Six Dodgers games will be shown on KTLA (Channel 5), as well as on SportsNet LA, the team and Spectrum announced Thursday.
The games shown will be the final six Tuesday games of the season, starting Aug. 22. Four of the six games are road games.
Channel 5 also showed 10 early-season games; the 16 total games will be the most the Dodgers have shown on free television since SportsNet LA was launched in 2014. SportsNet LA is owned by the Dodgers.
The channel is available only on Spectrum, despite efforts to convince other providers to offer it. About 60% of the Los Angeles market does not receive it.
Having been a Dodgers fan all my life, you’d think this moment — when the team is the best in baseball and can seemingly do no wrong — would be one of the best of my life.
You’d be wrong.
Despite the fact that I trace my Dodgers roots clear back to the womb — when my mother no doubt jumped up and down when Brooklyn won its only world championship as she was pregnant with me — I can’t completely abandon myself to the sheer joy of this 2017 baseball season.
Why? Because I’ve been a sportswriter. That’s why.
There are many sports fans who think that the ideal job for them would be to become a sports reporter or broadcaster. What better way could there be to be around the team you love?
Actually, nearly any.
Objectivity is instilled so deeply into a journalist — yes, even a sports journalist — that the urge to push for any team to win is something that is constantly being crushed to a pulp inside him. The rule is “No Cheering in the Press Box.”
It became such a second-nature thing with me that even when one of my sons played sports in high school, I felt very reluctant to cheer for him lest someone in the stands catch me and wonder about my impartiality. And this at a time when I was only occasionally covering high school sports.
Being a sports reporter, like other kinds of reporting, tends to make you cynical. It happens mostly because you start seeing the unsightly underbelly of sports. On any level, from the big leagues to Little League, purity is a scarce commodity. People who appear nice on the field are bullies in the locker room. Hall of famers can be bums.
You stop taking things at face value. You question things. You become sarcastic.
Hey, and I’m a nice guy. Imagine what happens to guys who aren’t so nice.
So here’s where I am with the Dodgers. I had the opportunity to cover a few Dodgers games over the course of my 33-year career at a relatively small newspaper. If you took all the games I covered in that time, it wouldn’t even make up half a season’s home schedule.
Despite my upbringing as a Dodgers fan, my main thought every time was not to mess up. Since I covered so few games, virtually no one knew me, cared about me or talked to me. There was no one who went out of their way to show me how to get somewhere or to give me tips. Everyone knew more than I did.
No one had to worry about me cheering in the press box. I was just trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything or do something stupid.
When the Dodgers won the games I was covering, I was happy inside, but stone-faced outside. As I got older, I started dreaming about retirement, about the day I could watch a game, in person or on TV, and feel free to completely lose myself in the emotion. I started wishing I could care only about the sports and the teams that I wanted to care about and ignore everything else.
Three months ago this week, I didn’t retire but was laid off. I’m fairly free at this moment to watch any Dodgers game I want to and to get as geeked out about them as my wife can tolerate.
But total abandon hasn’t come. For some reason, I’m still holding back. Even though it seems the Dodgers couldn’t lose if they tried, I can’t completely give myself over to them. It’s not their fault, it’s mine.
I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s because this isn’t retirement; I didn’t leave on my own terms. Maybe it’s because the next job I get might also be in sports and I don’t want to forget how to be objective. Maybe I remain cynical because, after listening to the incomparable Vin Scully for so many years, I can’t stand how Orel Hershiser refuses on TV to find any fault in any Dodger.
It may also be because the Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since they won it in 1988. Sure, the team has been successful, winning, in fact, four consecutive division titles, but the door to the Fall Classic has been locked to them. That can’t help but make a guy cynical.
The Dodgers are on a pace to win 114 games this season. All I can think about is how the two teams holding the all-time record of 116 wins did not win the World Series. The 1906 Chicago Cubs lost the Series to the Chicago White Sox. The 2001 Seattle Mariners didn’t even make it to the World Series, losing in the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees.
When you’re a cynical sportswriter, you embrace the worst-case scenario.
The one thing that gnaws at Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Rob Manfred, more than anything else it seems, is pace of play. Baseball can’t do anything, apparently, in less than three hours.
