Sunday, February 19, 2017

Second Call to Jody McDonald Show on CBS Sports Radio Nets Positive Feedback from the Host on my "Run on 3rd Out" Rule

As teams get down to business in Spring Training, Major League Baseball's leaders are reacting to the widely held concern that the game is too slow to attract younger fans.

My "run on third out" rule would address that concern by speeding up the game as it simultaneously increases scoring and improves defense. You can read about this fascinating rule change as described in earlier posts below, especially the February 12, 2017 post.

Jody McDonald, long-time CBS Sports Radio host, took my call today for a second consecutive Sunday discussion on this proposed rule. He again offered enouragement, but MLB is still taking a pass on my proposed speed-up-the-game rule. What are the New York suits waiting for -- another season with dwindling interest among the younger generation(s)? Set your honored traditions aside for the sake of the game, and while you're at it, end the Infamous Hawaii MLB blackout!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Plan To Improve Baseball Gets an Airing on National Sports Talk Radio; Host Liked Idea, Suggests another Call on February 19th

SACRAMENTO, CA (Feb. 12, 2017) -- Driving to Safeway this afternoon and listening to the Jody McDonald Show on CBS Sports Radio, I turned up the volume when he invited caller comments on MLB's idea to speed up games by putting a man on second base at the start of each half inning in extra innings to increase chances a run would score. I called, got through and pitched my idea, which is detailed (up to a point) in the post immediately below.

Quick review: My idea would make baseball more exciting by increasing scoring and improving defense at the same time. With men on base and two outs, a fly ball that's caught in the outfield under current rules ends the batting team's scoring threat by ending the inning. No drama. My rule would allow a runner on third to tag and try to score once the fly ball is caught. To prevent that from happening, the outfielder would have to throw him out at home. To avoid injurious collisions at the plate, the catcher would only have to step on home with the ball in his glove -- just like the first baseman records outs there.

I had only thought my rule through to the point that the throw would go to home. After about a minute of me explaining my new rule, Jody stopped me and said (paraphrasing), "Once the outfielder catches the ball, where does he throw it?" After a pause, I said "Home." And that energized him to ask "Why home?" Why not, he suggested, to the runner's next base? For example, with men on first and third and a deep fly ball to the right fielder with two outs, why couldn't the fielder throw to second instead of home? He was suggesting that a throw to second that beats the throw would end the inning and negate whatever happened at home when the man on third ran there after the catch. I.E., a fast runner on third could presumably easily beat the throw from the outfield, but a slow runner on first (think catcher) could more easily be thrown out at second than a fast runner heading for home. For one thing, it's a shorter throw.

A Better Idea

Jody asked a great question! I've been pushing this idea (not aggressively I admit) just to get some kind of positive response without thinking through nuances of the proposed "run on third out" rule. I never had focused on anything more than getting the ball to home to prevent the run from scoring from third or even second on a deep fly ball. But it would make sense and increase the potential for crucial plays at one base or another if the defenders had options on which bases to throw to. 

Jody set up this scenario: Man on second, two outs, fly ball to deep right near the foul pole that is caught. With the option of throwing to any base AHEAD OF THE RUNNER, the fielder might choose to throw home instead of to third, which -- if my geometry is correct -- probably is a longer throw than a throw to home for balls hit down the line and caught. So under this modification, the fielder would have the option of throwing to any base ahead of any runner to end the inning.

Another scenario: Dodgers-Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Top of the 9th, Dodgers trail by one run but have the bases loaded with two outs. Batter hits a fly ball to Triple's Alley that is caught. All runners tag and head to the base in front of them. Everybody is on their feet, cheering wildly because they know what's coming -- a throw to second base to get the man at first advancing on the catch. With baseball's current rule, game over, Giants win. But with my rule in place, the outcome hangs on what happens with the Giants center fielder's throw. If it beats the sliding runner (no tag necessary...just the receiving player's foot on the bag), game over, Giants win. But if the runner gets to the bag before the throw, game tied, Giants coming to bat.

Excitement City

Imagine this happening several times a game! The Wow Factor would be huge; excitement would build with numerous scenarios. Instead of innings ending predictably and unexcitedly with fly balls to the outfield even with a man on third, nothing would be decided until the ball is returned to the infield  -- to one base or another.
 Another positive: Outfielders with cannons for arms would be HUGE. This proposal ramps up excitement by increasing scoring opportunities while simultaneously improving defense.

I got a national radio audience to hear the bare bones of this  proposed rule today, and depending on how this proceeds, maybe more will hear it next week. I'm searching now for a way to email Jody and/or CBS Sports Radio. Stay tuned. Literally, stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Plan To Energize Baeeball: Men on Base when Third Out Is Made on Fly Ball Can Tag, Run for Home; If they Beat the Throw, the Runs Score


Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Mark Twain allegedly said that more than a century ago, and people have been complaining about baseball almost as long.

Well, I'm proposing to do something about improving the game for young fans. The biggest worry in baseball circles is that the game's slow pace is turning off the two youngest generations of Americans. The Wall Street Journal reported in its 8/20/16 edition that 59% of viewers of national baseball broadcasts in 2015 were over 50. Only 36% of the TV audience of NFL telecasts were that age. Baseball is losing the race to capture and hold the interest of younger baseball fans.

I have an idea to speed up the game. I first proposed it to Charlie Finley, baseball's renegade owner in the 1970s after he challenged fans to come up with ideas to improve the game. So I sent him my idea for the "Third Out and Run Rule." Charlie never acknowledged my letter -- maybe because my idea was too radical even for him.

But now, four decades later, baseball needs an infusion of energy to avoid a slow, shriveled decline that mirrors what's happening to its old fan base. Here's the idea:

When the third out is made in a half inning on a fly ball to the outfield or popup anywhere on the field, runners on base can tag after the catch is made and try to make it to home. Their run(s) would count if they can tag or slide into home plate before the catcher either tags them out or touches the plate with his foot after catching the ball thrown to him either on the fly or by relay. The catch-and-step play would be preferred to avoid injuries.

