There are nine teams in baseball with 60 wins. Eight of those are preseason contender picks. Then, there's the ninth.
They're 61-49, hosted the All-Star Game in July and have even won a World Series in their franchise's short history. They're the Arizona Diamondbacks—and there's a good chance they're the best baseball team we haven't gotten a chance to see this season.
Going into play yesterday, the Diamondbacks were one game out in the NL West behind the defending champion San Francisco Giants. Surprised? After last night's win over the Giants, they're tied for first place in the NL West. It's a place no expert expected them to be, a young club under manager Kirk Gibson.
But as a fan of not just my own team but also baseball as a whole, I'm disappointed. I have not seen much of these upstart Diamondbacks and I'm betting you haven't either. While surprise teams like the Pirates and Indians have been seen on ESPN, the Diamondbacks have not been once. The very makeup of MLB's national broadcast package puts west coast teams at a severe exposure disadvantage.
Take for example ESPN's Monday and Wednesday night baseball packages. Each are weekly 7 PM ET starts. There has yet to be a 9 or 10 PM ET start, which makes it impossible for a west coast team to host one of these. TBS' Sunday afternoon package suffers from the same fault. Each of its games have started between 1 and 2:15 PM ET.
The FOX "national" game of the week is actually three regional broadcasts, which means if you live on the east coast you'll almost certainly see either one of the NY teams, Philadelphia or Boston. Last week's Tampa Bay vs. Seattle FOX game shown in NY seemed like a mistake.
Your best bet for seeing a variety of teams is actually the refreshing MLB Network,which has its national Thursday Night Baseball telecast (8 PM ET and usually east coast teams) but also broadcasts local feeds on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and some Thursday afternoons.
That said, ESPN is doing a disservice by limiting its Monday and Wednesday night windows to east coast only start times. It is willing to push SportsCenter to ESPN2 for NBA doubleheaders that run past 11 PM ET, why is it not for baseball?
ESPN will have a 10 PM ET game for the final four Wednesdays of the season, as well as either SD/SF or CWS/LAA on August 24th. But that's still just five of those windows for the entire six month season. The fact is that the windows limit the opportunity for fans on the east coast to see any west coast teams.
As of games scheduled through August 8, ESPN will have had 59 national broadcasts. Seventeen of those feature teams from either the AL or NL West. That's less than one-third of ESPN's telecasts. Only four of the 59 pit two West division teams against each other.
TBS is even worse. They have not broadcast one game west of Texas this season. ESPN and TBS did not sign east coast baseball contracts. They signed national ones and they continue to unevenly distribute the coverage exposure.
As a Yankees fan, yes, I like to see the team when I'm not in NY and they are the biggest ratings draw. But while the defending champion Giants were not shown on ESPN at all from April 4-May 31, the Yankees made six appearances. For the week of 6/13 to 6/20, the Yankees were featured in all four of ESPN's national broadcasts. How's that for variety?
As young talents like Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson thrust themselves into the pennant race, they'll continue to stay under the radar, invisible from the national broadcasters' vision. Good luck Arizona...keep it up and maybe you can get your showcase in October.