So, Al did his usual game recap but I watched the first Spring Training game with a bit of a different eye. For me, itt was less about the game and more about the broadcast and graphics of the Cubs new network. Don’t worry, readers, I saw Willson Contreras hit the first home run of Cubs Spring Training and then follow it up with a defensive gem that looked like he’s been playing for months... but I still spent most of the game focused on graphics, camera work, and more. So with no further ado, let’s review the biggest winners and losers in the initial Marquee Network broadcast.
Let’s get some basics out of the way. The graphics are clean and easy to read, as you can see below. Too many other TV station graphics have strange color combos or try to do too much. These are well-thought-out and tell you the story of the game well. They aren’t too small or too crowded. I am curious to see what happens when/if they add PITCHf/x or Statcast data, but I imagine we won’t have an answer there until Opening Day. Crane Kenney confirmed later in the broadcast that those features would be coming after Spring Training.
Winner: Social media shoutouts
One of my favorite things about MLB Network is that they interact with fans with some Twitter shoutouts here and there. I love it. I actually screenshot one and sent it to a friend when she was highlighted earlier this year, it made her day. I absolutely loved this Twitter shoutout in bottom of the fifth and I bet Jared did too. Baseball should do a lot more to encourage interactions with fans. A++ content here.
Winner: Wired for sound
Wired for Sound is good. I liked hearing Rizzo’s takes before the Cubs take the field. I got a kick out of him and Jason Heyward talking about where their mics are located. It reminded me that during our blogger session with Crane Kenney at Cubs Convention he mentioned the possibility of field level cameras to capture Javy’s foot work or a great slide, which they noted again during this broadcast. I am totally here for all of this and love watching them try it out.
Winner: Keeping Len and JD
Len and JD are perfect and I am so glad that the Cubs kept them as the main booth crew despite being approached by a glut of talent. That said, Len and JD need more innings to themselves and fewer interviews. More on that a bit later.
So, I hate commercials, even though I know they are needed. I generally deliberately leave my TV on the channel I want to watch when I get home later, turn it on and rewind it 30 minutes so I can fast forward through commercials to the maximum extent possible. I get pretty annoyed when I have to watch commercials. I wasn’t actually annoyed by these commercials. Admittedly, that’s because they were all targeted to me, obsessive Cubs fan. Even the bank commercials had a Cubs lens to them. Then there were Wrigley commercials and a hype video here and there. I’m sure this will change as Marquee gets more ad buys but for now? I’m totally fine watching Cubs targeted commercials.
Loser: Video work during the interviews
One of my least favorite things about watching Saturday Night Baseball was the interviews. It’s not the content. The conversations are fine. The problem is that they put a camera on whoever they are talking to, or worse, on the booth and then miss plays. This happened twice through the first six innings of the Spring Training debut and I cannot. Please, Marquee, I am begging you. Show the game. We can hear who you are talking to just fine. If you are worried about us knowing who it is, just put a “Voice of” graphic at the bottom of the screen.
Loser: Too many interviews
During the course of a single game Cubs fans heard from Tommy Hottovy, Jed Hoyer, Mark Grace and Crane Kenney, in addition to the normal Cubs broadcast team. It’s too much.
Too early to tell: Scroll bar
I actually didn’t mind this at all, I even sort of like it. The scrollbar is a light gray background with well-contrasted team names and key information. I can imagine that sometime in the future the Boston Bruins will be playing and I’ll want to know how they are doing while watching the Cubs. I won’t be flipping back and forth between games now. I like that. But our own Deputy Mayor of Rush Street disagreed in the game thread. After all, this is a baseball channel and he doesn’t understand why there is constant movement, much of it non-baseball, below the game.
Too early to tell: New talent
As I mentioned in the “Too Many Interviews” segment, it just felt like way too much. I think I would have rather gotten to know Taylor McGregor better than to hear interviews from Hoyer, Hottovy, Grace and Kenney. And that isn’t because I don’t want to hear from any of those people, it’s just that I don’t want to hear from all of them the same day. Mad props to Len and JD for keeping the flow of the game with so many new people disrupting the cadence they’ve maintained for years now.