6 Ways Television Is Helping To Make Baseball Unwatchable

How Television Has Helped To Ruin Baseball

Watching the game from center field – the only way an entire generation of TV director’s have decided to televise baseball

Here are just a few of the ways television has helped to ruin watching baseball. None of the corrective suggestions will be heeded, but someone has to point it out.

1 – The camera angles

Guess what? About 80% of the time you’re not watching baseball. What you are seeing is four guys – a pitcher’s back, a catcher, a batter and an umpire.

What kind of a lead is the runner taking? Where are the outfielders shaded? Is the overused shift in effect? Where was that ball hit? Is it going to be a hit?

How would we know? The audience rarely sees any other part of the field except from the center field camera.

Unless you attend games in person and sit in center field with a high power telescope, this is not the way anyone views an entire baseball game. Nor should it be the way to televise one.

It would be nice to see the return of the overhead mezzanine high camera from behind the catcher so we can see the whole field.

So here are two angles from behind the plate – one high and wide the other not as high. Both of these camera angles are more conducive and infinitely superior to the view you see on most broadcasts.

2- The busy screen

I don’t know about most people but I want to watch a baseball game, not be diverted by ads and a constant scroll of information.

While not every channel is guilty of the news scroll on the bottom of the screen, your view is still cluttered with unnecessary information.

Watching the World Series there are no other scores or news to scroll on the screen so you won’t see the scroll there. Yet that doesn’t stop clutter.

Showing “Fox World Series Game 1” in the upper right hand portion of the screen for the ENTIRE game? Does the score, runners on base, balls and strikes, number of pitches, pitch speed and all other sorts of information need to be shown every second of the game?

Go watch a game from the 1980’s or earlier. How did people enjoy the first 40 years of baseball telecasts with just having the game and nothing else on the screen? Quite well.

Check out a random pre-1980 baseball broadcast on Youtube to see what I mean.

3 – The damn box superimposed around home plate

With the exception of a few local broadcast outlets, most networks televising baseball have adapted their own version of a strike zone box. And it’s getting to be de rigueur instead of a special feature.

This horrible innovation that began a few years ago is an artificial rectangular box on the TV screen surrounding home plate, that supposedly identifies the strike zone and differentiates strikes from balls. Unfortunately it is in the direct line of sight of the television viewer.

The worst part about it is you can’t ignore it. It obscures your view to varying degrees depending upon which network is broadcasting the game and the particulars of their box. There are also sometimes video trails of the pitch crossing the plate on replay. Come on! Here’s a thought – maybe if you can’t distinguish that that pitch in the dirt was a ball and not a strike, baseball may not be the sport for you.

Baseball broadcasts have become one big video game. I pointed this out a few years ago. I erroneously thought the box would end like Fox’s failed ridiculous blue illuminated hockey pucks. Instead it has cancerously spread from networks to local broadcasts. The Yankees YES network is thankfully one of the few holdouts to the box. (UPDATE 2018 – YES now has the dreaded box.)

TBS – Do you really need to know where each previous pitch “kind of” was

99% of people can distinguish what a strike is versus a ball without a box. The umpire disagrees a fair amount of the time from what the box shows anyhow.

You know we’re heading towards eliminating umpires. It’s just a matter of time. God forbid you remove all the humanity of the game. Please get rid of the box.

4- The availability of games

Either too much or too little.

From the late 1940s until the late 1970s baseball teams were reluctant to broadcast games. The feeling was attendance would decline and this was where the teams made their money, at the gate. Before cable television, your local team was broadcasting a few games and then there was the nationally broadcast “Game of the Week.” Unless you were in one of four markets that had an American and National league team, the weekly national game meant seeing a team that your local team would never play. It might be your only way of seeing Fred Lynn or Mike Schmidt outside of the playoffs or World Series.

The 1980s brought expanded TV packages and the specialness of watching a baseball game quickly evaporated. Now you could regularly see a team that wasn’t in your market like the Braves if you had Supersation TBS on your cable line-up year round.

These days you can see every game either broadcast on a cable station or via online streaming.

In the past all the play-off and World Series games were broadcast on one of the major networks ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX.

Free TV forget it. The playoffs have now been relegated to cable / pay TV.

The idea that only one of the 31 playoff games in 2017 were on free broadcast television is a disgrace.

This is not the way to build a big audience leading up to the World Series. It’s one of the many reasons the ratings are getting miniscule. The way fan disinterest has been encouraged in baseball, the networks may be right televising college football and reruns of the Big Bang Theory instead of a baseball playoff game.

5 -Super slo-mo and incessant instant replays of routine plays

Oh, look at that, Jose Altuve  fouled off a pitch. Let’s see that three more times, at last one replay in super slo-mo so you can see the arc of Altuve’s swing and break it down for the audience.

Come on. Replay very close plays or game changing plays ONLY.

6- Start time of World Series games –

A no-brainer, except to network and MLB executives lacking foresight. They’re chasing advertising dollars instead of new fans.

