Bravo, MLB Network!

by Greg in

mlb-networkWhen I was a kid, I loved watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Problem was that if you missed the program back in the 1970s and '80's you had to wait another year. There were no analog or digital recordings available to most families. If you wanted to see a classic World Series or All-Star game, forget about it.

Technololgy solved that. In the 1990s you could buy a VHS or beta cassette recording. It became easy to watch your favorite holiday shows in July.

Until the advent of iTunes, I had a similar problem with baseball. I love to watch old baseball games, movies and shows. Truth is I would watch most things baseball-related for any free time I have -- airplane rides, late night viewing, Saturday morning, etc.

For the past couple of years I have scanned the iTunes library looking for vintage games and baseball shows. My seat-mates on long flights look at me strangely when I pause on an outside fastball to see if it really was a strike from a game in 1952.

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The launch this past Thursday of MLB Network has been like a dream come true for geeks like me. 24 x 7 baseball -- both old and new -- is a bit like a drug. I find myself punching 407 (my local cable channel for MLB TV) into Comcast a little too often.

Opening Day came on New Year's Day this year with the launch of MLB TV -- a 24-hour cable channel that is like ESPN's Baseball Tonight on steroids (sorry).  On opening day, former players like Harold Reynolds, Barry Larkin and Al Leiter turned insightful analysts, and engaged in a Hot Stove discussion about the coming season. We also saw a never before seen broadcast of Don Larsen's Perfect Game.

Coming from Seattle, I read with interest The New York Times' coverage of Larsen's epic trip from his home in Idaho to make a studio interview in New York City over the holidays. Because of the snows out here, the now elderly Larsen had to spend a night at our local Sea-Tac airport. 

I made my own trip in the snow from Boston back to Seattle, regretting that I was missing the launch of MLB TV. But when I turned on the channel that night, there was Larsen and Yogi Berra recounting their memories of one of the greatest games ever played.

There is a lot that I like about MLB Network. The concept is a little like Starbucks and Coca-cola -- the urge to watch baseball should always be just around the corner or always within reach.The analysts have been excellent.  Reynolds is a genuine baseball analyst, bringing a player's eye and a broadcaster's enthusiasm.  I think he may be the best baseball broadcaster to come along in awhile. I like Larkin and Leiter but would like to see and hear some other veterans who have been around the league -- Jeff Cirillo, Mike Blowers and the like have proven themselves to be brilliant analysts in markets like Seattle and Milwaukee.

The set is breath-taking.  I absolutely love watching the players stand on a baseball field (feaux as it may be) and break down how Jackie Robinson stole home against a great pitcher.

I really appreciate the opportunity to watch old games that I misse either because I wasn't yet born or because I was aboard a trans-continental flight and couldn't watch it way back when.

There are improvements and suggestions I would make. 

Not surprisingly, I would like to see MLB show where the players come from -- where did they play in college? What was their summer league experience.  Why not introduce a national audience to the Cape League, which has been the showcase for so many profession draftees.

Like CNN and ESPN in its early days, MLB Network is repetitive, even for the junkie.  That is why they should mine others for content -- the CCBL, the Hall of Fame and others could really augment their archive.