The Good, The Bad, The Ump Cam: What worked (and didn't) for Blue Jays' Apple TV broadcast
By Ethan Miller
Picture this, it's 6 o'clock, you've got your beverage of choice in hand, and you flip on the TV to prepare yourself for some Blue Jays baseball on Sportsnet. To many people's surprise, the game wasn't broadcast on traditional television tonight, but instead on Apple TV+.
If you dished out the $8.99/month to watch this broadcast (and hopefully Ted Lasso) you might've noticed quite a few differences in the way the game is shown. For one, the recognizable voices of Buck Martinez, Dan Sulman, Hazel Mae, and others are gone, and replaced with Dan Plesac, Wayne Randazzo, and Heidi Watney. Another change is the broadcast presentation, with cameras at different angles and sharper quality. But where Apple TV shines in the overall viewing experience, it faulters in the regional exclusive information that most Blue Jays fans know.
This might sound a bit nitpicky, but as a broadcaster, it's incredibly beneficial to be accurate with your information. As our own Eric Treuden pointed out, the broadcast made reference to the fact that Daulton Varsho has infield experience. They followed that up with the fact that he's got power from both sides of the plate (we've never seen Varsho swing right so we don't know) and you've gone 0-2 on fun facts. Varsho does have a ton of defensive flexibility (he played all three outfield positions and catcher last season) but to me, it sounds like they confused his defensive expertise and handedness at the plate with one of the players he was traded for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. For those who don't remember, Gurriel Jr. started as an infield prospect before shifting to the outfield, something the broadcasters could have mistaken for Varsho. Just a hunch, but I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Another tiny thing, and this is going to be such a nitpicky thing that it's crazy but Yimi is pronounced Jee-mee for Yimi García, not Yee-mee.
A final criticism of the broadcast (aside from the fact it wasn't on TV) is that it seemed to be quite delayed compared to the MLB app. Often times while watching a Jays game I'll peer down at my phone to see where a pitch is located, how many have been thrown by a pitcher, etc. When looking at the pitches compared to what was on the screen it was often 1-2 pitches behind, with certain scoring plays (like Brandon Belt's homer) appearing on my phone before the screen. It's understandably difficult to run a game like this, but some kind of coordination has to be made between the broadcast and the app to time things better.
While Apple TV+ has to fix its issues it presented the game in a way statistics nerds love. The bottom third corner of the screen was displaying hit probabilities, strikeout percentages, etc. all night long which really adds to the game. Also makes it better when it says Vladimir Guerrero Jr. only has an 18% chance of getting an RBI before he sends this pitch 416 feet into deep left field.
Finally, MLB really needs to implement the Ump Cam on a larger basis. For those who love playing MLB the Show (for which the broadcast referenced all night) it provides an angle similar to the one shown while hitting in the game. It's a really interesting look at just how difficult it is to call balls and strikes (and to get us to stop complaining about it) and to prove to everyone sitting at home that says "I could've hit that" that they're wrong. Add this to Jays games going forward and you've got yourself another way to attract attention.
Fortunately, Jays game will be back on Sportsnet Saturday when Alek Manoah takes to the mound against Gerrit Cole at 1:35pm ET. Toronto's got one more broadcast on the Apple TV+ platform, so mark your calendars for May 19th against the Baltimore Orioles as the game won't be on TV.