ESPN Networks Announce Changes For 2014 MLB Season

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN kicks off its 25th season covering Major League Baseball today. In celebration of the anniversary, ESPN has announced a number of changes and additions to its coverage. The very first of those changes and additions is a rebranding of its flagship program, Sunday Night Baseball. Sunday Night Baseball has been rebranded as Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown. The name change has been implemented in order to better coincide with ESPN’s weekly national game of the week. Karl Ravech will continue to anchor the broadcast. And MLB Hall of Famer/analyst Barry Larkin will join Ravech for most episodes.

The rebranding of Sunday Night Baseball is just the tip of the iceberg for the changes being made to ESPN’s MLB coverage in its 25th season. Along with the rebranding of the network’s flagship show, several episodes of Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown will be broadcast live on-site from key locations near select games throughout the season. The live broadcasts will allow fans to show their pride live on television and viewers to get a taste of the live Baseball Tonight atmosphere. It all begins opening night from PetCo Park in San Diego at 6:30pm.

The new live, on-site broadcasts of Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown are the cornerstone of ESPN’s re-branded broadcasts for its 25th season of coverage. Along with the new live, on-site broadcasts, viewers will also see some new faces on this year’s telecasts. ESPN added new commentators for its telecasts during the offseason. Veteran manager Eric Wedge has been added to the Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown roster as has former perfect game pitcher Dallas Braden. Braden will join ESPN’s weekly broadcast as an analyst. Wedge will contribute regularly to the show, too.

MLB great and former manager Ozzie Guillen joined ESPN Deportes throughout the 2013 MLB season. His role has been expanded this season. Guillen will contribute both to ESPN Deportes and ESPN’s English-language platforms this season, including regular appearances on Baseball Tonight. Eduardo Perez returns to the broadcast side of the game after spending the past two seasons in the dugout. Perez will contribute largely to MLB broadcasts on ESPN Deportes. Both Guillen and Perez will join Manny Acta and Alex Cora in ESPN’s growing stable of bilingual MLB analysts.

As the 2014 MLB season progresses, audiences can stay tuned in to ESPN as the Worldwide Leader in Sports will televise special holiday games on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, as well as at least one Wild Card game, in addition to NY and all tie-breaker games. Making the deal even sweeter, ESPN will have rights to four Postseason Impact games in late September. This will allow ESPN to present the top games and storylines from around the league heading into the postseason. The schedule for ESPN’s special holiday broadcasts is provided below.

Holiday Date Time (ET) Game
Memorial Day Mon, May 26 1 p.m. Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves
4 p.m. New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals
Independence Day Fri, Jul 4 3 p.m. New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins
TBD TBD
Labor Day Mon, Sep 1 TBD TBD
TBD TBD

If the weekly Sunday night broadcast of MLB games isn’t enough for fans, ESPN will also offer audiences a special “seamheads” edition of Baseball Tonight every Thursday night at 10pm ET. ESPN MLB Insiders Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, and Jayson Stark will serve as the panel for the program. They will discuss all even more insight than is offered every Sunday night, including: advanced stats, ranking, and breaking news and rumors throughout the season. They will be joined occasionally by Keith Law and Grantland’s Jonah Keri.

ESPN is going to have expansive and in-depth coverage of MLB baseball this season, as is obvious by now. But it’s still not all that fans have to expect from the Worldwide Leader in Sports during the 2014 MLB season. ESPN will also present specially produced vignettes each week across its TV and internet platforms that celebrate each of the league’s teams. The first of those vignettes will air tonight, March 30th. It will focus on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The final touch to ESPN’s massive list of changes for this season of MBL coverage involves coverage on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes +. ESPN Deportes increases its broadcast schedule to more than eighty regular season games. That is sixty-five games more than in previous seasons. ESPN Deportes + will also include exclusive Spanish-language coverage of thirty regular season games.

More information on all of the latest on the ESPN family of networks’ MLB coverage is available online at http://espn.go.com/mlb. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry Returning To ESPN, Angels & White Sox Face Off Tonight On ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball

Courtesy: ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

One of the biggest rivalries in sports re-ignites in its latest round Sunday, June 2nd.  David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox will take on Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees will face off at 8pm that evening.  Dan Shulman will host the evening’s broadcast.  He will be joined by analysts Orel Hershiser and John Kruk.  Buster Olney will be on hand with commentary.