TWO CONTRASTING SITUATIONS

Scenario 1 under existing baseball rules: Two outs in the bottom of the 9th, the home team San Francisco Giants have the bases loaded trailing by two runs. The field, of course, is expansive AT&T Park with its Triples Alley wall 421 feet from home plate at its deepest point.  Every fan is up and shouting as Buster Posey connects with "a high drive to center field" in Duane Kuiper's call. The runners take off at the crack of Posey's bat. If no catch is made, the Giants likely tie the game but might even win if the runner at first can make it home. But the catch IS made, the stadium deflates, game over and fans go home disappointed, and the Giants get no payoff for having loaded the bases. It's just another fly out to end an inning or, in this case, the game. There's no drama whatsoever in this routine play.

Scenario 2 under my Third Out and Run Rule: Instead of running when Posey connects, the runners hold at their bags and tag up when the catch is made. Posey is out, but the runner at third makes it home easily after the catch, and the runner coming from second has rounded third by the time the shortstop relays the throw from shallow center field. The ball is above the mound as the runner begins his slide, then successfully touches home before the catcher can step on the plate with the ball in his glove. Game tied!! The crowd goes crazy!! But if the relay throw is bad and completely misses the catcher, that runner streaking for home all the way from first base might just make it. GIANTS WIN!!!! FANS GO CRAZY!!! BEDLAM!!!!

But not a crazy rule if modernizing and infusing the game with energy is the goal. My rule could come into play several times a game -- and every time the inning's third out is recorded in the outfield with a runner on third. Every such catch made in shallow or middle outfield would produce a close play at the plate to finally retire the side.

Will today's Titans of baseball be more receptive to change  than Charlie Finley was in the early '70s -- especially if it might just save the game from fading away? With the rule now posted and linkable on the Internet, let's see if it has a chance. 

I kinda think Mark Twain would approve.








Sent from my

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Columnist Has Had It with Blackout: 'Major League Money Grab Keeps Hawaii Fans in Dark'





Honolulu Star-Bulletin sports columnist Ferd Lewis wrote the piece reproduced below for the April 9, 2016 edition of the paper. He has written other columns on this same subject over the past seven baseball seasons -- and as we've done on those occasions, we beg the newspaper's indulgence for plucking the column from behind its pay wall. San Francisco Chronicle sports reporter and columnist Scott Ostler also has taken notice of Major League Baseball's tolerance of the television blackout inflicted on Hawaii baseball fans -- especially those of the San Francisco Giants and other West Coast teams whose games are not available to the vast majority of TV sets in the Islands. Ostler has written of the MLB "knuckleheads"  who have turned a blind eye to the blackout (see his 9/12/09 column below). Truth be told, Southern California fans of the Dodgers and New Jersey followers of the Yankees apparently are having similar problems in watching their favorite teams -- all because the "suits" put their own financial interests above the fans. Here's Lewis's column:

Why the Minnesota Twins didn’t jump on this multi-time-zone money grab isn’t known.
That doesn’t mean that any of them will actually play any games on our shores, you understand. It just means that fans must ante up for regional TV packages serving (and enriching) those teams if they are to watch them outside of national TV games. And, even then, as was demonstrated by the blacking out of ESPN’s Dodgers-Padres season opener, MLB can kidnap a designated number of so-called national broadcasts.
Hawaii is among the most aggrieved markets in the nation on this score. Only Las Vegas, which is staked by the Arizona Diamondbacks in addition to the five teams that claim Hawaii, has more teams attempting to pick its pockets at one time.
Parts of Iowa are claimed by the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Twins, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
The impact is that on some days, as local fans noted on Monday’s openers, you could click on one game to find it was blacked out and then flip to another channel to find a similar message. “Based on trying to watch various games on Sunday and (Monday), seems like a carbon copy of last year’s situation so far,” said Honolulu fan Phil Kinnicutt.
So you know just whose TV colony you are, MLB has a place on its website where you can type in your zip code and find a listing of the teams you will be required to pay for.
MLB’s policy states, “home television territory blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a club’s television territory.”
This form of hijacking has been going on for more than five years, but this year is the most egregious coming after the settlement of a court case that had the potential to blow up the whole model.
Not long after MLB instituted its territorial blackout policy it became the subject of a federal antitrust class action suit, Garber v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, challenging some of its broadcast policies.
But minutes before the trial was to begin on the lawsuit in January, MLB and the plaintiffs announced a settlement agreement. The deal had some rewards for fans in terms of pricing but did little for those of us in the far-flung TV territories.
Another season but same old baseball avarice.
———


Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2016 Season about To Begin with Blackout Intact; Will Comcast Takeover of Time-Warner End Their Disregard for Giants, A’s Fans in Hawaii?

What will make the knuckleheads running these companies do the right thing?

JANUARY 26, 2016 UPDATE with this news: http://bit.ly/1RLA1ZN
Boiled down to a peanut shell, the great majority of San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s fans in Hawaii can’t watch those teams’ games on TV or the Internet (MLB.com, etc.) because broadcast rights holder Comcast and Hawaii's dominant cable system, Time-Warner, have refused to cut a deal, and MLB stands to the side without lifting a finger for Hawaii fans.

The blackout has been in place for SEVEN seasons and seems unbroken on the eve of MLB’s 2016 season. The only cracks in the blackout wall are the 15 games Honolulu station KITV brings in each year and the deal Comast made with satellite providers, which probably account for 10 percent of the Hawaii market if they’re lucky. 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser sports columnist Ferd Lewis wrote about the blackout  July 3, 2012, and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler called out the knuckleheads (his word) behind the blackout in 2010.


If Comcast’s takeover of Time-Warner goes through despite the monopoly critics fear it would create, the impasse over cable-casting Bay Area teams’ games in Hawaii presumably would end. How could it not end? The companies would be on the same side of the table, not at odds across it.


But that conclusion probably is too logical. This seven-season blackout has been without a scrap of goodwill toward Hawaii’s baseball fans from Major League Baseball, Comcast, Time-Warner and the teams themselves.


