May 25, 2024

Bally Sports saga gets much messier; second-best guys on the MLB stats leaderboard

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You can find all of last night’s scores here (in case you can’t watch the games on TV). Also: Mike Trout might be an Angel for life after all and we look at some almost-best players. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!

Trouble in network TV land: Comcast/Xfinity drops Bally Sports

After this offseason’s last-minute bullet-dodge by Diamond/Bally Sports, we always knew the other shoe would drop; we just weren’t sure when. Would Bally — TV home of 12 MLB teams and 26 NBA/NHL teams — avoid bankruptcy, or would the world of RSNs devolve into chaos?

What we didn’t expect: such a massive development on May 1.

Comcast, one of three major cable providers that hosts Bally, removed the channel from their services due to a dispute between the two companies. Comcast wanted to put Bally on a higher (“premium”) tier and released a statement blaming Bally and insisting they had made reasonable efforts to negotiate with Comcast at numbers similar to their deals with Charter and DirecTV.

For seven teams — including the Twins — there is no option for a direct-to-consumer streaming service from Bally, meaning a large percentage of the team’s regional fanbase has no way to watch games legally.

Evan Drellich has all the details here, and another story about how the proceedings impact the league’s plan for a blackout-free streaming service. We asked Evan a few questions for our Windup readers, which we’ll have right after Ken’s notebook …

Ken’s Notebook: Mike Trout, lifelong Angel?

From my latest column:

No player is untradeable, not even an aging, broken-down, signed-through-2030 Mike Trout. But with Trout’s latest injury, the horrifying thought of him spending the rest of his career with the Los Angeles Angels is moving closer to becoming reality.

Trout, who turns 33 on Aug. 7, is expected to be out at least 8 to 12 weeks while recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He is guaranteed $35.45 million this season and in each of the next six.

Even if he returned by say, Aug. 1, and finished on a roll, what team would trust him enough this offseason to take on most or all of his remaining $212.7 million? From 2021 to 2023, Trout missed more games than he played. And given that he is historically a slow healer, he isn’t exactly on track to reverse that trend in 2024.

A trade of Trout, of course, was a long way from ever happening. To the dismay of many opposing fans, the three-time MVP and 11-time All-Star has steadfastly refused to ask out of Anaheim, maintaining he wants to spend his entire career with one team, like his boyhood idol, Derek Jeter, and win with the Angels.

At the start of spring training, Trout said he was “pushing, pushing, pushing” upper management to add free agents, an indication, perhaps, of his growing impatience. Well, his fuse needed to be shorter. He waited too long.

For a trade scenario to become realistic, the following was necessary:

The Angels to stink again, which was all but a given.

Trout to a) return to near-MVP form, which at least stood a chance of happening before he hurt his knee; and b) request a trade, which even Angels fans would have understood considering he has never won a postseason game and not even appeared in the playoffs since 2014.

Angels owner Arte Moreno to demonstrate a willingness not only to grant Trout’s wish but also to include significant cash in a trade, which … was never happening.

Q&A with Evan Drellich

Evan Drellich has been on top of the RSN fiasco since the beginning (if you need some background, here are a few links to read). He graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us.

We read the quotes from either side on who’s to blame. Do you have an opinion?

For now, blame the almighty dollar. Carriage disputes are not uncommon. Disney and Charter went at it for a while last year. Of course, the fans and the viewers and your grandma who just want to watch the game wind up the real losers.

But it’s an interesting staredown as far as these things go. Comcast surely knows that Diamond needs to get their deal wrapped up if Diamond wants to emerge from bankruptcy. Diamond surely knows that it can try to make Comcast look like an outlier, because Diamond already got deals done with two other distributors: one with DirecTV, the other with Charter. Leverage plays all around.

How big a wrench does this throw into Bally’s bankruptcy-avoidance plans?

It’s not great. Typically, when a big case like this gets to this stage — a month and a half away from a confirmation hearing for a plan to get out of bankruptcy — the business is in a pretty good position to emerge. That doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee. Diamond’s plan includes some lofty projections for the growth of the business coming out of bankruptcy, and MLB has been very skeptical in court that Diamond can actually do what it says it will.

