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December 19, 2012

Punk Hits

A Modest Proposal for the MLB Network

by Ian Miller

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On Saturday night, I had the distinct pleasure of watching Knuckleball! If you haven’t yet seen it, I strongly suggest you change that. It’s available on DVD, VOD, and on demand, so you really have no excuse not to watch it.

The film focuses primarily on Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, who, at the time the film was made (2011), were the only active knuckleballers in the major leagues. And as interesting as their stories were, I found their interactions with and the interviews of their fellow members of the knuckleball fraternity even more compelling. One scene showed a knuckleballers summit, wherein Dickey and Wakefield met up with Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro to discuss their strange craft. Another showed a struggling Dickey seeking guidance from Hough. There are brief interview segments with Jim Bouton and Wilbur Wood. I found these utterly fascinating, and they left me hungry for more.

Then I realized there is a network entirely devoted to baseball. The MLB Network shows baseball and baseball-related programming 24 hours a day. Have a look at today’s schedule. Right now, on a random Sunday, they’re showing six consecutive episodes of “The Best of MLB Tonight,” four straight “Prime 9”s, and a couple of “The Best of Intentional Talk” which, I assume, is some high-concept performance-art piece. Why doesn’t MLB Network give Jim Bouton a show? Or Charlie Hough? These guys are articulate, knowledgeable, funny, charismatic, and I would much, much rather see them on my TV than Kevin Millar’s frosted tips and Affliction shirts.

Which of course got me thinking about all kinds of other great programming the MLB Network could offer. Here are just the first 20 things that popped into my head.

Mashin’ Taters with Thome. Set up a TV kitchen adjacent to Studio 42. In the first half of the show, Ol’ Jimmer shares culinary tips; in the second, he shows you how to mash taters.

Jock Eye for the Regular Guy. Each week, four pro ballplayers transform a regular civilian guy into a ballplayer! Ervin Santana shows you how to cultivate the perfect chinstrap beard. John Lackey provides tips on eating and drinking like a big-leaguer. Ryan Braun decks out our lucky contestant head to toe in gear from his Affliction line. Jonathan Papelbon share his design tips because oh my god have you seen these pictures of Jonathan Papelbon’s Boston penthouse, they are amazing.   

Knife Show with Jeremy Affeldt. Given Affeldt’s past knife-related mishaps, it’s only a matter of time before he has another and we end up with a viral video along these lines.


Ratings gold, people!

The Hour of Power with Mauer and Bauer. A weekly Christian worship program broadcast live from the Crystal Cathedral. I don’t even care if these guys are religious or not —the synergy is too strong. Guest hosts could include Matt Lauer and Kevin Towers.

The Real World New York. Find out what happens when baseball players stop being polite—and start getting real. A-Rod, Jeter, Mark Teixeira, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, and Jon Niese share a loft in SoHo in 1992. Expect lots of cattiness, mock turtlenecks, and centaur paintings.

Keeping Up with the Kershaws. I don’t know about you, but these guys look pretty fun.

Keep America Strong! with Luke Scott. Makes The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity look like rejects from Air America. Broadcast live from a deer blind.

Flip This Franchise. We follow the misadventures of Jeffrey Loria as he buys and sort-of sells various baseball teams. Watch with amazement/horror as he fleeces entire metropolitan areas and lines his pockets in the process.

Fringe. Is your favorite prospect on the bubble? Join Jason Parks and the BP prospect team as they discuss those peripheral players known as “fringe guys.” Where prospect dreams go to die.

Making the Band with Barry Zito and Bronson Arroyo. Barry and Bronson coach up-and-coming baseball players/entertainers. Losers have to perform live with Train.

Lost. Not to be confused with ABC’s iconic supernatural drama; it’s just the 2013 Astros.    

According to Jim Leyland. Just Jim Leyland holding forth for 22 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I would watch the hell out of this.

MLB Yard Crashers. Each week a different stadium’s grounds crew takes a contestant’s yard from mild to wild!

Bizarre Foods with Kyle Zimmer. The Kansas City prospect ventures outside the mall mainstream and visits non-casual-dining restaurants across the country. In the first season he learns about veganism (“Hold up, they don’t eat any meat? Not even bacon? EVER??”) and tries his first-ever non-P.F. Chang’s Chinese food. His catchphrase is poised to sweep the country: “We ain’t at Chipotle anymore!”

Amish Mafia. Not a baseball program; just the regular show that’s on the Discovery Channel. Because I think it’s funny.

Cooking a Goddamn Steak with Nolan Ryan. Exactly what it sounds like.

At the Movies with Elbert and Roberts. Yes, that was as close as I could come to Ebert and Roeper; sue me. You’d prefer Sisk and Elbert, maybe?

Scott Elbert and Tatman Roberts share their opinions of newly released films. I’m picturing less like classic Siskel and Ebert and more like Sneakin’ in the Movies from “Hollywood Shuffle.” (Audio of that clip is both hilarious and profane; view at your own risk.)

Gray’s Anatomy. Ever wondered what made Minnesota’s Jeff Gray tick? We cut him open and find out!

The League. This reality show chronicles Brandon League’s fantasy football exploits. Also stars his son, Chalupa Batman League, and his brother, Taco League, noted practitioner of naginatajutsu.

The LoMo Show. The video version of LoMo’s twitter feed. LoMo carries around a camera and points and laughs at people. Makes “Jackass” look like “Downton Abbey.”

Literally Anything That Doesn’t Have Kevin Millar in It. I seriously think I’d rather watch “The Bad Girls Club” than Intentional Talk. Even though these women are the absolute dregs of society, I’m pretty sure none of them ever say “GOT HEEEEEEEEEEEEEM!”

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

Related Content:  MLB Network

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