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ESPN appears to be scaling back its MLB coverage –– big time 04.27.17 at 11:37 am ET
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Karl Ravech (right) is reportedly going to see his role at ESPN significantly reduced. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Karl Ravech (right) is reportedly going to see his role at ESPN significantly reduced. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN gutted its MLB coverage Wednesday, laying off several prominent reporters and analysts. As a result, the WorldWide Leader is now looking towards the outside in an effort to beef up its baseball programming.

In a press release, ESPN announced it’s partnering with MLB Network to air “Intentional Talk,” the slap-and-tickle fest hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar. The program will run from 4:00-5:00 p.m. on ESPN2 beginning next week.

The collaboration between ESPN and MLB Network isn’t a surprise, given Disney’s 33 percent stake in MLB Advanced Media. It appears as if ESPN is dramatically cutting down on its original MLB studio programming, with “Baseball Tonight” mainstays such as Dallas Braden, Doug Glanville and Raul Ibanez receiving their walking papers Wednesday. The Hollywood Reporter says “Baseball Tonight” host Karl Ravech is going to see his role significantly reduced.

While ESPN pays MLB $700 million annually to broadcast games, it’s apparent baseball coverage is no longer a priority in Bristol. That’s likely a reflection on MLB’s lessened national standing. “Sunday Night Baseball,” once a marquee property, continues to see its ratings flounder in comparison to the network’s other major telecasts.

MLB will still be covered more prominently than the NHL –– ESPN canned three hockey reporters this week –– but the gap is closing.

Read More: ESPN, MLB,
Friday’s Morning Mashup: Reporter unknowingly interviews Adrian Peterson; MLB, MLBPA agree to 2017 rule changes 03.03.17 at 8:57 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB:
Boston at Atlanta, 1 p.m. (WEEI-AM 850)
MLB:
NY Yankees vs. Toronto, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA: Cleveland at Atlanta, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: San Antonio at New Orleans, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Boston at LA Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (CSN)
NHL: Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
College basketball: Harvard at Princeton, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Miami (Ohio) at Ohio, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Iowa State at West Virginia, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Jacksonville State at Belmont, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Akron at Kent State, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Murray State at UT Martin, 10 p.m. (ESPNU)
Women’s college basketball: TBA vs. N.C. State, 11 a.m. (NESN Plus)
Women’s college basketball: TBA vs. Notre Dame, 2 p.m. (NESN Plus)
Women’s college basketball:
Northwestern at Ohio State, 12 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: Purdue at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: TBA vs. Florida State, 6 p.m. (NESN Plus)
Women’s college basketball:
Minnesota at Maryland, 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: TBA vs. Duke, 8 p.m. (NESN Plus)

AROUND THE WEB:

— A TV reporter in Houston interviewed a man on the street for a story on road rage last week and didn’t realize until the end of the interview the man was Adrian Peterson.

Peterson gave a general response to reporter Jon Donnelly’s road rage question and Donnelly had no idea who he was interviewing until he asked for the man’s name. When Peterson told him, Donnelly paused before saying, “Wait a minute…you’re not?” to which Peterson replied, “Yeah.”

The Vikings declined Peterson’s 2017 contract option the day this happened so it must have been a relief for Peterson when he realized this reporter just wanted to ask him about road rage.

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Read More: Adrian Peterson, MLB,
Why Tom Werner can help save baseball 02.20.17 at 1:12 pm ET
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John Henry and Tom Werner met with the Red Sox media last week. (WEEI.com photo)

John Henry and Tom Werner met with the Red Sox media last week. (WEEI.com photo)

Earlier this month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred revealed how the league is trying to shorten games. The proposals, which include limiting mound visits, are unimaginative. If Manfred truly wants to quicken up the pace, he should pay a visit to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla. this spring. Team chairman Tom Werner is the perfect person for him to speak with.

It’s fair to have apprehension about Werner presumably taking on a larger role in the day-to-day operations of the Red Sox. In Terry Francona’s 2012 tell-all book, Francona: The Red Sox Years, he says he nearly walked out of a meeting in 2010 when the former television executive told him to “win in more exciting fashion.” His tenure as majority owner of the Padres ended in disaster, with fans filing a class action lawsuit against him amidst one of the most infamous fire sales in professional sports history.

While Werner’s baseball acumen is questionable, there’s little doubt about his credentials in the entertainment industry. He served as executive producer of “The Cosby Show,” “Roseanne” and “That 70s Show,” all of which were ratings successes. In a meeting with reporters last week, Werner said his primary goal is to push the average game time to under three hours. One of the ways to get there would be shortening commercial breaks.

