How Television Has Helped To Ruin 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.)
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.