Results tagged ‘ MLB Network ’

MLB Network Shows 2008 World Series Game 2 Classic



Okay, I promise to really abandon and resign to the fact that 2009 is right around the corner here, and 2008 is just a past memory. But here we go on a crisp, cool night in January sitting there watching the second game of the World Series on the newly launched  MLB Network. I almost for got how huge the crowd was in the stands, and could still smell my loaded nachos and the sugary goodness of my cinnamon almonds.


It seemed like so long ago now that this game even was played. But then again, if you are a Rays fan, you have waited for this moment for 11 years. The aspect that this team could get to the playoffs was a distant memory until maybe July after the second half of the season started with a Rays victory via a Ben Zobrist home run. Not until the last out in a game on September 24th, did the team realize a long time dream by both those in the stands and in the dugout.


There were a handful of Rays employees who have been here the entire time. People from Bill Wiener and Mike Yodis, who have been driving forces in the procurement department of the team.  Executive Assistant Diane Villanova, who was once Vince Namoli’s executive secretary and has seen the entire evolution of this franchise. Then you have someone like Barry Jones or Kristy Capone, who sat in the sales department cubicles and might have wondered at time how long it would take to finally get here.



The re-broadcast of that game brought about a lot of emotion. A lot of sweat equity that so many have given for the Rays cause. But it did not match the joy and the total abandonment of logic as we celebrated the teams first win in a World Series contest. To say it was a typical Rays win would be pretty accurate. It showed the heart and the character of this team to the nation. Before that first win, people knew we had won over 97 games during the season, but had not seen the formula used to win a majority of those games.


Tonight the nation got to see how “Raysball” was played, and also saw the emotional and physical toll it had on fans and players. Baseball is truly a fickle game. A short blast that fall in between two out fielders can make or break a game. A single throw into the plate can make or break a game. And a single pitch, left over the plate can be rocketed to the outfield walls and beyond.


Watching this game can also make you yearn for more……….More Wins, more times like these again in 2009. To even imagine another run into the World Series right now would be  a little premature and crazy. But the pieces are in place to make a run  at it all. Several pieces will be replaced in 2009 from the 2008 crew, but these will be upgrades and not just fill in the blanks players as in the years past. The new winning tradition is now set in stone, and the clay and mortar are still wet on the basis of the 2009 roster.



In the next few weeks there will be optimism and renewed vigor about the 2009 season, but this small look into the past was just what I needed last night. I needed to remember the feelings and the emotions that gripped me on that night.  I as a fan, needed to remember where I was, what I was doing, and who I first slapped high fives to after the win.


It is a emotional and physical high I would hope on all the fans of baseball at least once in your life.  To say that night changed my life would be an understatement. I have attended 3 World Series games before this season, and got into the mood with the crowd, but did not have a center to grab a hold of and attack the event with gusto. This series had all my past feelings and tears in ti’s framework from the first pitch.


So it was pretty emotional to sit there and see again the high  sacrifice bunt by Jason Bartlett that scored Cliff Floyd from third base and Rays starter James ” Big Game” Shields reminded people that he strives under pressure shutting out the Phillies for 5 2/3rds innings, scattering 7 hits on the night. That was a lot of excitement for a Thursday night in St. Petersburg.



But from the beginning of this contest, you could tell it was all Rays tonight. Akinora Iwamura got on with a lead off walk, and moved to third on B J Upton’s drive to right field that was misplayed by Jason Werth to put both guys into scoring position with no outs in the game.  Then two straight ground outs by Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria put the Rays up first 2-0.


The Rays again got to business fast in the second inning as Upton drove in Dioner Navarro and Baldelli was thrown out in the most photographed picture of the World Series at that point. His slide into Phillies’ catcher Carlos Ruiz would be plastered all over the Internet and the newspapers and finally made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated . It was one of those World Series moments etched in stone that will be remembered for decades. It might have been an out, but it showed the determination and the spirit of this franchise.



