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MLB television blackouts and the unjust entitlement of access

Adric at Nationals Park. Bullpen Phone. July 20, 2023.
Adric calls to the bullpen on you. Nationals Park. July 20, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

We are in the midst of the longest homestand of the year, which is great for you and kind of so-so for me. One cannot chase after the Dodgers if the Dodgers stay at home. But we are not talking about a Guide entry here. (Although if you want an entry for Dodger Stadium, I shall oblige.)

As we all celebrate a day long argued for, while continuing to argue for Zack Wheat’s re-inclusion in the Dodger story, there will never be a more suitable time to focus on two issues, mashed together for your convenience.

Blackouts in this day and age

Considering how much revenue is available in baseball, it is frankly shocking that blackouts in MLB are still prevalent. But sadly, we are here. In a world of streaming on-demand content available through more devices than one can feasibly count, a simple, inescapable fact remains: if you live in the wrong neighborhood and you do not have cable, you are likely out of luck if you want to watch the Dodgers.

(Author’s note: Now, legally, I cannot and will not endorse piracy of said broadcast. Nor would I advocate or endorse the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to trick said blackout software into thinking you’re elsewhere (even internationally) outside of the blackout zone.)

As for where said blackout zone is, well sometimes a picture is worth more than 1000 words:

The current MLB Blackout Map.
The current MLB Blackout Map.
Major League Baseball blackout policy. (2023, July 27). In Wikipedia.

For those of you not blessed with a rough approximation of the California County Map in your head, the basic rule of thumb is that south of Tulare, Kings, and Monterey County and east of Fresno and Tulare County is Dodger/Angel Country, with a notable exception.

The exception is San Diego, Imperial, parts of Riverside, and San Bernardino County making up Padre Country in California. Generally, everything north of Kern County (excluding Mono and Inyo Counties) is Giant/Athletic Country.

As the map indicates, being a baseball fan in the vicinity of Iowa or Las Vegas, Nevada is a heartbreaking affair as the viewer there would be subject to blackout restrictions. In fact, people in the southern half of Nevada are subject to being blacked out for Dodgers/Angels, Giants/Athletics, Padres, and Diamondback games, which might be why MLB is so desperate to have baseball in Las Vegas.

Granted, in my view, the proper way to have baseball in Sin City would not be enabling the traveling omnishambles that is the Fisher/Kaval effort to relocate the hapless Athletics out of Oakland.

But all of the above discussion is absolutely moot when decides to flat-out not work anywhere in California as fans were unable to see the Dodgers anywhere on MLB for most of Saturday night.

Tours are great, spending money recklessly is not

As I have documented throughout my travels, I can hardly resist the allure of a ballpark tour. Moreover, if I can watch batting practice from the field, I will take it, even if I have to pay a bit more. After all, check out the view.

I have learned that there is a limit to said shenanigans because while I am willing to pay a little (to a bit) extra for better access, I am not willing to break the bank. But before discussing breaking the bank, we should cover my actual nemesis: the professional autograph hunter.

Note that I said the professional autograph hunter, i.e. someone who brings a bag of merchandise for players to sign every game or someone who has their children ask players at their hotel to sign merchandise. If you would not do that behavior, I have no quarrel with you.

But if you do the behavior I just described, in my view, you are the worst. I especially hold this view especially if you are interfering with the enjoyment of others.

Access does not necessarily mean entitlement.

While at the batting practice event for the first game in New York, I saw a fairly egregious example as some of the Mets faithful who had literal bags of merchandise tried to interrupt Clayton Kershaw hanging out with his son during batting practice.

An incredibly wholesome moment in muggy, soon-to-be stormy, conditions. But I am not the fan police, fair enough. Where I draw the line is to have the temerity to start saying things one would likely never have the courage to say to the man’s face behind his back, especially when he rightfully spent time with his son.

What was said was not worth repeating. It was a bit too much honestly.

But as I said earlier, access should not create entitlement. The problem with paying an extra $200 to have the privilege to be closer to the players, for even just a moment, creates said entitlement unjustifiably.

I was rather disgusted at that moment and felt a great sense of karmic schadenfreude a few hours later.

But I am sure not all Mets fans are like what I just described. In fact, far from it as I had some lovely interactions and conversations throughout that weekend.

Why share this information now? Because while I was researching something else during this Fernando weekend, I found that the Dodgers are now charging $500-$600 for the same experience at Dodger Stadium.

And yes, you still need a game ticket on top of this surcharge, which is a separate cost.

Technically, the experience comes with a curated tour, as mine did at Citi Field. Technically, your VIP experience at Dodger Stadium comes with a “Dodgers gift bag with assorted promo items.” But unless said gift bag comes with $300-$400 in cash/debit card, it is kind of hard to not roll one’s eyes at the Dodgers’ pricing.

I will commend the Dodgers for having the following disclaimer: “[w]hile Autographs and/or photos are possible, they are not guaranteed.” As a minor spoiler to upcoming Guide entries, just pay the regular price of a general tour — there is only one stadium in the league that merits going the full VIP experience.