Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the WBC, Blackouts, and Roberto Osuna’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Night

The World Baseball Classic. Funny thing about that name! MLB’s great global event to showcase its game is blacked out from the league’s utterly perfect MLB.tv streaming service everywhere in this great big world of ours except the United States.

This includes regions like vast swaths of Europe where channels that carry the event are unavailable, and western Canada, where Rogers doesn’t have much of a cable TV footprint, meaning the Rogers-exclusive MLB Network is unavailable. (Update: Apparently much of the tournament is available on Sportsnet One, which is more broadly available than MLB Network in this country, but I’m not sure at this point just how easy it is to get everywhere. Point is: there are people who would like to be watching this tournament but literally can’t without resorting to shady means.)

Congratu-fucking-lations on your great efforts to grow the game, dipshits.

Blackout talk, I fear, is going to be a thing we’ll be hearing more of this season. It was Paul Beeston who nixed the MLB.tv blackout of Jays games for Canadians — supposedly, though perhaps apocryphally, because he was angry that he couldn’t watch Jays games on his iPad at the cottage — and with him gone the door seems wide open for Rogers to try to make an extra few quick bucks by jerking around the already exquisitely served fans who are paying for MLB.tv mostly just to watch the Jays, and trying to force them into a Sportsnet cable subscription or the company’s certainly inferior Sportsnet Now service.

Hey, that’s their right. And it should surprise no one if, when it comes down to it, the company chooses to take whatever small measures it can to stop some of the bleeding in its cable division, rather than approaching this issue with any inclination of a long-term vision about how to grow the game of baseball in this country or how best to cater to customers. Giant corporations are super cool like that!

I’m not sure that this change is actually coming, but I’m not at all confident that it’s not. If it does, some cord-cutting fans will keep their MLB.tv and find a workaround, some will give Sportsnet Now a try, some will go the illegal stream route. Not a whole lot will really change, in other words But at least the restless suits at Rogers will get to feel like they’re not leaving money on the table, and all it will cost them is a bunch of customer satisfaction.

(Aside: A lot of the cable industry’s slow death, which is accelerating as streaming technology gets better, reminds me of what happened to the music industry when MP3 downloading came around. It’s like, “Hey fellas, if you just actually put a fair price on these CDs — like $10 each, say — I’d be a whole lot more inclined to b– oh, wait? what’s that? $25 each? Yeah, well then fuck you.” MLB.tv is an outstanding product at a fair price. Netflix is an outstanding product at a fair price. I could stream literally anything available on either of them for free, if I wanted to, but I don’t because they’re easy and they’re good and they’re reasonable. The companies that take the old record company route, trying to foist a shitty product on us and feebly hoping to freeze out technology that consumers actually want (technology like, for example, the ability to watch an away broadcast instead of Buck and Pat, or smooth streams on all devices instead of the choppy trash that is NHL GameCentre LIVE on far too many platforms) are probably not going to get the same sympathy. Or at least that’s my guess.)

* * *

I bring this all up, because apparently it’s not just the live WBC games that are blacked out on MLB.tv, but the archived games as well! I learned this the hard way — in a tweet from the super-eager @MLBFanSupport account, which is apparently monitoring all twitter mentions of MLBtv and rushing in to do damage control as the world learns that MLBAM has done something incredibly, incredibly stupid with respect to international broadcast rights.

My hope was to watch Roberto Osuna’s ninth-inning meltdown from last night’s Mexico-Italy game. Fortunately, since I am nothing if not a professional, and this isn’t my first rodeo, I was able to find a way to do just that. But it wasn’t easy.*

Rather than take it in, ruminate on it, and give you a few paragraphs of half-assed thoughts, I’ll do you one better and jump straight into the half-assed thoughts by jotting down a bunch of notes as I watch the whole inning for the first time. Welcome to my nightmare!

  • Francisco Cervelli up first as Gary Thorne and Jose Mota rave about Osuna. Dun dun dunnnnn…
  • First three pitches looking good! Then a weird double- or triple-kick delivery on a 96 mph heater up and in.
  • The 2-2 pitch looked pretty alright — or so the home crowd thought, at least.
  • Cervelli rolls a grounder into centre, and with the outfielders playing deep he turns on the jets and stretches it into a double, then gets lifted for a pinch runner — some guy with an Italian name.
  • Bing Bong Colabello drills a first pitch double off the wall. Roberto caught a looooooooot of the plate on that one. Even 95 mph can’t always save you when you throw it here. Perhaps a sinker that didn’t sink? Whatever, I still don’t buy Cola’s BABIP. Should have scored a run if not for some bush league baserunning from the aforementioned Italian guy.
  • Closer in a non-save situation — never a good idea!
  • Alex Liddi swings through a first pitch that “falls off the table,” Thorne says. Came in at 90 so I suppose that’s a cutter, because Osuna doesn’t throw his changeup that hard.
  • Another near miss on the 1-1 to Liddi — and this time with the actual changeup, which was a bit outside. Then a swing and a miss on nice slider. That was Osuna’s 11th pitch. This isn’t so bad!
  • Aaaaand now another double — a shitty two-run double on a ball not hit terribly hard, but that gets past the third baseman and into the left field corner. Defence matters! Not a bad pitch here.
  • Conference on the mound! Tying run to the plate with no outs and a runner on second! Just keep doing what you’re doing, Bob.
  • Drew Butera, who I almost just called Sal, takes a nice changeup for strike one, then chases some high heat. This still isn’t so bad!
  • Slow roller to the shortstop, who thinks he can get the lead runner at third base, so takes his eye off the ball and bobbles it. Everybody’s safe! Defence still matters!
  • Pitch one of Osuna’s fifth batter is low. It’s his 17th of this inning. His eighteenth misses high. There are still no outs.
  • Osuna gets a gift strike on a high slider that didn’t break. It was a worse pitch than the previous one, and even Roberto knows that he missed.
  • Seeing more 94s and 95s than 96s and 97s here, but that could be the gun, or the fact that it’s still early March, or the fact that this inning is still fucking going.
  • “Drew Maggi,” who apparently exists, is battlin’!
  • Osuna repping AT&T on his sleeve — which, technically, all the Mexico players are. Awk-ward!!!
  • After a long at-bat, Osuna walks Drew fucking Maggi, which… as much as this whole outing hasn’t been nearly as bad as the scoreline indicates, that’s… uh… that’s pretty fucking bad.
  • That’s it! Osuna’s night is over! THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC, EVERYBODY!**

Yeah… that could have been worse. I mean… for a three hit, one walk, one error, four run, five earned game-losing beat-by-fucking-Italy*** in your home country as the recently named Athlete of the Year disasterpiece?

Yeah, it could have been worse. (Some other stuff happened afterwards with Oliver Perez on the mound, but who really cares?)


* It was totally super easy
** Within the territorial boundaries of the United States of America!
*** Been there, Roberto. Been there.
  • Mule or etc...

    Workaround for blackouts: Fire up a free proxy service that redirects all your traffic through the US. I prefer Ultrasurf. Fire up MLB.TV. Once the game stream loads close the proxy as they usually limit the amount of data you can transmit but MLB.TV only checks your location once – when you load the stream – so you don’t need it anymore.

    Now you too can watch Team Canada get their asses handed to them.

  • I presently pay for mlbtv mostly to watch Jays games, but if they started blacking out the games again I’d happily do ten illegal things per day every day of the season in order to watch before I’d ever even consider going back to cable or Sportsnet now or some shit like that.