clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

That's the title of a 1969 French thriller film about the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Greece in the 1960's.

That has nothing to do with tonight's impressive 4-2 Cub win over the Reds, but I thought of it because that's what we all affectionately call the big bear of a man named Carlos Zambrano, who in his last few starts has finally begun to show the All-Star form of recent seasons, the form that has made him one of the most dominant starters in the majors.

The only one to really solve Z was Ken Griffey, Jr., who got the first Cincinnati hit off him in the first inning -- a double that Matt Murton couldn't quite reach and that landed just fair -- and also homered for the only Reds run in the 8th. That's the 2nd HR Griffey's hit off Z in his career, and no big deal, as it turns out, since the Cubs won. Ryan Dempster closed it down, even though he was a bit shaky again. He needs the consistent work. Closers can't work just once a week and expect to be effective.

Again, as last night, it may not mean very much because the Cubs are still 11 games under .500; however, this does mean seven wins in the last twelve games. That's not great, but it's better than what had been going on before.

I'm rambling a bit, I know; there's not much to tell about this game, since the only Cub scoring occurred in the 8th inning. Michael Barrett's grand slam was a no-doubter, hitting the facing of the upper deck. The best thing about that rally was that it all came after two were out, and after the grand slam the Cubs loaded the bases again, only to have the inning end on a Jacque Jones strikeout.

Thus, I want to rant a bit about something that was mentioned in the game thread -- the ridiculous, absurd, stupid, idiotic (any other words you can think of?) Fox-TV dictated blackout rules that prevented those of you outside the Comcast Sportsnet primary viewing area (or in the Fox Sports Net Ohio primary viewing area) from seeing tonight's game.

Here's how it works: Fox has contractual exclusivity for all TV rights (not just broadcast over-the-air TV, but cable too) from 1 pm ET through 7 pm ET on Saturdays.

This makes absolutely no sense. I can understand why they want exclusivity for the three-hour time blocks (1-4 pm ET, and 4-7 pm ET) where they televise games into a particular market. This is why, for example, next Saturday's Cubs/Tigers game will start at 3:05 CT, a time the players absolutely hate, because the shadows cover the plate by about the fourth inning, and the sun in right field make every fly ball hit to Jacque Jones an adventure.

Next Saturday, the Fox poohbahs have decreed that the Boston/Atlanta game and the NY Yankees/Washington game will be the "early" games, starting at 12:20 CT, thus, in order for the Cubs to televise on CSN next Saturday, they must start outside that TV window. Now, THAT game is scheduled to be carried on MLB.TV, according to the Cubs website.

Today, apparently because the game in Cincinnati started at 6:10 pm ET -- before the 7 pm Fox cutoff -- it was eliminated from the MLB.TV roster, as well as MLB Extra innings.

This is just, well, freaking stupid. Why on Earth would ANYONE want to PREVENT fans from watching a game of their choice? Yes, I can understand why they want to protect their precious broadcast rights in certain markets. Today, Pittsburgh/San Francisco and Atlanta/Houston were the games in question during the 4 pm ET time slot.

What on Earth does that have to do with someone in Pennsylvania (a specific example noted to me in the comments on the game thread), who got the Oakland/NY Yankee game in his market at 1 pm ET, who wants to watch the Cub game at 6 pm ET? That's just blitheringly stupid. Why couldn't those markets be "unblocked" for MLB.TV or Extra Innings once the Fox game in their market has ended? Or, if this doesn't satisfy the Fox execs, how about allowing the game to be joined in progress after 7 pm ET? The Cub game didn't end till NINE pm ET, LONG after ALL the Fox games of the day ended.

It's no wonder people are pissed off. Yes, Fox spent over $2 billion on baseball rights. Money does talk, and yes, that does, I suppose, give them the right to dictate certain things by contract, to "protect" their product. In doing so, however, they are "protecting" something that doesn't need to be protected -- i.e. watching games in markets in which they do not have a telecast during a specific time period!

This is why this article, which I mentioned in this diary a couple of days ago, should be very heartening to those of you so affected. Basically, it says that Fox may take on a partner for MLB next year, and that the Saturday game of the week -- if it exists at all -- might go to ESPN, meaning (since ESPN can't "regionalize" telecasts) that there would likely be ONE national Saturday game of the week, either at 1 pm ET or 4 pm ET. I'd bet on the latter, since TV viewing levels on Saturdays are likely to be much higher later in the afternoon.

MLB has to get its act together on television viewing. I am of a generation that can still remember when NO Cub road games were televised at all, and even when they started carrying the bulk of road games in 1968, there were usually a dozen or so a year that never made it to TV.

But not this generation. With the proliferation of satellite TV and digital cable, people have become accustomed to dialing up any game they wish to see, at any time. It is absolutely, positively shortsighted, ignorant and just plain stupid for MLB to prevent any fan from watching any game he or she wishes to. The reason they're going to give you is that they have to "protect" local broadcasts. This is silly. If I'm a Cub fan and sign up for MLB.TV, and want to watch the Cub game on my computer if I'm traveling to, say, New York (which I do, in fact, from time to time), I couldn't because my credit card billing zip code is within the Cubs' "sphere of influence" -- even though, if I'm in New York I am not in that sphere of influence. Do they expect that I'd watch a Yankee or Met game while I'm there? No, I'd want to watch the Cubs. But I can't -- and thus, there's no reason for me to sign up for MLB.TV.

You'd think MLB wouldn't want to scare off or piss off potential customers, but that's what this ridiculous policy does.

It's got to change, because otherwise they're going to scare off an entire generation of fans that would gladly pay for Extra Innings or MLB.TV -- as long as they can watch any game they want, at any time. Want to "protect" local commercials? Then feed them to the computer that's watching a Cubs/Astros game in New York. This is an easy technical thing to do.

Fortunately, this has begun to capture the attention of MSM columnists like Jeff Passan of Yahoo. Eventually, someone in the executive suites at MLB will have to pay attention too -- because ratings will start to drop, and it'll start costing them money.

Rant over. Enjoy the win. Till tomorrow.