ESPN earned a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's MLB Home Run Derby from 8:15-11:15pm ET, in which Yankees 2B Robinson Cano defeated Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez. The rating is flat compared to last year's event. Boston topped all metered markets with a 10.3 local rating (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). ESPN's coverage of last night's Home Run Derby -- in particular the performance of Chris Berman -- came under heavy criticism on Twitter. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren wrote, “Berman is stunned by every single dinger and the camera people seem uninterested in following the ball.” The Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin: “Chris Berman gets the Rod Black ‘can you believe this?’ award for an announcer acting like he's never seen BP before.” The Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick: “I can't remember ever deciding not to watch a sporting event simply due to announcer. Until tonight. Can't even handle Chris Berman on mute.” Newsday’s Tom Rock: “Why is Chris Berman yelling at me?” Broadcasting & Cable’s Ben Grossman: “I knew it was coming, but I can't believe how strong the anti-Chris Berman sentiment is on Twitter. Even some familiar names ripping him.” CNBC’s Darren Rovell: “If it seems like there's more hate for Berman & this event than any other sportscaster at any time, why does ESPN still put him on?” However, the Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport wrote, "I know I'm supposed to hate Chris Berman in the #HRDerby. I don't. Who could do more with this event? How would 'better' sound? He's fine.” Meanwhile, the N.Y. Times’ Richard Sandomir wrote, “Some really weird camera work. A HR in the derby shouldn't be that hard to follow from start to finish. … Very high home plate camera just doesn't work on live HRs in Derby.”
LOOKING BACK, BACK, BACK....: During last night's telecast, Berman said “back” as part of his signature home run call approximately 73 times, with the most use of “back” in a row being six during a homer by Gonzalez in the final round. After Blue Jays 3B Jose Bautista hit a line-drive home run, Berman told ESPN’s Nomar Garciaparra, “Nomar, there was only time for two ‘backs’ on that. Back, back gone! A two-backer.” Garciaparra: “I don’t even think you got the second one in. I think it was a back-and-a-half.” Berman: “Back-ba.” About an hour later in the broadcast, the topic came up again after Cano hit a line drive home run in the second round. Berman: “And that’s a two-backer. That was a two-backer.” Garciparra: “I don’t even think you got the first one out.” Berman: “Ba-" ("Home Run Derby," ESPN, 7/11).
TAKING A LEAD: SI.com's Joe Lemire notes MLB "sanctioned and even encouraged on-field tweeting" during last night's Derby, a change in policy for the league. MLB has the "most comprehensive website of any of the major U.S. pro circuits but until recently had been strict about other sites embedding its video highlights." Lemire notes "not only did that restriction ease" during the Derby, but MLB also "set up tables with computers near both the AL and NL benches" for players to post on Twitter. Dodgers CF Matt Kemp last night "tweeted his own recognition of an underwhelming performance," as did Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista. Cano "tweeted a shoutout to his hometown," and other "non-participants chimed in." A's P Gio Gonzalez posted, "My jaw is on the floor on how far Cano is hitting the ball." Lemire adds, "The Twitter stunt worked because it wasn't inescapable noise, the way the music and on-speaker commentary was. Reading Twitter was a self-selecting exercise one could do in the wait between pitches; having one's eardrums invaded in the ballpark was mandatory" (SI.com, 7/12).
CHANGING PLANS: After initially planning to stream the Home Run Derby live on Facebook within an embedded video player, MLBAM yesterday afternoon changed course and did not go through with the experiment. MLBAM instead used the league's Facebook page to drive awareness of the event's availability on ESPN and on MLB.com. MLBAM during Spring Training similarly experimented with making live game video available on Facebook, and had the company gone through with initial Derby plans, it would have been the first league jewel event to be shown live on the popular social media portal (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
FUN & GAMES: USA TODAY's Steve Gardner writes John Kruk, one of ESPN's announcer for last night's Home Run Derby coverage, "has been a natural from the moment" he joined the network in '04. "Baseball Tonight" co-anchor Karl Ravech said, "It never really feels like work. His personality is bigger than even he is. It makes a long day and a long night enjoyable." Kruk said, "Every day's a different ballgame to me. ... The hardest thing for the new guys is how messed up Karl and I are." Kruk is paired with Barry Larkin for the net's All-Star Game coverage, and he said of Ravech and himself, "Barry probably thinks both of us are certifiably crazy. He just sits and giggles" (USA TODAY, 7/12).