One More Decision Bud Selig Won’t Make

Admit it… as soon as you read yesterday’s post about Bud Selig and the decisions he is incapable of making, you knew this was coming, didn’t you?

Yes, I’m going to rant… again… about broadcast blackouts and how MLB doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about fans throughout Iowa and parts of Nevada (and a few other states) where fans are literally prevented from watching just about any team they care at all about play baseball on cable television or the internet.

I won’t rehash the issue in its entirety. You can click here to read all about it or just type “blackouts” in the search window at the top of our site to bring up any number of my previous rants on the topic. Here, I’ll just provide a little updated rant.

At a Hot Stove banquet the week of Twinsfest, I had the pleasure of listening in on a Q&A session with a panel that included Twins President Dave St. Peter. With encouragement from a fellow Twins fan and blogger who shall remain nameless (other than to say he has a view from Section 219 of Target Field for several Twins games a year) and emboldened by the beer or five I had during dinner and the following couple of hours, I asked Mr. St. Peter whether the Twins would ever address the crazy “blackout” issue that prevents me and my fellow Iowans from seeing Twins games either on cable television or via the internet.

St. Peter admitted that Iowa was in the middle of a “Bermuda Triangle” (his words) and that he and the Twins would like to see the situation changed, but the matter is dictated by MLB’s broadcast rights policy and any changes would have to come from league headquarters. He also suggested I write to Iowa’s Congressional delegation.

Frankly, I was surprised someone in baseball would actually encourage a fan to complain to my Senators and Congressman about MLB (because certainly he must be aware that such a complaint would naturally include a suggestion that baseball’s anti-trust exemption be considered for review), but I let the matter drop at the time.

I didn’t bother to let him know that I had already written a polite letter (really… I CAN be polite when I want to be… and when I think it might be more productive than being brutally honest) to Commissioner Selig a couple of years ago about the blackout policy and got exactly the kind of response I expected. That is to say, no response whatsoever.

I also didn’t point out ot Mr. St. Peter that this issue has been raised by far more influential people than I, such as former MLB president Bob DuPuy, who lobbied for an end to the blackouts… in 2008… with no effect whatsoever.

Of course, I don’t really expect Bud Selig to step in and make a decision regarding the broadcast blackouts. After all, we’re talking about a guy who is seemingly paralyzed by inaction regarding any decision at all that might not be 100% okie-dokie with all of the owners and all of the Networks, so it’s not logical to think he’d make a decision on this matter either.

Then again, considering the decision he did make on the whole All-Star Game/World Series home field thing, maybe we’re all just better off waiting for the next Commissioner anyway. After all, Selig will retire when the latest “last” extension is up in two years, right?

Yeah… right.

- JC

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

Flipping The @MinnesotaTwins The Bird

Some of you may still recall my rant a week or so ago about the absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules that prevent me (and all of my fellow Iowans) from watching Twins (and Brewers and Cardinals and Royals and Cubs and White Sox) games online. I mentioned somewhere in that rant that this would be my 51st and final year as a Twins fan if the rules don’t change by next year… which I know they almost certainly won’t do.

Many of you, I’m sure, believed that vow to be nothing more than an emotional (over)reaction to a situation that has, after all, existed for years and that I would eventually calm down and remain a lifelong loyal Twins fan. It’s a fair assumption.

It’s also going to prove to be an erroneous assumption. I’m going to burn all of my Twins gear… 3 jerseys, 3 Spring Training sport shirts, at least 3 caps, and more t-shirts than I can count… on Opening Day 2012 if the Twins still insist on including Eastern Iowa in their “protected home market”, despite FSN not bothering to do what it takes to actually get carried on a local cable provider.

In fact, I’ve already chosen the team I plan on devoting my fandom to, in place of the Twins. I’ll be trading in my navy and red for the black and orange of the Baltimore Orioles.

As a matter of fact, thanks to those absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules, I’ve actually already watched more Orioles baseball than I have of the Twins.

And I gotta say… I’m loving this year’s Orioles team.

