Will the MLB-Japan All-Star Series be on MLB Network? Yes! And I have a schedule

Good news everyone! It appears that, in the darkness of November, we will be seeing some MLB baseball after all. MLB is sending a team of players over to Japan to play some games against the Japanese National Team, “Samurai Japan” (in essence a NPB all-star team), and, guess what? We’ll be able to see it on television here in the states! Now, they haven’t released any sort of news release yet, but I did some of my own research, in that I looked at MLB Network’s website and looked at their schedule.

MLB’s team is going to be good, at least at the plate, with players like Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Jose Altuve and Justin Morneau having confirmed they are going (Albert Pujols was going to go too, but pulled out). Hisashi Iwakuma is the most notable pitcher going that we know of so far, and it should be fun seeing him pitch in front of (and against) his fellow countrymen.

As far as the Japanese team, it’s going to be very interesting to see how they do, as this will provide a WBC-esque look at Japanese players against MLB competition. Names to keep a close eye on include Kenta Maeda (a pitcher who might be be headed to MLB next year), Shohei Otani (who can both pitch AND play as a position player, and who considered heading to the USA out of high school but later changed his mind and stayed in Japan), Pacific League batting champ Yoshio Itoi, and 2014 Japanese hit champ Tetsuo Yamada.

Here’s the schedule in East Coast time, all games below will be on MLB Network and many of them will be shown again on tape delay at a more reasonable hour for Americans:

November 11, 4 AM: MLB vs. combined team of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants (at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, not far from Osaka)

November 12, 4 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka)

November 14, 4 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (at the Tokyo Dome)

November 15, 4 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (at the Tokyo Dome)

November 16, 4 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (at the Tokyo Dome)

November 18, 5 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (at the Sapporo Dome)

November 20, 4 AM: MLB vs. Samurai Japan (in Okinawa)

I’m particularly looking forward to the game at Koshien, as it’s the most historic of all Japanese ballparks and I think it’ll be neat to see MLB players play on the all-dirt infield there.

So, rest well knowing that we aren’t too far away from some more baseball.

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The Joys of Strike Zone

The most under-rated and overlooked piece of baseball television is the MLB Strike Zone channel.

You probably have no idea what I am talking about. That proves the above point about it being the most overlooked piece of baseball television.

Put simply, MLB Strike Zone is a twice-weekly (usually Tuesdays and Fridays, but occasionally Wednesday as well) injection of nonstop baseball. Available on it’s own channel on most cable and satellite systems that have a sports package, Strike Zone is similar to MLB Tonight, only with little-to-none of the talking heads and with zero commercials. It is, in many ways, similar to the NFL RedZone channel: minimal interruption, maximum game action.

Watching yesterday, for example, I was able to see, amongst many other things: the David Phelps‘ meltdown against the Mets, Ryan Zimmerman‘s first and second home runs (I only missed the last one because I did some channel surfing), several good defensive plays, the Orioles’ comeback and the start of the late games. I would have, had I just chosen one or two games and switched between them, missed a lot. But with Strike Zone, I saw more-or-less everything of note that happened in baseball last night, live or with only a short delay.

And yet, nobody seems to talk about Strike Zone all that much. Perhaps because it is relatively new- it just started last year, after all. Or maybe it is because it doesn’t seem to receive much publicity: I’ve only seen maybe one or two commercials for it, and it seems like MLB Network itself is more focused on getting eyes on the games they are showing on the network on the nights that Strike Zone is on.

With luck, more will start paying attention to Strike Zone, and, with luck, it could even be expanded to more days of the week. So if you haven’t already, check it out.

(Not Exactly) Famous For Something Else: Josh Booty

Tonight, MLB Network debuts a new show called The Next Knuckler, in which Tim Wakefield and MLB Network’s resident goofball Kevin Millar will host a group of ex-quarterbacks, who they will try to teach the magic of the knuckleball, with the winner having a chance to pitch in a spring training game with the Diamondbacks. The ex-QBs include Doug Flutie, John David Booty, David Greene, Ryan Perriloux and, my guess on the odds-on favorite to win: Josh Booty.