It’s the bane of Manfred’s existence. Baseball, which throughout its history has been known as a sport without a clock, now has a clock in every stadium to mark the time between innings, to measure coaching visits to the pitcher’s mound and how much time a manager has to ask for a replay review.
But the thing that swallows up the most time during baseball games — and, obviously, every other televised sporting event — is advertising.
Commercial breaks between innings and during pitching changes can be brutal, especially on nationally televised games. Contracts allow for even longer breaks during nationally televised games than for those just shown regionally.
It’s not easy for baseball to do much to significantly cut down the pace of play when the thing that makes it the worst has nothing to do with play. It takes place when there is no play going on at all. It’s difficult to cut back on the thing that pays the bills.
But Manfred is giving it a shot. MLB experimented during Tuesday night’s game between the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals with shorter commercial breaks.
The game, shown nationally on MLB Network, as well as regionally on AT&T SportNet Rocky Mountain and Fox Sports Midwest, reduced its ad breaks from 2 minutes, 25 seconds to 1:45, according to SportsBusiness Daily.
Apparently to make up for the lost revenue in advertising time, the game also experimented in virtual advertising, i.e., digitally displaying corporate logos not only behind home plate, but also in the batter’s eye area, in foul territory near the first- and third-base line and along the top of the stadium.
The whole thing had to get cooperation not only from the teams and networks, but also from the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association unions.
It all went great, except for one thing: The game still took, 3 hours, 11 minutes to play, five minutes longer than this year’s MLB average, which is at an all-time high.
According to baseball-reference.com, time of game first averaged more than three hours in 2014. It managed to dip to 2:56 the next season, but went to 3:00 in 2016 and is at 3:05 this year.
The average time of game was 2:55 10 years ago and 2:56 20 years ago. In 1990, it was 2:51, in 1980 it was 2:38 and in 1970 it was 2:34.
THE LATE PAC-12
The Pacific-12 Conference is also looking for ways to make its football games shorter. At its media days this week, the conference said it plans a pilot program during some nonconference games this season to make games shorter.
The Los Angeles Times said the measures include cutting halftime from 20 to 15 minutes and cutting several minutes of TV commercials.
The Pac-12 hasn’t announced which games will be in the program yet because they need approval from visiting teams.
The conference suffers from having a lot of its games shown at night. The average time of a college football game was 3 hours, 24 minutes last season.
GREEN LIGHT FOR EARNHARDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s contract to join NBC next year was finally made official this week. Exactly how he’ll be used in the network’s NASCAR coverage remains to be seen. It also seems pretty likely that the iconic driver will occasionally be doing more than just auto racing.
Sam Flood, NBC Sports executive producer and president of production, told reporters this week there have been discussions about Earnhardt branching out.
“We’ve had conversations, and this is a deal with all of NBCUniversal, so it’s not just NASCAR,” Flood said. “So we’ve talked about football, we’ve talked about the Olympics, we’ve talked about other parts of the company.
“I could see him being involved, if it’s the right fit for him and for us. We’re not going to say. ‘You’re going to go off and do a feature on football,’ we’re going to say, ‘Hey, does this make sense for both sides to get you involved in something here, be it the Super Bowl, be it the Olympics. There’s a lot of speed events in the Olympics. Could be an interesting match for Dale.”
UP & DOWN THE DIAL
The British Open earned a 3.6 big-market overnight rating on NBC for the final round Sunday. Jordan Spieth’s victory was down 8% from last year’s final round, in which Henrik Stenson won over Phil Mickelson. … The BIG3 three-on-three basketball league has seen declining viewership on Fox Sports 1 since it debuted the first of its one-day delayed telecasts on June 26, but the shows are still substantially better than what the network was showing last year at this time, according to SBD. The first telecast in Brooklyn was seen by 400,000 viewers. The ones since then have been seen by 235,000, 129,000 and 148,000. …
Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN and Fantasy Football Now on ESPN2 will both be expanded to three hours when they debut for this season on Sept. 10. … The Big Ten Conference has extended its contracts with CBS, Fox and ESPN for six years each. … Lisa Byington will become the first woman to do play-by-play of a college football game on Big Ten Network when she calls Northwestern-Bowling Green on Sept. 16. … Ray Lewis, previously on ESPN, will join Showtime’s Inside the NFL this season starting Sept. 5. … Sporting News reportsESPN is trying to get Fox’s Charissa Thompson to join Mike Greenberg as a co-host for his new morning show debuting Jan. 1.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, truly a mismatch this season, will be on national TV this weekend from Dodger Stadium. Saturday’s game will be on FS1 as well as SportsNet LA at 1 p.m. PDT and Sunday’s game will be a Sunday Night Baseball game exclusively on ESPN at 5 p.m. … FS1 will also show Reds-Marlins on Saturday at 4 p.m. TBS will have Cubs-Brewers at 11 a.m. Sunday. … And this is for helicopter parents everywhere: ESPN says it will show a record 140 Little League baseball and softball games across six networks (including ESPNews, ESPNU and even the Longhorn Network) between this Sunday and Aug. 27.
