By MARK KNUDSON
Special to woodypaige.com
The National League’s West Division and the Colorado Rockies, in particular, have been one of the best stories in Major League Baseball this season.
So why won’t the networks send a broadcast team to Coors Field to check it out?
The Rockies, 20 games over .500 and atop baseball’s best division most of the year, have yet to appear on any national telecast this season. They’re one of only three MLB teams (with Phillies and Twins) that have been left off the national TV slate to date…and Minnesota’s was scheduled to host Cleveland last month before the game was rained out. (A home-team broadcast of a Rockies make –up day game at Minnesota was carried on MLB Network if you want to count that.)
Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers, six games below .500 and in contention for nothing more than a high draft pick in 2018, have appeared on national broadcasts seven times already. This week, while the red-hot Arizona Diamondbacks were set to visit Denver to face the Rockies in a match-up of two of the best teams in all of baseball, the national network chose instead to send their broadcast crews to Seattle to televise a not-so-huge pillow fight between the .500 Mariners and those going-nowhere Tigers. While the Rockies were edging the D-Backs in a 4-3 nail bitter, that same crew was in Los Angeles to show baseball fans a 12-0 Dodgers bludgeoning of the dreary New York Mets. For the Mets – who are eight games under .500 – it was their 14th national TV game of the season.
A swing and a miss for the networks and viewers.
In the highly competitive world of TV ratings, the networks are consistently choosing market size over quality of game. With ratings such a concern, you might think they’d choose to televise the best teams meeting in the biggest games? Are the scuffling Mets such a big ratings draw that they need to be on TV no matter what just because New York is part of their name? Do the network folks know there are flights into Denver before football season starts?
This isn’t a shock. One pleasant Rocky Mountain evening last summer, I was driving in my car listening to “Sunday Night Baseball” on the radio when the subject of “the nicest ballparks in the major leagues” came up. As the broadcasters tossed out names and locations, I waited to hear just one of them insert picturesque Coors Field into the conversation. It never happened. So when I parked the car, I sent a tweet to play-by-play man John Sciambi asking about the omission. He read my tweet on the air and admitted that he had never been to Coors Field.
Think about that for a second. The lead baseball play-by-play man for the biggest network in sports has never been to 25-year-old Coors Field. This is nothing new of course. Back in October of 2007 the Rockies staged a miracle late season run to force a one-game play-off with the San Diego Padres to see who would become the NL wild card play-off entry. The national TV crew that arrived to broadcast the game had no idea how to pronounce the last name of the Rockies star rookie shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo-lo-who?
With that as a backdrop, why should we expect anything different despite the Rockies success in 2017? As far as the east coast is concerned, they’re just a mid-season first-place team that plays in the forgotten time zone. Most national types believe the Dodgers will win the NL West going away and the Rockies and Diamondbacks will return to also-ran status by the end of the season, thus removing their reason to alter any broadcast plans.
This week, another well known commentator for the world-wide leader in sports, Tony Kornheiser, offered up more ignorance on the subject. The talk show host, who has also never been to Coors Field, called the first place Rockies “a fraud team” because they are “propped up by altitude.” It’s a pretty good bet he’s yet to see them play a single game this season.
Sure it’s a long way to Denver from Kornheiser’s perch in Washington, D.C. But Mitch McConnell has been to Coors Field, so there are flights. It’s not just that the eastern-based media has always more or less ignored Colorado in the past, it’s that when they’re finally deserving of coverage, there’s this mindless pushback.
Don’t expect much to change.
The Rockies will finally make their national television debut on Monday June 26th AT San Francisco, perhaps out of contractual obligation. The network folks obviously know their way to the Bay area. Here’s hoping that sometime soon they’ll find time to visit Coors Field and see what they’ve been missing. Maybe when football season starts? Hint: It’s that beautiful big facility just about a mile northeast of Mile High Stadium.