The Cubs may have won the marquee national game last night, but Marquee Sports Network is debuting an intriguing minor league whiparound show tonight, focusing on four farm teams and utilizing studio talent and prospect experts to discuss the action. (Mercifully, holographic Harry Caray will be absent.)
Elise Menaker will host coverage alongside longtime MiLB prospect expert Jim Callis and player development analyst Lance Brozdowski.
Tune in to Road to Wrigley TONIGHT at 7 pm.
Go inside the @Cubs minor league system with a whiparound show featuring split-screen feeds.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 12, 2022
From the Marquee release announcing the broadcast:
Marquee Sports Network is set to air a first-of-its-kind minor league baseball whiparound show, showcasing multiple live Cubs minor league broadcasts simultaneously. Airing this Friday, August 12 at 7 PM CT, Road to Wrigley presented by Prevagen will feature live in-game look-ins from the Cubs minor league system, including concurrent split-screen feeds, plus highlights, analysis and breakdowns.
Hosted by Elise Menaker, Lance Brozdowski and Jim Callis, the trio will take fans inside the Cubs minor league system, breaking down the key at-bats and pivotal pitch sequences from all the top prospects, and providing game analysis as the action unfolds.
On Friday’s broadcast, Road to Wrigley will provide coverage of all four full-season affiliates, including: Triple-A Iowa (vs. Louisville), Double-A Tennessee (vs. Mississippi), Single-A South Bend (at Wisconsin) and Single-A Myrtle Beach (vs. Columbia).
This is the exact sort of programming that team-specific networks should be pushing. That’s especially true given baseball’s minor league setup, and the ongoing interest in prospect acquisition and development.
The Cubs launched their Marquee Sports Network in partnership with Sinclair at one of the worst possible times. After years of promising fans that a team-owned RSN would be the key to major revenue streams that could be repurposed for payroll, Marquee came along right when the bubble started to burst on the linear RSN model.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that it was set to debut for the 2020 season, which was obviously delayed and hampered by the pandemic, reducing the overall season inventory of games and leading to an economic downturn that didn’t exactly make adding an expensive channel appealing to distributors or consumers. (Indeed, Marquee still isn’t available on most streaming television providers.)
Then, after a quick playoff exit in 2020, the Cubs sold off almost all of their top talent in 2021 and did nothing to meaningfully add to the roster in 2022, giving fans very little reason to tune in for the on-field product at the major league level.
Tapping into fan enthusiasm for minor leaguers, though, especially for an organization in a situation the Cubs are in right now, makes all the sense in the world. (Again, it’s absurd that a major-market force like the Cubs can’t put both a contending team on the field at Wrigley AND keep a healthy farm system going, but analyzing deficiencies in the Cubs operating strategies would require an entirely separate post.)
Marquee is already planning a second version on August 25th. Given the likely viability of the concept, it’s possible there could be many more broadcasts along these lines down the road, both on Marquee and on other networks looking to copy the idea.