On the east coast we all want to be watching baseball games around midnight? Apparently that is the assumption MLB and FOX have made by starting playoff games at 8 pm and later. Last night’s World Series game one, which took under two and a half hours was a rare exception to the rule.

The last time a World Series game took less time was 25 years ago, game four of the 1992 World Series which ended in two hours and 21 minutes.

The average length of playoff games this season has been over three and a half numbing hours.

Smart way to build up a new and younger audience for the national pastime when most children still have a bedtime which usually corresponds with the fourth inning of most post-season games.

MLB management needs a backbone and should not let the network contractually dictate when their premier event is to be televised.

How about this: try starting games at 7 pm or better yet …bring back playoff and World Series day baseball on the weekends.

23 thoughts on “6 Ways Television Is Helping To Make Baseball Unwatchable

  1. Bob Horner

    That shot from centerfield drives me crazy! I don’t care how fast a director thinks he is…he can’t switch it fast enough to show you where the runners were, where they are going and when and how what they are doing may have consequences on the actual game! I don’t sit in centerfield and if I did I would be watching the entire field not just the pitcher’s back, batter, catcher and umpire. KILLS the real game.

  2. Ernesto Agustín Vera González

    I think this analysis is very good. I am the director of baseball broadcasts on Cuban TV. I worked for the Olympic TV in the Baseball Games of Athens-2004 and Beijing-2008. I am a professor at the University of the Arts. I would like to exchange experiences with directors from other countries, especially from the United States. My name is Ernesto Vera González. You can write to me ernestovg1956@gmail.com. Thanks

    Me parece muy bueno el análisis . Soy director de transmisiones de Béisbol en la TV Cubana. Trabajé para la TV Olímpica en el Béisbol de los Juegos de Atenas-2004 y Pekin-2008. Soy profesor en la Universidad de las Artes. Me gustaría intercambiar experiencia con directores de otros países, especialmente de Estados Unidos. Mi nombre es Ernesto Vera González. Me pueden escribir a …ernestovg1956@gmail.com…Gracias

  3. Chris

    #1- the viewer wouldn’t be able to clearly see if the pitch was a ball or a strike n between pitches they do change camera angles so you could see the runners on base, if they have a shift on, etc. etc.

    #2- The botton line had become a staple on most channels during sporting events n most fans, including me, like it. If there are 2 games going on at the same time we like to see how the other game’s going while watching the current game.

    #3- I disagree, most fans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between balls n strikes. Also, this way, fans can get more involved with the game. If the umpire gets a call wrong, they could set that.

    #4- Basically everybody gets ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX nowadays so that’s np at all. Also, are you complaining that there’s too many gangs on TV? I say the more the better. Idk what’s wrong with you on that one.

    #5- I’d rather watch 2-3 instant replays of a foul tip then just watch the pitcher stare at the catcher for 10-15 seconds.

    #6- I actually agree with you on that one. Start the games a lil earlier, yes.
    They’d NEVER go to day games on the weekends for playoff/World Series games bc then they’d be competing with football and they wouldn’t wanna do that n risk having low ratings.
    You also have to take into account that the game does move a little slower during the playoffs n World Series bc thes more pitching changes n players (especially pitchers) are just concentrating more n take a few more seconds between pitches.

  4. Paul

    Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should .F that damn box and all those who use it . You have all lost a viewer. I refuse to have something so obnoxious forced down my throat. Screw ball you jackass networks. I will do without your baseball and spend my time doing something else. I QUIT !

    1. Darren M

      Great well thought out article that is dead on. It is not just baseball here in august of 2019 but the nfl and nba too that have too many gimmicks and ruin watching these sports on tv. I fully understand that we are not going to go back to the 80’s but a little and a lot less graphics, interviews etc would make for a much better viewing experience. Just too many closeups and replays as camera crews just barely make it back to live action ruining the flow of the game. Watching dodgers vs yankees and I do not even see the pitcher set and wind up anymore as they brought the camera back when he was halfway into his windup. I looked away and cried. In the nba if a guy makes a basket the camera will focus on him for way too long ditto if a running back runs for 9 yards the camera will close up on him for 5 seconds or so walking back to the huddle. Its all too much even today as I glanced at the screen I watched the camera work during miami florida state and said coach shot right before they focused on the coach. Could go on and on as live action is missed some with hurry up no huddle too much these days to as with the no huddle there is not much time for replays speaking of across the board there are just way too many replays. I know the broadcasts is going to do what they are going to do but it is time to get back to some of the basics of 1980’s type telecasts. Of course no one is going to do that but a little more 80’s feel to what I am watching and a little less replays,closeups, etc throughout the game would be welcome, and dont get me started on non game related super slo mo shots.

  5. David

    The networks need to think outside the box, what a bunch of morons. This is why I don’t watch baseball anymore. They have to ruin the game for me.

