Here’s why watching baseball on Facebook should be the future

Baseball fans hate change. So there’s plenty of chortling among the purists because today’s game between the Twins and the Indians was limited to Facebook Watch — the rival to YouTube — rather than a traditional TV channel.

That’s too bad, because it’s a marked improvement.

Twenty games were scheduled to be on Facebook Watch this season as an experiment.

So far, so good. Here’s the report card:

    • First of all, it breaks the FoxSports stranglehold on online access to games. If you spend $120 a season on MLB’s TV app, for example, you can’t watch Minnesota Twins games. They’re all blacked out to protect the rights of FoxSports North. Facebook Watch is available to everyone with an internet connection. Advantage: Facebook.
    • During the broadcast, the broadcasters take questions from the audience. And they split-screen the action with a player interview. It’s perfect for a sport in which there’s no action 90 percent of the time. Granted, some of the questions are silly — Robbie Grossman was asked today whether restaurants are better in Houston or Minneapolis (he demurred) — but they offer occasional insight as they did today when Grossman discussed the difference in mindset between being a designated hitter, and playing the field. And, later, Paul Molitor seemed to suggest that the team won’t necessarily bring Byron Buxton back next week when rosters expand, a clear affirmation of what a bust Byron Buxton is as a major league baseball player. Advantage: Facebook
    • Glen Perkins, the former Twin, is one of the analysts. There might be too many people in the booth — three — and there’s much more chatter than in a typical TV broadcast, but did you know that Perkins is the “shadow owner” of the “Meatsmokers” in his fantasy baseball league? Still, he does a nice job of predicting pitches and explaining how one pitch is thrown as part of a strategy to set up another.The broadcasters, though, play to the novelty too much as when an Indians player struck out in the third inning. “‘Should’ve squeezed’, says Chuck in the comments section,” we were told. It’s almost like watching a game with your grandfather who never played the game and doesn’t like anything. Advantage: TV
    • There are no commercials. Between innings, there are more interviews with players and coaches and analysts. Advantage: Facebook
    • Giving fans access to games via Facebook comes at the expense of people who watch it on TV. It’s an exclusive arrangement. So grandma in the nursing home isn’t going to be able to see her Twins, even though when MLB experimented with this last year on Friday nights, it wasn’t exclusive. Still, all of the games being “broadcast” on Facebook this year are afternoon games when most people aren’t watching TV. Advantage: TV
    • You can watch baseball when you’re supposed to be working or writing blog posts. Advantage: Really?

    • There are a few technical considerations. First, you need a Facebook account. Bandwidth can slow things down, especially if you’re doing actual work with your computer. You also have to maximize the feed to full screen so you don’t see comments or those silly floating hearts and emoticons. But the production values are high. Miguel Sano striking out in online HD is much clearer and horrifying than TV. Advantage: Push.

Facebook Watch as a medium hasn’t caught on yet, Forbes says in a column today. Only 24 percent of those surveyed recently have ever even heard of it.

But Facebook plays the long game on these sorts of things and there’s no reason not to continue the experiment next year.

  • Al
    • Joe

      I’ve been watching this for a few minutes, and he’s already put on over 1,000 pairs of sunglasses without ever taking one off. How many more can he possibly put on? I’ll keep watching and report back.

      • Al

        I feel like this would somehow be a good hypothetical question for Randall Munroe’s What If.

  • Sam M

    Biggest downside would be having to have a Facebook account. I’m a non-FB using millenial.

    • BReynolds33

      While your derision for Millennials is cute, and not at all stereotypical, their age demographic is actually one of the lowest in terms of usage of Facebook. The largest user base is Gen X. The fastest growing user base is Baby Boomers.

      That said, you can choose, obviously, not to have a Facebook account. They still know everything they need to know about you, and through partnerships and other owned properties, still make plenty of money serving advertisements to you based on your online and offline activities.

      But go get ’em, tiger. You’re really sticking it to the man by not having an account to watch baseball.

      • Sam M

        I’m aware that millennial FB use is low as I am a millennial so no derision I’m afraid.

        I’m not anti-FB due to data collection because I know it’s being collected from everything else I interact with. I just don’t enjoy the application and don’t find it particularly beneficial for me. I was an early adopter of FB but it has morphed into something less than helpful to me.

        Also not trying to stick it to anyone or trying to be high and mighty…. you completely misread my post but thanks for playing.

        • BReynolds33

          I’ll fully admit I misread it. My apologies.

          That said… it has no benefit to you, except you may want to watch baseball, and the game is on Facebook. So now it has a benefit to you, no?

          • lusophone

            I think with facebook, it really does have a lot of uses and it seems to work best when you block or mute the non-beneficial aspects.

          • Sam M

            All good. I know I could have an account and just use it for stuff like that but honestly I hate the UI and managing for such a limited purpose would be annoying. My wife has an account where she just follows our daycare and some teacher groups for work. People have found her and requested her as a friend…. awkward. I just honestly would rather not manage it like that.

