Major League Baseball made this exclusive deal with Apple for Friday night games, and Mets-Nationals was the very first one, Max Scherzer’s debut for New York (which the Mets won 7-3), against his old team, featuring JUAN SOTO, whom the broadcast gushed over as constantly as he gushed over Apple – because the Nationals are a terrible team with one good player, JUAN SOTO. (Some may turn out to be good later.)
The announcing team of Melanie Newman, Hannah Keyser, and Chris Young also fits the description of “may turn out to be good later.” It’s unfair to pass full judgment on a debut broadcast, and this one had signs both promising and ominous.
But even though MLB and Apple have this deal for exclusivity, they’re not doing themselves or their talent any favors by making it harder for devoted fans to find their teams, and stripping away the local broadcasters who are the soundtrack of our summers.
That’s another reason that it’s not fair, at least for me, to evaluate the booth. I’m a Mets fan, it was the second game of the season, Scherzer on the mound, and still getting used to a lot of new faces. So, immediately, those fans, the most devoted customers, arrive resenting this product, if they can even get it on their television, and not have to stream it on a laptop if they can stream at all.
Friday night on Twitter, among the sports Trending Topics, were “Mets at Nationals,” “Keith Hernandez,” and “Gary Keith and Ron.” Mostly, it was complaints from Mets fans who wanted to hear their beloved trio of announcers.
It’s not that Newman, Keyser, and Young were bad, it’s that they weren’t Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, one of the best booths (we swear, Darling is different on SNY than he is during the playoffs) of this generation, a booth that just got to do its first road game in forever – a game that was delayed for four hours by rain – and immediately got shelved so that MLB and Apple could showcase their partnership and flex that exclusivity.
A lot of Mets fans on Friday night wound up syncing the WCBS radio feed to the buffered and delayed Apple product anyway, to hear the familiar voice of Howie Rose. Baseball fans crave the simple pleasure of turning on the TV and putting the game on, hearing their announcers. If any baseball fans worked for Major League Baseball, they might understand that.
There’s also a technical solution, within reach for both Apple and MLB, that can make this product better for everyone. We know it because MLB.tv already offers it: the ability to select your own audio feed for the game. So, if you’re a diehard Mets fan and want the Mets broadcast, you can get their radio feed. Same for the Nats. And the Spanish broadcasts, too.
Likewise, fans should be able to control what elements of Apple’s beautiful graphics suite to display on their screen. Knowing that Jeff McNeil had an 8.14% walk probability before he homered, or whatever nonsense betting odds were being flashed on the screen.
I’d listen to (and will listen to) Newman, Keyser, and Young call a national showcase game, which is what this was. They were entertaining and energetic and clearly enjoy baseball, which is a lot more than can be said for several national broadcasts. They have room to grow. They should also be allowed to grow in a way that serves them, by not turning fans against them who don’t want this broadcast to be where it is in the first place, and already are showing up resentful, rather than the Apple subscribers who are just tuning in, the fans who do want to be there and want to see this booth blossom.