Should MLB fans want their team to play on National TV?

Tuesday afternoon I was mowing the lawn back home in Martinsburg, WV.

With as big as the yard is, during my many trips up and down, back and forth, my mind wandered onto many various topics, many regarding sports as it often does.

One particular topic that struck me was that I often gripe about how my favorite Major League Baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles (38-27), is hardly ever on national television, yet since the start of 2012 has the best win percentage of any team in the American League.

However, soon after it occurred to me that whenever the O’s are a network other than the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) that they seem to come out on the losing side more times than not. Earlier this season was a great example.

Baltimore started off the season winning each of its first seven games heading into a nationally televised game against division rival Boston on ESPN. The winning streak came to an end that night.

“It can’t just be the Orioles that come up short in front of the big networks, right?” I asked myself.

After a little bit of research, no, it’s not just the Orioles.

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The Red Sox and Orioles have played twice this year on ESPN. Both times the Red Sox have come out on top. Yes the O’s own the head-to-head record this year 6-4.   Photo by Charles Krupa / Associated Press 

This season 55 games between 25 of the 30 teams have been nationally televised on ESPN, TBS or MLB Network. (Those networks will be periodically referred to as the “Big 3” to avoid repetitiveness.)

Thus far, though, only 9 of those teams have a winning record in such games. In fact, 11 have losing records, and five have as many wins as losses.

Granted, a winning or losing record can consist of just one game, although at this point in the season only four teams have appeared on one of the larger networks just once. Thirteen teams have played in only one or two games on national TV, where as 12 have played in at least three such games.

Aside from just overall W-L record, I decided to look at each teams’ nationally broadcasted games as a series.

For instance, the Orioles are 0-2 in contests played on the big networks so they have a losing series record. On the other side, the San Francisco Giants are 4-3 in such games, meaning they have a winning series record.

Of the 13 teams that have played in just one or two games on the “Big 3”, only three have a winning series record, and seven have losing records.

Teams that have played in at least three nationally televised games are fairing better, currently sitting at a combined series record of 6-4-2, or a game record of 41-41.

The team that has played the most games on national TV shouldn’t come as a big surprise being that it’s the New York Yankees (32-34). But the Bronx Bombers haven’t made the most of their extra airtime, and are 4-7 in those games.

Meanwhile the next two most-highly televised teams – Boston (37-28) and the Chicago Cubs (44-20) – are a combined 17-4 in such contests. Boston even started the year by winning its first seven nationally televised games.

Even though typically these nationally syndicated games are played between two teams that for the season as a whole have winning records, it’s not helping those teams out as much as you would think in the win-loss columns.

Teams with an overall winning record on the season are 43-32 in games played on the “Big 3.” However, if you remove Chicago and Boston, who have both faired exceptionally well in those games, the rest of teams with a winning record on the season are actually two games below .500 in nationally televised games, 26-28.

Even if you include Boston and Chicago, and look at it in terms of series records, the 14 teams with winning records on the year have failed to win 50 percent of those series.

(*NOTE: Cleveland has a winning record on the year, however has not played in a nationally televised game in 2016)

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One team that has made the best of its time on the “Big 3” this year is the Washington Nationals. This includes this past Monday when Max Scherzer pitched an absolute gem, holding the Cubs to one run on two hits in the Nats’ 4-1 win.  Photo by Alex Brandon / Associated Press 

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Everyone loves their team’s broadcasting crew, but it’s always special when your team’s game is shown on ESPN, or TBS, or MLB Network. It makes game 48 of 162 seem a little more important than it really is.

But the question becomes should fans want their favorite team to play nationally televised games or not.

Every team has to play on the “Big 3” at least once during the regular season. Fans should probably hope that their team’s game on national TV comes early in the season, and not late in September in an important game.

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