In any case, I would like to have a word with you, ESPN. I consume a lot of your products. I listen almost exclusively to EPSN radio. I watch a lot of ESPN on TV. There are stretches where ESPN might be the only broadcast media I consume.* They call themselves the Worldwide Leader in Sports, and while "Leader" may be a stretch, they are certainly the most popular, and for a reason.
*That's probably not strictly true, because I watch a pretty fair amount of History International, too. And ESPN doesn't show hockey, or the Cubs, or the Colts, or the Pacers, for that matter. But I do watch PTI almost every day, I usually fall asleep to Sportscenter, and like I said, it is awfully rare that my radio dial isn't tuned to 1070 AM.
All that said, why is ESPN's baseball coverage so God-awful? Baseball Tonight (or BBTN, as they apparently like to be called these days) seems to have become a shell of itself, in spite of picking up Barry Larkin, who I really liked on MLB Network. The actual game coverage is brutal. You would think ESPN money could buy top notch announcers, but that has been a total flop. They did have one of the best play-by-play guys ever in Jon Miller, but chose to let him go, so now San Fran gets him to themselves.* Oral Hershiser was a great pitcher. Not so great in the booth. I wish Bobby Valentine were half as funny in the booth as he seemed in the dugout. Dan Shulman is just lost in the mix. I haven't watched enough Monday and Tuesday night ball yet to make a judgement on both of those announcers, but what little I have watched has been underwhelming.
*I would have loved for Miller to go back to Baltimore to cover the Orioles again, but I sources tell me the Orioles are not what they once were.
And can somebody tell me what ESPN was thinking to put the K-Zone up during play? They do realize that their K-Zone isn't official, right? The only thing official about the strike zone is what the umpire calls a strike, and each individual umpire has different limits for what is close enough for a strike. Sometimes umpires get a little too into the moment and can get a little too lenient (see Eric Gregg giving Livan Hernandez pitches the Braves couldn't hit with a phone pole in the '97 NLCS), and that's frustrating. But no amount of showing the K-Zone makes it more official. Those are strikes because the umpire said so. All you're doing is cluttering up the screen with unimportant crap. K-Zone is great for between pitches to fill some time and show just how fine big league pitchers are around the corners. It is just offensive, at least to real baseball fans, to show it during play.
I understand ESPN wants to be on the edge of the curve and stay current. But, to mix my metaphors, ESPN also has a nasty habit of out-kicking its coverage. Maybe you should test that out on some day games. I'm sure you could sacrifice a little bit of time on EPSNews during the day, or even the Deuce, to show a AAA game or college game and test that out, get the fan reaction. Maybe they did, but if so, it sure wasn't advertised or anything. And given history, I doubt any real testing was done. This is the same network that brought you Kentucky basketball entirely from the camera underneath the scoreboard hanging from center court. Because I'm sure every basketball fan has wished to know what it would feel like to watch from the Jumbotron, and what better game to give it a test spin than one of the premier basketball programs in the country?
I also think that MLB Network has so outclassed all the other "league networks" that it has also left ESPN looking silly. Really, if you haven't watched much MLB Network, and you're a baseball fan, you really ought to start. Top notch stuff there.