SBD/Issue 185/Sports Media

MLB Net Draws Mixed Reviews For Coverage Of Strasburg's Debut

Strasburg Compared To Several HOFers
By MLB Network Crew During Debut

MLB Network broadcast last night's Pirates-Nationals game, which marked the MLB debut of Nationals P Stephen Strasburg, and announcer team of Bob Costas, John Smoltz and Jim Kaat "did a fine job" at conveying the scene, according to Tom Gage of the DETROIT NEWS. The crew was "reasonably restrained" during the game despite portraying the feeling that they "wanted to bubble about him even more than" they did. It might have been "a reach when, after Strasburg allowed his first hit, ... Costas told us the first hit off Walter Johnson was a single by Ty Cobb." Gage: "Then again, it might not have." However, Costas "reached deep for superlatives toward the end of Strasburg's seven innings" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/9). SPORTINGNEWS.com's Dan Levy writes, "Bob Costas likened Strasburg to at least eight different Hall of Famers during the MLB Network telecast of his debut" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/9). ESPN L.A.'s John Ireland said he would give Costas "some leeway" on comparing Strasburg to HOFers, as he appeared to be a "prisoner of the moment.” But ESPN's Skip Bayless said he was "shocked" at Costas' comments, as he has "always been so arch-conservative and anti-prisoner of the moment hype in any sport, but especially in his first love sport, which is baseball" ("ESPN First Take, ESPN2, 6/9).

COSTAS ADDING TO THE HYPE: DEADSPIN.com's Dashiell Bennett notes at least "five times during the MLB Network broadcast," Costas "took great pains to remind us ... that this is just one game that will not be indicative of Strasburg's entire career." But then with "every subsequent strikeout, he took even greater pains to imagine the colossal heights to which this great Washington ball hurler will ascend." Costas last night discussed "the 'media hype machine' as if he were not part of it," when in fact "he's the engine driver." Bennett: "Costas did more in just nine innings to craft the Legend of Stephen Strasburg then a lifetime supply of Baseball Almanacs ever could. Yet, he wants to use his same breaths to tsk-tsk the big bad media for losing their heads over the man" (DEADSPIN.com, 6/9).

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING FROM ESPN? In Georgia, Bill Shanks writes under the header, "ESPN Goes Over The Top With Coverage." The net had a "countdown running at the bottom of the screen, with the time left before the rookie made his first pitch," and even though the net "did not televise the game, ESPN had a box on the top left of the screen throughout Strasburg’s start to keep up with his outing" (MACON TELEGRAPH, 6/9). In Jacksonville, Hays Carlyon wrote under the header, "Strasburg Is Good, But Hype Was Way Off The Charts." Carlyon: "How ridiculous was the hype machine for this event? ESPN had a countdown going all day" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 6/8). In N.Y., Wayne Coffey notes an "encampment of TV cameras was lined up outside the Nationals dugout four hours before game time," while ESPN "did a countdown as if this were a lunar landing" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/9).

MASN's Dibble And Carpenter Contribute
To Hype Surrounding Strasburg's Debut

LOCAL HERO: It was a tale of two telecasts on MASN2 last night for Strasburg's debut. The RSN’s production and camera work was top notch, proving to be big enough to capture an event that had national implications. The cameras caught every important play and presented new and informative angles during replays. The channel’s on-air talent, however, contributed to the dizzying level of hype surrounding Strasburg’s start. MASN’s Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble generally did a nice job calling the action, but at times they could barely contain their glee at calling the game. At one point, Dibble said he had “goosebumps” just watching Strasburg pitch. At another point, Carpenter said, “If I close my eyes, I would think that Walter Johnson came walking out of the cornfield and is pitching in Washington tonight." MASN sideline reporter Debbi Taylor seemed most overwhelmed. As MASN’s main on-camera interviewer, that led to several cringe-inducing interviews. During the hour-long pregame show, her first question to Strasburg’s agent Scott Boras was, "You’re like a dad to Stephen. Tell us … just how special he is." Moments later, Taylor’s first question to Nationals President Stan Kasten was equally banal: "You are really center stage of baseball right now, aren't you?" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

POST-ER BOY: Today's Washington Post had a front-page, above-the-fold photo of Strasburg coming out for a curtain call at the beginning of the 8th inning that accompanies a front-page story by Dave Sheinin. Strasburg's pitching line is listed in bold above the photo. The front page of the sports section is dominated by a half-page photo of Strasburg pitching with the headline, "A Debut That's 14-K Gold." The section's front page has a game story from Adam Kilgore and a column from Thomas Boswell. The paper devotes 3 2/3 inside pages to the game, including a two-page spread that charts each one of Strasburg's pitches, columns from Mike Wise and Dan Steinberg and a news story from Barry Svrluga (Ourand).

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