The MLB Network has been a success for the most part after going live on January 1, 2009.
They hit the ball out of the park with their presentation of the perfect game by Don Larsen Oct. 8 of 1956. The presence of Larsen and Yogi Berra in the studio as the game was being shown made it even more special as they related the events of that day to Bob Costas.
I would give the MLB Network a grade of B+ for their first season. They may need to make some minor changes for the 2010 season but overall they did a fine job of presenting major league baseball on the channel.
MLB Tonight has the best coverage of baseball ever seen on television on a nightly basis.
The panel which included a host and three analysts discussed in depth whatever the topic was that particular day.
Another plus for the network were the instructional sessions on the baseball diamond set up in the studios. A young player planning to be a professional baseball player would be wise to watch these major league players instruct them in a myriad of situations that arise on a baseball diamond.
My Favorite Panel
My favorite panel was when Barry Larkin, Joe Magrane, John Hart were the analysts and Victor Rojas was the host for the panel.
Larkin and Magrane provided insight from a player’s viewpoint while Hart gave the perspective of a baseball executive and Rojas did a fine job of letting the analysts do most of the talking.
Joe Magrane Added Humor
Magrane’s sense of humor was evident from his first appearance and to me his humor brightened up the show whenever he appeared.
I really liked all the analysts but those four were my favorites. Dan Plesac, Al Leiter, Mitch Williams also provided the viewpoint from former major league pitchers. Some of the other position players providing analysis were Billy Ripken, Sean Casey, Dave Valle, Tony Clark and Harold Reynolds who seemed to work overtime in the early days of the network.
Instant Coverage Of Breaking Stories
The best selling point of all was the coverage of the revelations of the Selena Roberts book which stated that Alex Rodriguez was on the list of players that had taken steroids in 2003.
Bob Costas was on the air shortly after the story broke and MLB followed the story to its conclusion when Rodriguez admitted he used steroids a few days later.
My complaints about the network are minor ones that could easily be fixed.
When they did a cut-in to a major league game they would for instance show a batter hitting with the bases loaded. Sometimes if a batter walked they would leave the coverage of that game and go on to another game leaving viewers wondering what had happened at the game with the bases still being loaded. They may be wise to follow the games as long as the bases remain loaded.
Too Many Old Games Being Shown
There were too many old baseball games being shown during the day during the season. They could have had more coverage of that day’s events.
Watching old baseball games can be fun for about ten minutes but knowing who won the game makes a lot of viewers like me lose interest. It was interesting to see the pencil thin Barry Bonds of 1992 compared to the incredible hulk he became after using steroids.
My suggestion is that they present more shows about the players of the past with them being interviewed in their homes or in a television studio. It would be nice to know what Hall of Fame players thought about the players today.
The way it was during the season a baseball fan might not even turn the channel on till 6PM ET when MLB Tonight went on the air.
Network Needs More Diversified Programming
There needs to be more diversified programming to capture viewers during the day.
Another positive was the MLB Network coverage of baseball games giving viewers another option of which game to watch on the afternoons or nights they broadcast games. It was great to have Bob Costas in the broadcast booth again.
It would be nice if the MLB Network would present a program similar to the 30 For 30 programs on ESPN.
The programs would take a major event in baseball and then take a look back at that event and what was going on before the event and quotes from the principals in that event many years later if they are still alive.
Denny McLain Story
A great story would be a program about Denny McLain and how he went from the pinnacle of success in the 1968 season to his pitching in AA baseball a few years later. Other networks may have done programs about McLain’s story but the MLB Network is equipped to do an even better job.
It would be also interesting to know the background of how he came to be signed to his first major league contract and how it was to play for Ted Williams in Washington.
The program could show him playing the organ back in those days and how he recorded the album of his organ music with a photo of him on the album in his Detroit Tigers uniform.
And they could find out what it was like for him in prison all those years and how he seems to have straightened out his life now.
He has an interesting life story that could save a young player today from going down the same road which would make the show worthwhile from that standpoint alone…or take it one step further and inspire anyone in or out of baseball to avoid making the mistakes he made.
Summary: MLB Network can be proud of their first year as a 24 an hour baseball channel.
They have assembled a fine lineup of hosts and analysts that have done an outstanding job during the 2009 baseball season.
It will be an ongoing process as they fine tune their coverage of major league baseball but to me the MLB Network with a few minor exceptions has been a resounding success in their inaugural season.