Craig Calcaterra

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Reminder: MLB.TV and Extra Innings is cheaper this year

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This news actually happened a month ago, but I was just reminded of it by virtue of an email I received reminding me that I, like a lot of you, are members of a class in a class action lawsuit that just settled and that, as a result, we’ll get MLB.TV and the Extra Innings package at a lower price this year.

To refresh your memory, the suit alleged collusion between teams and television networks in the creation of broadcast territories. Which TOTALLY happened and was TOTALLY stupid and random, by the way. Just ask your friends who live in Iowa, Las Vegas or Hawaii about how they can’t stream games for several teams despite the teams and broadcasters making no effort to actually televise the games in those areas. As a result, the cost of these so-called “see every game” packages was wildly inflated for many, giving them up to 33% fewer games than someone who lived in a less-blacked-out area. And which might have inspired some to purchase super expensive sports tier packages from their cable company in order to get them, but I bet that was just a happy coincidence.

In any event, the case settled. Blackouts still exist. They still remain random and arbitrary and we’re not really any closer to any of us being able to cut the cable/satellite cord and just stream everything, local market included, but there are some concessions here and some baby steps. The upshot:

  • A reduction in price for the full MLB.tv package to $110 (from $130);
  • The creation of new single-team packages that will cost $84.99 if you want to just see one team’s games;
  • If you have cable or satellite and have MLB.TV, you can pay an extra $10 to gain access to the visiting team feed for in-market games. Meaning that if you are a Red Sox fan living in New York and you have cable, you can use MLB.tv to get the NESN feed of the game rather than have it blacked out and being forced to watch the YES feed.

The price drop is nice and the other stuff is a point of convenience for some, I suppose. The blackout stuff is still really galling, however. But really, given how dependent MLB and the cable and satellite companies are on sports broadcasting dollars and subscribers, it’s not shocking that we didn’t see a big paradigm shift.

Andy Pettitte gets the kid-glove treatment from the New York Daily News

Retired New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte speaks during a pregame ceremony officially retiring his number before a baseball game in New York, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.  The Yankees will install a monument honoring Pettitte in Monument Park. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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Andy Pettitte showed up at Yankees camp in Tampa yesterday to speak to Yankees minor leaguers. Or, as the New York Daily News characterized it, “to offer words of wisdom that perhaps one day will help a future generation of Yankee stars.”

The Daily News story notes that, apart from some gray hair, Pettitte looked fit and ready to play if he wanted to. The story says he talked about “the attention to detail that big leaguers have” and about how Pettitte “used himself as an example.” He additionally offered insight about “the commitment it takes to get to the big-league level and some different things, goal-setting, just some little things [he] learned over the years to help me.” The story is non-critical. It’s actually inspirational. It’s a portrait of a Great One coming back home to pass on what he knows to the Yankees’ Youngsters.

It also makes no reference whatsoever to Andy Pettite’s history of performance enhancing drug use or the legal proceedings about PEDs to which he was a party.

To be clear, this sort of story shouldn’t include such things because such things are pretty irrelevant. Pettitte is no longer a player. His drug use is in the past. Given what we know about PEDs it likely had far less impact on his performance than hysterics like to claim and made him effectively no different than scores and probably hundreds of other players of his era. It really doesn’t belong in a story about a retired player in 2016, at least in a story that is not about his past.

Except, to the Daily News, this sort of thing is almost always in these sorts of stories. Just not stories about Andy Pettitte.

In 2014, when Barry Bonds was invited back to Giants spring training, just as Pettitte was invited back to Tampa, the Daily News did a story on it. The lede: “Barry Bonds, the home run king with the drug-checkered past, is back in baseball.” Further down, the story included an entire paragraph about Bonds’ drug and legal history. The final paragraph gave shoutouts to then-Nationals manager Matt Williams’ and then-Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire’s PED history as well. Indeed, three of the six paragraphs in a story about an ex-player visiting spring training were about PEDs.

Similarly, when Bonds was under consideration to be hired by Marlins this past offseason, the Daily News’ story likewise went deep on Bonds’ drug history and, again, made mention of “admitted steroid user” Mark McGwire, who otherwise had nothing to do with the story. Once Bonds’ hiring was made official, the Daily News’ headline was “Steroids-tainted Barry Bonds hired as Marlins hitting coach.” Again, with more references to McGwire as “admitted steroid user” despite the fact that he has been coaching for several years now.

Why does Pettitte’s drug use get no mention at all when players who have been out of the game longer continue to be defined by their drug use by the Daily News? Notably, in stories which have nothing to do with the players’ pasts?

It certainly can’t be because Pettitte was honest and forthcoming about his drug use. I realize a lot of people think he was, but he wasn’t. As I detailed in 2014, Pettitte lied about his PED use on multiple occasions, including after he was named in the Mitchell Report. He also has, quite conveniently, claimed that the only two occasions he took PEDs just so happened to be the two times for which there is evidence from a third party that he did them. It was originally zero occasions and then one occasion. Pettitte has had to change his story a few times, which must be annoying. Oh, and Pettitte has also claimed that he only used PEDs to recover from injuries. Maybe that’s true, but no other player has ever been believed when he has claimed that, especially by the New York Daily News.