Maybe it was too good to be true. Is Clayton Kershaw’s back injury the thing that brings the Dodgers back to earth? Or will this just be part of an amazing story or perseverance that will culminate in their first world championship since 1988?
The Chavez Ravine feel-good movie of the summer took a sudden genre change toward horror in the past week. Not only did the Dodgers lose (gasp!) two games in a row for the first time since June 5-6 on Thursday and Friday against the 47-50 Atlanta Braves, but Kershaw (15-2, 2.04 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) is headed to the disabled list after reinjuring his back Sunday. Reports say he could be out 4-6 weeks.
Already you can hear the millennial bandwagon jumpers at Dodger Stadium whining: “Oh, noooo! Nobody said people might get injured or that the Dodgers might actually lose a game I went to!”
Look, folks. The Dodgers were 68-31 going into Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the best record in the majors by 2½ games and the National League’s best by eight. In the NL West, they lead Colorado by 10½ games and Arizona by 11½.
Every conceivable break has gone the Dodgers’ way at this point. It would be foolish to think at least a little adversity wouldn’t pop up at some point.
But understandably, this isn’t just a little adversity. This is very significant. Kershaw is just about as close to a guaranteed win as there is in baseball. Even though his Dodgers teammate, Alex Wood, is 11-1 with a 2.17 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .188 (Kershaw’s is .197), Wood still doesn’t instill nearly as much confidence in the Dodgers and their fans as Kershaw does.
(By the way, Wood’s record was 11-0 and his ERA was 1.56 before Atlanta beat him Friday.)
This isn’t the first time Kershaw has had back trouble. He missed 2½ months last season with a herniated disk. It’s noteworthy that the Dodgers played well in his absence and wound up winning their fourth straight NL West title.
After leaving Sunday’s game at the end of the second inning, Kershaw felt “just felt a little something in my back that wasn’t normal,” he said.
“I’ve done countless, countless hours of back maintenance and rehab just trying to stay healthy and felt really, really good up to this point. There’s definitely frustration, for sure.”
At the same time Kershaw goes on the disabled list, a second starter, Brandon McCarthy will join him there due to a blister.
All this happens a week before the trade deadline and even before Kershaw’s exit, the Dodgers were reported to have interest in right-hander Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.
The Dodgers’ ERA is the best in baseball and if Kershaw has to spend much time of the disabled list, that statistic will go up, but it will still be impressive. In addition, the offense has been jaw-dropping. It’s not a reach to say the Dodgers can keep up their safe margin in the standings even if they have to be without their ace for a while.
THE WEEK JUST PAST
Now, while checking the Billboard playlist to see if the Dodgers are singing I Only Have Eyes for Yu, let’s take a look at the week just past:
The Dodgers weren’t the only team to lose a starting pitcher Sunday. The Washington Nationals pulled Stephen Strasburg (10-3) with a 4-0 lead in the second inning because of “an achy forearm and tightness.” Of course, this potential injury isn’t as scary for the Nats as it once might have been because of Max Scherzer.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but the world champion Chicago Cubs finally overtook the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings after winning Sunday night. The Cubs’ margin, however, was only .001 going into Monday’s game against the White Sox.
As we said, the baseball trade deadline is looming next Monday. They say the best trades are the ones you don’t make, and almost none of the trades that are being rumored will be made. It takes a lot less to make a rumor than it does to make a trade.