I expected them to be better than they have been in several years. In fact, in my “offbeat predictions” post last week, one of the limbs I went out on was to predict the O’s would finish second in the AL East this year. That was before Baltimore went on to win their first four games of the season, with a sweep of the Rays down in St. Petersburg and before the Red Sox lost their first six (and counting) games of the season!

As you may be able to tell, I’m actually getting excited for this team. The “veteran” sluggers they brought in to shore up their offense haven’t even started hitting yet. Vlad Guerrero finally hit his first HR of the season tonight, Derrek Lee has just one (as of the 5th inning of Thursday’s game, which I’m watching as I write this), and Mark Reynolds still hasn’t gone yard. (It seems the Twins aren’t the only team yet to get much thunder out of the heart of their batting order.)

JJ Hardy in his (and my) new colors

But Brian Robers has been hot and good old “number 2 in your program and number 1 in your hearts” JJ Hardy has been a double machine. He may only have three hits on the season, but they’ve all been two-baggers. And the young starting rotation has really done a nice job so far.

It’s actually kind of fun to root for a young-ish team on the rise (hopefully), that’s been built by former Twin GM Andy MacPhail and is being managed brilliantly by Buck Showalter. Only the Twins, among AL teams, had a better record from August through the end of the regular season last year than the Orioles did.

As an Orioles fan, I still get to vehemently root against the F’ing Yankees and the East Coast Bitch Sox.

Of course, the BEST part about becoming an Orioles fan is that I get to actually watch them play every game. OK… not EVERY game… for example, later this month when they host the Twins, I WON’T be able to watch those games (thanks to the absurd, insane, unfair, and downright indefensible blackout rules).

But there’s a chance I’ll be in Baltimore the last week of April and they’re hosting the Red Sox for three games that week, so there’s a very real possibility that I’ll actually be watching my first regular season MLB game in Camden Yards, instead of Target Field, this season.

I’ve even started checking out some of the Orioles blogs (scouting the future competition, you might say). There don’t seem to be nearly as many as the umpteen million Twins blogs around so I think maybe that’s a lineup that could use me!

And with that.. YESSSSSSSSS Adam Jones just tied the Tigers 4-4 in the sixth with his first HR of the season!

I wonder if there’s a song I need to learn. Ah well… until I find out, I’ll just stick with…

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

- JC

Join The JimCrikket Anti-MLB Blackout Movement

Several people have found one way or another to express support for my rant on the subject of the bizarre MLB blackout rules, which prevent those of us in Iowa from watching Twins games (and Royals games… and Brewers games… and Cardinal games… and Cubs games… and even WhiteSox games, for that matter) on mlb.tv.

I want to express my appreciation for all the moral support.

A common theme, however, has been to question what we can do. I’ve given that question some thought. Obviously, a few isolated blog posts and even traditional media articles about the topic haven’t influenced the Twins or MLB to make changes.

I’m pretty discouraged, but your support brought to mind my favorite 18 minute and 34 second song… Arlo Guthrie’s classic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”.

Now, I realize many of you have no idea about Alice’s Restaurant (or even Arlo Guthrie, for that matter… and shame on you for that). It is, after all, a song from the 1960s, years or even decades before a lot of you were born. But it was an important song to a lot of us who grew up in the Vietnam era. If you want to read the lyrics, click here and if you’re really ambitious, you can watch/listen to a 2005 Guthrie performance of the song on YouTube here. But do it when you have some spare time because I wasn’t kidding about it being an 18 minute, 34 second song. They made a movie based on the song. You know how movies based on books often have to cut good stuff out to make it down to a two hour movie? Alice’s Restaurant very nearly had to do the same thing… with a song.

But I digress… the point is, your kind expressions of support brought Arlo’s classic to mind.

While my fight with MLB and the Twins over blackouts doesn’t quite rise to the level of seriousness of conscription during the Vietnam conflict (which was the topic of Alice’s Restaurant), I feel much like Arlo.

If just one person (like me for instance) continues to scream at the powers about this issue, they’ll probably think I’m really sick.  If two of us do it… in harmony… well, I’m not sure what they’ll think. And if three of us rant on and on about blackouts, they may think it’s an organization. And can you imagine 50 people a day blogging, tweeting and otherwise hassling @TwinsPrez and @MLB about the blackout madness!? Friends, they may think it’s a movement.

