ESPN’s brutal decision on its MLB coverage is actually the best for baseball

ESPN is leaning towards opting out of its MLB deal ahead of the 2025 season, if not even sooner.

ESPN, MLB / G Fiume/GettyImages

While some baseball fans are crying their hearts out over this, keep your head up, Johnny. ESPN getting out of the baseball business is actually great for baseball. Long gone are the days of when Baseball Tonight used to matter, when Sunday Night Baseball was cool and not a schlocky eyesore of a product. Nobody calls it Hotlanta, which is why I will ride and die with my guys over at Bally, baby!

ESPN does at least two things well from a broadcasting perspective. They crush with their college football coverage, and the women's tournament is first-class and outstanding. After doing god knows what to Monday Night Football, it probably serves ESPN to pull back its portfolio of MLB offerings. They don't get any postseason games anyway, but they get the Home Run Derby I will never watch.

To me, there is nothing special about watching an overhyped regular season game that is more forced than an Applebee's menu item late into Sunday evening in June. I gotta get up and work the next day, y'all. ESPN may not get out of the baseball business entirely, but it must re-evaluate its baseball business because it lost me a long time ago. ESPN didn't help me love baseball any more.

With news of ESPN wanting to opt out its MLB deal after the 2025 season, or even after this year, this is actually quite tremendous for baseball and its future growth. Here is why you should feel that way.

ESPN getting out of baseball business is actually great news for baseball

One of the reasons why FOX and Turner have run laps over ESPN in recent years in terms of baseball coverage is not just the fact that they carry posteason games, but they make their product feel big. ESPN tries to force all sorts of wacky stats I never cared to learn about into my brain while I am trying to relax and have a brew or two. I do not want to be barraged with factoids. I only want to watch TV.

Yes, FOX and Turner will do some of that, but they are not killing an ant with a sledgehammer over it. Although our local RSNs do come with a healthy supply of homer-ism, those telecasts actually do a great job of making the game feel big. More importantly, they actually relate to the consumer quite well. They are living and dying with this team, with you, in real time. You can never put a price on that.

To be frank, for the amount of money ESPN is paying for broadcasting rights, MLB isn't giving the a whole helluva lot. This is the same problem we ran into with the NFL. The shield hates the fact they do real journalism at ESPN, which isn't always the best for the league itself. It is why ESPN usually gets the short-end of the stick with professional leagues. Just because you have rights doesn't make it so.

What I would hope ESPN does is try to figure out what it does well, and do more of that. I don't follow the sport, but they really seem to care about hockey coverage this time around with having the NHL. After splitting broadcasting rights with Turner after the NBC deal expired, I appreciate the manner in which those two media companies have gone about covering this niche sport. There is value in this.

In time, I hope ESPN goes back to the drawing board and figures out how it can make America's pastime feel big on their network once again. Baseball should be covered regionally in scope, not nationally. That is easier said than done for a nation-wide television product, but there are things other networks are doing more right than them. As a result, the game of baseball will be growing.

Someone will want ESPN's vacated rights and will surely take advantage of this buying opportunity.

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