If there’s a will to keep screwing Hawaii’s fans, this cabal will find a way.

Here's the Ferd Lewis column that explains why fans in Hawaii of every MLB team are affected by this blackout:

Greed traps Hawaii’s Giants fans in sad squeeze play

By Ferd Lewis
Honolulu Star-Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 02, 2014
It hasn't been easy to be a San Francisco Giants fan in Hawaii these past few seasons, even with two World Series banners.

But this year it is getting more frustrating for the enduring faithful.

The 2014 season will mark the sixth year that Major League Baseball's absurd blackout policy restricts the number of games that fans can watch on TV or via the Internet. It is a greedy dodge that has affected Giants games more than others here, where San Francisco has historically had a strong following.
 

Now, not only will the blackout continue, it comes as the Giants' division rivals, the Padres and Dodgers, have networks debuting here.

Last week, Oceanic Time Warner Cable inaugurated SportsNetLA, the all-Dodgers-all-the-time network, on channels 217 and 319. The Padres' Fox Sports San Diego debuts March 30 on channel 227, Oceanic said.

If that isn't enough to make Giants fans, well, Dodger Blue in the face, then consider that those over-the-top salaries the Dodgers are paying (Clayton
Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million, for instance), are enabled by the $8.35 billion, 25-year rights fees deal Los Angeles has with Time Warner.

That's a four-fold increase over last year and it is being subsidized, in part, by guess who?

KITV's MeTVHawaii (Oceanic channel 126 and over-the-air 4.2), has stepped up to offer a 15-game selection of Giants games between March 15 and Sept. 12, but it is only part of the games that MLB's gluttony takes away.

MLB's scam goes like this: Teams claim territories in which to peddle their product. The Giants, A's, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners and Padres all grabbed our state even though it isn't like local residents can drive to any of their games. What this has allowed the teams and their rights holders to do is use blackouts to leverage cable carriers to ante up for their packages. Some, like the Mariners, have occasionally relented.

But most, notably the Giants and rights holder Comcast, won't budge, even in the case of games on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com. The height of ridiculousness is that even when the Giants are playing on the East Coast, their games can be blacked out here.

"It makes me really angry ... really, really angry since Time Warner and Comcast have been unable to reach a deal to broadcast the Giants games for five years," fan Phil Kinnicutt wrote in an email. "According to Oceanic, Comcast was asking too much and that it was a Time Warner 'headquarters' decision. This corporate impasse has been going on for five years now while the interests of the fans are ignored and MLB refuses to step in."

The hope is that if Comcast's acquisition of Time Warner goes through, it will eventually provide the kind of change that common sense, the FCC and some political pressures have so far been unable to force.

Meanwhile, don't expect the arrival of Dodgers and Padres networks to soothe too many aggrieved Giants fans.
 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Congrats to the Giants, NL West Champions; SF Is Creating a Dynasty, but it Goes Unseen in Hawaii; Almost Forgot: Giants Took Care of WS Business!

What a year 2012 has been for Hawaii’s favorite MLB team, the San Francisco Giants. Matt Cain throws a Perfect Game; Barry Zito rebounds for his best season as a Giant; Buster Posey is favored to win MVP honors, and a handful of late-season additions produced winning streaks that built an 11-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers with only 10 to play. That spells DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP!

Newly situated in Sacramento after our permanent move from Honolulu, we have the luxury of watching the Giants on Comcast’s cable system any time we want. Attending the games is easy, too, if you’re willing to pay the scratch via StubHub for good tickets. We had two nice ones in early September  for a Dodgers-Giants game (that's Posey legging out a double in the photo).

But the games are STILL BLACKED OUT IN HAWAII! It’s a travesty that Giants fans in the islands are suffering – corporate and MLB indifference to a blackout solely because Hawaii is considered to be in the Giants’ “home TV territory.” What a joke.

So enjoy the Playoffs while you can, Hawaii friends. If the 2010 season is a guide, you’ll be able to watch all Division, League and World Series games, and we hope the Giants are winners of the final baseball game of the year in early November. But unless the suits can reach an agreement over the winter, you’ll be back in Giants Blackout Hell come 2013. 

When you fill out your Christmas Gift List for Santa, ask him to drop off some compassion for Giants fans when he visits their homes around Hawaii. And you know what he can leave the executives at Comcast, Time-Warner and MLB – that proverbial lump of coal.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sports Columnist Rips Giants for Tolerating TV Blackout in Hawaii, and That’s Really Bad PR

The San Francisco Giants organization is a pretty thick-skinned bunch. They’ve shown no aloha whatsoever for their loyal fans in Hawaii as they tolerate the Infamous MLB Blackout of their games in the state.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser sports columnist Ferd Lewis calls out the Giants suits today, and although the newspaper has installed a pretty impenetrable firewall to keep non-subscribers out, we don’t think they'll mind if we quote Ferd’s column in its entirety today. After all, “it’s for the good of the game.”

Giants get their jollies holding Hawaii hostage

By Ferd Lewis
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 03, 2012


For San Francisco Giants fans in Hawaii, the team's first-place success can be a little bittersweet these days.

That's when it isn't just plain head-banging maddening.

While they relish the Giants' standing atop the National League West Division and what it might portend for this season, they say there is the continuing disappointment with not being able to see much of it firsthand.

We're going on four years now of Major League Baseball's curious blackout, one that has Hawaii fans caught in a rundown between the clubs' greed and the inflexibility to work out deals with cable partners.

This notion that Hawaii is "home television territory" for the Giants, some 2,500 miles distant and therefore subject to blackout, would almost be funny if it hadn't been so ham-handedly drawn up and tight-fistedly enforced.

It is one thing to black out Giants' home games in Northern or Central California, where fans are within driving — or rail — distance of AT&T Park. It is quite another to impose it on the 50th State, where the commute is more arduous.

