When Mid Atlantic Sports Network first launched back in 2005, local baseball fans had high expectations for outstanding coverage of the Orioles and Nationals.
And for the most part, that is what we’ve gotten…when it comes to the actual game broadcasts. (Until this season…more on that later.)
But for the first several years, the broadcasting talent and the production of the games was top-notch all the way around, making the viewing experience an enjoyable one.
Beyond the games, though, MASN leaves quite a bit to be desired.
While Atlantic Coast Conference sporting events are shown in the off-season, most of the network’s non-baseball hours are filled with simulcasts of programs available on other networks, such as ESPNews.
In general, MASN feels like a wasted opportunity…or an unfulfilled promise. Because the thought back in 2005 of the team owning its own TV network was an exciting one.
In addition to the revenue the network would generate – which would, theoretically, enable more consistent high payrolls for the Orioles – there was the thought of all the additional, team- or baseball-related programming the new network would bring.
Only it never really happened.
So what follows in this post is a quick list of suggestions as to how the network could go about changing for the better…and brining fans the type of compelling baseball-related content we all crave.
1. Send the broadcasters back on the road – This one is obvious…and I’m certainly not the first one to call for this. The team and the network have claimed that keeping the broadcasters in Baltimore for road games is for Covid-related safety reasons but I’m sorry…that just doesn’t hold water. This is about cutting costs, plain and simple. And it is such a disappointment that the team and network are willing to deliver a sub-standard broadcast for viewers at a time when virtually every other Major League club is sending its broadcasters on the road.
I give the MASN on-air talent – for both the Orioles and Nationals – a great deal of credit for making the best of a terrible situation.
But this is embarrassing, MASN. Enough is enough.
We pay plenty in Regional Sports Network fees to our cable and satellite providers…it’s beyond time for MASN to live up to their end of the bargain and offer a Major League-caliber broadcast from the game site.
(And as a side note…making Kevin Brown the primary play-by-play broadcaster for television was an outstanding decision. Brown is clearly one of the best young talents in the business and hopefully he remains in Baltimore for many years to come. He works extremely well with both Jim Palmer and Ben McDonald and is one of the best additions to the network in years.)
2. Create a weekly team highlights show – I’ll admit that I’m an old fogey. And I grew up in a pre/early cable environment where This Week in Baseball was not only highly entertaining…it was required viewing. (That’s because it was one of the few ways to catch up on all the highlights from around the league.)
Times have changed, of course – and fans now get their highlights instantly via cell phones, tablets and laptops.
So while there’s no longer a need for a This Week in Baseball-style program…there is an opportunity for MASN to engage with Orioles fans and appeal to a young audience at the same time.
Why not have a 30-minute, weekly highlights program filled with the top highlights from the previous week…and have young, local content creators select the highlights and put it together?
Young people are all about creating content – and many of them have a great talent for understanding what others most want to see. So why not reach out to some of these talented youngsters in the region and have a new creator each week sort through the team’s highlights and assemble the most entertaining 30 minutes possible?
3. Launch a kids-oriented show. Of course, if you read the previous suggestion you know I watched This Week in Baseball. And if you’re old enough to remember that, then you also remember The Baseball Bunch, hosted by Johnny Bench.
Obviously creating a similar show (no matter how corny) would be costly.
But the Orioles regularly host baseball clinics for youngsters in the region, and these clinics often include current or former players.
So why not film some of the lessons and instruction from those clinics and put together a regular program that helps teach young players some of the finer points of the game?
I could also envision including a high school coach of the week from the area, and allowing that coach to film a segment. This would help the team engage with the community on a level they currently might not be – and would help coaches increase the visibility of their own programs.
Again…I’m not talking about a program with expensive production and high-priced talent. But instead maybe just using one of the pre-/post-game hosts from the network to introduce the various segments, filmed at local clinics and high schools.
4. Expand the library of Orioles Classics – I think this one is another “no-brainer.” Especially during the off-season.
It feels like we get a regular mix of games from the past 6 or 7 years as part of Orioles Classics…and then a library of the same older games shown over and over again. (2131…the 1970 and 1983 World Series…1992 Opening Day…and a handful of others.)
But I feel like what we need are “deeper cuts” than what we’ve been getting. Fans would love nothing more on a cold winter evening than to turn on MASN and find a lost classic – a semi-random game from the past that they may not remember all the details about. Or a game that might feature an important moment but has not been shown before.
5. Serve up more minor league highlights, features…and even games – For a team that is so heavily emphasizing its minor league system, it would be a great idea if the television network gave us a better look at what’s happening down on the farm.
How about a monthly game broadcast from one of the local affiliates on a day when the Orioles are idle?
Or an in-depth weekly highlights feature on the pre-game show that runs down the statistical performances and greatest plays from the team’s top prospects over the past week?
I’d also say that having the team’s farm director – and/or the various minor league managers – on the pre-game show or game broadcasts as a regular weekly segment would be a welcome addition.
6. Sunday afternoons with the legends – How about having a different former “hero of Birdland” join the booth every Sunday afternoon as a third voice?
I’ve noticed that the Phillies do this with Mike Schmidt and it seems to be very well received.
I also know that several years ago the Orioles had former players like Eddie Murray and Brian Roberts in the booth for occasional games. But fans would love to hear from more of their former heroes. (And why hasn’t Cal Ripken been in the Orioles booth for more than a one-inning appearance every now and then?)
In addition to Ripken and Murray, here are a few suggestions of names/faces that have been seen around the ballpark over the past few seasons: Melvin Mora, Mike Devereaux, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Gary Roenicke, Adam Jones, Al Bumbry, Joe Orsulak, Chris Hoiles.
7. Add functionality to the MASN app – This might be tricky depending on whether there are any restrictions related to streaming. But the MASN app has been a welcome addition, allowing those viewers who already subscribe to MASN via cable or satellite to watch games on their devices.
Now that the basic goal of the app has been accomplished…why not reach a little higher? How about making the app a legitimate second screen destination by adding new functionality?
I could envision additional camera feeds being made available via the app…or maybe occasional “Manning-Cast”-style alternate broadcasts where fans can watch along with MASN reporters or former players in a more casual environment?
Something like the Manning-Cast is probably too costly, but if there were alternate angles available via the app that would enhance my viewing experience, I’d be willing to fire up the ipad while watching the game on television.
8. Bonus idea — Let’s look ahead to spring training 2023. How about a commitment to televise (or, at minimum, stream) every O’s home game from Sarasota? It is incredibly frustrating to have so many Orioles games not shown on television every spring when the team’s network is showing some horse racing program or poker. Let the fans see the games — even if it’s a no-frills broadcast with just a few cameras.