Then came the moment of truth with Floyd and third when Bartlett put down that safety squeeze and the Rays went up 4-0. Baldelli also helped out in the field on that night going a long way for a Chase Utley drive that looked more destined for the hole than into Baldelli’s glove. The action produced a double play as Baldelli was able to fire the ball to first base and he doubled up Jayson Werth on one of the best defensive plays of the entire World Series.


But what was remarkable about the night was the cool and calm demeanor of Rays rookie David Price when he came in to pitch in this contest. He came out there with 2 outs in the 7th inning and he walked Utley before going after Ryan Howard and striking him out to end the inning. In the 8th,  Price got started quickly getting two quick outs before leaving up a slider and watching Eric Bruntlett stroll around the bases for a solo shot and take away the shutout from the Rays.



But even after all of that, Price looked determined and strong on the mound and got Pedro Feliz to ground out to only surrender 1 run to the Phillies. In the 9th inning,  Carlos Ruiz got a quick double and scored on an error to put the Phillies within 2 runs of the lead.  That brought up Utley and Howard for a second time in his brief relief appearance for Price. He got Utley to strikeout, and induced a ground out from Howard.


It was a night of lost chances for both teams, but after the last out in the game, you could see the excitement and the emotion in Price’s face as he was leaving the mound. This put the series back at 1  win each and put the pressure on the Phillies gong back home for the next 3 games. We all know how it turned out by now, but at that moment you had to believe if you were a Rays fan.



The energy and the excitement in the stadium could not be bottled up and released again in Citizen Bank Ballpark, but you wish it could. It was a night when you saw the Rays mature right in front of you. No longer did you see a team that could blow a 5 run lead, or even strike out three times in the bottom of the 9th to preserve another team’s win. You saw a squad that was on a mission and a fan base that believed in them more than any other time in their short existence. It was a great time to be a Ray.



MLB Network, Part 2



If you missed the first part of this small installment, I am going over the launch and conceptual beginning of the new MLB Network set to debut on New Years’ Day all over the cable industry. I want o tell you that you should make a point of trying to view a show with former Rays broadcaster, Joe Magrane, I can guarantee you it will be a fun time to hear this great former player and tongue-in-cheek broadcaster. So, let’s pick up where I left off before hitting the confines of a small room with the smell of anxiety and bad oxygen in the air:


With the cable industry agreeing to allow access to the MLB of the previously contracted  out-of-market concept, Extra Innings package to drive channel carriage. They used other professional leagues as a starting point for their transformation. The NHL has tied carriage deals to its channel with access to Center Ice. And the NBA is planning to use League Pass to try to persuade cable operators to move NBA TV off sports tiers and into the mind of their subscribers as a optional network.



Its contracts are up at the end of this season. The NFL also is rumored to be considering making Sunday Ticket available to cable operators, in exchange for NFL Network carriage when that contract ends in 2011. It’s uncertain whether this strategy will work for other leagues, but it is clear that other leagues are trying to use MLB’s strategy on their own properties.



“When we were putting the Oxygen Network together, we thought getting to 30 million homes was a big deal, but now getting to 50 million with the MLB Network, you have a real viable product,” said Tom Werner, Boston Red Sox chairman, a board member of MLB Network and longtime TV producer.



After MLB owners approved distribution contracts with DirecTV and cable operators last May, Brosnan and Chris Tully, senior vice president of broadcasting, immediately got to work on finding a home for the network. The process quickly turned from daunting to seemingly impossible, even with the commercial real estate market in the New York market softening and available inventories rising. The key issue was finding something that had high ceilings, open floor plans and modern infrastructure to accommodate a high-end studio set design MLB wants that will rival elaborate build-outs at ESPN and NFL Network, while at the same time was not prohibitively expensive.


Brosnan and Tully looked for months all over the five boroughs of New York City, as well as portions of suburban New Jersey and Connecticut, continuing to run into dead ends. Network partners such as DirecTV Chief Executive Chase Carey, however, continued to press MLB to focus on Manhattan. Not only is the island the country’s media focus, but a suburban or outer borough location would all but kill much-discussed plans to have players regularly come on set to appear on the network.