The shakedown works like this: MLB teams are allowed to declare "home television territories" that need not be based on any geographic common sense. Profit motive is enough. Which is why at various times as many as six teams — Giants, A's, Angels, Dodgers, Padres and Mariners — have all staked their claim to these islands.

Not to actually play any games here, you understand, but to strong-arm local fans and their cable operators to sign on and pay up or forgo the opportunity to watch them on a regular basis.

Unless local cable operators come to terms with the team's designated regional sports network, there is a blackout of non-ESPN national games and DirecTV. In this, even subscribers to MLB.com, MLB Extra Innings and others outlets have found themselves in the dark.

Some clubs, the Mariners and Padres, for instance, have relented and granted so-called "temporary waivers." Others, such as the Dodgers and Angels, have managed to work out deals with Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

Meanwhile, the Giants have dug in the way Willie McCovey once did and aren't budging. Even testimony to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington and a letter from some concerned U. S. senators earlier this year have yet to back the Giants away from the plate.

Which is why fans here didn't get to see Matt Cain's perfect game until the final innings, when ESPN and others finally cut in.

Give KITV's MeTV Hawaii, available on digital cable Ch. 126, credit for bringing in a 12-game package. But that still leaves more than 90 percent of the Giants games up to the whims of the TV market. At least fans can catch their team on the radio on KKEA, 1420-AM.

Giants fan and rail public relations operative Doug Carlson was so enraged he started a blog dedicated to the blackout, www.commaaina.blogspot.com.

When that didn't work, Carlson took perhaps the ultimate step: He moved to Sacramento. "I can't say the Infamous MLB Blackout of Hawaii was all of the motivation, but it definitely was a sweet part of the transition," Carlson wrote in an email.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

PERFECTION!!!

MATT CAIN pitches the first perfect game tonight in Giants franchise history! What a thrill to watch it on television -- in California. Unfortunately, Giants fans in the 50th State didn't see the game. The Giants and most other West Coast teams are blacked out in Hawaii for reasons described in the posts below.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

MLB Hawaii Blackout Continues; Giants Fans Move to Sacramento, Can Now Watch Every Game

Angel Pagan stretches to snag liner into left-center at AT&T Park today.

It's Saturday afternoon, the Giants are beating Texas 5 to 1 in the 8th and the game is on TV -- just like last night's game was and tomorrow's will be. We're watching it, which means we aren't in Honolulu anymore. We're in Sacramento, which is in the Giants' home television territory. So is Honolulu, but Honolulu is virtually blacked out from viewing West Coast baseball. 

The suits who control the rights and the local cable system(s) in NorCal have made deals that allow Giants fans here the enjoyment of watching their favorite team. That hasn't happened among the executives at Time-Warner Cable in Hawaii and those who own the broadcast rights for four of the six West Coast MLB teams -- Giants, A's, Mariners and Padres. Fans of those teams are out of luck, and so are fans of their opponents. Only a handful of those games are available in Hawaii on the dominate cable systems in the state.

The suits -- including those in MLB headquarters -- have allowed this blackout to continue into a fourth straight season, and there's no sign of a deal to let Hawaii pass GO.  THIS is in the best interests of the game?  

Here's a New Rule we can live with: 
"Major League Baseball teams are prohibited from claiming a community as 'Home Television Territory' if it's outside a 154.5-mile radius from the team's ballpark."

That's the straight-line distance from the middle of AT&T Park to the nearest point on the California-Nevada border -- which happens to be in the middle of Lake Tahoe (the lake itself) where the border turns north after its long diagonal sweep.  Everything beyond the green circle below is a reasonably long slog-of-a-drive to the park, so all communities outside the circle should be considered beyond the Giants' home TV territory. That would mean fans in those communities -- including Hawaii, obviously -- could watch games streamed on MLB.com even if there's no deal among cable and TV executives.

So how 'bout it, MLB? Get out your map and start drawing your own circles. End the Blackout!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Ending of Giants’ 1-0 Win over Phillies:


What a Tease; Blackout of Coast Teams Means It
Was 1 of Only 17 SF Games on HI TV in 2012

At least the wait was worth it, but the classic pitchers’ duel (Matt Cain, 2 hits, no runs in 9 innings) and walk-off RBI in the 11th makes the blackout seem all the crueler. THAT’s the kind of Bay Area baseball Hawaii fans are denied watching due to the incomprehensible ruling by Major League Baseball that Hawaii is in the “home television territory” of the Giants, A’s, Padres, and Mariners. We’re still banking on the group of United States senators putting an anti-trust fear into Selig and Company.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cain Throws Gem in Home Opener, but We Didn’t See It in Honolulu, 2,387 Miles from San Francisco; We’re in the Giants’ ‘Home TV Territory’ – IYCBI

Matt Cain had a perfect game through 6.2 innings in his 1-hitter.

If You Can Believe It, baseball fans in Hawaii have started a fourth season of "prevention baseball" -- prevented from watching nearly all games played by West Coast baseball teams and their opponents. Are you playing attention, Red Sox fans? The state out here in the middle of the Pacific is designated as in the home TV territory of covetous TV rights holders for the West Coast teams.

Comcast blames Time-Warner for not making the Giants and A’s games available, and Time-Warner says Comcast wants too much money. The Giants organization shrugs, and Major League Baseball says nothing about it at all.

For several years through the 2008 season, the best way to end the work day was to pull out the laptop, head for the lanai and watch the Giants game begin in Pac Bell Park at pau hana and cocktail time in Honolulu. That ended without warning at the start of the 2009 season, and despite dozens of complaints and inquiries since then by baseball fans throughout Hawaii, nobody inside baseball is showing even a smidgen of interest in ending the blackout.

Can DKI Fix It?

Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii has been a member of Congress since Statehood in 1959. The senator has “delivered” time and again for this isolated and often overlooked state, and some say he saves on travel expenses by walking instead of flying to the mainland.

Senator Dan is one of several senators looking into the blackout, and we’re putting our faith in them to wake up Bud Selig and the rest of the profiteers who seemingly have forgotten the fans.

