Living in the state of Iowa is nice. The cost of living is low, there's little crime and it's easy to find a job here. Besides the occasional Polar Vortex or flood, it's a pretty safe place to live and a great place to raise kids.
Living in Iowa also sucks. It's not just the general lack things to do compared to my hometown of St. Louis. It's because I'm locked out of watching a lot of baseball. Thanks to Major League Baseball's archaic blackout maps, I'm inexplicably considered to be in the St. Louis market.
So that means even though I'd gladly shell out the $120 per year for MLB.tv, I can't watch the Cardinals. But it gets worse. I also can't watch the Brewers, White Sox, Cubs, Royals, or Twins. That's 20% of the league. Iowa is the Bermuda Triangle for baseball broadcasting.
Iowa isn't alone. Hawaii is blacked out from watching the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, A's and Giants. This is because they are "bordering" California. Well, apart from 2,467 miles of the Pacific Ocean in between. Nevada is also blacked out from watching every California team, plus the Diamondbacks. These rules are insane. I've yet to hear a reasonable explanation for them.
If I spend a lot of money to get cable, I can watch live baseball - but it's only the Cubs and White Sox. That's all that's offered in Cedar Rapids. I'd have to move 45 miles south to get a cable company that has Fox Sports Midwest. I could purchase a satellite dish but, I'm not interested in paying $1800 per year to get 300 channels of crap just to get baseball.
Now I know what some of you sneaky, technologically inclined people are thinking. I could be devious and get a VPN, but I shouldn't have to break the law -- even if it's a law that would never be enforced -- just to watch my favorite team. Call me principled to a fault, but I think that MLB.tv doesn't deserve my money until they figure this out. Until then, I'll listen on the radio and hope for that occasional nationally televised game on FOX or (ugh) Facebook.
My wife and sons purchased MLB.tv for me two seasons ago. I was grateful to be able to watch live baseball but ended up adopting Tampa Bay as my side-team. Given their lack of local interest, I figured they could take all the fans they could get. Plus they're actually pretty good for a team on a shoestring budget.
Commissioner Manfred has been furiously looking to rejigger the rules to make the game more entertaining. Pitch clocks, 3 batter minimums, and league-wide DHs might help. They might not. Most of these proposals have not been met with enthusiasm by the fans, let alone the players.
Last year we kept hearing from crotchety baseball writers and announcers that baseball is fundamentally broken. The stat-heads are the problem. It's too nerdy of a sport now. The focus is too much on spin rates and launch angles. We need to lower the mound, reduce strikeouts, batters need to stop swinging for the fences. It's an old-guy's sport now. And on and on it goes.
But baseball isn't broken. If you want to make baseball more accessible to younger viewers, focus first on making it actually accessible. The reason I became a fan in the first place is because as kid, baseball was constantly on KSDK, KPLR, WGN, and TBS. Even as a Cardinal fan, I'd still put on the Cubs just enjoy Harry Caray and watch Andre Dawson. The Braves were pretty bad back then, but Dale Murphy was fun to watch.
I was their target audience and they succeeded to reel me in, because the game was available.
This is what makes Opening Day bittersweet for me. It's exciting to get fresh new boxscores, highlights, and John Rooney and the unintentionally hilarious ramblings of Mike Shannon. And it's nice to be able to enjoy the Free Game of the Day - unless of course, that free game is in my blackout area.
But it's also a sad reminder that because I live in a bordering state, 5 hours away from Busch Stadium, I'm cut off from watching my favorite team. I'm going on year 16 of this nonsense. If I want to actually watch something other than swervy lines and dots on Gameday, I'm left pulling for a team I didn't grow up with and am less passionate about.
If you want to fix baseball, stop scapegoating sabermetrics, pace of play and the natural evolution of the game. Instead, try letting people actually watch it.