And that’s what this is… the JimCrikket Anti-MLBBlackout Movement and to join, all you have to do is sing along.

All you bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and old fashioned letter writers (you know who you are)… contact @MLB and @TwinsPrez and anyone else you know inside the Twins organization or MLB baseball… or write about this issue in your blogs occasionally… and include this refrain from the song…

You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant

Of course, if you’re tweeting or otherwise limited in terms of character length, just go with…

~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~

…and, in any event, link back to my little rants here at Knuckleballs. If you follow @Knuckleballs and/or @JimCrikket on Twitter, you’ll be seeing a tweet you can simply re-tweet to show your support.

If you REALLY want to get in to this and if you who have a voice that doesn’t send dogs and cats in to the river to drown themselves, you might even consider making a phone call to the Twins/MLB offices and singing the Alice’s Restaurant refrain.

… with feeling, of course. Arlo would demand it be done that way.

- JC

@TwinsPrez, Why Don’t You Want Me To Be a Twins Fan?

I really don’t get it.

I’ve been a Twins fan since the summer I turned five years old. 1961. The year the Twins played their first season in Minnesota.

Even as a teenager, after my family moved to Iowa and the Twins entered one of their “dark periods” in the mid 1970s, I remained true.

It hasn’t always been easy. Through most of my life, there really wasn’t any way to watch the Twins down here on television, or even listen to them on the radio. There just wasn’t enough interest, I guess. It was easy to be a Cubs fan. Or a Braves fan, for that matter.

You see a few Twins caps around Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area, so it would appear that the Twins have been making inroads in the area. But that appearance is flat out wrong.

In fact, the opposite is true. The Twins obviously are not the least bit interested in developing a fan base in the Waterloo-Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor. Actually, it’s not that they aren’t interested.

It’s worse than that.

They DON’T WANT us to be Twins fans down here. They go out of their way to discourage us from being Twins fans. They encourage us to bring up our kids to be Cubs fans… or Cardinal fans… or… wait for it… yes, even White Sox fans!

You see… we can’t watch Twins games here. FSN isn’t carried by the cable systems here. I don’t believe it ever has been. I’ve seen no indication that there’s ever been any interest expressed by FSN in being carried by any of the cable systems here. There’s already plenty of baseball… Cubs baseball… some Cardinals baseball… and White Sox baseball carried on Mediacom here.

So when MLB introduced their MLB.tv package a few years ago… allowing fans to watch games on the internet… I was thrilled. Then I found out all of Iowa was blacked out of Twins games… and Cubs games… and White Sox games… and Cardinals games… and Brewers games… and Royals games. Yep. The entire state of Iowa was claimed as a “local broadcast area” for SIX teams, despite no MLB teams being located in the state.

Look, I understand that the broadcast rights of media partners have to be protected. But when those broadcasters have never, do not now, and clearly never will be carried by any of the major cable systems in an area, just exactly what “rights” are being protected? It’s insane.

It’s also an issue that’s been brought to MLB’s (and their member teams) attention repeatedly.

Check this out… from no less authority than baseball’s own MLB.com:

Baseball’s current rules on territorial television blackouts were drawn up in the 1960s, long before the dawn of MLB.TV and the Extra Innings package.

Those rules have become archaic, and Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer, presented a plan to MLB’s executive council on Wednesday that would alter them considerably…

So why am I complaining if such a high ranking MLB executive is on the case? Well, that “promise” comes from an article written back in August… of 2008. DuPuy’s proposal was tabled at the subsequent owners meeting… apparently on a very long table.

Every season, there are articles written about the blackout rules. Those articles generally have several things in common. (a) the author is amazed at the stupidity of the rules, (b) someone “official” explains the rules go back to the 1960s and agree they are arcane and should be changed, and (c) nothing changes.

Every. Single. Year.

Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez)

The last straw, for me, came after I returned from spending a full week down in Ft. Myers watching the Twins practice and play meaningless games… something I’ve done for several years. A couple of days after returning home, I noticed the following exchange with Twins President Dave St. Peter on Twitter:

TwinsPrez Dave St. Peter
I support need to protect local rightsholder. Hope to offer in-market streaming soonRT @jeffgabhart:What’s your stance on MLB.tv blackouts?