So until the suits get out of the way and let us subscribe to MLB.com again to watch Giants games as they’re streamed “live,” the only action we’ll see is on SportsCenter and video replays at SFGiants.com, including Matt Cain’s 1-hitter today, and that sucks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

4th Blacked-Out Season Begins; Giants Are on HawTel’s Digital Service, but Not Time-Warner’s System; Does MLB Leadership Care about Fans?

What we're supposed to be watching today -- but aren't.
The madness continues. The insult to baseball fans continues. The indifference to “the good of the game” continues, and so does the greed.

For the fourth straight year, Major League Baseball is condoning the refusal of Time-Warner Cable (dba Oceanic in Hawaii) and various broadcast baseball rights owners on the West Coast to cut a deal that will allow Giants, A’s, Mariners and Padres games to be carried in Hawaii.

Deals can be done. The Dodgers and Angels games are frequently on Oceanic’s Fox SportsNet West channel, so the questions also continue. Honolulu's KITV, owned by Hearst, is carrying 17 games this season, as it did last year. HawaiianTelcom has the Giants game on its digital service this afternoon.  What’s holding up a deal to allow cable coverage of the affected teams? And do the suits in MLB’s executive suites give a rip?

Time-Warner and Comcast blame each other. T-W says Comcast wants too much money, and Comcast simply says T-W Oceanic “has opted not to make…our Giants coverage available to their customers.” Local fans have repeatedly contacted those companies plus the Giants organization, the Federal Communications Commission and MLB’s headquarters, and they've either brushed us off or haven't bothered to waste a stamp.

Sports columnists Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle have written to condemn the blackout, and Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii is one of a group of Democratic senators who are urging the FCC to end the blackouts. Said Inouye in a statement:

"Professional sports fans in Hawaii are at a significant disadvantage geographically and economically because unless their teams are on TV they have to expend significant time and resources to travel to watch them play. The fans are the lifeblood of these sports franchises and they should be able to watch their favorite teams play regardless of what state they live in. I would urge the FCC to take another look at sports blackouts and to think of the fans who want nothing more than to cheer their team to victory while promoting the franchise and expanding its base of support."

A New Indignity

Instead of watching the Giants-Diamondbacks game today we’re listening to the MLB.com audio feed, and there’s something new this season: After every half inning, the feed pushes an obnoxious 10-second audio commercial that “shouts” at the listener on top of the KNBR radio feed. It comes out of nowhere and is completely unacceptable. That’s what we’ve told the Support staff via a message on the website. We’ll see if they care to do anything about it. April 7 Update: Here's MLB.com's response: "Please forward your inquiry or comments directly to the team, as they are better suited to respond." That's totally unhelpful, of course, because the audio streaming platform is run by MLB, not the Giants. Why would the Giants cut into the stream with the 10-second commercial and step on KNBR's broadcast? They wouldn't, so it's a typical side-stepping response from MLB. Let's see what Support's response is to our second message. 

Finally….

In addition to everything else, there’s something additionally wrong about blacking out video coverage of the Giants and other West Coast teams on MLB.com in Hawaii. Internet streaming and cable TV are different channels and technologies. Does Comcast think the Internet is competition? The MLB has meekly acquiesced to the streaming blackout, too.

We really don’t know any details of MLB’s position on the blackout because the Commissioner’s office, including Bud Selig, has refused to respond to letters.

Maybe they’ll respond to Senators Inouye, Richard Blumenthal (CN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Frank Lautenberg (NJ and Debbie Stabenow (MI).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today’s ‘Free Game’ Denied to Fans in Hawaii


There’s still no deal between Comcast and Time-Warner to carry Giants games in Hawaii, and there’s no hint of a deal anywhere. That means Giants games – including the one touted today at MLB.com as the “MLB Free Game of the Day” – are still blacked out in Hawaii, thanks to Major League Baseball’s idiotic “home television territory” policy.

Hey, Bud Selig! You’re condoning something that denies innocent fans the ability to watch our teams because the suits refuse to do the deal! How can you possibly be OK with that? What’s next – muting games so we can’t even listen to them on our computers and smart phones?

At this point, we wouldn’t put it past you and your VIP-box pals.
This is how Hawaii Giants fans "watch" the games.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Giants Exec Tosses Off Our Request for Waiver; Comcast Rep Provides Same Old Song ‘n Dance

We had thought Giants executive Mario Alioto might thoughtfully ponder the latest request from Giants fans in Hawaii for his organization to grant a waiver that would allow Giants games to be shown in the state, which is part of the team’s “home TV territory.” No rush, we thought, since we’re already into the third season of Giants games being blacked out here. Maybe the Easter weekend could produce a change of mind, a softening of attitudes.


It didn’t happen. Alioto quickly tossed off our email to Marisa Veroneau, Affiliate Marketing Manager at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, whose emailed response arrived three hours after ours hit Alioto’s computer (his address is maliioto@sfgiants.com).


Veroneau’s email covered pretty much the same ground as what she wrote in March, with one major difference: She wrote then that Comcast won’t give up until we are done” negotiating with Time Warner “to have Comcast SportsNet fully distributed in your community.” Today’s email contains no such nose-to-the-grindstone commitment. Instead, she asserts that “our Giants coverage is available to every local Hawaii TV provider, and as a result of our negotiations, DirecTV and Dish Network now carry Comcast SportsNet locally on terms that all parties are fair and reasonable.” It ends with her advice to “consider changing your service to DirecTV or Dish Network.”

That’s totally disingenuous, of course. Those two networks have managed to capture only 6 percent of the Hawaii television households, leaving the rest of them blacked out for Giants games. As we wrote in our response to Veroneau, “the market has spoken loudly about our preference, and DirecTV and Dish Network are not it. You are repeating the same mantra you’ve used for the past two years.”