Jordan Spieth’s remarkable turnaround in the final round of the British Open — one stroke behind after the 13th hole to a three-stroke victory — was one of the event’s most sensational performances. It certainly caught the attention of Jack Nicklaus:
I still believe The R&A is way too snooty when it insists on referring to its event as just “The Open.” There are too many “opens” out there, not the least of which is the U.S. Open. There’s no shame in calling it the British Open.
So there. Nyah, nyah, nyah.
Legendary Lakers coach John Kundla died Sunday at the age of 101. Legendary? Definitely. Kundla’s Lakers won six championships. And you never heard of him? You can probably be forgiven. Kundla’s titles came before the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, when they were still the Minneapolis Lakers. Those championships came not only in the NBA (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954), but also the league’s immediate predecessor, the National Basketball League in 1948. The star of the Lakers back then was 6-foot-10 center George Mikan.
Even though he was born in Pennsylvania, Kundla was a Minnesotan most of his life. The Lakers hired him from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul and after coaching the Lakers from 1947 to 1959, he opted to stay in the state after the Lakers moved to L.A. and coach the University of Minnesota from 1959 to 1968.
No one should fault Kyrie Irving for wanting to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers so he can be the star somewhere else and escape from the shadow of LeBron James. However, making your request public when James himself knew nothing of it tarnishes your brand just a little bit.
It was downright comical to see the Lakers celebrate winning their Summer League championship as if it were the NBA Finals. But comedy right now is still what the Lakers do best.
By the way, if you see anything — anything — about LaVar Ball, Floyd Mayweather or Conor McGregor, don’t look at it. Just don’t look. Please.
West Coast sports fans know little or nothing, most likely, of Bob Wolff, who died Saturday in South Nyack, N.Y., at the age of 96, but Wolff was one of the most prolific and, in many ways, one of the most loved sports broadcasters who ever lived.
Wolff was recognized in 2012 by Guinness World Records for having the longest sports broadcasting career of all time, spanning 77 years. Wolff and Curt Gowdy are the only broadcasters to be inducted into both the baseball and basketball halls of fame.
He once said, “If you added all the time up, I’ve spent about seven days of my life standing for the national anthem.”
Wolff called some big-time games, too, including Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series, and the Baltimore Colts’ overtime NFL championship win over the New York Giants in 1958, called “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” along with New York Knicks championships in 1970 and ’73.
He is also the only broadcaster to call the championships for all four U.S. pro sports — the World Series, the NFL Championship, the NBA Championship and the Stanley Cup finals.
Wolff started in 1939, helping a radio station broadcast games for the Duke University baseball team he was a member of until he broke his ankle. He served in the Navy as a supply officer during World War II. Afterward, he joined WINX Radio in Washington as its sports director and from there he became the first sportscaster for WTTG-TV in Washington in 1946 and became play-by-play announcer for the Washington Senators. He even moved with the team when it became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.
While the Senators were usually pathetic, Wolff was appreciated and the Washington Nationals named their broadcast booth for him in 2009. With the Senators, he tried not to remind his listeners how bad the team was.
“I’d look for human-interest stories all the time to keep people listening to the game,” Wolff told The New York Times in 2013. “I’d just say, ‘Well, folks, it’s 17-3,’ and they knew which team was losing.”
TheWashington Post said that during his time in that city, Wolff did play-by-play for the Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland, along with national baseball and football broadcasts for the Mutual radio network, and even several inauguration parades.
In the early 1960s, Wolff passed on becoming an original member of the New York Mets’ broadcast team (the top spot went to Lindsay Nelson) and instead joined NBC to do its baseball Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola.
Wolff later started a long career with Madison Square Garden, even before it started its MSG Network. He broadcast Knicks games for 27 years and New York Rangers hockey for 20. He even had a 33-year run doing the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
At various times, Wolff voiced the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the ECAC Holiday Festival, the Millrose Games and Gold Gloves boxing.
Toward the end of his career, Wolff did commentary the News 12 Long Island cable station, which he joined when it was founded in 1986. His final essay for the channel was in February.
Roger Federer’s men’s championship at Wimbledon earned a 1.9 rating on ESPN, a 6% increase from last year’s 1.8 when Andy Murray won.
The NBA Summer League telecasts on ESPN had a 112% increase in viewership this year over last, with an average 783,000 viewers, compared to 369,000 in 2016. Six of the seven telecasts feature the Los Angeles Lakers, who were showcasing rookie Lonzo Ball. The top game, Lakers vs. Celtics, was seen by 1.1 million viewers, followed by Lakers-Clippers, 879,000; Lakers-Trail Blazers, 836,000; Lakers-Cavaliers, 780,000; and Lakers-Mavericks, 763,000.
