A's, Media, Opinion

Sonny Gray pitched a gem for the A’s and nobody got to see it for some stupid reason

Former first-round draft pick Sonny Gray pitched a masterpiece in his Coliseum debut as the A’s avoided a sweep to the Astros (yes, the Astros) on Thursday. He went eight innings, gave up zero runs and struck out nine en route to his first career victory and lowering his season ERA to 1.00 after four appearances. And unless you were one of the 16,487 fans in attendance at the Coliseum you didn’t get to see any of it. Because either CSN or the A’s or both, but probably mostly CSN, don’t want you to have nice things.

The inaccurately named CSN California did not televise Thursday’s A’s-Astros game, for reasons that if I knew, they still wouldn’t make any sense to me. It instead went with a baffling mix of niche, alternative programming.

Here now, according to TV listings, is a list of those programs, offered between the hours of 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. in place of an actual live Major League Baseball game featuring a local team in playoff contention (do you have a pillow handy? Because it might help to bite into it in disgust/anger/frustration as a better alternative to screaming and having your neighbors call the police):

  • 12:30 – 2:30: Major League Lacrosse: the Ohio Machine vs. the New York Lizards.
    I’m sure all the Ohio Machine and New York Lizards fans in the San Francisco Bay Area were on the edge of their seats for this one.
  • 2:30 – 3:00: Sportsman 360
    It’s a show about hunting and fishing. It does not star Anderson Cooper.
  • 3:00 – 3:30: Dew Tour: San Francisco
    Well, at least it had a local flavor.

Surprisingly, no infomercials, though!

And in case you were wondering, MLB Network did not run a simulcast of the Astros’ broadcast. Instead it ran the god-awful, no-this-is-an-actual-real-baseball-talk-show-not-a-satire-of-one “Intentional Talk.” Can’t say that I blame them, though. Who outside the Houston and Bay Area markets wants to watch an Astros-A’s game? (I don’t even think the Houston market wants to watch the Astros.) That would mean people on the East Coast would actually have to give a shit about the A’s! And we all know that’s just an inconceivable notion to begin with. The A’s on national TV? AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

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Anyway, back to local coverage. I get that it’s a day game and most people work during the day and therefore ratings are inevitably going to be a fraction of what they are normally. But I find it a hard time to believe that freaking Sportsman 360 is drawing a higher share than a live A’s weekday game would. If because of some deal in hell I’m actually wrong, then I have lost all faith in humanity.

The Giants had a daytime live broadcast on CSN Bay Area on Thursday, as has been the case for most, if not all, of their weekday games this season. I don’t want to make this about A’s vs. Giants because the Giants are quite clearly the Bay Area’s darlings, and, yes, I know they just won the World Series, but the A’s have always been the red-headed stepchildren compared to them, and, fair or not, that’s just the way the world works, which sucks, and we can have an entire separate, frank post about any and all arguments as to why the A’s deserve to be treated better, which we’ll save for another day. (Takes deep breath.) But the Giants were in Washington, D.C., while the A’s were at the Coliseum, making Thursday’s snub all the more frustrating. Just speculating here, but it has to be easier to broadcast a game at home than it is from the other side of the country. But that evidently doesn’t matter because CSN, regardless of location and time of day, will reliably bring live to your TV the last-place Giants and conversely televise weekday A’s games just whenever it feels like.

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This might be a good time to remind everybody that there’s this whole other secret CSN channel in the cuts of your lineup that’s used as a “spill over” channel whenever there are conflicts between local teams. I encourage you to flip over to it right now if you can find it (it’s channel 780 for Comcast HD customers). Chances are it’s just simulcasting whatever is being televised on CSN California at this very moment. What a waste of a channel, huh? We can’t just move those other programs to this auxiliary outlet the one weekday each week the A’s are playing while the sun happens to be out? I’m sure the outcry from Sportsman 360′s handful of fans will be manageable. But if that’s what CSN’s worried about, then I’ll gladly settle for A’s games there instead. It’ll take some of us 20-to-30 minutes to find the channel, but at least it’s something.

And then there’s also this whole radical new notion that people don’t even need to be at home to watch stuff anymore. Last I checked, DVRs were the hot new rage in consumer electronics (FYI, the last time I checked was 2003). A’s fans could just set their TiVo box or whatever, go to work, come home and, if they avoided the outcome all day (which would be pretty easy since nobody in the news talks about the A’s!), watch the game as if it’s live. That might even be the preferable way to take in a baseball game. You wouldn’t think you’d love to come back from your 9-to-5 and dive right into that day’s game without having to wait until 7 p.m. and sit through all the commercials?

Look, I get that TV executives despise DVRs because they contribute to slashing the one metric that matters in their business: ratings. And I understand there’s a whole esoteric business side to all of this with advertising and contracts and syndication deals of which I have absolutely zilch understanding and knowledge. But if CSN is opting not to please A’s fans because it wants to make a few extra bucks on the side or doesn’t want to fork over the money it will cost to break any preexisting contractual obligations for other programs, then that’s just insulting to the fans, and I implore the A’s to look for other local networks to pick up whatever number of their day games during the week are being shunned. The A’s were already on one of the non-network-affliated channels (whichever one always shows Jerry Springer when you’re flipping through the channels) earlier this year when they, the Sharks, Warriors, and Giants were all playing simultaneously and were the odd team out because, as discussed, they’re the red-headed stepchildren of the Bay Area sports stratosphere.

Does CSN have such a strangle hold over your balls, A’s, that you can’t leverage it into broadcasting more of your games or allowing you to find additional outlets? Oh, you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you? Grow a sack and help out your fans.

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