Common thinking was that New York is considered the center of the world to a lot of people in the country and the world.  And for this new network to be more than a typical league network,  you have to devise multiple ways to create excitement. You really need to be in Manhattan to make it accessible to everyone.



MLB then became connected with Vornado, which needed an anchor tenant to help push forward its plans for the modern, 21-story office tower in Harlem, using the former site of a hotel and retail development that never materialized. Within a matter of weeks, negotiations were well along for the MLB Network to occupy two lower floors for its studio and production operations, two upper floors for administration and sales, and place elaborate electronic signage and video boards facing the high-traffic, adjacent areas along Park Avenue.



Financial terms of the real estate venture have not been disclosed. But industry sources suggest that MLB, even after contributing up front to some of the tower’s development costs, will do far better than other city properties investigated that lease for more than $70 per square foot. Further sweetening the situation is that the space will be completely build-to-suit. In the meantime, the MLB Network will operate out of Secaucus, N.J., using the recently vacated MSNBC studios. The tenancy will be temporary, with the move to Harlem projected to occur in mid-2010.


The MLB-Vornado deal has not nearly been the end of the story. The project has sparked another feisty debate on the merits of gentrification and whether Harlem truly wants or needs an upscale commercial development such as this. Complicating that debate is roughly $20 million in city tax breaks that Vornado and MLB are believed to be seeking as part of the project. The pair of entities have received city planning approval for needed zoning variances to build the full 21 stories as intended, with city council authorization still pending.



While its distribution and headquarters location are under control, the network was pretty slow to find an executive to run the channel, especially when compared with other network launches. The NFL, for example, hired Steve Bornstein about 15 months before NFL Network launched in November 2003. Similarly, Jon Litner came over to work on SportsNet New York’s launch 13 months before that RSN launched in March 2006.



The list includes top media executives from various broadcast and cable channels, sources say. The new CEO will report to a board made up of five owners, two MLB executives and representatives from strategic partners DirecTV and Comcast. Tully has been tabbed as a likely COO candidate. The CEO also will “collaborate on a day-to-day basis with Brosnan,” according to a document Spencer Stuart sent to prospective candidates.

The Spenser Stuart group finally came down with recommendations for the top spot at MLB Network, and the job was offered to Tony Pettit in April 2008. This gave the highly motivated executive a mire 8 months before signing on for the first time for the network. Pettit’s position to manage the daily operations of the MLB Network came with very high references from his former employer, and a key allies in baseball front office.

Petitti  resume showed outstanding points of interest for MLB, and a firm background in media. Pettit attended Haverford where he majored in economics before attending Harvard Law. He worked for two years at the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft before joining ABC Sports in 1988 as general attorney. After being named Vice President of Programming, where he was responsible for acquiring and scheduling ABC Sports programming, he was hired by CBS in 1997 as Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and Programming. In December 2005, Pettiti was named Executive Vice President, CBS Sports and was responsible for all day-to-day operations of CBS Sports, where he was largely responsible for the network’s NFL coverage. He basically, was held responsible for everything you see on the Sunday telecasts nationally.

It was announced on January 3, 2008, that Mr. Petitti would be placed in charge of day-to-day operations of CSTV , the college sports network that is being absorbed into CBS sports, effectively replacing network co-founder Brian Bedol , who had been serving as president of CSTV since the network was purchased by CBS Corporation in 2005. CSTV was renamed the CBS College Sports Network on March 16, 2008. Pettit a few weeks later decided to venture into the new frontier with MLB and lead the new network.


So with a high profile CEO now in place of the new network, MLB executives started planning to approach top-tier corporate sponsors such as Chevrolet, Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi to pitch presenting sponsorships that will integrate the company identities deeply into network content.


