Monday, April 13, 2009

MLB Network Squanders Chance To Be Relevant

Fledgling Baseball Channel Whiffs in Initial Coverage of Death of Legendary Phillies Broadcaster Harry Kalas

The new MLB Network wants to be all things baseball. After all, that's the only reason for its existence.
Today, it proved it's still working out the finer points of that business model.
This afternoon brought word of the sudden passing of Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who collapsed as he prepared for the Phillies-Nationals game in Washington later in the day. Kalas, a Hall of Fame broadcaster, had become as identified with the Phillies as any player, and his fame was known well beyond Philadelphia.
MLB broke in to a taped program called "Cathedrals of the Game" for a brief update from its main anchor, Matt Vasgersian and then quickly returned to the program, which was inexplicably cued up from where it picked up after the last commercial break.
The rub: the network was showing a feed of the Phillies-Nationals game at 3 p.m. ET, just minutes away. So, by re-racking the program they jump in late. But just as baffling, they use the feed from the Nationals broadcast, rather than the Phillies.
True, Nationals announcers Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble said all the right things about Kalas. But the only right call was to switch gears and go to the Phillies cast -- and hear from Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler reflect on their departed colleague.
Also left unanswered is why MLB Network only has in-studio programming at night with its complement of analysts when there were four games being played during the day Monday, including the one it was showing.
Clearly, the network has to be more nimble for when events dictate, especially when ESPN is waiting to clean your clock. ESPN News for a time simulcast its Philadelphia radio affiliate, as listeners called in with their heartfelt thoughts about losing Kalas.
MLB Network doesn't have that luxury, but it does have the ability to react sooner than later, especially with the broadcast resources of all teams available to it.
Fans who went to the network thinking it would be a go-to source of information deserved better.
So did Harry Kalas.

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