The early season schedule for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball came out earlier today. As usual, the Brewers won’t be factoring into that schedule at all. In the early season lineup announced today, not one Brewers game will be broadcast on ESPN. Instead, we get a heavy dose of Cardinals-Cubs (3 games out of 12), several appearances by New York teams (7 out of 12), and more big market/high payroll team appearances in addition to that.
It’s not that much of a surprise that the Brewers have been excluded from the schedule. The Brewers haven’t been a popular draw for national TV, even in their more successful years. With the team rebuilding, the number of national broadcasts this year will be minimal. On the bright side, it means it won’t interfere with game times very much, so you don’t have to change plans very often to get to a game.
In typical ESPN fashion, the list of teams they have chosen to feature come from the biggest markets and/or the highest payrolls. Here are the teams on the early season schedule:
- Boston Red Sox (2)
- Cleveland Indians (1)
- Chicago Cubs (5)
- Detroit Tigers (1)
- Houston Astros (1)
- Miami Marlins (1)
- New York Mets (3)
- New York Yankees (4)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1)
- St. Louis Cardinals (4)
- Washington Nationals (1)
There’s a very clear big market and east coast bias on this list. The farthest west ESPN will go in this schedule is Houston, which is a little surprising as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants should have figured to get a few games. Five teams account for 75% of the appearances on the list. It’s a clear focus on just a few teams around the league.
At the same time, it’s unfair to expect a corporation like ESPN to consider all teams equally. They’re a business, their focus is making money, and their decisions will follow that philosophy. It’s not the NFL, where the vast majority of games put on national TV will draw huge ratings regardless of who plays, and national TV appearances are regulated. They are going to focus on the teams that will draw the highest ratings to bring in the most money.
Despite that, the schedule is still disappointing. It would be nice to see more teams make appearances and be able to get a larger diversity of games outside the Brewers market. Looks like we’ll have to stick to MLB Network or MLB.TV to get that. Of course, blackout rules still prevent most of us from watching the Brewers on MLB.TV, but that’s a rant for another day.