Big League Stew, a Yahoo Sports column, today picked up on Ferd Lewis’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser recent column and joined the movement to end the blackout. The Stew noted an important angle worth repeating: “The MLB allows six teams to lick Hawaii’s donut (by including the state in their home territories), even if there’s no chance that its providers can pay all their regional networks for the privilege of airing their games.” With the Angels and Dodgers already in the expense column, maybe Oceanic Time Warner’s reluctance to cut a deal with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area stems from a simple inability to pay. Here’s what an Oceanic executive wrote to us in February:

“For years the only regional sports available to us was provided by Fox West and Fox Prime Ticket. Rates were very low and both have been carried on our Analog Expanded Basic for over 30 years. It wasn’t until Comcast’s recent acquisition of Bay Area Giants and Oakland A’s that there was even the possibility of carrying those teams but unfortunately, the rate being asked for access to 2 teams of interest in Hawaii makes no business sense. Because of our ‘close’ proximity to the market, they are prohibiting us to put the Giants and A’s on a sports tier. That means it would go on our standard service and all our subscribers would see a rate increase on their monthly cable bill, north of 6%.”

So there you go – a rock-ribbed standoff between two corporate giants that leaves Giants fans out of luck and thankful for whatever comes our way – like the 12 games KITV will carry this summer. We urge all baseball fans in Hawaii to write Mario Alioto at the above address and ask him to waive the “home TV territory” clause, thereby allowing Giants games to be streamed by MLB.com to Hawaii in the absence of a Comcast-Time Warner deal. The blackout affects not only Giants (and A’s) fans but also fans of all Major League teams that play the Giants and A’s during the season.


Here’s Veroneau’s emailed reply on Alioto’s behalf:

Mr. Carlson,

Mario Alioto at the Giants passed on your email to me for the latest information regarding our network’s carriage status in Hawaii. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and our Giants coverage is available to every local Hawaii TV provider, and as a result of our negotiations, both DirecTV and Dish Network now carry Comcast SportsNet locally on terms that all parties agree are fair and reasonable.

We have offered these same terms to Time Warner Oceanic, but to date, Time Warner Oceanic has opted not to make Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and our Giants coverage available to their customers. We encourage you to contact Time Warner Oceanic to let them know you want to see the Giants on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area by emailing http://www.oceanic.com/contact_us or calling 808-643-2100 or consider changing your service to DirecTV or Dish Network.

Sincerely,
Marisa Veroneau
Comcast SportsNet

KITV Deal Snips Away at Hawaii Blackout Curtain

Giants fans in Hawaii can rejoice – a little. Honolulu television station KITV has announced a deal to carry a dozen Giants games on its digital channel this season, starting on May 20 (see story below). That’s good news, and we’re doffing our cap to KITV because 7 percent of the games is better than 0 percent. But this is no time to let up the pressure to have the blackout lifted completely. We doubt MLB will do anything – it's too busy trying to save the Dodgers! – so we’re urging the Giants organization to do the right thing. Here’s our email sent today to Mario Alioto, Giants senior vice president for marketing (his address is malioto@sfgiants.com):

Mr. Alioto, I’m following up on my email of April 9th that may have escaped your attention. If it’s not available, you can read it on my End the Hawaii MLB Blackout! website under the headline Giants Could End the Blackout with a Waiver. The absence of such a waiver is noted in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser story on KITV’s new agreement with Comcast to carry 12 Giants games this season, a welcomed development that snips away at the blackout. But 12 games out of 162 is only 7 percent of the season. Throw in a game here or there and Giants fans in Hawaii can watch maybe 10-12 percent of the season. We’re now into a third year during which MLB.com refuses to stream any Giants games to Hawaii computers due to the “home television territory” provision.


Now that the blackout curtain has holes in it, the Giants could tear it down completely and thereby score unfathomable positive publicity for the organization by granting the waiver, as the Mariners and Padres have done. You’re at the top of the mountain as World Champions, and there’s no better time to grant it — a magnanimous gesture to your Hawaii fans that would be so recognized by all of baseball. “Classy” already describes the Giants — especially your ball park and your broadcast team, which is the best in the big leagues.


Intransigence by Ocean Time Warner and Comcast and their inability to cut a deal is a blot on the Giants — maybe not your doing but a stain nevertheless. Get rid of it by granting a waiver. Your fans in Hawaii would walk even taller, and so could you.
All the best and Aloha,


(from the 4/22 Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
KITV will air 12 Giants games
By Ferd Lewis
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 22, 2011


KITV will come to the partial rescue of frustrated local fans of the San Francisco Giants, carrying 12 of the World Series champions' games this season, the station announced.


General manager Andrew Jackson said the package will begin May 20 with a game against Oakland and run through Sept. 16, with nine Giants home games and three road contests.


He said the games will be shown on KITV's digital channel, Oceanic Cable 126, and be free over the air on channel 4.2 via digital antenna.


The package is a result of negotiations with the Giants' California provider, Comcast. It comes as local fans have expressed frustration with Major League Baseball, whose policy has blacked out for nearly two years most San Francisco and Oakland A's games here on outlets other than DirecTV.


Oceanic and Comcast have been unable to reach a deal on a comprehensive package, and the Giants have so far refused to grant a waiver of their territorial rights.


KITV sports director Robert Kekaula said, "As a kid growing up in Hawaii, the uncles and aunties brain-washed us to love the Giants, and it has been sickening recently since we couldn't watch them play (on TV). But, now, we're really jacked that we can!"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giants Could End the Blackout with a Waiver

Major League Baseball won’t respond to our letter seeking help to end the television blackout in Hawai`i of Bay Area baseball teams. Comcast and Time-Warner, the two parties that won’t cut a deal to carry Giants and A’s games in Hawai`i, just point fingers at one another.


The blackout is now in its third season. It’s obvious the two corporate giants have no interest in inking an agreement to carry the games for a relatively small audience 2,500 miles into the Pacific.


It’s therefore left to the clubs themselves to do something for the fans – grant a waiver on their “rights” that would permit MLB.com to stream the games on the Internet and on smart phone apps. The Mariners and Padres have done it; the Giants and A’s could, too.


