At 3 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon, the MLB Network is set to debut, billing itself as the first 24 hour, 7 days a week network devoted to baseball. The network is not a premium channel, but is instead included on most extended basic cable plans, so you might actually have it - and not know! (On Comcast Bay Area, it is #412)
The first day's content recaps free agent signings and off-season player moves in a show they are calling "Hot Stove", and will be followed by the much-hyped first re-airing of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. The network plans to both highlight players of the past, and showcase today's athletes, and will carry 26 regular season games.
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching the MLB Network a ton, considering it hadn't really launched yet. I saw highlight reels of famous fielding plays. I saw big game-ending home runs, from Dave Henderson to Joe Carter to deleted deleted in 1988. I watched highlights of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, and more, until I realized I'd seen all the pre-taped program, and found myself watching the same footage over again.
I am both excited about this debut and nervous. Given how ESPN has become practically unwatchable for me, I have to hope the MLB network can give us the raw baseball stories and highlights I am looking for. I worry greatly that they won't have enough original content each day, and that the same East Coast bias we've seen elsewhere will be here as well. Seeing the replay of the 2004 World Series during this time cemented that concern...
The MLB Network says it will highlight all 30 teams in Spring Training. It will feature an interview with Yogi Berra, Larsen and Bob Costas after today's re-airing. This could be great, or it could be another place for us to complain if the A's are featured 28th, and seen only once or twice in the 26 games. But I am hopeful, and that's part of what being a sports fan is all about.
Go 2009! Go A's! and good luck... MLB.
See also: MLB.com MLB Network to debut in mere hours.