MLB Network Begins January 1

For those who haven’t seen it, Major League Baseball launches the MLB Network on cable January 1.

The official web site is www.mlbnetwork.com. You can enter your zip code on the home page to determine if the channel is available on your cable or satellite system, and if so what channel.

The first program is at 3:00 PM PST, a live “Hot Stove” program that seems to be their version of the ESPN Sports Center. At 4:00 PM PST, they’ll broadcast surviving footage of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Looking at the schedule for the first few days, it seems to be mostly rebroadcasts of World Series games, previously aired documentaries and the ubiquitous Hot Stove show.

Once spring training starts, presumably they’ll have much more.

I’d like to see them broaden their horizons.

My immediate concern is that this isn’t “the Baseball Channel.” It’s MLB Network. Which suggests it’s more about promoting Major League Baseball than the national pastime in general.

For example, they could have launched by showing us games from the Dominican winter league. I know those are available because they air on the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes channel. Baseball is being played throughout the Caribbean right now, so why not introduce us to that brand of the game?

This would also be an opportunity to introduce American audiences to Japanese baseball. Certainly there must be some games in the can of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matzusaka, etc. while they were playing in Japan. Teach us about the Japanese major leagues so we understand the teams, the rivalries, the star players, etc.

It would also be nice if they’d add a Minor League Game of the Week telecast, at a minimum. That would require negotiating broadcast rights with Minor League Baseball, which probably wouldn’t be a big deal but you never know.

Leading off with Larsen’s perfect game will have some nostalgic interest for people like me who love baseball history. But I suspect they’ll quickly lose the younger generation who turn the channel at the sight of anything in black-and-white.

It’s also a little weird choosing January 1 as a kickoff date, since New Year’s Day is traditionally wall-to-wall college football. How many people will abandon the Rose Bowl telecast to watch a 52-year old baseball game? Which will repeat several times after the inaugural broadcast.

I’m looking forward to the channel for no other reason than having some baseball white noise in the house, but given how much time they had to plan for this I’d think they could have come up with some better programming. Right now it has the feeling of a product done on the cheap.

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