On Thursday, Major League Baseball released an excessive amount of information this year regarding their plans for the MLB Postseason. There’s a lot to break down here, so let’s hit on some of the major bullet points.
-No World Series games will be going head to head with either Monday or Thursday Night Football. If the series isn’t a sweep, Game 5 will go head to head with the Packers and Saints on Sunday Night Football. That’s not insignificant, especially considering the ridiculous rating that CBS pulled for the Steelers-Ravens game last night. Also, the Thursday and Monday games that MLB is avoiding going up against are Chargers-Broncos and Redskins-Cowboys – there could be a ratings bloodbath if MLB went head to head with either.
-Five networks will be airing Postseason games this year. The two Wild Card games will air on TBS (AL) and ESPN (NL), while the entire ALDS and ALCS air on TBS. The NLDS will air on Fox Sports 1, though two of those games will show up on MLB Network. As for the NLCS, both game one and game six (if necessary) will air on Fox. The other five possible games air on Fox Sports 1, and the entire World Series airs on Fox.
-Speaking of Fox Sports 1, they’re taking a page out of ESPN’s book for Game 1 of the NLCS. While the game airs on Fox, they’ll be airing a second-screen experience fueled by their new baseball portal, Just A Bit Outside. The broadcast will be branded “JABO presents: NLCS on FOXSPORTS1”, and will be hosted by Kevin Burkhardt. The alternate feed will focus on statistic and sabermetrics, and feature Rob Neyer, Gabe Kapler, and C.J. Nitkowski, among others.
-Fox Sports 1 is also going all-in with ancillary shows, and is providing more than 60 hours of pre, post, and mid-game coverage, including 90 minute episodes of America’s Pregame.
–Keith Olbermann will not return to anchor TBS’s studio coverage of the MLB Playoffs because of scheduling issues. The studio show will instead be anchored by MLB Network Radio host Casey Stern, and feature Gary Sheffield and the long-awaited return of Pedro Martinez as analysts.
-TBS’s broadcast teams are pretty standard. The top team that will call the ALCS and one of the ALDS matchups is Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling, and Cal Ripken, with Matt Winer serving as report. The ALDS-only team is Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Joe Simpson, and they’ll be joined by Jaime Maggio in a reporting role.
-Fox’s game broadcasters are what you’d expected – Joe Buck, Tom Verducci, and Harold Reynolds are the A-team, and the duo of Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz are the B-team.
-The ESPN broadcast crew for their sole game is the Sunday Night Baseball crew of Dan Shulman, John Kruk, and Buster Olney. There’s no immediate word about whether or not Curt Schilling will join the broadcast following his return from cancer treatments. ESPN will also air any playoff tiebreaker games the Monday before the playoffs begin.
I think that should take care of it. These are the first playoffs under MLB’s new national TV contracts, and the networks aren’t reinventing the wheel. The most interesting thing about these playoffs to me would have to be the NLCS Game 1 studio broadcast. It’s Fox taking their best MLB assets and putting them all in one place during a game. There’s potential for an incredibly entertaining broadcast there.