Josh Booty? Who is this Josh Booty you say? Well, Josh Booty played quarterback for Louisiana State, and then was a third-string quarterback/practice squad member from 2001-2007 for the Seahawks, Browns and Raiders.

But before his football career, he was a baseball prospect. In fact, he was a big-time prospect, the fifth-overall pick of the 1994 draft by the Florida Marlins. He made it up for three separate cups of coffee with the Marlins:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
1996 21 FLA NL 2 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 169 1 1 0 0 0 0 /5
1997 22 FLA NL 4 6 5 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 .600 .667 .600 1.267 243 3 0 0 0 0 0 /5
1998 23 FLA NL 7 22 19 0 3 1 0 0 3 0 0 3 8 .158 .273 .211 .483 33 4 0 0 0 0 0 /5
3 Yrs 13 30 26 3 7 1 0 0 4 0 0 4 9 .269 .367 .308 .674 85 8 1 0 0 0 0
162 Game Avg. 162 374 324 37 87 12 0 0 50 0 0 50 112 .269 .367 .308 .674 85 100 12 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/13/2013.

If you are interested, here’s how he did in the minor leagues at the plate:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1994 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk-A- FLA 14 58 52 6 12 1 0 1 3 1 0 5 12 .231 .298 .308 .606 16 3 0 1 0 0
1994 19 Marlins GULF Rk FLA 10 42 36 5 8 0 0 1 2 1 0 5 8 .222 .317 .306 .623 11 2 0 1 0 0
1994 19 Elmira NYPL A- FLA 4 16 16 1 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 4 .250 .250 .313 .563 5 1 0 0 0 0
1995 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs A–A FLA 105 434 396 39 74 20 1 7 43 5 4 30 130 .187 .251 .295 .547 117 13 5 0 3 0
1995 20 Elmira NYPL A- FLA 74 313 287 33 63 18 1 6 37 4 4 19 85 .220 .278 .352 .630 101 12 5 0 2 0
1995 20 Kane County MIDW A FLA 31 121 109 6 11 2 0 1 6 1 0 11 45 .101 .182 .147 .329 16 1 0 0 1 0
1996 21 Kane County MIDW A FLA 128 529 475 62 98 25 1 21 87 2 3 46 195 .206 .275 .396 .670 188 11 1 1 6 0
1997 22 Portland EL AA FLA 122 480 448 42 94 19 2 20 69 2 2 27 166 .210 .254 .395 .649 177 12 1 0 4 1
1998 23 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA FLA 109 409 374 37 68 11 3 13 50 1 2 27 118 .182 .235 .332 .567 124 15 1 1 6 2
1998 23 Portland EL AA FLA 71 273 247 28 50 8 3 10 39 1 1 20 74 .202 .261 .381 .642 94 10 1 1 4 0
1998 23 Charlotte IL AAA FLA 38 136 127 9 18 3 0 3 11 0 1 7 44 .142 .184 .236 .420 30 5 0 0 2 2
5 Seasons 478 1910 1745 186 346 76 7 62 252 11 11 135 621 .198 .256 .356 .613 622 54 8 3 19 3
A (2 seasons) A 159 650 584 68 109 27 1 22 93 3 3 57 240 .187 .257 .349 .607 204 12 1 1 7 0
AA (2 seasons) AA 193 753 695 70 144 27 5 30 108 3 3 47 240 .207 .257 .390 .647 271 22 2 1 8 1
A- (2 seasons) A- 78 329 303 34 67 19 1 6 38 4 4 19 89 .221 .277 .350 .626 106 13 5 0 2 0
Rk (1 season) Rk 10 42 36 5 8 0 0 1 2 1 0 5 8 .222 .317 .306 .623 11 2 0 1 0 0
AAA (1 season) AAA 38 136 127 9 18 3 0 3 11 0 1 7 44 .142 .184 .236 .420 30 5 0 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/13/2013.

