Major League Baseball finally has instant replay, and no one seems happy about it. Managers are infuriated. Players are dumbfounded. Fans are frustrated.
I get all that. But everyone needs to stop focusing on the little picture displaying the replay and think about the big one. Because no matter how shaky things seem right now – no matter how many kinks need to be worked out – having replay in MLB is a positive development for the sport.
Yes, I know, the system seems kind of broken right now. How could the Yankees’ Francisco Cervelli have been ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first base Sunday while the Angels’ Howie Kendrick was called out the next night?
Well, it was always unrealistic to expect replay to work perfectly from the get-go. And remember the overriding intent of replay in every sport: to correct the most egregious officiating errors.
“Everyone knew going into it that there were going to be growing pains,” Angels play-by-play announcer Victor Rojas said from the home dugout at Angel Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. “There were going to be issues that popped up.
“It’s a work in progress.”
Rojas and Fox Sports West partner Mark Gubicza already have had to talk their audience through multiple replay reviews, including the Kendrick play Monday night. They handled it perfectly, relying on the training they received at a Fox Sports seminar in Rancho Palos Verdes in late February.
Both knew immediately that Angels manager Mike Scioscia had nothing to lose by challenging the play at that late stage in the game (one out in the bottom of the ninth). Gubicza noted that even though it appeared Kendrick was safe, the replay had to be “definitive” to change the call because the original ruling was out. Rojas stressed the importance of when the ball hit the webbing of Oakland first baseman Daric Barton’s mitt.
Both announcers agreed that Kendrick looked safe. After a 31/2-minute review, he was ruled out.
“I don’t know what angles they had in New York, but it’s got to be conclusive,” Rojas said. “If it’s not conclusive, it’s difficult for them to overturn it.”
Rojas accepted the decision and moved on. If only it were so easy for everyone else to do the same.
LAKERS VS. CLIPPERS
As expected, Lakers ratings plummeted this season along with the team’s fortunes. What nobody saw coming – and what makes little sense on the surface – was a drop in Clippers ratings.
Considering their success, star power and exciting style of play, the decline is difficult to comprehend. I did a little digging to determine the cause and learned the following:
Clippers viewership was on par with 2012-13 until Chris Paul got hurt in early January. During the five or so weeks he was out, ratings fell almost 29 percent. They bounced back after Paul returned, but not quite to the pre-injury level.
In addition, the Clippers had the maximum number of “side-by-sides” – games broadcast both nationally and locally. That splintered the audience.
The Clippers clearly are an attractive property, as evidenced by the royal treatment they’re getting for their first-round playoff series against Golden State. Game 1 on Saturday is in the prestigious 12:30 p.m. slot on ABC. Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters have the call. Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and David Aldridge will work Monday’s Game 2 on TNT. Games 2 and 3, plus Games 5-7 if necessary, also will air on Prime Ticket.
WANING WITHOUT WOODS
Ratings for the Masters on CBS and ESPN were down significantly – not a surprising development with Tiger Woods out because of injury.
Although Woods’ absence undoubtedly was the biggest factor, it wasn’t the only one. Phil Mickelson, the second-most-popular American golfer, didn’t make the cut. Young star Rory McIlroy never contended. And Sunday’s back nine featured little if any drama after the two previous Masters were decided in playoffs.
Even if all those outcomes had been reversed, viewership still probably would have been down without Woods. Many wonder what will happen to golf’s ratings and general popularity once Woods is no longer competing, and this year’s Masters provided a worrisome sneak preview.
But assuming he can get his body right, Woods should have 10 more good years in him. At least that’s the hope of TV executives, whose feelings on the subject can be summed up in four words:
Get well soon, Tiger.
Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be Fox Sports’ lead golf announcers, SportsBusiness Daily reported. Fox begins carrying the U.S. Open and other USGA events next year. …
HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” returns at 10 p.m. PDT on Tuesday with a behind-the-scenes look at the Emmy Award-winning “NBA on TNT,” among other features. …
Showtime will air a feature-length documentary on Kobe Bryant sometime in the fall. The film, “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” is currently in production in Los Angeles. …
As you might have noticed, Ducks and Kings first-round games airing on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket feature full pre- and postgame shows. …
Every Stanley Cup playoff game will be televised on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC or NHL Network. In addition, all games are being live-streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra. …
NBCSN recorded its most-watched full regular season of NHL games, averaging 351,000 viewers over 88 telecasts. …
ESPN will chronicle the training and preparation of NFL draft hopefuls in a new series, “Draft Academy,” premiering at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Featured subjects include USC receiver Marqise Lee, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. …
ESPN’s coverage of the Frozen Four last week averaged 471,000 viewers, a 56 percent increase over 2013. Meanwhile, Monday’s WNBA draft averaged 413,000 viewers, making it the most-watched WNBA draft on ESPN2. …
ESPN this week debuted a new podcast series, “ESPN Perspectives,” featuring three new podcasts: “Capital Games” with Andy Katz and Rick Klein examines the crossroads of sports and politics; “SportsBiz” with Darren Rovell features an inside look at the business of sports; and “Inside Out” with Prim Siripipat delves into the psychological and social impact of sports on athletes.
— The best news about the NBA regular season ending? No more Lakers games on national TV. Or anywhere. I have the utmost respect for my friends and colleagues who had to cover that dreadful, unwatchable team and regularly come up with something fresh to say or write about it. I was in a similar situation covering the 2011-12 USC men’s basketball team, which finished 6-26. Not fun.
— When it comes to lead golf analysts, I prefer Johnny Miller to Nick Faldo. But Faldo made an incredibly prescient call during the third round of the Masters, warning about a potential bad bounce off the fairway slope on Jonas Blixt’s out-of-the-woods approach to the 11th green. Sure enough, Blixt’s ball – which appeared to be headed toward the flag – kicked dead left into the water.
— I was among the many disappointed to hear that ESPN fantasy guru Matthew Berry was dropping his baseball duties to concentrate on football. The “Fantasy Focus Baseball” podcast isn’t the same without Berry and sidekick Nate Ravitz, but replacements Eric Karabell and Tristan H. Cockroft have done a superb job of reinventing the show with less shtick and more analysis. They really know their stuff.
©2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services