MLB broadcast aesthetics haven’t been lacking without fans

MLB broadcast aesthetics
Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Only once prior to this season did we experience a baseball game played without fans: in April 2015, when the Orioles hosted the White Sox at Camden Yards amid protests following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

You can watch that game in its entirety on MLB’s YouTube. Players, coaches, and members of the media generally described the fan-less experience as surreal. The crack of the bat and the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt were as clear as day. There was no low hum of the crowd obfuscating those otherwise forgotten sounds.

MLB teams have attempted to address issues with aesthetics as the 2020 regular season got under way on Thursday. Some teams are allowing fans to pay to have cardboard cutouts of their likenesses placed in seats around the stadium. Teams are piping in crowd noise. FOX Sports is going to attempt adding virtual fans into their broadcasts.

These attempts have been met with mixed reactions. To be clear, there’s no right or wrong reaction to the changes. But from watching the Yankees-Nationals game tonight, which went into a rain delay in the top of the sixth inning, as well as the early part of the Giants-Dodgers game, I really didn’t notice a difference. Of course, the cardboard cutouts or otherwise empty seats were noticeable, but they blended into the background quickly. I didn’t notice them unless ESPN was specifically panning around the stadium. While Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole were on the mound, I was focused on the game, not the background. Your mileage may vary.

The piped-in crowd noise, borrowed from the MLB The Show video game, also felt normal and quickly went unnoticed. I felt that was the case during the exhibition spring training games and it was the case for both of tonight’s regular season games. Those manning the controls did a good job of regulating the volume for the given situations. Amusingly, the biggest broadcast flaw came when ESPN was late to show the first pitch of the Giants-Dodgers game.

We’re getting as close to normal baseball as we can get, given the circumstances. Kudos to those involved for making that happen. All this being said, I reserve the right to retract this sentiment with the virtual fans.

Kinsler back with Rangers as special assistant to GM Young

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — Former Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler returned to the team as a special assistant to general manager Chris Young, his teammate in the organization’s minor league system nearly two decades ago.

Young said that Kinsler, who was part of the franchise’s only two World Series teams in 2010 and 2011, will be heavily involved in player development and providing mentorship to both players and staff.

Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, was part of a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, a year before his retirement. Kinsler played 14 seasons in the major leagues and spent the last three years in the front office of the San Diego Padres as a special assistant in baseball operations and player development. The 40-year-old has been living in the Dallas area, as he did throughout his playing career.

Kinsler played for the U.S. in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and Israel in last summer’s Olympics, and he will manage Israel in next month’s WBC.

Young and Kinsler were teammates for several weeks at Double-A Frisco in the summer of 2004, the same year the pitcher made his big league debut. They were in big league spring training together in 2005, then Young was traded after that season.

A 17th-round draft pick by Texas in 2003, Kinsler played 1,066 games for the Rangers from 2006-13, hitting .273 with 156 homers, 539 RBIs and 172 stolen bases. He hit .311 with a .422 on-base percentage in 34 postseason games. He was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame last summer.

Kinsler hit .269 with 257 homers, 909 RBIs and 243 stolen bases in 1,888 career games overall with Texas, Detroit (2014-17), the Los Angeles Angels (2018), Boston (2018), and San Diego (2019). He is one of only two MLB second baseman with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in multiple seasons, and had the only six-hit cycle in a nine-inning game since 1900 on April 15, 2009.