Baseball Notebook

Daily Baseball Blog

Watching MLB Network Coverage

Barry Larkin

Barry Larkin

For the first time this season I spent most of the night watching the MLB Network coverage almost exclusively. The program is named MLB Tonight and it is baseball coverage at its best.

The only game televised in our area was the Braves-Diamondbacks game so I did switch back to it from time to time but only for a couple minutes at a time.

The MLB coverage team for the first half of the night included Greg Amsinger in the anchor chair with Mitch Williams, Dave Valle, Barry Larkin and Tom Verducci as analysts.

Early in the coverage the network switched to Alex Rodriguez making his first appearance in the new Yankee Stadium and he walked in that appearance and also walked three other times. Then they returned back to Yankee Stadium in the third inning to see Alex Rodriguez strike out with the bases loaded to a chorus of boos.

Amsinger did a fine job of  bantering with the analysts and commenting on the look-ins at various games. Barry Larkin to me is the best of the MLB Network analysts who were former players providing insightful comments to whatever topic is being discussed.

Mitch Williams showed a comedic side that I didn’t know existed and even mentioned that he was one of the pitchers that gave up home runs to Don Mattingly during his streak of homering in eight consecutive games after Adrian Gonzalez had homered in his fifth consecutive game during the telecast.

Williams and Larkin also went to the baseball diamond in Studio 42 and demonstrated how pitcher Brett Cecil is leaving the ball exposed during his delivery which could possibly tip off batters to what kind of pitch was coming.

Larkin also demonstrated how players on the road roll baseballs down the third base line so they can know how to stand at the plate to place a bunt in fair territory depending on how the ball rolls down the line.

It was an exciting night for baseball fans with the Rays coming back from a 7-0 deficit to win 8-7 over the Indians. Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn hit grand slams for the Tigers in their 14-1 defeat of the Athletics. And that was just part of the excitement last night.

Dave Valle the former major league catcher also offered his analysis of the games during the first half of the coverage.

At ten o’clock eastern time Matt Vasgerian took over the anchor chair and was joined by Harold Reynolds and Joe Magrane. Kate Hudson was shown attending the Yankee game and Magrane mentioned one of her movies.

Vasgersian then asked Magrane what his favorite baseball movie was and he said it was the movie  Ed about the chimp that played third base which starred Matt LeBlanc that was released in 1996.

Magrane went so far as to say that Ed belonged up there with Ben Hur as one of the greatest movies ever. Magrane has a dry sense of humor that adds a comedic touch to MLB Tonight.

Harold Reynolds is very interesting to listen to as he often recounts his own experiences as a major league baseball player during the broadcast. Reynolds is valuable to MLB Tonight because he is talented enough to sit in the anchor chair if  needed.

It was not a good night for baseball umpires as they tossed four managers and two players. Terry Francona, Fredi Gonzalez, Bruce Bochy and Jerry Manuel were ejected along with players Dan Uggla and Johnny Damon. Damon made the mistake of drawing a line in the sand showing where a pitch should have been a ball and was tossed.

Other exciting games of the night included Zack Greinke 7-1, 0.60 giving up only one run in seven innings and his ERA rose from 0.51 to 0.60. The Rangers took a 6-0 lead over the Angels in the third inning and then had to hang on to win 10-8 when the Angels scored five times in the ninth inning.

Ian Kinsler homered twice and Andruw Jones hit his fourth homer of the season after hitting only three all season for the Dodgers in 2008. About 11 PM Eastern time I had to go to bed so I don’t know what the MLB Tonight coverage was the rest of the night.

The MLB Network has added a new dimension to television coverage of baseball that far outdistances the coverage of multi-sports networks. The other networks have to showcase so many different sports in one telecast that baseball is a small part of any broadcast.

In other games last night Paul Maholm pitched seven scoreless innings as the Pirates took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning but Matt Capps gave up three runs and five hits in the ninth as the Rockies took a 3-1 win. Good things will not happen for the Pirates this season with their closer having an 0-3 record and a 8.18 ERA.

It was a wild game in Washington when the Nationals blew a 4-1 lead and eventually lost 10-6 in 12 innings.

Brad “Lights On” Lidge and Joe Beimel blew saves for the Phillies and Nationals respectively. Lidge who didn’t blow a save in 41 opportunities in 2008 has blown two saves in seven opportunities this season and has an ERA of 9.19.

The Giants also blew a lead with them holding a 5-1 lead after two innings over the Mets but eventually losing 8-6. Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 11th save in 11 opportunities and lowered his ERA to 0.96.

It was a great night for baseball and for the MLB Network and I look forward to watching their coverage many more times during the 2009 baseball season.

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