UP & DOWN THE DIAL
Nationally televised baseball this weekend features Cardinals-Cubs at 1 p.m. PDT Saturday and Rangers-Rays at 4 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1, Astros-Orioles at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on TBS, and Cardinals-Cubs at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. … ESPN, by the way, has added Dodgers-Mets on Aug. 6 and Red Sox-Yankees on Aug. 13 to its Sunday Night Baseball schedule. …
The final Mike & Mike show on ESPN2 and ESPN Radio will be Nov. 17 and the new Golic & (Trey) Wingo show will debut Nov. 27, the network said. … The WNBA All-Star Game will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC. Both coaches and four players will wear microphones during the game. … The CrossFit Games and CBS have signed a contract making CBS and CBS Sports Network the official home of the games. The first event is Aug. 5.
It’s time we faced facts. Far beyond time, actually. There is no sense in anyone deluding themselves any longer:
If you can’t see the Dodgers now on SportsNet LA, you never will.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve sent letter after letter to the Dodgers, to Spectrum cable, to your congressman or even to the president.
It’s just not going to happen and the sooner you come to grips with that, the better.
SportsNet LA is in its fourth year of being the only local channel that carries Dodgers games. It is owned by the Dodgers and is available only through Charter Communications’ Spectrum, which last year purchased Time Warner Cable. After this long of waiting to see if some kind of breakthrough would come that would entice other providers, such as DirecTV, to put the channel in their lineup, we may as well realize it’s just not going to happen.
And fans certainly aren’t going to get any help from the commissioner of baseball.
During the All-Star Game break in Miami, commissioner Rob Manfred said he can’t and won’t make any kind of ruling in the dispute.
“It’s not my job to tell a club to renegotiate its television agreements,” Manfred told the Los Angeles Times, repeating a line he used in January 2016. “I think the much more productive course, and we have pursued this course, is to try to work with the parties who actually have an economic interest here.”
Manfred added, “I remain very concerned about the issue. As I have said repeatedly, I don’t have a seat at that table.”
By now it should be clear. The only way to see most Dodgers games on TV is to subscribe to Spectrum. Otherwise you’re out of luck. By now if you want to see the team, have access to Spectrum and haven’t switched, it is because you just don’t care all that much.
All the umbrage about the issue — about the greediness of the Dodgers and Spectrum, about Manfred’s refusal to do anything about it, about the unwillingness of any other person in charge to take it on — is simply wasted energy now.
The Dodgers’ SportsNet LA contract with Spectrum isn’t over until 2038 — good grief, I’ll be 82 then! — and they have shown no interest whatsoever in lowering the asking price per subscriber to providers. The providers have suffered no huge loss in subscribers over not being able to see the Dodgers. And baseball has no wish to sully its hands with the whole thing.
Even the U.S. Department of Justice, when it ruled that DirecTV colluded with providers to keep SportsNet LA off their lineups, it did not require DirecTV or anyone else to pick the channel up.
Pundits arguing that the Dodgers’ alleged “brand erosion” is directly linked to the inability of people to be able to see them on TV, is dubious. The Dodgers lead baseball in attendance, both at home and on the road. Dodgers-branded merchandise is being worn everywhere.
The TV thing? It’s over. We may as well move on.
NO FALLING STARS
With the All-Star Game no longer being used to decide home-field advantage for the World Series,Fox decided to make Tuesday’s game into a carnival sideshow.
It started with Alex Rodriguez interviewing three members of the National League infield after the first inning — on the infield.
The whole stunt — and the operative word here is definitely “stunt” — was a sponsored segment bought by Warner Bros. to promote its movie Dunkirk.
Before that, Fox had Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci do one-question interviews with the leadoff batter for each league — the American League’sJose Altuve and the NL’s Charlie Blackmon.
Even stranger and more invasive were fourth-inning interviews with AL left fielder George Springer and NL right fielder Bryce Harper — during the game. Obviously, Fox had gotten permission from MLB and each player to mic the players, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a shameful travesty of the game.