As for MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s interactive arm is barely mentioned in the Spencer Stuart prospectus, and the operation is not expected to be involved significantly in the network. The strategy differs sharply from those at the other major leagues, and in part, is designed to maximize the economic value of both assets.


Also at play is that both MLBAM and the MLB headquarters see the respective media product as very different, with the lean-back and lean-in fan experiences quite separate and distinct. Similarly, there is currently no set deal for MLBAM to operate the network’s Web site once it launches.But asked if MLB Network, already on a faster growth curve than even the triumphant MLBAM, will ultimately overtake its Web counterpart in size and scope, Selig demurred. stating, ” Only time will tell.”


MLB Network, Part 1




It is said that the MLB Network actually might have begun about 4 years ago somewhere in the current World Series hamlet of Philadelphia.  Now you never know, but it could have been conceived at that religious corner of Geno’s and Pat’s over a modest cheese steak, or a simple order of fries. How the meeting came to be is not as important as the first few months of the new network.

In August 2004, the head cheeses of all 30 MLB clubs ownership approved funding to start the all-baseball media channel that has evolved and transformed in the past months from a wide idea and concept to a cleaner product here mire days before debut on January 1, 2009. The owners’ were originally willing to accept carriage on cable and satellite’s sports tiers, and would feature a programming lineup without the the help of live games during the debut of the network.



MLB ownership did not think the network could see a profit, or even generate any income until maybe the 6th season on the air. The idea that the MLB Network would not use live games came under quick scrutiny and was open by a broadside of critiques  from all sides of the fence. Media outlets wonder if the venture was necessary given the abundance of televised games and already established contracts within the 30 team circles.


Not lost on the medias’ critique wagon was the fact that this same concept had been brought up for the last 20 years, and why would 2009 be any different for baseball or televised sports in the United States.  So why was it not that the traction developed for baseball to push forward with this venture and seek its own new revenue stream. The Network vote was not even the big news emerging out of those owners meetings in Philly, with Commissioner Bud Selig’s extension drawing most of the events attention.



Let’s fast forward to the  anticipated New Years  Day introduction of the new network and you will find out that most of the “planned programming and events” posted in memos’ or paperwork back in 2004 has gone the way of the trash heap. Rather than launching with roughly 15 million subscribers on the various sports tiers in both outlets current programming options,  the MLB Network will now begin their programming on January 1st with over 50 million possible on digital or expanded basic programming. Making it a event worthy of even the MTV initial broadcast, and might blossom into the biggest successful network launch in cable TV history.


Early programming will include portions of MLB’s current project, the World Baseball Classic set to resume in Spring 2009, and a nonexclusive Saturday night, regular season game package that will rivals ESPN College Football Pay-Per-View program. Complimenting this will be a high energy mixing of highlights,studio programming, and more depth into development leagues and international baseball news.



Also currently evolving is the networks first strike at the “ESPN Baseball Tonight”  current dominance in the industries  inside sources and programming perks to viewers. Does this mean that MLB might censor some material for their network only and make it available to the public after airing on the new channel?



The channel will develop all these interesting moves from their new digs in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, with MLB partnering with Vornado Realty Trust to build a dramatic new structure at 125th street and Park Avenue. The building will be high end from the get-go, and will be the first top-tier office complex to be developed in the neighborhood in decades. As we grow nearer to the debut date, the network will being constantly changing and adapting to the current baseball climate and on going formation of the network should be the talk of baseball until pitchers’ and catchers’ report in Feb. 2009.


With the current MLB labor peace well at hand, the onset of possible new revenues and attendance records all but certain this season, and the Mitchell Report finally fading into the night, the MLB Network should be the thing to watch in 2009.  MLB officials are quietly reveling at their  20-year brainchild finally coming to the forefront and seeing the light of day. Profitability is now expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources.