Yeah… I couldn’t resist responding to that.

The “protect local rightsholder” argument is exactly what baseball has been regurgitating as an excuse for NOT offering in-market streaming for years. So what exactly was Mr. St. Peter saying?

I give him credit for being willing to participate in a direct and open social media exchange with the masses. I thought I would give him an opportunity to publicly clarify his statement:

@TwinsPrez so you see nothing wrong with all of Iowa blacked out of games for SIX teams?

He didn’t respond publicly, unfortunately, but he did send a private message via Twitter.

TwinsPrez– Not at all. I’d love to see this policy changed.

Now… with all due respect… Mr. St. Peter, you’re the President of the Minnesota Twins! It’s all very nice that you’d “love to see this policy changed,” but that doesn’t do me and the rest of the Twins (and Royals and Brewers and Cardinals and White Sox and Cubs) fans a damn bit of good.

The Twins have established all of Iowa as part of their “local broadcast market” despite not bothering to insist that those “rightsholders” actually… you know… do something about getting their networks available in this market. I’m tired of hearing bigwigs like St. Peter, and like DuPuy before him, tell me they’d like to see the policy change.

Stop blowing smoke up my ass and change the damn policy! Just f’ing DO IT!

If this is coming off to some of you as being a bit disrespectful and even crude, I apologize. But you see, I’ve tried other approaches. I wrote a very respectful letter to Commissioner Bud Selig (and if you’ve read some of the stuff I’ve written here reflecting my opinion of Mr. Selig, you know how difficult it was to be respectful… but I was). I’m still waiting for an answer… even just an acknowledgement. I suppose I may still get one, but I wrote that letter the same year of the MLB.com article, 2008. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath continuing to wait for a result to my respectful approach.

I agreed to be interviewed for a story on the subject by a respected financial magazine. I expressed frustration, but in a respectful manner.

I’ll go back to being respectful when there’s some indication from someone in charge that changes are actually being made. Until then, I will continue to rant with increasing levels of disrespect, if that’s how I’m feeling (and I think you can safely assume I’ll feel that way every. single. game. that I can’t watch the Twins play due to the blackout rules).

After all, the Twins and MLB executives must earn respect, just like anyone else. I will go back to showing them respect when they begin showing me some respect. When you flat out lie, year after year, about “doing something” about the blackout rules, you’re not treating me with much respect… and you will get little from me, in return.

Mr. St. Peter… if you really would like to see this policy changed… if you were being honest about hoping to see “in market streaming soon”… please do more than talk (or tweet) about it. For the first time… ever… on this subject. Do something about it.

Please.

I can’t begin to express how frustrated I am over this. But I will say this, right now.

I will not remain a Twins fan if this idiocy continues. This will be my final year.

If this policy is not changed, I will not be going to Ft. Myers next spring.

I will certainly not make trips to the Twin Cities to watch close to 20% of the Twins’ home games like I did last season… in fact I won’t drive up there to attend any games.

I will not continue my work on this or any other Twins blog.

I know the Twins won’t miss me. They don’t need to develop or nurture a fan base all the way down in Eastern Iowa when their new stadium is sold out every game anyway. But what happens when the newness wears off… when the team has to rebuild a bit?

Mr. St. Peter, when you look around for fans willing to continue supporting the team in the leaner years, don’t look in my direction. In fact, don’t look down here in Iowa for anyone else, either… we’ll all be fans of some organization that gives a crap about us. (My son is already an Orioles fan… think about that for a moment, Mr. St. Peter. He and his wife are about to start a family… do you want my grandkids to be at all interested in the Twins… or not?)

I simply won’t continue to show any level of devotion to an organization that not only doesn’t care if I remain a fan, but seems to go out of their way to communicate to me and my friends and family that they flat out don’t want us to watch their games.

I love the Twins. I love the Twins community. I love this group of players. So I may make it through this season with my Twins fandom intact.

Then again, I may not.

- JC