And so, since he’s, to my knowledge, the only guy in this MLB Network show who actually has played professional baseball, he should be considered the favorite.

BREAKING NEWS: All of the WBC Games on MLB Network will be live- except for Korea vs. Netherlands

I mentioned in one of my World Baseball Classic Q&As that MLB Network was going to broadcast the WBC, but noted that there was only one MLB Network and sometimes there might be more than one game going on.

So, to find out, exactly, whether all of the games on MLB Network were going to be live, I decided to… write to MLB Network. Here is their response:

Dan,

Thank you for your interest in MLB Network and the World Baseball Classic. All games will be aired live with the exception of the Korea vs. Netherlands game on Saturday, March 2 at 6:30 am ET. This game overlaps with the Japan vs. Brazil game at 5 am ET, so it will air in full starting at 8 am ET on Saturday, March 2.

Thank you,

MLB Network

 

I also wouldn’t be shocked if some games end up getting joined “already in progress” if some games go long, but that is so standard that I think we can assume that even if it’s not confirmed.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that it’s been confirmed that all of the WBC games (save for Korea vs. Netherlands) will be live on MLB Network, although it made sense to presume so beforehand. So, I guess I can say that this is the first news ever broken by the Baseball Continuum, unless I missed a sentence somewhere in a press release awhile ago.

So, there you have it: MLB Network will be the LIVE home of every World Baseball Classic game, except for the Korea-Netherlands game, which will be on tape delay.

Dear MLB Network: Steal these three ideas

In 1928, sliced bread hit the market. Presumably, the phrase “best thing since sliced bread” was started shortly after. Amongst the things better than sliced bread: MLB Network.

But MLB Network isn’t perfect, so, if anybody from MLB Network is reading this, here are some suggestions:

1. Bring back Baseball IQ, open it to fans.

Baseball IQ was a tournament on MLB Network last offseason where representatives from the 30 MLB teams as well as organizations like the Hall of Fame had a trivia tournament, with the winning team getting money for charity.

Bring that back, only open it up for fans. Scour the Internet and SABR for people to play it. The winner of the whole thing would win a “golden pass” that allows them to attend any MLB event free of charge (these are normally given only to presidents and Hall of Famers, although they were also given to the Iranian hostages, Charles Lindbergh, etc.)

2. During the season, occasionally have “breakfast baseball” by showing games live from Japan.

Would give early-risers something to watch, and increase the exposure of international baseball to an American audience. The announcers would be in New Jersey calling it off of a Japanese feed. Wouldn’t cost all that much.

3. Have a minor league show

Most people have no idea what is going on in the minor leagues, and to most fans, even the best prospects are just names on paper. Why not have a show that showcases Minor League players and games, a sort of mini-version of MLB Tonight for the most extreme baseball aficionados who want to know how well the number seven prospect for the Royals is doing, or what’s going on in the Eastern League pennant races.

I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

The Return of Costas to Postseason Baseball?

News item: TBS will air the two Wild Card play-in games. In addition, MLB Network will air two games of the Division Series.

Comment: Besides the fact that this makes MLB Network even more important (it already was getting close to eating and breathing), this also could mean that Bob Costas, one of the signature voices of sports broadcasting, will once again be calling October baseball, if only for two games. Costas has done select games on MLB Network since the station started, as well as hosting various shows and calling in to give analysis whenever a extremely major story happens. Sadly, due to the stupid MLB TV blackout map, I haven’t been able to see that many of them, as the games he’s covered usually have the Yankees or Mets (after all, Costas still needs to be close to 30 Rockefeller Center once football season starts). But with MLB Network now having some post-season play, not only will Costas possibly be calling baseball for the entire nation (blackout be damned), but he’d be calling postseason baseball. I only have the vaguest recollections of his postseason work, with the exception of the occasional MLB Network classic game, but I’m sure most would agree that the possibility of him calling postseason baseball can only be a good thing for all parties involved.

ADDED LATER: The NY Times confirms that Costas will do one of MLB Network’s games. Matt Vasgersian will do the other.