MLB Advanced Media is at it again. We’ve vented about their blackout policies, and their draconian hold on all video clips. Going into the 2012 season, I figured that maybe things would change a little bit… yeah, I was wrong.
Spring Training is generally a time where no one cares about the games, or the stats…. but dammit, fans just want to see baseball. A year after the NFL made a huge deal about airing every preseason game on the NFL Network, MLB made maybe 30% of its Spring Training games available not on MLB Network, but on MLB.TV. MLB Network would generally air maybe one or two games a day most days of the week. I understand it’s impossible to air all of the games on TV because of the sheer quantity of MLB games in a season, but MLB didn’t even go above and beyond to get the games available online. I’ve discussed how ridiculous the games that ESPN chose to air were, and essentially, how the aired games did nothing to advance the spring along or help MLB. But to not air all of the games online on MLB’s fantastic streaming video service is almost unforgivable.
Because of the lack of games being aired, you missed out on a lot of highlights. For example, during Thursday’s Braves vs Nationals game, Jason Heyward apparently hit a titanic homer, over the 40 foot wall in center field 404 feet from home plate. Of course, the only people who actually saw this were the people at the game, since there were no cameras there recording video. The process for putting highlights from spring games so far seems bizarre too. I was at Wednesday's Braves vs Yankees game, and Heyward made a sensational catch to rob Raul Ibanez of a home run. I checked my MLB At Bat app maybe a half hour later to see if any video was up. Of course, it wasn’t. But dammit, there WAS video of Heyward scoring on a wild pitch, Martin Prado hitting a routine RBI single, and a sliding catch from Jose Constanza that was a tenth less impressive than Heyward’s catch. Video of the homer-robbing play wasn’t uploaded online and on the app until much later in the evening…after a recap of Brandon Beachy’s start that day, of course. Because of the lack of video, I had to settle for an animated GIF of the catch. While that’s all fine and dandy… it’s not anywhere nearly as good to see in comparison to a video.
By the way, those mundane highlights are all embeddable while the real highlight, Heyward's catch, is not.
The nadir of the spring nonsense this season came on Wednesday, with the A’s and Mariners opening the season in Japan at 6 AM eastern time. The game wouldn’t be airing live on MLB Network, instead airing on tape delay a few hours later. Also, fans in Seattle and Oakland were blacked out of the game, despite no TV stations from Oakland even covering the game. They’d rectify the decision for Thursday’s game, choosing to air that one live. But the gaffe had already pissed off a sizable quotient of fans, who just wanted to watch meaningful baseball.
There’s also the relatively new creation of MiLB.TV, which highlights minor league games. The service advertises that over 2,500 games are available, but here’s the thing: nearly all of the games are AAA games, which generally feature fewer top prospects and more roster filler/4A type players. The Phillies’ affiliated Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs have almost made their collection of major league washouts an art form in the past few years. You’ll see some of these players and either think “who?” or “wow, I remember <x> years ago when he was a huge prospect!” There are exactly 12 non-AAA teams participating as of Friday in MiLB.TV, and even then, only their home games will be aired. Thankfully, this service costs a fraction of MLB.TV, but I’m sure that once more minor league franchises get signed up for it, the cost will substantially rise. I’m pretty sure it was $10 cheaper last year.
Despite the oodles of features in MLB.TV, the league still continues to miss the mark on relatively simple things. Imagine during the season, when something relatively viral happens. The copyright police from MLB will stalk sites like Youtube and immediately take down any clips that pop up. Eventually, the video will be uploaded on MLB.com…but likely, embedding will be disabled to prevent the clip from being shared on blogs around the internet. I should really stop expecting any more from them at this point.