Monday, March 5, 2007

Baseball Matchups: Detroit Tigers v. New York Yankees and DirecTV v. Baseball Fans

Despite the 26-degree weather outside, this March afternoon was dedicated to the game of baseball, both in terms of academics and extracurriculars.

While watching ESPN's broadcast of the Detroit Tigers v. New York Yankees Spring Training baseball game (impressions I'll get to in a moment) I was also scanning statutes, cases, and law review notes in anticipation of my upcoming term paper for my Mass Media Law course. As many baseball fans know, Major League Baseball is currently finalizing negotiations with DirecTV to move their "Extra Innings" package, formerly available to cable subscribers through iNDemand, exclusively to DirecTV. Needless to say, many fans subscribing to the package who either don't want to subscribe to DirecTV, can't afford it, or can't even get DirecTV if they wanted to (because of building restrictions or because they happen to live on the side of a high-rise which blocks reception from DirecTV's satellites) are none to happy, and both Senator John Kerry and the Federal Communications Commission are looking into the antitrust implications of the agreement. And, so am I. I will be writing my term paper analyzing the proposed deal, first by looking at the similarly themed 'NFL Sunday Ticket' (and the lawsuit filed by disgruntled fans against the service) and then trying to figure out whether Extra Innings would be subject to the same scrutiny (or even more considering some of the factors which years ago weighed in favor of allowing NFL Sunday Ticket do not hold true today with Major League Baseball). I know a lot of people are interested in the legality of the pact, and as I continue my research and work on my essay, I'll post periodic progress reports.

But, it was not all work this afternoon, as I watched the Yankees/Tigers game thankfully broadcast on ESPN (and not DirecTV). It was your typical Spring Training game, with inconsitencies both on the plate and on the mound, but I liked what I saw from the Tigers. Joel Zumaya throwing 101 Miles Per Hour in March is incredible. As I blogged over @ MLive this afternoon, Zumaya said he wants to slow down a bit this year to confuse batters, he was throwing smoke against the Yankees. Just an incredible talent. Anytime you can follow a 100 MPH fastball with an 84 MPH breaking ball, it just isn't fair to the batter.

And he wasn't the only one showing off this afternoon. 2006 Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander started the game, and while he struggled a bit in the second inning, he looked very impressive in the first. And what is even more impressive about Verlander is his dedication and willingness to work to improve. It would be easy to sit back after such a successful rookie campaign, but Verlander wasn't satisified. Talking to the ESPN crew in-between innings, he talked about how he moved to Lakeland (the Tigers Spring Training home) during the off-season so he could work with Tigers trainers to strengthen his shoulder muscles so he could more easily withstand the punishment a long season takes on his body. His maturity level for such a young player is great to see. And the next big Tigers prospect, 6'6" Andrew Miller also pitched two innings, and as expected, was a bit hot and cold. But, despite struggling in the first inning he pitched, he rebounded, and recovered nicely. He didn't let a few bad pitches get to him. There is no reason to believe, after watching Miller pitch, that he won't blow through the minor leagues like Verlander did before him, and be a starting and successful pitcher at the Major League level sooner than later.

The offense looked good too, but it is so early. The Tigers continually loaded the bases in the early innings on the Yankees, but couldn't score many runs. The success so far this spring from the likes of Pudge Rodriguez and the patience at the plate the Tigers showed today was encouraging. Today was also my first chance to see the newest Tiger, Gary Sheffield, and he had some loud, long foul balls. And he showed that he can be a force in the middle of the Tigers lineup, the big bat the Tigers were really missing last year. As I post this, the Tigers are leading 5-4 going into the ninth inning, and win or lose (and records in Spring Training are pretty meaningless) it was an encouraging game.

Sure, it was only a Spring Training game, and the regulars who were there didn't even play the whole game, but it was fun to watch baseball again. The Tigers were down for so long, the idea of taking an afternoon to watch a Spring Training game would have seemed like a waste. But, no more, and that's great to see.

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Clever WoT said...

Did you see Inge's recent jumping, backwards catch? Great stuff!

I'm feeling hopeful for the season.

Scott Warheit said...

Inge is a heckuva player. This is a guy who played shortstop in college, was converted to catcher when he was drafted by the Tigers and quickly became a standout defensive catcher, then moved to third base a few years back, a position he had never played before. And now he makes some amazing plays, has great timing and reflexes for the position, and may win a Gold Glove before his career is over.


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