But there’s no doubt that Diamond locking in distribution deals with all the major providers, such as Comcast, is key. Another key: that Diamond makes enough money from those deals to be profitable while paying all the teams their rights fees. So in all, the outcome of the Comcast deal will be significant, particularly in the context of the other deals Diamond reached with Charter and DirecTV. (Key details of those deals aren’t public at this point.)

Put together, are the numbers enough to convince the court to confirm Diamond’s plan to escape bankruptcy? We’ll find out perhaps as soon as June — that’s when the confirmation hearing is supposed to be held. (But it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing if it’s delayed.)

How long does MLB let this go before they intervene for the health of the sport?

MLB theoretically could try to put pressure on one party or another, but they’re going to try to stay neutral publicly. The league’s probably going to tread extra carefully given the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings with Diamond. Of the two groups, MLB has had happier dealings recently with Comcast — its partner in broadcasts on Peacock the last couple years — than it has had with Diamond.

The leaderboard runners-up

Alec Bohm’s batting average is right behind Mookie Betts’. (Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)

We love our stat leaders, but it’s always been interesting to me to see who’s in second place. How close are they? Is it a surprise guy? Here are a few stat leaders, and their closest competition.

Batting average: Mookie Betts, Dodgers — .377

Just behind Betts is Alec Bohm of the Phillies, who is hitting .362 with 12 doubles in 128 plate appearances (after hitting 31 in 611 PAs last year).

OPS: Betts — 1.104

Not really a surprise: second place is Marcell Ozuna of the Braves, at 1.027. Coming off a 40-homer, 100-RBI season last year, Ozuna hasn’t slowed down.

Home runs: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles / Mike Trout, Angels — 10

Ozuna is tied for second here also, his nine home runs matching Tyler O’Neill of the Red Sox. Remember last year when O’Neill was benched in St. Louis for “unacceptable” baserunning? Anyway, the Cardinals’ 21 home runs this year rank last in baseball.

ERA: Shota Imanaga, Cubs — 0.78

Let’s not overlook Imanaga, whose seven scoreless innings last night tied him with Fernando Valenzuela (1981) for lowest ERA after his first six career starts. By comparison, second-place Ranger Suárez looks almost pedestrian with his 1.32 mark, leading a strong Phillies rotation.

Strikeouts: Tyler Glasnow, Dodgers — 53

Second up: Zack Wheeler of the Phillies, at 52. Did we mention their rotation is having a great year?

WAR*: Betts — 2.8

Henderson has been the second most valuable player in baseball this year, with 2.2 fWAR to lead the Orioles to the top of the AL East.

(*We used the FanGraphs version of WAR, and totals are through Tuesday night’s games)

No-strikeout streak update

Steven Kwan went 3-for-5 in last night’s 3-2 win over Houston, with no strikeouts! His streak is now 62 plate appearances. Kwan also drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning, then made this catch to start a game-ending double play:

Handshakes and High Fives

Amid injuries, trades, and roster shuffling, the Red Sox have been operating at the center of a baseball hurricane this year. They’ve also won eight of their last 11 games.

Suspensions have been handed out for Tuesday’s Brewers/Rays brawl.

Good news for Minnesota: Their winning streak has hit 10 games. Bad news: Byron Buxton exited Wednesday’s game with an apparent knee injury.

Grant Brisbee compares the odds of poker hands to the odds of special plays in baseball. The whole thing made my head hurt, but when he explained the odds of two shuffled decks being in identical order, I had to go take a walk. Grant, please never do this again.

Let’s talk about Sonny Gray’s fastball. No, the other one. No the other other one. No … you know what — he has multiple sliders, too.

After another loss to the Marlins, the Rockies have trailed in each of their 29 games.

Walker Buehler is expected to return to the Dodgers from Tommy John recovery on Monday.

The beekeeper guy from Arizona has his own baseball card.

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.

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(Top photo of Kyle Farmer being interviewed by Bally Sports North: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)