And by 2015, revenues from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $ 210 million dollars, with a net value easily exceeding $ 1 billion dollars. Thanks to the hard up sale from cable, the massive distribution for a vertically oriented outlet like MLB Network, will become the league’s key marketing and promotional outlet.  With initial start-up costs put at the md-eight figures, the  channels quick return on investment and high asset value will mark some of the easiest money MLB owners have ever made in baseball.


Media Industry spokesman say that Selig saw the potential for MLB Network at last season’s  battles with the cable industry around the league’s out-of-market package, Extra Innings. But there were a lot of heated exchanges and questions raised about the upstart MLB Network as it fought cable television operators over carriage of the channel, plus keeping the out-of-market Extra Innings package intact.




In late 2006, it looked like a satellite provider, Direc TV might get the winning nod from baseball. It would have given the satellite provider exclusive access to Extra Innings, and an ownership stake in the new network. In exchange, Direc TV planned to launch the network to about 15 million viewers.  MLB benefited from Direc TV’s strategy of trying to corner the out-of-market sports marketplace. Direc TV already had exclusive rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket and NASCAR’s Hot Pass. But once cable operators found out that Direc TV was to get exclusive access to Extra Innings as well, they revolted big time.


I am going to have to break our little blog up into two parts because it is about 1 am, and I have to get off here right now because some friends want me to hit the Emergency Room after a friendly game of Beach Football during a Christmas Party  last night at a friend’s home on Clearwater Beach. I have to admit, me head is buzzing, and not from the alcohol anymore. So it might be a great idea to go get it check out before the holidays. Not that my hard head would damage anything, but I do like to remember things at times.


I will try and write part two while I am waiting to be seen ( you know it takes at least an hour ). I will then try and post it in the morning after I wake up. Hopefully, the hospital will have WiFi and I can get this done tonight before I forget all my facts. Anyways, I did not think I needed to go to the hospital since I made that bone crushing tackle in the open field and then got his knee into my right ear.  But I guess the 48-year old corner can no longer put a helmet on it and not get injured. And by the way, my ear does look like a floret of cauliflower in the mirror……cool.

A Trio of Tidbits: Miller, Baldelli and MLB Network





It is being reported that former Rays reliever Trever Miller will complete his signing with the St Louis Cardinals today. The former lefty specialist for the Rays will have to complete a physical before the deal can be deemed official. Miller, who was in his second stint with the Rays was the  reliever on the mound when the Rays  clinched their first postseason berth in franchise history. Miller, along with team mate J P Howell were the top 2  lefties in the  MLB in preventing inherited runners’ from scoring.


Howell and Miller were the top two left-handers in this category in the Majors. On Aug. 3 against Detroit, Miller recorded his first win and first decision since Sept. 30, 2006 at Atlanta, snapping a Major League-record streak of 121 straight appearances without receiving a decision.


The Cardinals would be Miller’s seventh team. He made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 1996.  Miller has been a great tool against left-handed batters in his career and posted an overall ERa of 4.15 last year for the Rays, but was used mostly as a late inning lefty situational pitcher for the team. He got left-handers to hit only .235 against him.


Miller will not have to be follicle challenged with the Cardinals. As you might remember, Trever used his think hair to support one of the better Rayhawks on the team. His hair was sculpted by his wife Para, who also did a similar model on their young son to imitate Dad’s hairdo.


Miller was very active in the community for the Rays, participating in numerous hispital visits and always chatting with fans before the games. He was a slightly introverted guy who had a soft spot for kids and enjoyed talking about baseball.  Miller will be missed in the Rays Bullpen in 2009.


Miller is the first of the Rays 4 free agents who has resigned with another club beside the Rays. The deal is for 2 year.  I wish him luck and hope that his 2009 goes well for him and his family. He will be missed down the right-field line by us in Section 138.





The Hot Stove action is starting to heat up for another one of the free agents from the 2008 Rays roster. Rocco Baldelli’s name has been mentioned alot in the Boston newspapers as one of the options for the 4th outfielder for the team. It would be a bit of a homecoming for Baldelli, who is from Rhode Island.


