If you’ve been a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember last year when I did an article on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting crew, and whether they were truly impartial to both teams. There was about a five minute gap between the Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals in that game. However, last night’s viewing of the game between the Dodgers and the Washington Nationals seemed to me to have a distinct D.C. slant, so I decided to go back and see if this was true, or if I was just being a biased fan.
As last time, the caveats. I am timing when they talk about the Dodgers, when they talk about the Nats, but have decided not to worry about the general talk. Some at-bats take longer than others, leading to that team/batter being talked about more. My math is not always the best, so there may be a fudged second here or there, but not enough to effect the overall time. I am just timing the amount specifically spent on one team or the other, and not the extraneous things that make up a baseball game. Sometimes it is difficult to decide which it would be, so those I don’t add to either team. I am watching the replay on the MLB AtBat app.
In the approximately three and a half minute open, they spend 41 seconds dissecting the Dodgers, and 53 seconds dissecting the Nationals, spending most time on the starting pitcher, Stephen Strasburg. The rest is filler stuff.
Top 1 — 4:26 spent on Dodgers, including lengthy discussions on Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. 2:37 spent on Nationals, mostly on Strasburg again.
Bottom 1 — No score. Dodgers up to 6:52, with most talk of the postseason pitching staff. Nationals zoom ahead to 7:25, with a solid four minutes spent on Bryce Harper, then Anthony Rendon.
As an aside, Aaron Boone has already mentioned two times that he believes the Nationals have the best lineup and the best chance to come out of the National League.
Top 2 — Dodgers take a 1-0 lead. Time for Dodgers, up to 9:48, talking about the various batters, mostly Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes. Nats at 9:15, talking about Micheal Taylor’s gaff that ended Strasburg’s scoreless streak. Much time spent on whether the Dodgers should be showing that they know when to run on Strasburg.
Bottom 2 — Hyun-Jin Ryu gets into trouble, but works out of it, due to a great play by Yasiel Puig. Dodgers 11:10, Nats 12:25.
Top 3 — Dodgers up to bat, but this is when they show a previous interview with Daniel Murphy. It lasts over 2-1/2 minutes, and continues on through the inning. Dodgers 12:31, Nats 15:01.
Bottom 3 — Not much time spent on the game, most of it is about the playoff races in other divisions. Dodgers 12:31, Nats 15:25
Top 4 — Buster Olney interviews Dave Roberts. It is spent discussing Strasburg. Conflicted as to whom to credit this time to. It was 45 seconds, add to either team as you wish. They then continue to break down Strasburg’s mechanics for well over two minutes, without mentioning the play on the field. Dodgers gain 30 seconds, mostly them cracking up at Ryu’s lack of batting acumen. Dodgers 13:01, Nats 18:05.
Bottom 4 — 40 seconds on Ryu, then almost four and a half minutes on the Nationals lineup, and Murphy’s swing. Dodgers 13:41, Nationals 22:30.
Top 5 — Olney interviews Dusty Baker, and actually asks him about his own players. Dodgers batting, but barely a mention of them as the crew again spends much time dissecting the Nats’ top three pitchers, and more breakdown of Strasburg’s mechanics. Dodgers remain at 13:41, Nats up to 27:32.
This game starts to break open for Washington at this point, but I would just like to mention that until now, it’s been a one-run game, and the Dodgers are leading. Yet, the Nationals have been discussed for 14 more minutes.
Bottom 5 — Hey, they’re talking about the Dodgers! A lot of talk about Ryu, and possible usage of Alex Wood and Ross Stripling out of the bullpen in the postseason. 5:45 total on Dodgers pitching until Dave Roberts makes a pitching change with two on, two out. Jayson Werth hits a ball that may or may not have been foul, and lots of time spent discussing that. Dodgers 19:26, Nats 27:32.
Top 6 — Dodgers draw a little closer. 22:19 versus 28:48.
Bottom 6 — Another long breakdown of Murphy. Thanks to a three -run homer by Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals take a 3-1 lead. Dodgers 22:50, Nationals 32:01.
Top 7 — Not much doing for the Dodgers, but discussion still veers towards the Nats. Dodgers 23:15, Nationals 33:42.
Bottom 7 — Nationals score again. Dodgers 25:30, Nats 34:58.
Top 8 — Dodgers threaten with a Corey Seager double, but nothing else. Dodgers 27:07, Nats 38:10.
Bottom 8 — Nationals pad their lead with another home run from Zimmerman and a two-run home run off the bat of Adam Lind. Dodgers not discussed at all. Dodgers 27.07, Nats 41.2
Top 9 — Even though the Dodgers get a single from Yasmani Grandal and a walk from Forsythe, the game mercifully ends. Finally time talked about for each team: Dodgers 29:02, Nationals 42:48.
It would be easy to say that the talk favored the Nationals so much because it was a lopsided game in their favor. But as I mentioned previously, it already had a huge Washington slant halfway through the game, even though it was a very tight game at the time. Who’s to say if the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew does it intentionally, thinking there’s more to highlight on one team over the other, or over the course of a game one team leads to more talking points. Almost fifteen minutes more about one team over the other does make for a uneven call, however. I guess it’s just if your team happens to be the one they highlight more or not decides if this is a good way to cover a national game.
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3 thoughts on “Breaking Down the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Call: A National(s) Bias? ”
You may be correct that they have a general bias in favor of the Nats over the Dodgers, part of that being that the Nats are an East Coast team and ESPN has more viewers in the east. On the other hand, a great amount of the Nats-oriented discussion centered around Strasburg, and except for Michael Taylor’s messed up catch, he would now be working on a scoreless streak of about 40 innings. What would have been really interesting is if Kershaw would have been pitching against him. I’m guessing the time would have been divided a bit more evenly, although maybe still in favor of the east coast team. I think it’s more a pro-Nats thing (for whatever reason) rather than an anti-Dodger thing.
I get the Strasburg part (I guess)…but why so much Daniel Murphy? Seemed like he got more talk-and close ups- than anyone in the game…anyway go Dodgers!💙⚾️
Fascinating experiment! Might try this myself sometime. Awesome article.