Saturday, March 6, 2021

ESPN Is Bad for Baseball

I've been debating with myself on whether to write this post at all since Thursday's game against the Nationals was broadcast by ESPN. I'll admit right at the top that I'm not a fan of either ESPN or FOX baseball broadcasts. Mets fans are lucky because we've been spoiled over the years with our team's exceptional tv and radio broadcasts. From when I first tuned in a Mets game on WOR in 1969 to SNY's coverage over the last few years, I've invariably felt that the game was always front and center. Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, Gary Cohen, Howie Rose, or any of the others calling a game, it was obvious that they saw their job as facilitating a fan's enjoyment of the game. The game itself was always the star of the show.

While there was plenty of humor and lively discussions, these things were always secondary to the game being played on the field. For instance, one of the things I enjoyed most about Ralph Kiner was his terrific stories from a lifetime in the game. Ralph had a million of them, but he would share these anecdotes around that day's game he was calling, never over it.

Tim McCarver may have drawn some criticism in his last few years with FOX, but he really was a breath of fresh air when calling Mets games. McCarver, in his prime, was brilliant in being able to interject his own unique take on the game, even criticizing Manager Davey Johnson at times but avoiding stepping on the game itself. I think that's part of the reason those over-the-top FOX broadcasts with McCarver and Joe Buck used to irritate me so very much — I just knew that they could do better. The irritating cacophony that often threatened to drown out the game itself was considered by FOX to be a feature, not a bug.

When I was young, baseball was still considered America's game. If you hear somebody referring to it that way these days, you can rest assured that they're doing it ironically. As I mentioned yesterday, changes to the game over recent decades have created long gaps between moments of on-the-field action. As the public's attention span seemingly grows shorter and shorter, there is concern among the networks that baseball is becoming more boring. That's not a good combination for attracting eyes to commercials, the primary goals of these networks.

I've watched uncomfortably in recent years as networks like ESPN and FOX increasingly rely on gimmicks to "spice up" their baseball telecasts. It's gotten to the point now where I get the feeling that these folks don't have much love or even respect for the game of baseball. I watched with dismay a couple of seasons ago when Pete Alonso hit his rookie record-setting home run during a FOX broadcast with one of their lesser announcing teams calling the game. The announcers were actually doing one of those obnoxious in-game interviews with the immortal Adam Duvall when the home run was hit. Having a guy at the plate with a chance to break an all-time record wasn't reason enough to table that garbage for a single batter.

I've gotten to the point in recent years where if a game is on FOX or ESPN, I don't watch it live anymore. I'll listen to the radio call, and, if something interesting happens that I want to get a look at, I'll go to my DVR and watch that one thing. I refuse to give these clowns 3 hours + of my time any longer.

Against my better judgment Thursday, I put on ESPN's telecast of the game. I really wanted to check out some of the pitchers. I couldn't even make it through the first inning with David Peterson on the mound. ESPN is doing a live interview with Juan Soto, and, of course, they have to go to a split-screen with Soto on one side and the game on the other. Peterson is pitching on about 1/3 of my screen. It feels like the old days when I was a kid and watching Mets games on a 13" tv in my bedroom. Soto may be a heck of a ballplayer, but he has nothing interesting to say.

I turned the freaking game off. I don't know anyone who believes the game of baseball is served with that kind of broadcast. There are certainly things that need to be fixed in today's game. It does get boring to watch a 10-pitch at-bat where the batter has to step out 9 times to adjust his batting gloves and take a couple of practice swings between every pitch. Having this action in a split-screen with an even more boring player interview doesn't help. How many of these interviews must we sit through before we realize that 95% of ballplayers have literally nothing interesting to say?

I know a post like this won't change anything, but it did me some good to get it off my chest. I'll be back tomorrow with a regular post. Please stay safe, be well, and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.


  1. Could not agree more! I seem to say that after reading every one of your posts.

    It doesn't get more dumb down than ESPN Sunday night baseball. What i do if the Mets are on Sunday night is sync Howie's MLB.TV radio broadcast with the muted ESPN video. It takes a little effort but it works!

  2. Again Mike,you have hit the nail right on the head. Most ,if not all,people watch the game to simply watch the game. All the side distractions are just that,distractions.

    That was the worst coverage of a baseball game I have EVER seen.
    Rarely did they mention any of the hitters or pitchers performing
    as they concentrated on their BULLSH*T interviews during 100% of the game.
    Especially in Spring Training, when you’re seeing one prospect after another, somebody has to announce WHO you are watching at the plate or on the mound…horrible. I am actually interested in the prospects. Even minor league broadcasts are superior to this.
    I finally turned off the sound and followed the play-by-play on

  4. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. I agree with nickel7168, and I probably should have done what you did with the sound, I was just too aggravated at that point

  5. With hubby yelling at the TV complaining about how little attention was being paid to the game, I was so relieved when he wanted to change the channel. When I tune into a baseball game, I want to see, hear and appreciate the game in front of me.

  6. John Kape covered what I was going to say in his first sentence. And everyone else who's commented so far has filled in the rest. It's never been about the game for FOX, but now everyone seems to be doing it. As much as I love Steve Gelbs, even his in-game interviews can distract from the game at hand, but at least the booth is aware that there's a game going on. The one thing I'd say in ESPN's defense is that it's an early spring training game at a time when who wins and loses doesn't matter at all (we see this when an inning gets rolled over due to pitch count with the bases loaded). So no one is taking what's going on on the field very seriously. However, as Nickel7168 says, we do want to see the prospects and it sure isn't easy with the impediments they create to doing so.

  7. I laughed at the comment about hubby yelling at the tv, as I saw some of myself in that one.

    I agree with you, Dave, on Steve Gelb's interviews. I never loved them, but I do appreciate that the game isn't completely pushed into the background while one is going on.

  8. Omg i just tuned into yanks astros on espn and there was some kind of 4 way pukefest going all over the screen lead by kevin millar. It is absolutely a disgusting mess. With continually rising revenue streams the game is not in any trouble. So why do espn and fox have to shit all over the game i love. Between this and espns hideous draft broadcast i may just have to take up knitting or something. Oh yeah . can we keep the camera men in their boxes . i despise watching fox camera men running down the third baseline shooting whoever hit the HR. You are not part of the game stay in the fucking stands


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