The only people who seem to really love the strike zone square that now is ubiquitous on TV produce baseball games. The epidemic began by ESPN in 2015 has spread to Fox, YES and all the Fox-owned regional networks this season.
The square is supposed to be akin to the NFL first-down marker, which was a great invention that enhanced the viewer experience and provided objective, important information, while staying out of the way of the action. The square does not do that.
ESPN’s K-Zone partly obstructs the catcher and only gives an estimate of if the pitch is a strike, as it is up to the subjectivity of the umpire for the actual call. It can be used effectively on replay, but it is distracting in the middle of live action.
That is our take, and even with our utter disgust for the box, there are smart people who think about this stuff intensely and have a different point of view. Phil Orlins is the senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s Major League Baseball. In 2015, he was one of the most instrumental in starting K-Zone, so we spoke to him last week.
“Change always gets a mixed reaction, but I think the reaction it got from fans shows you how interested they are in it,” Orlins said. “It may not have been anywhere near 100 percent positive, but it certainly was 100-percent strong and emotional. A lot of people loved it and a lot of people hated us for it.”
In 2015, Orlins said that ESPN researched and found that more fans had a positive reaction than negative to the box, but that nearly half were oblivious to it. Orlins thinks the K-Zone is vital because balls and strikes are a central element to the game.
How ESPN turned me into an idiot
As Howard Cosell sagely and solemnly reported upon the death,…
While SNY doesn’t use it on live broadcasts, Fox followed ESPN by having the box during games last postseason. This season, it has the box on its network coverage and all the regional sports stations it owns.
Fox Sports’ version is a little thinner and a little less obtrusive than ESPN’s, while immediately offering the MPH when the ball goes over the plate.
“The look is very subtle and it is not hitting viewers in the face,” Fox Sports Networks’ executive producer Michael Connelly said.
Connelly said he has heard no complaints, including from his producers and directors.
Previously, Fox had utilized only the box during replays. Now, YES and all of the Fox Sports regionals use it like ESPN.
“I’m thrilled that everyone is kind of embracing the importance of it,” Orlins said.
We are less thrilled.
E! is looking for female sportscasters for a reality-show pilot, according to sources. The company Casting Kaz had a hand in “The Apprentice,” so this could lead to bigger things for whomever is brought on. But do note that even if this project goes to pilot, most pilots never make it to air. E! declined comment.
The Clicker NBA Broadcasting Rookie of the Year goes to … YES’ Nets analyst Sarah Kustok.
Sarah Kustok’s unplanned journey to NBA analyst’s chair
As Sarah Kustok stares down history, she remembers the days… Kustok, who played college hoops at DePaul, is excellent in many ways, making strong points and letting the game flow, but one thing that stands out — and many of her male counterparts could learn from her — is understanding when not to talk.
The Nets’ Ian Eagle and Ryan Ruocco are both top-shelf play-by-players, and she lets them finish their calls. She is patient on broadcasts, which is an excellent fundamental for broadcasters to have, especially on games.
Kustok has been working Nets games for years as a sideline reporter, but did not lose her rookie status under official Clicker rules because she did not have enough analyst plate appearances in previous years, making just a handful in 2015-16 and ’16-17. She took the lead role this season, doing more than half of the Nets’ games. She also jas started to appear on “First Things First,” which is FS1’s morning show with Cris Carter, Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe. She has earned more opportunities. … Knicks radio play-by-player Ed Cohen is the Rookie of the Year runner-up. Heard on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Cohen provides a very clean listen, meaning he is right on top of the action, allowing listeners to see what is going on.
Steve Somers in 2012WireImage
Steve Somers has been absent of late and some of his fans have noticed, but it was just an extended vacation. He was scheduled to return Wednesday evening, but he is under the weather, so that may be delayed a few days, according to WFAN’s Mark Chernoff. Meanwhile, overnight host Tony Paige has been dealing with a medical issue, and Chernoff said he is due back soon, as well. … Islanders TV play-by-player Brendan Burke will work playoffs again for NBC Sports Network. He starts with Sharks and Ducks. … HBO’s Andre The Giant documentary premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Upon further review: As part of ESPN+, the network’s new $4.99 per month extra service that begins Friday, it has a new 30 for 30 documentary about how CNN broke the Bob Knight-choking story that led to his firing at Indiana University in 2000 called “The Last Days of Knight.”
We give 2.7 Clickers out of 5. It is worth watching, but it could have been better.
It is sort of weird that ESPN did this documentary considering it employed Knight after he did all these things at Indiana, with a lot more alleged. Anyway, the man who broke the story, Robert Abbott, is a producer who worked for what was then known as CNN/SI, and he directs and narrates the program. It was quite a feat for Abbott, but with Abbott narrating the 30 for 30, it came across as self-serving, even if weren’t the intention.
ESPN+, besides offering live games that are not on regular ESPN TV and ESPN’s free app, will try to have an inventory of documentaries that, like Netflix’s programming, will have an evergreen quality to it. This documentary will go into the inventory, but it is not something that will make people sign up for the service.