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May 23, 2012

Punk Hits

2012 Baseball Upfronts

by Ian Miller

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If you follow the entertainment industry, then you’ve heard of upfronts—the annual meeting at which broadcasters preview their fall slate for advertisers. Upfronts are a lavish affair, held at grand venues in New York City. TV networks delivered their upfront pitches this past week.

What you may not know is that Major League Baseball also holds upfronts for their prospective sponsors. This year’s event was last Friday night at the Office Suites of Bayonne in the Gateway Region of New Jersey. Baseball Prospectus’ entertainment correspondent, Ian Miller, attended this year’s event, and has these highlights of fall baseball programming. Part 2, the National League, will appear next week.

AL East
New York Yankees (Legal procedural). This venerable institution has lost a little of its luster, but its spinoffs (“Yankees: Special Jump Throw Unit,” “Yankees: Kurodal Intent,” and “Yankees: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre”) continue to perform well. Advertisers responded positively to the return of last season’s heartthrobs Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, as well as a dramatic storyline involving beloved stars Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Look for “Yankees” to pull good numbers all season long. Thursday, 9 p.m.

Boston Red Sox (Sketch comedy). After a disappointing 2011 run, executive producer Ben Cherington fired longtime show-runner Terry Francona and replaced him with Bobby Valentine. Those familiar with Valentine’s work on “New York Mets” and elsewhere (his 1999 “mustache and glasses” bit remains a classic in the genre) expected big laughs, but most advertisers were laughing at “Red Sox,” and not with them. Valentine and Cherington have brought in new talent in an attempt to bolster the miasmic cast, but at this point it’s more “The Sketch Show” than vintage “SNL.” Saturday, 11 p.m.

Toronto Blue Jays (Crime Drama). "Jays" has one of the best writing staffs in the business, and for the past two seasons the charisma of crime boss Joey Bats has made the show a critical, if not popular, success. This year, upstart toughs Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus are making a play to control the corners in the high-traffic AL East towers, but they may not have the strength, or the firepower, without bringing Joey's artillery into the fight. Ricky Cesar Romero plays Duke Santos, a casino owner playing both sides against the middle. Not for kids; the profanity that comes out of Lawrie's mouth is strictly for pay cable. Sunday, 9 p.m.

Baltimore Orioles (Reality). Advertisers and critics alike were intrigued by this new offering from the creative team of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. The competitors on “Orioles” may not be household names now, but don’t be surprised if your kids tell you they want to dress up as Adam Jones or Matt Wieters for Halloween. “Orioles” has legs, and it knows how to use them. Monday and Wednesday, 9 p.m.

Tampa Bay Rays (Science fiction). Set on a barren, distant moon, “Rays” makes the most of its low budget, in the tradition of the best of the BBC sci-fi series (think "Dr. Who," "White Dwarf," etc.). This clever show pits the Zobrists against the Keppingers for the future of “Florida.” (This is probably the least plausible aspect of the show—the descriptions of their homeland seem utterly preposterous.) Luke Scott is deviously unlikable as Psychlo security chief Carcajou. Saturday, 9 p.m.

AL Central

Detroit Tigers (Drama). Mike Ilitch went all-in this year and added Prince Fielder to a cast that already included bona fide superstars Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, as well as Jose Valverde as “Ricardo Dastardly.” With all that star power, “Tigers” should pop, but right now it’s just fizzling. Don’t count it out yet, but a major mid-season retooling might be in order. Monday, 9 p.m.

Minnesota Twins (Public access). “Twins” (not to be confused with the 1988 Ivan Reitman comedy) was probably the most painful screening we sat through. Well-meaning hosts Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can’t seem to get out of their own way, and are held back by a lackluster cast. The lone bright spot in the episodes we previewed was a brief appearance by Drew Butera as “Pitcher.” Sunday, 2 a.m.

Cleveland Indians (Western). Staffed by an ensemble cast of also-rans and solid character actors, “Indians” was a surprise crowd pleaser at this year’ presentation. Travis Hafner’s “Pronk” is a refreshing update of Rawhide’s Rowdy Yates, but Shin-Soo Choo’s “Train” character is a far cry from the racially insensitive “Hop Sing” characters of the Westerns of yore. Keep an eye on this one—it could surprise some people come sweeps week. Friday, 8 p.m.

Kansas City Royals (Sitcom). “Royals” spins off most of the best characters from “Mama’s Family,” including Moose, Hoss, Country Breakfast, and Crow. While the talent is there, the show still hasn’t found its footing; in the episodes we screened, it seemed a bit aimless. There’s certainly potential here, but it’s going to take some serious work to actualize it. Sunday, 8 p.m.

Chicago White Sox (Action/comedy). “Sox” is still looking to replace the star power it lost when Ozzie Guillen jumped ship to “Miami Marlins” (NLE, Monday, 10 p.m.), but it’s still viable due to the calm presence of actors like Paul Konerko and a resurgent Adam Dunn. Remember when you used to watch “Dukes of Hazzard” back in the day, and how cool it was when the Balladeer (Waylon Jennings) came on to announce a cliffhanger? Well, that’s the polar opposite of what will happen when “Sox’s” narrator, the Blunderer (Hawk Harrelson), opens his mouth. Keep your thumb on the mute button. Tuesday, 9 p.m.

AL West
Texas Rangers (Action/crime). Continuing in the great tradition laid out by “Tales of the Texas Rangers” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” this reboot stars Josh Hamilton as a noble but troubled Texas Ranger seeking to right wrongs and stamp out injustice wherever he sees it. Bolstered by a talented cast that includes former child star Nelson Cruz (“The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”), Elvis Andrus, and Japanese star Yu Darvish, we expect “Rangers” to dominate its time slot all season long. Friday, 8 p.m.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Family comedy/drama). We all expected big things when “Angels” added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to an already solid cast, but calling early reviews disappointing would be a massive understatement. Reports from the set suggest that Pujols is something of a prima donna, battling with the press and having underlings fired when things don’t go his way. Long-time show-runner Mike Scioscia is showing signs of vulnerability and may not be long for the troubled dramedy. This reporter, for one, would applaud some new blood and a new direction (and a less nonsensical name). Sunday, 7 p.m.

Oakland Athletics (Home improvement). Bad boy Manny “Being Manny” Ramirez and Cuban construction sensation Yoenis “Core Strength” Cespedes travel the country renovating undercapitalized baseball teams and dilapidated multi-use sports facilities. Jarrod “Replacement Spirit Level” Parker oversees construction while Eric “Bean Counter” Sogard tries to keep our hard-hitting hosts on task and under budget. Syndicated, check local listings.

Seattle Mariners (Documentary). Captain Ichiro Suzuki leads his crew of hardy fisherman into the frigid waters of the Pacific in search of … oh, I can’t even do this anymore. “Mariners” is actually a show about a mediocre baseball team filled with over-the-hill position players, former prospects, and Felix Hernandez. Avoid it if at all possible. Who cares.

Ian Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ian's other articles. You can contact Ian by clicking here

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