Tonight’s matchup pits the Los Angeles Angels against the Chicago White Sox in the “Windy City.”  Dan Shulman will host the evening’s broadcast along with his colleagues, Orel Hershiser, John Kruk and Buster Olney.  The game will be available across all ESPN platforms including:  ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio, WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app for mobile media.  Pre-game starts at 7pm tonight.  The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Crew offered its thoughts on tonight’s games, which can be viewed right here.

Baseball Tonight analyst Aaron Boone on the C.J. Wilson- Chris Sale matchup:
With Jered Weaver down, C.J. Wilson needs to assume the head of this rotation. They need to be able to hang their hat on his starts and count on him to be close to an ace. Sale needs to get his slider down. While he’s been pretty good, he hasn’t quite been the dominant ace. I’ve seen a little bit of slider elevation from him. If he can get that pitch down, he’s an ace.

Baseball Tonight analyst Alex Cora on Wilson:
I think that the key storyline is C.J. Wilson. We’ve been talking about the Angels being a contender and Weaver being hurt. Here’s a guy that they signed last year to either be their ace or their number two and he hasn’t done it. For them to turn this around, they need him to pitch the way he’s capable of pitching.

MLB Insider Buster Olney on the Angels’ struggles this season:
Early in every season, there are a handful of teams that quickly move into desperation mode, and little more than a month into the 2013 season, that’s where the Angels stand. They cannot afford to lose more ground, and even though it’s May, this team of great stars will be playing with a sense of urgency. The Angels can turn it around, but because of the lack of depth in the pitching staff, the impetus for a comeback has to come from their offensive stars: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo.

MLB Insider Tim Kurkjian on the Angels facing Sale:
This is a big weekend series, especially for the Angels. They are in danger of falling out of the race in the West unless they start winning immediately. Their come-from-behind win Thursday night might be the spark that finally gets this team going but they are up against Chris Sale on Sunday night. I don’t know how anyone gets a hit off of that guy.

Olney on Sale’s delivery and repertoire:
Chris Sale is a one-of-a-kind pitcher, with an unusual delivery, and a nasty slider.  I think  Orel made a fascinating comparison: Sale reminds you a lot of the former Yankees Cy Young winner Ron Guidry, because of the quality of his slider and his angular build.

ESPN MLB Insider Pedro Gomez on the Angels’ struggles:
The Angels cannot afford to continue to spin their wheels and expect to remain in the AL West race. They need pitching to really start to shine and they absolutely need more production from their two cogs in the middle of their order, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

Cora on Hamilton’s plate discipline:
He needs to take a step back. We get it, he’s an aggressive hitter. But right now, he’s getting 0-2 pitches in the first pitch of the at-bat. They know he’s swinging. They aren’t even trying to get ahead of him. They are going to the put-out pitch on pitch one because he’s swinging. He needs to be more patient. He has two home runs in last few days but still he needs to take some pitches. The whole league knows that he’s been very aggressive and chasing a lot. He must take a step back and see some good pitches.

ESPN MLB Insider Jim Bowden on keys for the Angels to improve:
The Angels can turn it around but they have to stay healthy. There is not enough depth to withstand injuries, as we’ve seen to date. Hamilton and Pujols must get back to MVP form. The key to the team will be the starting rotation. Blanton and Hanson have to be good enough to win 12 games and pitch 180 innings. A trade for more pitching is a must. Hamilton’s not loading and his timing is not in sync. If he corrects those two flaws he will hit. His bat speed is still there. He also must improve his strike zone awareness and cut down at swinging at balls out of the zone which is at a poor rate of 49%.

Boone on the struggling power hitters in both lineups:
If these teams are going to live up to expectations, their big guys in the middle have to get it going. We need to see production from Konerko and Dunn for the White Sox and Hamilton and Pujols with the Angels.

Cora on White Sox Manager Robin Ventura:
It’s Robin’s second year, so right now it’s his team. Obviously last year he had a great season. They made some changes and lost A.J. So, I think now he’s settled in. It has been a tough month for them, so let’s see what kind of manager he is. Last year, they kind of lost it at the end in September and they seem to be in the same pattern now. We need to see what kind of manager he will be.

Next Sunday on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the Tigers head to the Lone Star State to take on the Rangers.  The latest Sunday Night Baseball schedule is available below.

Upcoming Sunday Night Baseball schedule:

Date Game
May 12 Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
May 19 Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers
May 26 Atlanta Braves at New York Mets
June 2 Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
July 14 St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
July 21 New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox
   

*Additional games for June and July will be announced three weeks in advance, while games for August and September will be made two weeks in advance.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.