MLB Whistles Nervously

I know how hard it is to start up a network. I mean, not personally. It’s not something I’ve ever done myself. I just imagine that it involves an intense amount of preparation, planning, and elbow grease, on top of the nuts and bolts inherent in running any company. It’s hard enough to put one show together, let alone a whole new lineup, and hire brand new studio personalities, producers, camera crew, etc., while also wondering when the soda machines are gonna get delivered.

I realize it takes a while before a new network can find its way and forge a unique vision. I’ve been watching SNY since it debuted, and those first few months were pretty rough. But hey, look at that lineup now, huh? *crickets*

So I’m willing to cut the brand new MLB Network an enormous amount of slack. I don’t expect them to have compelling programming just yet, especially during the baseball free month of January.

I mean, sure, MLB has cracked down on everyone who’s ever posted any footage of professional baseball anywhere online, so you’d think that they’re sitting on acres of vintage film that they refuse to let anyone else show in any form. And sure, they’ve had several years since they announced the launch of this new network to digitize all that old film, so they wouldn’t have to show the 2004 World Series highlights and last year’s playoffs over and over again.

Sorry. I’m still a tad bitter about the suspension of my old YouTube account, which happened because I had some old clips of This Week in Baseball, which I removed. But the proverbial straw on the camel’s back was an even older special that featured Roger Clemens gawking at Nolan Ryan. So because MLB couldn’t stand that I’d posted 20+-year-old clips, I lost not only the baseball-related footage, but all of the awesome old commercials that I’d uploaded to my YouTube account. Thanks again, Rocket, ya fuck.

I’m sure that the MLB Network’s content will ramp up once spring training and the WBC approaches. And I am totally their type of viewer–the kind of idiot who is so starved for baseball at this time of year that he will watch anything that remotely resembles the game. Mexican winter leagues. Dominican winter leagues. Venezuelan winter leagues. I think I once watched a Ugandan winter league for an hour. Or maybe that was The Last King of Scotland on HBO.

Their Hot Stove show is halfway decent. Most of the analysts know what they’re talking about, and they’re making the best out of a very slow offseason. Although the producer of this show must suffer from Fox Sports Disease, wherein the afflicted is deluded into thinking that he must stuff as many personalities into a studio as possible.

However, when it comes to rerunning old material, it wouldn’t kill MLB to, you know, actually watch the stuff they air before it’s broadcast.

Case in point: A recurring program called Epic Moments, hosted by Ray Liotta, originally taped in 2002. Sadly, there are no scenes of him beating someone to death with a shovel or torching a nightclub. But there is an entire segment in which Barry Bonds’ 73 homer season of 2001 is given a reverent recounting, as if steroids never existed.

Look: I’m not one of those guys who think Barry Bonds ruined the game. If the Mitchell Report showed nothing else, it’s that Bonds was merely the very douchey tip of an iceberg. However, it’s pretty well established by this point that he cheated. Like, constantly. For most people, the mention of Bonds doesn’t lead to a mental image of a home run, but a mental image of someone stabbing himself in the ass with horse juice.

Even worse, while self-medicating, Bonds broke a home run-related record. Sports fans don’t like anyone messing with the sanctity of home runs. Because home runs, as we all know, are Sacred Sports Symbols forged by cherubs and teddy bears in a heavenly Easy-Bake Oven watched over by a tiny infant Baby Jesus.

I think it’s safe to say that Bonds–fairly or unfairly–is one of the most hated men in baseball history. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to call him one of the most hated men in all of sports.

So maybe MLB wants to reconsider running a show in which Bonds trots slowly around the bases to the sappy strains of The Natural, while Ray Liotta wonders if he could possibly break Hank Aaron’s all-time homer record. “Oh, what a sight that would be!” he coos.

Yeah, I can just picture it–an entire nation browbeaten by ESPN into caring about one jerk’s pursuit of this hallowed record, everyone wondering when Bonds is finally gonna do it so we don’t have to talk about him anymore, then Bonds breaking the record at home to the decidedly mixed emotions of the San Francisco crowd. Oh, it was magic!

I really look forward to when they’ll rerun that special from 1936 about Ty Cobb’s glorious career, and hear Grantland Rice’s stirring words: “Thanks to the efforts of brave men like Ty Cobb, America’s game has never been sullied by Negroes!”