One of the obstacles standing in the way of his signing might be the amount of time between starts he may need to recover from his fatigue syndrome that he has suffered since the beginning of  Spring Training in 2008. It was thought early in the season that Baldelli might have played his last baseball because of the ailment, but medication and a change in his daily lifestyle has made Baldelli at least a part-time player.






If Rocco were to sign outside of the Rays’ organization, it would be an end to a bitter-sweet relationship with the team that drafted him in trhe first round in 2000. It would also be bitter-sweet to lose one of the most popular players in the Rays short history to another team, hopefully outside of the American League East division.


His year did not begin until a series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in August. In that first game, Baldelli made an impressive play in right-field coming in for a low floundering fly ball to make a great shoe-lace catch for the Rays. He also exploded at the plate hitting his first hit since May 2007 in the Rays win over the Seattle Mariners.




Baldelli was instrumental in the Rays success in the post season. He came on in countless games and got needed hits, and some times even hit a home run to secure a win for the Rays. But one of his memorible moments might be in Game 2 of the World Series when Rocco sprinted all the way from first base and went home on the play.


Baldelli was out at the plate, but the collision with Phillies catcher, Carlos Ruiz made the front cover of Sports Illustrated for the effort. If this was one of your last momments in the sun Rocco, let me tell you, it was shining bright and clear that night at the Trop.



                                Logo for the MLB Network


MLB Network is set to begin its operation on January 1, 2009 ,and will be a television specialty channel, primarily owned by Major League Baseball,  The Network is se to begin broadcast into over 50 million homes in the United States.  Cable Providers, which include ,Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner and Cox Communications have minority ownership of the new network, with MLB retaining a controlling two-thirds share.


The channel is building its state-of-the-art headquarters in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and moving into MSNBC’s old studios in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey. Profitability is expected by the end of 2009, according to industry sources. And by 2015, revenue from cable subscriber fees and advertising is projected to soar beyond $210 million, with a net value easily exceeding $1 billion.


Major League Baseball is the last major North American professional sports league and major professional sport overall to launch its own network. NBA TV dates back to 1999, the NFL Network to 2003, and the US version of the NHL Network to 2007, However, MLBN will have the most households of these four networks when it launches, largely because of the financial participation of the cable systems.


MLB Network expects to carry 26 live baseball games in 2009 and Saturday night is the most likely time slot these games will air in. Other early programming will include portions of the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as highlights, studio programming, international and development league games, and archival material. Also in the works is a nightly news and highlight show patterned after ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.


The Network has already begun hiring background reporters and announcers for the new programming. Trenni Kusnierek, who was the Brewers’ former sideline reporter will serve as a network reporter in 2009.  He was previously employed by the Fox Sports Network in Wisconsin in 2008. Hazel Mae will also join the  MLB reporting ranks for the new network, coming from the studio as the host of Sportsdesk on NESN.


Matt Vasgersian, who is the former San Diego Padres’ announcer  in another of the well known baseball voices to grace the new network. Vasgersian will be the voice of the MLB Network, and well as the lead host of both the MLB Tonight show and the off season Hot Stove show for the network.  Joining Vasgersian in the sutdio will be former YES Network announcer and former MLB player, Al Leiter on both programs.


Coming on as a Network analyst will be former player and ex-ESPN staffer Harold Reynolds, to also participate on the MLB Tonight  show and help sort out the trades and signings on the Hot Stove program for viewers.


Ex-Tampa Bay Rays analyst and player, Joe Magrane has also been signed by the network. His position has not been defined yet by MLB, but might be in consideration for the analyst position on the 26 broadcasts by the network in 2009.


Magrane is a funny and very colorful commentator and could lend a nice twist to the usual bland broadcasting by television networks.  He has been doing Fox Sports Network and Rays Television Network since 1998. Magrane recently did the studio color commentary for NBC Sports of  the Olympics baseball tournament in China.


This season, he was nomintaed for the Ford Frick award, which decides the boradcasters eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work with the Rays.