Harper seemed the most comfortable with the setup; he even asked play-by-play man Joe Buck an NFL question. It seemed like neither one of them even liked baseball.
Frankly, I would’ve loved it if Harper’s mic had gotten in the way, or had picked up some unsavory language when he made his second-inning diving catch of Salvador Perez’s fly ball or when he came up short on the fifth-inning RBI hit by Miguel Sano while wearing the mic.
Now, I’m as fun-loving as the next person, but I also lean toward being a baseball purist. Baseball is good enough. It doesn’t need to be “fixed.” As much as I disliked having the All-Star Game determine World Series home advantage, I also disliked Fox’s mockery when it decided the game was now open for ridicule.
I didn’t mind Nelson Cruz stopping the game before his sixth-inning at-bat to have catcher Yadier Molina to take a picture of him and umpire Joe West. There was no advertising stunt there and the way the game was played was not altered.
Tuesday’s game was seen by an average of 9.3 million viewers, up 7% from last year’s record-low 8.7 million. Monday night’s Home Run Derby on ESPN, won by Aaron Judge, was seen by 8.2 million, which was the event’s best draw since 2009’s 8.3 million saw Prince Fielder win.
WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEK?
The Dodgers’ Joe Davis will stay with the Dodgers this weekend. Fox Sports 1 has the 4 p.m. PDT baseball game this week, which will have the Red Sox and Yankees shown nationally. TBS will also show the two teams at 10 a.m.
Incidentally, Fox announced Thursday that Davis will again head up the network’s No. 2 college football announcing crew, teaming with Brady Quinn.
ESPN announced this week it was turn the July 30 Giants-Dodgers game into a Sunday Night Baseball game and change the time from 1 to 5 p.m.
OLYMPIC CHANNEL LAUNCHES
The Olympic Channel will launch Saturday in 35 million U.S. homes, according to NBC, a partner of the venture with the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The network will be available, NBC says, to Spectrum, DirecTV, Verizon, Comcast and Altice at the start, along with many streaming services, including DirecTV Now, Fubo, Hulu, Sony PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV.
Sports Illustrated reports among the early highlights of the network will be the reairing of all eight original broadcasts of the 1992 U.S. men’s basketball Dream Team. The games start Aug. 28 and conclude with a Labor Day marathon.
Especially notable will be that the games will be shown in their entirety; originally on NBC, some were edited down. The games were announced by the team of Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Jim Gray, and by late Lakers announcer Chick Hearn with Steve Jones.
UP & DOWN THE DIAL
The Wimbledon men’s semifinals are at 5-11 a.m. Friday on ESPN, with the women’s championship at 6 a.m. Saturday (repeated by 3 p.m. on ABC). The men’s final is at 6 a.m. Sunday on ESPN (repeated at 3 p.m. on ABC). … An interview with Rod Carew will be a highlight of Tuesday’s Real Sports at 10 p.m. on HBO. … Johnny Miller has signed a contract to continue for at least one more year as an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, according to Golfweek. … Tom Hart will take over from Brent Musburger as the SEC Network’s top college football announcer. Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic will be the analysts, replacing Jesse Palmer and Kaylee Hartung. … NFL analyst Mark Schlereth is leaving ESPN and moving to FS1, he tweeted Tuesday. … AdAge called it “Deflategate 2.0”:Viagra and Cialis will be noticeably absent from NFL TV advertising this season. Both erectile dysfunction medicines will lose their patent exclusivity this year.
This time it doesn’t count! This is a time of great rejoicing and merriment, with dancing in the streets, parades and hoopla.
Well, all right. I suppose that might be going a little bit overboard, but there should still be at least some quiet celebration. Major League Baseball has finally come to its senses.
This year’s All-Star Game will have absolutely nothing to do with which team gets to host Game 7 of this year’s World Series.
At long last. Our long national nightmare is over.
For the first time in 15 years, the All-Star Game will once again be what it was truly meant to be: an exhibition. Nothing more, nothing less.
In every one of those 15 years, I’ve written columns (you know, back when I got paid for doing that) condemning the idea of giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the league winning the All-Star Game.
You can tell how much impact I had. Hey, you give me 15 years to champion a cause and eventually the people in charge will listen to other more prominent people and make a change. Don’t mess with me, buster.