Mario Alioto, senior vice president of marketing for the San Francisco Giants, responded to an email sent two years ago this week advising us to contact all the parties, including Dish and DirecTV. These two companies share about 6 percent of the Hawai`i market and apparently carry the Giants here. Hawai`i consumers obviously have chosen not to patronize them in any appreciable numbers.


Here’s the email we sent to Mr. Alioto yesterday appealing to him and the Giants to do the right thing for the fans – grant a waiver that recognizes Comcast’s and Time-Warner’s intransigence and allows fans of the World Champions to watch the Giants here in Hawai`i.

Mr. Alioto, you were good enough to respond to my email two years ago. It’s clear by now Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the RSN providing Giants TV coverage, believes Time-Warner Oceanic in Hawai`i is unreasonable in not paying Comcast’s price to carry the games in Hawai`i. Just as obvious is Time-Warner’s belief that Comcast’s price is outrageous.


Baseball fans in Hawai`i have contacted Time-Warner and Comcast and have received only finger-pointing as a response. Appreciate if you will that Time-Warner Oceanic serves approximately 94 percent of the homes here; DirecTV and Dish are not realistic alternatives, so please do not suggest we all switch to those services to watch the Giants. The market already has shown an overwhelming preference for cable.


Neither side has moved an inch for the past two years. They are dug in and have moved on to other money-making opportunities, leaving blacked-out Giants fans out of sight and out of mind. There’s no reason to believe the parties will budge this year or any year ahead.


In recognition of the stalemate, the Giants organization can be the first participant in this blackout to think of the fans. The Giants can grant a waiver to allow your games to be shown in Hawai`i in the absence of an agreement between the cable company and the RSN. The Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres have done just that, undoubtedly because their fan base in the islands is relatively insignificant, and blacking out their games wouldn’t be worth the aggravation. The Giants can and should grant the waiver precisely because your following here is so big.


Enduring the blackout for the past two seasons was bad enough, but that’s been compounded now that the Giants are World Champions. MLB, Time-Warner, Comcast — they’ve shown no concern for Giants fans in Hawai`i. Show us the Giants do care. Grant the waiver and lift the blackout. Be the hero and your organization will benefit from incalculable goodwill.


Aloha,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ironic: Giants on TV in Season’s First 4 Games; MLB’s Broadcasting Executive Ignores Our Plight

Call it ironic or just Major League Baseball’s taunting way of sticking it to Giants fans in Hawai`i. After two seasons of blacking out the Giants here, MLB has cooperated with the networks and Time Warner Cable in allowing the Giants’ first four games of the season to be shown in the 50th State.


The opening weekend series with the Dodgers was carried on the Oceanic Time Warner cable system using four different network arrangements -- Opening Day (ESPN), Friday (Prime Ticket), Saturday (FOX’s Game of the Week) and today (ESPN’s Sunday Night Game of the Week).


But those and all other Giants games this season (as well as the past two) are not available via streaming at MLB.com and MLB’s At Bat 11 iPhone app. The games are still blocked due to the “home territory” scam and corporate intransigence.


We might be lucky enough to see the Giants on TV again when they play away games with the Dodgers, but they'll be few compared to entire 162-game season we could watch on MLB.com until 2009.


That’s when the suits at MLB decided to black out Internet streaming in deference to the regional sports networks (RSN) that hold the broadcast rights for Giants and A’s games – Comcast Sports Net Bay Area and Comcast Sports Net California respectively.


After years of “negotiations”, the RSNs and Time Warner Cable have failed to reach an agreement to carry Giants and A’s games in Hawai`i. The RSNs say Oceanic Time Warner refuses to pay its price, which Oceanic calls exhorbitant.


As a result, Giants and A’s games have been unavailable on the ‘net and for nearly all broadcast games going into the third consecutive season. MLB just looks the other way, but a more self-serving and sinister motive presumably is governing:


What's MLB's Motive?


MLB condones and even encourages the blackout to rile up Hawai`i fans enough so we’ll pressure Oceanic to cave in on the RSN price. Such a deal undoubtedly would be a financial gain for MLB in some way.


Such would seem to be MLB’s stance based on the letter sent to US Rep. Mazie Hirono late last year by Christopher Tully, the Senior VP for Broadcasting. Read it and see if you can find a hint of concern about the blackout and what it means to the fans.


Mr. Tully has not answered the letter we sent him and posted here on February 17. That enforces our belief that the suits sitting in their Park Avenue offices and VIP suites around the nation’s ballparks think the fans are last in MLB's ranking of priorities when there’s money involved. And ain't it always?

Friday, March 11, 2011

They Lie; Giants Blacked Out Again in Hawaii

Despite the program guide listing on TV this afternoon (above), and despite what the morning newspaper said (below right), the Giants-Padres game was not seen in Hawaii today.

Even with inconsequential preseason games, the insatiable quest for profits among the usual suspects is keeping the World Champion Giants off about 94 percent of Hawaii’s television screens.

Blame for this despicable two-year-going-on-three blackout of Giants and A’s games in Hawaii belongs to Time Warner Cable and the two Bay Area sports networks with rights to the teams’ games – and don’t leave out Major League Baseball.

Read the email and letter correspondence in previous posts below and you’ll see finger-pointing all around. MLB executives are content to sit in their VIP box and let the corporations sort it out – fans be damned. The local Time Warner cablecaster says the sports networks want an arm and a leg to carry their games, and the networks think TW is just cheap.

