Splash Hits: Giving baseball the business
One more potential free agent fit, sports network rebrands and labor strife. Baseball is coming!
This week’s entry is heavy on the business of baseball and light on the actual game itself. I suppose that’s what happens when spring training is around the corner and the local team hasn’t made any moves of late. Let’s jump right in.
We’ve covered a lot of potential free agent signings in this space. Is there room for another? The Athletic’s Jim Bowden listed his top 15 remaining players on the market and targeted his number two overall—and top hitter—Marcell Ozuna as a fit for the Royals. Now after being openly skeptical that the Royals are pursuing Yasiel Puig (from the same source…surprise!) it seems for consistency's sake I should debunk the Royals going after a right-handed hitting outfielder with some, ahem, defensive limitations.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the whole “defensive limitations” tag. Ozuna grades ok in left field according to the Fielding Bible. Among left fielders with more than 1,000 innings per year in the three seasons prior to the pandemic shortened 2020, Ozuna grades out as fairly average. Larger picture…among left fielders from 2017 to 2019 who logged more than 2,000 innings at the position, Ozuna is middle of the pack in Defensive Runs Saved.
Offensively, he can rake. And mash. He can rake and mash. He’s a career .276/.335/.466 hitter with a 117 wRC+. And boy, did he love hitting in Atlanta last year, with a .636 slugging percentage and 18 dingers in 267 plate appearances. The Braves used him mostly as a DH—he played in all 60 games but appeared in the outfield in only 21 of those contests.
Therein lies the lack of a “fit” for the Royals. They already have a right-handed power-hitting DH type in Jorge Soler. Although Soler can exit as a free agent after the 2021 season. Maybe signing Ozuna to a four year deal like Bowden speculates does make a little sense, in that a Soler/Ozuna overlap would be for just a single season…and talk about a beefy lineup. If the Royals decide to commit to a free agent contract the likes of which they haven’t done since after the 2015 season.
I don’t know. I’m writing myself in circles thinking about it. It can make sense, but it has to be a long shot. But sometimes long shots come in.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, the outfit that purchased the Fox Sports regional networks, officially announced they are branding to Bally Sports. So when the season starts, you can watch the Royals on Bally Sports Kansas City. If you still get the station.
The potential good news is, if you’ve lost Fox Sports or Bally Sports from your television or streaming provider, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there are plans to allow viewers to purchase the network as an à la carte option.
Sinclair management also previously said it plans to make FSM, and other regional sports networks, available for purchase independently at some point this year. Currently, a subscription to a cable or streaming service that carries the channel is needed to receive its programming.
Multiple providers have dropped Sinclair regional sports networks over the last year or so because they would not pay what was being charged, angering some fans of teams that are affected and are caught in the middle of the dispute. That forced them either to change programming providers or go without the telecasts.
”We have a pretty aggressive plan,” Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley said in November when discussing the blueprint to make the stations available on an à la carte basis. “It will happen” in 2021.
There weren’t any details provided, but I’m assuming it would be an app on your streaming device and you would subscribe to unlock content—kind of along the lines of ESPN+. I subscribe to a couple of these apps (have to watch soccer!) and while I appreciate the ability to stream content that otherwise wouldn’t be available, I have yet to see an interface that makes good sense or is what I would call “user friendly.” So I’ll take a wait and see approach to Sinclair and their regional sports networks. But they better have their act together before the first pitch of the season or there will be plenty of unhappy fans across the country.
For the Royals broadcasts themselves, I doubt we see any kind of radical changes. Maybe a new graphics package to embrace the rebrand. The usual gang of announcers will be back. We can expect the same for the behind the scenes crew, which is even more key to the overall quality of the broadcast. Honestly, how the Royals are presented on television is all out of our hands. I feel as though the broadcasts are good quality and entertaining enough to satisfy fans of all stripes. Hopefully, Sinclair doesn’t come in with a sledgehammer.
A little intrigue around the Cactus League after they wrote a letter asking that spring training be delayed due to the continuing pandemic.
For starters, who knew there was an actual Cactus League organization? I’ve been following baseball for a long time and always thought the spring training appellations of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues were just kind of for fun. You learn something every day.
At any rate, it’s breathtaking how organizations and institutions continue to drop the ball when it comes to the pandemic. How can we be three weeks from the opening of camps and there not be some sort of plan in place to guarantee the health and safety of players, staff and fans? Are you just going to wing it?
It’s clear the Lords of the Game don’t really want to play a full season since that means full paychecks. And full paychecks without full stands isn’t something they’re interested in. It was revealed that a representative from Major League Baseball asked the Cactus League to write the letter asking for the spring training delay. It’s all posturing. The dates of camps are collectively bargained, so one side can’t unilaterally change anything. And while the Cactus League does actually exist, it’s not an organization that has any kind of power or influence over either side of baseball’s labor players.
Naturally, MLB denied a representative asked for a letter. The MLBPA probably isn’t happy at what they will perceive as continuing subterfuge on the part of ownership. It’s another brick in the labor war wall.
Finally…again, I have to thank you for stopping by and reading. I’ve been humbled by the support you’ve shown for this venture over the last two weeks.