  6. Russ

    Bring back the good ol’ days where all you saw on the screen was the game. Networks are so out of touch with the regular fan. Commercials between innings. Okay. But during the game? Sponsored defensive plays; sponsored double plays; sponsored steals; backgrounds with rotating ads; stadiums named after corporations. How long do you think it’ll be before ads on uniforms? Don’t be too quick to think not. They’ll come up with “rules” for it and it’ll be okay. Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. Great comments.

  7. Josh

    The box… it 100% ruins it for me… and am unable to watch games which feature it… unfortunately, that means any marque game and the playoffs…

    1. Michael

      The box 100% ruins it for me too. After 40+ years of watching baseball on TV, I now need a new hobbie. It seems like I’m looking at the catcher through a tissue. Not being able to see the catcher’s hands because of the lines is maddening. Even worse is when the ball crosses the zone, the ball spot graphic and pitch speed graphic make it impossible to see late movement and placement of the ball as it impacts the catcher’s glove or the bat. IT IS AWFUL!


      I agree. Until further notice, the strike zone is whatever the umpire says it is. And they don’t miss it too often.

  8. Ken Phelps

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments above.
    The strike zone box is HORRIBLE!
    The Dodgers (Spectrum Sportsnet) started using it recently — brutal to watch.
    As was stated, if you need the box maybe baseball isn’t your game.

    I read some guy’s comment on another site how he is excited about the strike zone box because it gets us one step closer to laser strike zones and the end of umpires.
    Yeah, that’s a great idea!

    I can see it now.
    It’s just the first step to a true 21st century pastime.
    Just think, first the box, then no umpires.
    Next, with the help of artificial intelligence and the best quality 3d animation money can buy, we can get rid of human coaches/managers get rid of the players, the crowd and the stadiums themselves.
    All will be replaced by virtual teams playing in virtual stadiums – of course sold out for every game – where there are never any annoying weather conditions interfering with the “game” and the crowd is always going crazy before & after every pitch! I can just feel the excitement building!
    Owners will love saving all that player payroll, plus the expenses of the stadium its staff.
    This generation of “viewers” that seem to have the attention span of a gnat will love it and the ratings will go through the roof! Oh, the future does indeed look bright!
    At first I was against it but now I’m excited too!

    1. B.P. Post author

      You see the future as I do. I was going to write something akin to this, but you said it all for me. Absolutely brilliant! Thanks for writing in and please do so again. You made me laugh.

  9. Thomas

    there is a strike zone graphic on screen the whole game.. WHY? the ump makes the call anyway, so why is it there, just so people watching on TV can argue with family members or friends watching the game? and yell at the TV?…. it does not make any sense in my opinion. very annoying

  10. Ed L.

    I tried to watch ESPN’s Mets/Yankees game last night but the network’s obsession with Todd Frazier — Todd Frazier! — complete with in-game feature and other assorted packages, finally drove me away and into the arms of the radio broadcast. One gets the feeling that ESPN would rather be doing anything else than covering the game they are allegedly covering. I saw the replay of a routine fly-ball out from four different angles, complete with slow motion and attendant graphics. And yes, that hated rectangle was there the whole time, hovering like a specter, taunting me. No more. That’s it. I don’t care who is playing. ESPN is finally dead to me, and I feel better already.

  11. Leonardo Ragusa

    I concur 100%
    I sent a letter to FOX about their coverage.
    It will probably go unanswered and into the trash…where their coverage belongs.
    Let’s STORM THE CASTLE!!!!

  12. James

    I agree with everything you’ve said and it’s sort of a sad state actually. It really is about the bottom line and ruining the enjoyment of watching a game. THE BOX IS THE WORST though.

  13. Kevin

    An entire generation has grown up thinking this is what baseball is, so they don’t care. As smart as your suggestions are, nothing is going to change, except become worse. Glad I’m not a sports fan.

  14. Tom hyland

    Stop focussing the camera on whomever… because within 10 seconds he’s going hock a big loogie onto the ground. These guys CAN’T STOP SPITTING. It’s disgusting. When they know the camera is on them why don’t they just yank down their pants a crank a turd right in front of the whole world? I’m sure they’re not far from going that way.

  15. Glenda the Good

    I gave up on watching baseball on TV long ago. I prefer radio and even that is getting harder to do with the lack of any national broadcasts.
    Like pretty much everything else in our lives these days, ‘overspecialization’ has ruined another pastime. Not everything has to be gussied up and the constant attempts to ‘dazzle’ me with your technical prowess has taken the essence of the game which is its steady leisurely pace. A steady pace that is on the slow side is preferable to the stop and go of TV broadcasts.
    In time, baseball will go the way of the DoDo. It’s too bad as baseball is one of the few sports almost anyone can play at any age.

  16. Dave Cusano

    Great ideas.

    Everything you point out is correct, but you know no one at Fox, ESPN, TBS or MLB will consider any of your suggestions, especially if they cause any loss of revenue.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.