Again, I don’t think any less of Pettitte than I do any other player who was caught up in the PED mess of the past 20 years or so. It was a thing that happened and, in my mind, it takes nothing away from his career, his team accomplishments, his individual accomplishments or his legacy. If I’m the Yankees I WANT Andy Pettitte back in Tampa, teaching the next generation of Yankees players. If I’m doing a news story about it, I make no mention of his PED past unless it’s relevant to the story or if I’m writing detailed background about the guy.

But the New York Daily News, like a lot of other news outlets, has not taken such an approach with PED-using stars in the past. They tend to only really do that with Andy Pettitte. The paper famous for its “I-Team” tends to turn a blind eye to a favored player.

Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court and baseball

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 7, 2004 file photo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to Presbyterian Christian High School students in Hattiesburg, Miss. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshall's Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. (Gavin Averill/The Hattiesburg American via AP)
Associated Press
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Supreme Court Justice Scalia passing away over the weekend has pretty much dominated the news cycle for the past couple of days. We’ve had remembrances, both approving and disapproving, and no small amount of talk about the politics of replacing him. Indeed, every whack-job with an Internet connection and a Tumblr account has felt the need to run off at the mouth about that stuff.

It was inevitable, then, that the subject of Scalia’s sports fandom would come up eventually. The Baltimore Sun has that today, noting that Scalia was a Yankees fan who would go to games at Camden Yards. And though he died in the presidential suite at an exclusive resort which he reached via a chartered airplane, he wouldn’t get the VIP treatment when it came to baseball. He’d just go to games, sit with the normal folk and enjoy “a beer and a sausage.” He also said he wasn’t much of a football fan, which just goes to show you that even your most ardent political opponents can make a heck of a lot of sense about certain things so you should never dismiss them out of hand.

All of which is a reminder that the Supreme Court and baseball fandom seem to go hand-in-hand. Maybe it’s a lawyer thing. Lawyers love rules and order and baseball has more rules and less chaos than other sports. Maybe it’s just because most justices are older and hang around forever and, until very recently, they all came of age when baseball was still the most popular sport in America. Indeed, Justice John Paul Stevens, who is still alive and was on the court until 2010, actually attended the 1932 World Series between the Cubs and Yankees. And not in one of those “I was a baby on my mother’s hip and they tell me I was there” ways. He was 12-years-old and claimed he saw Babe Ruth call his shot.

It’s not just Scalia and Stevens, of course. Lots of justices have either been notable fans or, in some cases, have played a notable part in baseball history.

Everyone knows — or should know — about the Supreme Court’s most famous baseball-related case. Indeed, the court’s decision in the case is one of the most important events in baseball history and has shaped the way the game is run to this day. The case was 1922’s Federal Baseball Club v. National League, where the Court rules that federal antitrust laws did not apply to baseball because, in the deranged mind of Oliver Wendell Holmes and the other eight justices, “the business is giving exhibitions of base ball” is not interstate commerce. Though that has been called an outcome-oriented “aberration” (Holmes was looking to help baseball owners), Scalia probably loved at least part of that case, given that in 1995 he was on the majority in the first case in 60-some years to similarly limit the Commerce Clause.

The most recent court decision that had a major impact on baseball didn’t come from the Supreme Court, but it did come from a current Supreme Court justice. That came in 1995, during the infamous 1994-95 strike. The owners, unable to break the MLBPA, hired a bunch of scab replacement players and unilaterally imposed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The players sued and Judge Sonia Sotomayor — now Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor – of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction against the owners, putting the kibosh on the replacement players scheme. That broke the owners’ will, the sides came together, the players went back to work and, eventually, reached a deal. Sotomayor, like Scalia, is a big Yankees fan. Sometimes I wonder if using the replacement players gambit the NFL used and, in essence, running an end-around the union offended Sotomayor as both a judge and a baseball fan and she smacked MLB for pulling that lesser-sport stuff.

Other justices are noted for their baseball fandom too. A fun New York Times article from a few years back informed us that Justice Kagan is a big Mets fan. Justice Alito is a huge Phillies fan who had the Phillie Phanatic as a guest at a party once. The best bit from that article is how, during oral arguments before the court which took place during the 1973 National League Championship Series, Justice Potter Stewart passed a note to Justice Harry A. Blackmun which read “V.P. Agnew just resigned!! . . . Mets 2 Reds 0.”

I don’t know who Obama is going to pick to replace Scalia or whether the Republicans in the Senate are going to follow through with their threat to shoot down anyone nominated for the job, sight-unseen. All of that seems like a mess. But I do hope that whoever, eventually, becomes the ninth Supreme Court justice, he or she is a baseball fan. With the added hope that he or she convinces everyone that, yeah, maybe they should go back and reconsider Federal Baseball Club v. National League.