Those attitudes leave Giants and A’s fans SOL, and nobody wearing a suit seems to give a rip. Maybe if every baseball fan in Hawaii who believes this condition must end were to pledge an end to spending money on baseball – games, shirts, everything – somebody in MLB headquarters might wake up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

First Pitch in 4 Weeks; Hawaii Blackout Still On

Here’s an exchange of emails with a representative of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, which has the broadcast rights to the San Francisco Giants and distribution rights for those games in Hawaii, which is in the Giants’ “home television territory.” The Giants open the 2011 season four weeks from today against the Los Angeles Dodgers in LA. We’re still trying to figure out whether those games will be blacked out due to the peculiarities of the Giants’ territorial deal or whether they’ll be shown thanks to the Oceanic Time Warner’s deal with the Dodgers network. Here’s the email exchange:

Mr. Carlson,
I wanted to provide you with an update on the distribution of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area/San Francisco Giants in Hawaii. We have recently secured distribution of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and our Giants coverage on Dish Network throughout Hawaii, in addition to the network’s current availability on DirecTV. We are continuing to negotiate with other providers like Time Warner that don't yet carry the channel, and won't give up until we are done. We share your desire to have Comcast SportsNet fully distributed in your community.
Please let us know if you have any questions. Thanks again for your interest in Comcast SportsNet.
Sincerely,
Marisa Veroneau
Comcast SportsNet

Hello, Marisa. Thank you for your update on the status of negotiations between Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC). Without an agreement between your companies, the San Francisco Giants will once again be blacked out for all but a relative handful of television viewers in Hawaii.


As you know, only about 6 percent of Hawaii television sets are served by Dish Network and DirecTV. Major League Baseball’s Senior Vice President for Broadcasting, Christopher Tully, has suggested to blacked-out baseball fans in Hawaii that it’s a simple matter to watch Giants and A’s games; just join one of those networks, he says. We say back to Mr. Tully and the other executives in MLB’s head office, “Get off the sidelines and stand up for the fans! Enforce negotiations or whatever it takes to end this ridiculous blackout.”


Please keep us informed of the negotiations’ status, and if you have information you think Hawai`i fans should know about what’s holding up an agreement, please share that with us, as well.


If negotiations appear gridlocked, Comcast might well consider doing something extraordinary — and extraordinarily good for your corporate image: Work with the Giants organization to waive the blackout of their games in Hawaii, just as the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres have done. We fans do not deserve to be held captive for a third season by corporate interests whose actions run counter to the best interests of the game.


Aloha.....DC

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Letter to MLB: Stop Monitoring & Start Acting!

The following letter has been mailed to Major League Baseball’s headquarters. If you agree that the infamous Hawai`i MLB Blackout must end, send your own letter. A third blacked-out season is about to begin.


February 17, 2011


Mr. Christopher S. Tully
Senior Vice President, Broadcasting
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10167


Dear Mr. Tully:


I am one of many baseball fans in Hawai`i asking Major League Baseball to intercede in the business standoff between Time Warner Cable and Comcast Sports. Two subsidiaries of the latter have television rights to Bay Area baseball teams – Comcast Sports Net Bay Area (Giants) and Comcast Sports Net California (Athletics).


As you are aware, Hawai`i is in the “home television territory” of both teams. We’re also in the home territory of four other teams – the Dodgers, Angels, Mariners and Padres. PrimeTicket and FOX Sports West, the regional sports networks (RSNs) for the Dodgers and Angels respectively, have long had a business arrangement with Time Warner to carry the two Los Angeles teams on Oceanic Time Warner in Hawai`i. The Mariners and Padres have waived their “blackout rights” in Hawai`I, even in the absence of a deal with Time Warner.


Comcast and Time Warner have not reached a similar deal, and for the past two seasons Giants and A’s games have been blacked out in Hawai`i, including streaming on MLB.com. You said in your letter to U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono (D-HI) dated December 15, 2010: “Please rest assured that MLB is committed to serving the best interests of our fans in Hawai`i and that we will continue to monitor the progress of these carriage negotiations.”


Clearly, Mr. Tully, the negotiations have gone nowhere for the past two years, and there is no indication from Time Warner and Comcast that they’re going anywhere now. Your letter also seemed to place the blame on Time Warner because “Oceanic Time Warner has not yet agreed to carry the two Comcast RSNs.”  That certainly is true, but your conclusion that the fault is all Oceanic Time Warner’s seems strange in having apparently prejudged the issue in Comcast’s favor. Here is the latest email I’ve received from an Oceanic Time Warner marketing representative, dated February 15, 2011:

“For years the only regional sports available to us was provided by Fox West and Fox Prime Ticket. Rates were very low and both have been carried on our Analog Expanded Basic for over 30 years. It wasn’t until Comcast’s recent acquisition of Bay Area Giants and Oakland A’s that there was even the possibility of carrying those teams but unfortunately, the rate being asked for access to 2 teams of interest in Hawaii makes no business sense.


“Because of our ‘close’ proximity to the market, they are prohibiting us to put the Giants and A’s on a sports tier. That means it would go on our standard service and all our subscribers would see a rate increase on their monthly cable bill, north of 6%.”

Mr. Tully, this issue involves two companies that have failed to work out a deal -- one that insists on charging a fee that the other believes is too high and refuses to pay. This could go on forever, and notwithstanding your suggestion that Hawai`i baseball fans simply switch to DirecTV if we want the games so badly, that is a non-starter, and you should rethink your position. DirecTV has far fewer subscribers than Oceanic Time Warner; the market clearly has spoken with regard to which service Hawai`i subscribers prefer.


Please also rethink and/or clarify this statement in your letter to Rep. Hirono: “While we are not satisfied with the current distribution of Giants and Athletics game telecasts in Hawai`i, we continue to believe that fans in the State are best served by the broad availability of the RSNs that carry Giants and Athletics game telecasts, and we would not want to see their access be limited to the purchase of a separate subscription package.”

Your comment appears to defend DirecTV’s interests in carrying the Giants and Athletics games here. Does MLB benefit financially if DirecTV is the only carrier of games in Hawai`i? Is MLB pledged to defend DirecTV to the exclusion of any other potential service provider? Is MLB in a conflict of interest with the vast majority of baseball fans in Hawai`i – promoting MLB’s interests ahead of ours?


MLB’s “monitoring the progress” position clearly is not in the best interests of baseball fans here, so please respond to this letter by stating what MLB is doing to end the impasse between Time Warner and Comcast Sports.  Please do something to actually help us! Your response will be posted at the web site printed at the top of this letter.


Sincerely,
/signature/
Doug Carlson


cc:  Rep. Mazie Hirono