“And one of the things that I saw that the NFL did this year, they had an experiment at the end of the year where they moved their commercial breaks,” Werner said, via the Boston Herald. “One network tried it one way, another tried it another way. I’d be for less commercial breaks, because I think that increases the ratings. So in the end, I think is a good idea.”

Cutting back on commercials would possibly force television partners to take short-term monetary hits. But if more people wind up watching the games, then those networks can charge more money for spots. Thanks to an influx of multi billion-dollar TV deals, MLB has been able to avoid addressing the long-term issues that plague the league. Radical change, such as starting extra innings with a runner on second base, are needed to make the game more attractive to young people.

Werner seems to recognize this.

“There are experiments going on. I’m for experiments,” he said last week. “There’s a lot of debate about how to deal with extra innings. … The group that is talking about it is going to be expanded to players and general managers. Hopefully we’ll make some improvements to make the game as crisp as can be.”

The monstrous ratings for last year’s Cubs-Indians World Series shouldn’t deter Manfred from trying to dramatically alter how MLB presents its product. A seven-game Fall Classic that featured the Cubs trying to end their 108-year championship drought is what’s known as an anomaly. According to Nielsen ratings, the average age of a baseball viewer is 53, and half of the audience is older than 55. The average age of an NFL viewer is 47, and the average person who tunes into the NBA is 37.

Those numbers are troubling, but baseball’s lack of popularity among young people is what should make Manfred shudder. In a 2015 ESPN poll, adults aged 18-34 were 14 percent less likely to say they were interested in baseball than the overall population. Making subtle changes –– forcing players to stay in the batter’s box and putting a time limit on mound visits –– aren’t enough to bring the masses back. MLB needs to think big.

Despite years of minor tinkering, the average MLB game rose to above three hours in 2016 for the second time in three years. This is because pace-of-play rule changes can only go so far. Due to the prevalence of analytics, the majority number of teams now favor a deliberative approach to the game: work the count on offense, create favorable match-ups on defense. As a result, strikeout rates have risen for 11 straight years, setting a new record each time. In 2016, there were more pitching changes than ever before, too.

MLB can’t dictate how teams play. But it can change the rules they play around. Maybe it’s time to mandate that relief pitchers face at least two batters, or put a cap on the number of timeouts each club is allotted. Sports Illustrated scribe Tom Verducci argues for doing something crazy, like introducing a bonus batter (under this rule, each manager would be able to select any player and have him take a random at-bat once per game).

One of the knocks on Werner as a Red Sox executive is that he thinks like a TV guy. But that’s exactly the kind of perspective MLB needs right now. Werner may not know how to build a winning baseball team, but he knows how to make good television.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, MLB, Rob Manfred, Tom Werner
Friday’s Morning Mashup: MLB to test starting runner at 2B in extra innings in minors; Bob Costas steps down from NBC Olympics coverage 02.10.17 at 9:41 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS: 
NBA: Indiana at Washington. 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Chicago at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Tampa Bay at Minnesota, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Ohio at Ball State, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Akron at Eastern Michigan, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Dayton at URI, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Monmouth at Manhattan, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Women’s college basketball: Villanova at St. John’s, 8 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— Major League Baseball will test an extra innings rule change in the minor leagues to automatically begin the tenth inning, and every extra inning after, with a runner on second base. This test will determine whether MLB will implement the rule on the major league level.

This rule has been used in international baseball and will be incorporated into this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

“Let’s see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer. “As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time. It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”

“What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves,” Torre continued. “I don’t know what inning is the right inning. Maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons.”

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Read More: Bob Costas, MLB,
MLB allowed Alex Rodriguez to use testosterone during 2007 season, book says 07.03.14 at 11:31 am ET
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With 54 home runs and 156 RBIs, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez looked like a cut above the rest of baseball during the 2007 season, capturing his third MVP award and earning a restructured 10-year, $275 million contract with New York in the offseason.

However, according to a new book, Rodriguez may have gotten an extra boost during his 2007 campaign.

The book, “€œBlood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’€™s Steroid Era,” alleges€ Rodriguez applied for and was given a therapeutic use exemption to use testosterone by the man who oversaw MLB’€™s drug-testing program, Dr. Bryan W. Smith, in 2007.

