Diamondbacks’ new TV arrangement comes at inopportune time with on-field rut

Jul 18, 2023, 3:55 PM

Zac Gallen...

Zac Gallen #23 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during a break in play against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 15, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a decaying stadium that somehow outlasted a bankrupt television partner.

Other than that, it’s been a wonderful season.

The latest bit of turbulence comes at an inopportune time. The team is plummeting back to earth just as the television product becomes harder to find and harder to access, a telecast now produced and distributed by Major League Baseball.

Savvy techie types will have no problem finding their Local Nine. But baseball has a famously aging demographic. Many will be confused, disoriented and suddenly disinterested.

There’s a reason why the Diamondbacks fought to keep their previous platform in place, negotiating for weeks with the group that owns Bally Sports, ultimately unable to find terms that pleased MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

The Diamondbacks know the combination of struggling team and sudden accessibility issues are like a double shot of apathy. Especially with the NFL just around the corner.

There is hope that the Diamondbacks can eventually follow Mat Ishbia’s lead all the way back to free television, which is becoming something of a trend in professional sports. In the short term, this is trouble.

For a baseball team to reach deep inside the community, the television broadcast must be more than a baseball game. It must be authentic. It must pass the good neighbor test. After all, we let these broadcasters into our homes every night of the week for six months. Trust matters.

So do pre- and post-game shows. Todd Walsh is one of the most original storytellers in Arizona. Jody Jackson is a classy, consummate professional. Mark Grace is a huge fan favorite in the Valley. Less of them is an “L” for everybody.

The disruption occurred just as the Diamondbacks braced for a brutal stretch of schedule, with road series against the Braves and Reds. Entering Tuesday’s contest in Atlanta, the Diamondbacks were clearly struggling, losers of four consecutive games and eight of their previous 10. They’ve been less than mediocre for quite some time.

The best solution is always the easiest. The Diamondbacks need to find their mojo. They were once the best baserunning team in baseball, a great fielding team, a smart team full of young athletes perfectly suited for a new era of baseball. But some of their young hitters are leveling down. Their offense is suddenly missing its slug and thud, and without it, the whole thing seems to be fraying apart.

Good news? There’s plenty of time remaining. The Diamondbacks have dealt with smaller bouts of adversity earlier this season, rebounding from painful losses with resounding conviction. And if they can win a series or two before this road trip is over, maybe they can get off this slippery slope.

After all, we know this about summer baseball in Arizona:

Win, and they may not come. But they will definitely find you and watch you on television. Wherever you are.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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