Notes: MLB/Roku streaming deal, White Sox still bad

MLB might have a new streaming partner soon, and Jerry Reinsdorf’s White Sox are certainly made in his image

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According to The Athletic, Major League Baseball might be leaving Peacock behind when that deal is up, and moving over to Roku for streaming Sunday morning baseball games. It’s not that Peacock is uninterested in maintaining their relationship with MLB, so much as, per Andrew Marchand, they were willing to do so for one-third the value of the current deal, which pays $30 million annually.

Now, exactly which service MLB ends up with isn’t of much concern, but the thing to wonder about here is what Roku will be willing to pay to pry the league’s Sunday morning games away from Peacock. If there is no other competitor for the services, then sure, maybe Peacock gets away with offering less than last time, because MLB’s choice is then $10 million per year or nothing. With Roku involved, though, maybe Peacock bumps their offer up, or, in order to get their foot in the door in this realm, Roku is happy to surpass any offer coming from Peacock in order to be the most attractive option. Which could in turn mean MLB is (1) finding new partners to increase their revenue or (2) finding new partners in order to maintain their current level of revenue. Whether it’s the first or second thing depends a lot on how everything shakes down with Diamond and MLB’s eventual streaming-heavy future.

As Marchand notes, there’s a lot going on there at the moment:

MLB has been facing major television headwinds; especially recently with Diamond Sports failing to come to a carriage agreement with Comcast that has left 12 teams’ games unavailable to those franchises’ viewers that have that service.

The league is also staring at the possibility of ESPN opting out or threatening to opt-out to reduce the $550 million yearly deal it has for Sunday Night Baseball, the Home Run Derby and first round playoff games. The Disney-owned network has the option in its current deal to exercise the opt-out after next season.

ESPN, like Amazon and potentially Apple, would like to be part of the solution for the failing regional sports model as MLB evolves its plans.

It’s not that ESPN doesn’t want to be partnered with MLB any longer, but that the shape of their partnership could be changing, so maybe they don’t want to be committed in the same way they were previously, in order to be part of a larger “solution” for the league, with funds rearranged to go to that. It’s all something to watch out for, with a lot of moving pieces that might now include Roku, especially coming off of an offseason in which the league threw their hands up to go, “whoops can’t spend don’t know where our money is or where it’ll come from.”

My latest for Baseball Prospectus ran on Tueday, and it’s titled “The White Sox are Playing the Same Old Game.” In late-April I covered the White Sox horrific start in this space, noting that a deeper look at things would be coming, and that’s what that feature ended up being.

The gist of things is that the White Sox are bad because they’re Jerry Reinsdorf’s White Sox. They don’t spend like they should or could, the front office is based on the same pipeline from decades ago that has produced far less success than you’d think it would have considering the continuity involved, and the goal, no matter what Reinsdorf says, is to make money, not to win:

It’s 2024, and the White Sox are still without a single $100 million free agent in their history. Their most significant free agent contracts have gone to Benintendi ($75 million over five years) and Yasmani Grandal ($73 million over four). The extra $500,000 that Dallas Keuchel received is the only reason Albert Belle’s $55 million free agent deal from 1997 is no longer in the top five in franchise history. They simply do not spend like a team from Chicago could or should: by Cot’s Contracts’ count, the White Sox rank 17th in the majors since 1991 in total free agent spending. They don’t ignore free agency completely, but they completely avoid the top end. Which is why, despite a whole bunch of top-end talent on free agency this offseason, they ended up with the likes of DeJong and Maldonado, which helped them cut their payroll by around $58 million, down to $121 million for Opening Day. It’s not like they had a bunch of prospects to plug in, and the farm system doesn’t have much in the way of future help, either, which is why Baseball Prospectus ranked it 25th in the league this winter. This is a team that needs to spend to have any chance right now—in a weak division, in a league that now has six Wild Card clubs—and that’s just not happening.

It’s dire! Maybe the White Sox can improve enough to avoid being in Cleveland Spider-level discussions throughout the summer, like the A’s managed to rebound enough to avoid a year ago, but what does that mean, exactly? They’d still be a team coming off of a 100-loss season that managed to be even worse in the following campaign. One with a farm system dealing with a famine, that won’t spend on the top end of free agency, and that regularly makes terrible decisions on the free agents they do acquire. With a general manager who was part of the building of the current mess they’re in, as both a farm director and then assistant GM. With Reinsdorf still in control of it all!

Oh, and of course this is all happening while they have an absurd public subsidies ask out, all because Reinsdorf wants to build his own Braves-style Battery Park around a new stadium so he can rake in even more cash for doing nothing. John Fisher might be the most brazen owner in part due to how he’s an adult-sized baby with his parents’ money who throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, but Reinsdorf might be the actual worst. Fisher strikes me as not evil so much as kind of just a huge self-centered dummy, which is awful in its own way, sure, but different. Reinsdorf, though… this guy has been at the center of plenty of what’s been terrible about the game for decades, from collusion to depriving amateurs of negotiating power and bonuses, avoiding giving free agents money, prying enormous subsidies out of the hands of the public, while lying about relocating to do it. He is the literal worst.

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