Rodriguez also allegedly was given another exemption by Smith to use the drug Clomid, which is commonly used by individuals to increase their testosterone production after cycling off the use of steroids.

After excerpts from the book — which was written by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts — were published by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday, the league office said in a statement that it did not know that Rodriguez was given the green light to use these drugs in 2007 and 2008.

“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption under the joint drug program are made by the independent program administrator in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the office of the commissioner or the players association,” the statement read.

According to one baseball official, Rodriguez had a doctor relay to Smith that Rodriguez suffered from a medical condition known as hypogonadism, which happens when the body does not generate enough natural testosterone.

Despite the fact that he gave Rodriguez two controversial exemptions, Smith was dismissed as the MLB’€™s drug program overseer in 2012 after the players union complained that he made it too difficult for players to receive exemptions. Smith still serves as the head of drug-testing program in the minor leagues.

This is obviously not the first time that Rodriguez has been connected to performance-enhancing drugs. In 2009 Rodriguez admitted to using steroids during a three-year period beginning in 2001 while playing for the Rangers.

The three-time MVP is suspended for the entire 2014 MLB season following his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

Read More: alex rodriguez, MLB, testosterone, Yankees
Report: Alex Rodriguez was set to retire in wake of PED suspension before taking ex-con’s advice 05.19.14 at 10:56 am ET
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In the wake of a historic suspension sentence for his role in the Biogenesis PED scandal, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez privately informed advisers last summer that he was prepared to retire from baseball, according to the New York Daily News.

“€œHe had been talking about retirement because of injuries. Given his prior involvement [with doping], he knew he would be a target for additional testing,”€ a source told the Daily News. “€œThere was no way he could use and play again.”€

While it seemed set in stone that the troubled slugger was ready to hang up his spikes last season, multiple sources told the Daily News that Rodriguez changed his mind and decided to fight MLB’€™s pending suspension after consulting with Desiree Perez, a Manhattan nightclub manager with close ties to rapper Jay-Z.

While Perez is not affiliated with Roc Nation Sports, Jay-Z’s sports agency that includes clients such as Robinson Cano and Kevin Durant, sources say that Perez is a major influence within the organization.

“She’€™s directly involved with the athletes,”€ one source said. “She has a lot of power.”

According to a source, Perez, a convicted felon who was arrested in 1994 for intent to distribute over 35 kilograms of cocaine, accused Rodriguez of letting MLB and Yankees organization remove him from baseball and urged the three-time MVP to fight his pending suspension.

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Read More: alex rodriguez, Desiree Perez, Jay-Z, MLB
Tigers announce halt to contract negotiations with P Max Scherzer 03.24.14 at 12:33 pm ET
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The Tigers announced Sunday that they have ended contract negotiations with pitcher Max Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, until the end of the season. The reigning American League Cy Young award winner will play out the 2014 season on a one-year deal worth $15,525,000 million.

The Tigers announced that Scherzer rejected their last offer. ESPN’€™s Jayson Stark was told by a source that the offer averaged just under Justin Verlander‘€™s yearly average of $25.7 million.

“The Detroit Tigers have made a substantial, long-term contract extension offer to Max Scherzer that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected,” the team said in a statement.

Boras responded late Sunday by saying the Tigers rejected a deal that he presented to the team.

Max Scherzer made a substantial long-term contract extension offer to the Detroit Tigers that would have placed him among the highest-paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected by Detroit,” Boras said. “Max is very happy with the city of Detroit, the fans and his teammates, and we will continue negotiating with the Tigers at season’s end.”

Scherzer told Yahoo! Sports Sunday that he wasn’t concerned that a long-term deal wasn’t struck, and was getting ready for the season.

“We weren’t able to get a deal done, but honestly that doesn’t change anything for me on my end,” Scherzer said. “I’m here to win. I’m here to try to get a ring for [owner Mike Ilitch]. That’s what it’s all about now. That’s the No. 1 focus of it.”

In 2013, Scherzer pitched in 214 1/3 innings, the most of his career, over 32 games. He went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, striking out 240 batters while giving up 18 home runs. Over his career he has a 73-45 record and an ERA of 3.67.

Read More: Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer, MLB, Scott Boras
Report: Jay-Z holds meeting with Mets regarding Robinson Cano 11.19.13 at 9:30 am ET
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Robinson Cano likely will be back in New York for the 2014 MLB season, but there’s a chance that the five-time All Star may not be wearing pinstripes.