In case you’re not familiar with this whole journey, in case you’re not a big baseball fan, in case you’re reading this column just because you’re one of my friends and you’re being nice, here’s the backstory:
In 2002 at the All-Star Game in Milwaukee, the American and National leagues played to a 7-7 tie in 11 innings. At this stage of All-Star Game history, it had really devolved into becoming more important to get all the players into the game than to win it. In fact, much of the time, once a player had been in the game and replaced, they were gone. Gone out of the dugout, out of the clubhouse, out to the airport to catch a flight home.
In Milwaukee, AL manager Joe Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly had run out of pitchers after the 11th inning and so commissioner Bud Selig declared the game would end in a tie.
This was a source of embarrassment for Selig, who lives in Milwaukee and was instrumental in bringing the Brewers to the city. MLB and the players union came to an agreement that, starting with the 2003 game, home-field advantage in the World Series would be given to the league winning the All-Star Game.
Of course, this still didn’t guarantee the All-Star Game wouldn’t end in a tie, but managers were instructed to hold back some players in case the game was still in doubt in the late innings.
The World Series rule did make the All-Star Game more competitive, but integrity and pride should’ve made it that way all along.
In its publicity for the ’03 game, Fox started using the phrase “This time it counts,” as if to say, all the other All-Star Games before this one were meaningless. Why did you even bother watching them? What saps you were!
The All-Star Game was created in 1933 by, of all people, a sportswriter. Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, put the game together as part of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It was literally an exhibition at an exhibition. While a natural rivalry grew between the two leagues, it was never meant to be super competitive in the first place. The All-Star Game was, and is, just a little higher in competitive significance than a spring training game.
Of course, being Americans, we want a winner, and so the members of Tuesday night’s winning team in Miami will each receive $20,000. The losers get nothing. Don’t worry: They’re professional athletes; it’s not as sad as it sounds.
As for the World Series, before 2003 the leagues simply alternated home-field advantage. That was also a lame idea, one made back when travel considerations couldn’t be as spontaneous as they can be now. So starting this year, the team with the better record will have home-field advantage, a concept used in every other major pro league and one that should make the World Series better.
Everybody wins. That should count for something.
THE WEEK JUST PAST
Now, while wondering what I’ll write about before next year’s All-Star Game, here’s a look at the week just past:
If you’re like me (and already this is unlikely), you’re marveling at the Dodgers’ 61-29 record at the All-Star break and at the same time, you’re a little horrified by it. How is this possible? How can there be stories at this point of the season wondering if the Dodgers — the Dodgers — can win 110 games?
However, here’s a cautionary tale: The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the major league record, winning 116 games. They led the league in most runs scored and fewest runs allowed. They beat Cleveland in the Division Series — then lost to the Yankees in the Championship Series, four games to one. I’m not telling you to be a pessimist, I’m just warning you to never be too optimistic.
It is nice, however, to see the Dodgers get six players onto the NL All-Star team: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. That’s just what they deserve.
It’s especially nice since it came after Jansen called out Dodgers fans last week for not voting for his teammates. Jansen, who later clarified that the Dodgers have great fans, never otherwise backed away from his comment. And while he’s still right, it did play a part in getting Turner in as the winner of the Final Five vote.
The Home Run Derby is Monday night in Miami and Chris Berman won’t be calling it on ESPN. Berman has semiretired, spending most of his network life on the NFL. Taking his place will be the more subdued Karl Ravech. Maybe we can watch with the sound up this year.
Still, if Ravech doesn’t do just one “Back, back, back,” as a tribute, he’ll be missing the mark.
They call the second Monday at Wimbledon “Manic Monday.” That’s because the tournament takes the second Sunday as a day of rest and has to play a lot of matches the next day to catch up. Just like the rest of us.
This whole 2024 or 2028 thing between the Los Angeles and Paris Olympic committees is coming to a head. I hope L.A. gets the ’24 Games. I’d just like to see the U.S. host the Olympics again in my lifetime. Literally.
Vin Scully will be honored at Wednesday night’s ESPYs with its Icon award, according to Sporting News. The Icon Award goes to “individuals whose careers have left a lasting impression” on sports.
The SEC is staging its football media days this week, before any other conference. The Orlando Sentinel says, “No other league can even come close to the buzz generated” by the media days. That’s just what the SEC needs: more buzz.