunday Night Baseball rights and I was in charge of it, you can bet your bippy I’d feature the highest-rated games possible. The key would be to make coverage of those games interesting and insightful for fans of those teams as well as non-fans, and to not forget that 28 other baseball teams exist too. ESPN doesn’t always do this, of course.
Anyway, it’s just the first half schedule — they release the second half one after the season is underway and people know what’s what — and ESPN sells it this way:
The Sunday Night Baseball schedule will feature the Los Angeles Angels and offseason acquisition Albert Pujols visiting the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter on April 15; two rivalry matchups between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (April 22 and July 8); multiple appearances by the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals (May 20 and July 15, in addition to Opening Night April 4); and three appearances by the Texas Rangers – the defending AL pennant winners – April 8 and 29 and May 13.
Here’s the whole schedule. Please lodge the inevitable complaints in the comments.
||Teams (all telecasts at 8 p.m. ET)
||Chicago White Sox at Texas
||L.A. Angels at N.Y. Yankees
||Yankees at Boston
||Tampa Bay at Texas
||Philadelphia at Washington
||Angels at Texas
||St. Louis at L.A. Dodgers
||Washington at Atlanta
|June 3-July 1
||Yankees at Boston
||St. Louis at Cincinnati
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.