Two sources told the New York Post that rapper/agent Jay-Z and other members of Cano’s agency team held a “secret meeting” with the Mets on Monday night at a high-scale Manhattan hotel.

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco were in attendance for the meeting, which reportedly was initiated by Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez. Cano was not present for the meeting.

Cano, the top prize of the 2014 free agent class, has made it clear that if he cannot get a sizable payday from the Yankees, for whom he has played since 2005, he will look elsewhere. The Yankees and Cano are said to be almost $150 million apart on a new deal, as Cano is seeking a 10-year, $310 million contract while the Yankees responded with an offer of seven years and between $161 million and $168 million.

Jay-Z has made it known that his client is taking marketing as a serious factor in his contract negotiations, making a return to New York, whether it be the Yankees or Mets, seem very likely given the seemingly endless amount of marketing opportunities that New York has to offer.

A potential move to Queens still seems unlikely for Cano, as Alderson stated last week that he couldn’t see the Mets signing a player to a nine-figure deal this offseason. The Mets also already have a solid option at second base in Daniel Murphy, further complicating the situation.

Read More: free agent, Jay-Z, MLB, New York Mets
Rays OF Wil Myers, Marlins P Jose Fernandez win MLB Rookie of the Year awards 11.12.13 at 11:01 am ET
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The two MLB franchises in Florida now have the bragging rights of having the two best rookies in the league this season, as Rays outfielder Wil Myers was named the AL Rookie of the Year while Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez nabbed NL Rookie of the Year honors.

Traded from the Royals to Tampa Bay in a Dec. 9 deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, Myers spent almost half of the 2013 season in the minor leagues before being called up on June 17. Despite playing in only 88 games this year, Myers hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.

“Honestly, when I was called up that didn’t even cross my mind. As the season went on I could see I would have a chance,” Myers said. “To be able to win is just a huge honor and I’m very excited about it.”

The 22-year-old outfielder received 23 out of 30 first-place votes, besting Tigers (and former Red Sox) shortstop Jose Iglesias and Tampa pitcher Chris Archer.

Myers had an immediate impact with Tampa Bay this year, as the Rays posted a sluggish 36-33 record before Myers’ arrival but then went 56-38 after his call-up. The Rays now have won the AL Rookie of the Year award three out of the last six years (Jeremy Hellickson in 2011 and Evan Longoria in ’08).

Drafted 14th overall in the 2011 MLB draft, Fernandez was thrust into the Marlins starting rotation at the end of spring training despite having not pitched above the Single-A level in his brief baseball career. Just 20 years old at the start of the season, Fernandez was the youngest starting pitcher on a MLB roster this season.

However, Fernandez did not look like a 20-year-old rookie at all this year, as the Cuban went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings. Fernandez, a finalist for the 2013 Cy Young Award, finished ahead of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

AL and NL Manager of the Year will be announced Tuesday, the Cy Young Awards on Wednesday and the MVPs on Thursday.

Read More: Jose Fernandez, Jose Iglesias, Miami Marlins, MLB
MLB takes Alex Rodriguez’s lawsuit to federal court 10.08.13 at 1:16 pm ET
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The drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez‘s lawsuit against Major League Baseball has taken yet another turn, as the case is being moved from state to federal court.

MLB filed a notice of removal on Monday, stating that Rodriguez’s claims that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has been trying to tarnish the three-time MVP’s career and force him out of baseball is a declaration that should be dealt with in federal court.

Rodriguez and his legal team have the opportunity to file a motion requesting that the case be pushed back to the state level. In response to MLB’s motion, Joseph Tacopina, one of Rodriguez’s lawyers, said that the league “knows that these state law claims properly belong where they were filed, in the New York state court.”

This soap opera between A-Rod and MLB started last Thursday, when Rodriguez and the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the league in response to MLB’s Aug. 5 decision to suspend Rodriguez for 211 games for allegedly violating the league’s drug policy.

The grievance is currently being heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. A decision is unlikely to made made until later this winter.

Rodriguez’s lawsuit claims that MLB and Selig went after the Yankees slugger in order to improve their image, which was damaged over the years due to their supposed inaction regarding performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Rodriguez made news on Friday, as he filed a lawsuit against a Yankees team doctor and a New York hospital after claiming that they mishandled his hip injury during the 2012 playoffs. Rodriguez only hit .120 during those playoffs before undergoing left hip surgery in January.

Read More: Alex, MLB, Rodriguez, Suspension