            I do love the idea of more “free” content on the interwebs I just wish it was someplace other thank FB:)

    • Jeff C.

      Can you create an account just to watch baseball? No friends. No other information that what is necessary to create an account. And it doesn’t need to be correct information!

      • Sam M

        Of course I can but I just don’t like the application from a UI standpoint so I would prefer it someplace else.

        I love the idea of more content that is “free” to people so I’m not a total grump:)

    • There’s no reason to give up on him; there’s nobody else coming along and the Twins aren’t going anywhere anytime soon anyway. And he might not be a bust i the future. But so far: Total bust.

      • Erik Petersen

        A future breakthrough in prospecting driven by sabermatrics, etc, might be not giving up on prospects when they hit age 25. There’s a lot of acclimation to the speed of the game that’s accomplished at age 26, 27, 28…

        • I know that Jose Ramirez, currently an MVP candidate, was the most clueless player I’d ever seen when he first came up. But I’d like to see comparisons not on age (Sabrmetrics has pretty much shown that if you don’t make it by 27, you’re probably not going to) but on plate appearance. Hicks was given up on at 941. Carlos Gomez (who I tend to think was sent out becasue the Twins absolutely HATE players who have an actual personality) , had 1102.

          At 24, Puckett was a ROY candidate at 500+ ABs. Torii Hunter was a solid player at 450.

          Buxton is at over 1,000 ABs now. He’s very close to the time when one would normally expect him to be able to hold his own against major league pitching.

          There’s another aspect of the game, though, that makes comparisons based on Gleeman’s standard questionable. The game has changed and players are swinging for the fences. Hunter/Gomez/Puck/ Hicks didn’t have to play in that environment.

      • Erik Petersen

        Buxton is an elite, elite, elite athlete with a terrible swing. He’s going to have to become a practitioner of making contact with the baseball, and it might always look awkward.

    • Blasko

      Perfect response to Bob Collins’ only truly bad take of 2018. 🙂

  • TBH

    Speaking of a Grossman interview, I had a question (and don’t know who to ask, at least that I have access to) that I was curious about when I saw Fernando Rodney appear for the A’s against the Twins.

    I think Grossman may have been up to bat? But, it does not really matter either way.

    Would that have been the first time Grossman had ever faced Rodney at 90+ mph? Do players have simulated games against each other during the season where they do go all out, or is practice time mostly relegated to strictly bullpen sessions for pitchers and the cage and fielding drills and similar activites for the rest of the team?

    • Pitchers don’t throw BP so unlikely he’s faced him when both with the Twins. According to ESPN, he’s faced Rodney three times in his career with a hit and two strikeouts in three ABs.

  • Barton

    I’ve watched via Facebook Watch a few times this year (for my Cardinals). I really like it.

    Not at work though – but only because my corporation (rightly) limits the ability to watch video streams on the work network.

  • lusophone

    I think this stuff is cool. Telemundo had World Cup games on their app this summer. You could choose from a few different camera angles, like the traditional over-the-air view, an overhead view going the length of the field, views of both team’s benches and views of the star player on either team. So like 6 different angles. The view of Argentina’s coach as they were getting throttled by Croatia was anxiety on steroids.

    • Al

      THEY DID HOW DID I MISS THIS? That would’ve beat fighting with my Fox Sports Go app. And, for whatever reason I don’t understand, watching soccer in Spanish makes me happier.

      • lusophone

        Yes, the group stage games were free, you didn’t have to have a cable TV subscription. I think starting with the 3rd games in group stage, you had to have a subscription with cable.

        I agree with you about the Spanish announcers. The only English speaking commentator who compares is Ray Hudson. Jorge Perez-Navarro is Spanish speaking, but I love his games in English, “FIRE!!!”

  • Mike Worcester

    Okay and now I am following that page also 🙂

  • Gary F

    My 87 year old mother lives in a nursing home and has an I-Pad. She emails and surfs the net. But we wont set her up on Facebook.

  • Keith P.

    This has been nice to catch a few day games in one ear while I’m at work…keep the browser tab going and basically just listen to the audio. Tried bringing an AM radio for my desk, but can’t get a signal where I sit. And the app that lets me get WCCO AM on my phone switches to other programming during gametimes, so I effectively can’t listen to games for free.

  • How did Miguel Sano’s homer look in online HD? 😉

  • Bridget L.

    I’m sitting here chuckling at the thought of Grossman demurring.

  • Jeffrey

    Watching a game on broadcast TV, the best all you needed was a TV. However, the greed heads that run professional sports had to kill it.

  • PaulK

    I am one of those who pay the $120 per year for At-Bat, and it’s worth every penny even if I can’t watch the Twins. The video quality is superior to FaceBook, which always has bandwidth issues for me. I get about 30 seconds of game before it locks up. Plus, when I want to watch that Astros – Athletics game that matters, I just turn it on. If I’m really desperate, I can watch the Twins game archived just a few hours after the game concludes. I’m also not a subscriber to cable/satellite, so it’s my only way to catch a ballgame now.