Prior to the season, there was a lot of discussion about what kind of weird, outside-the-box ideas the Padres could unveil on the field in 2017. So far, outside of carrying three Rule 5 players through the middle of July and shifting frequently, none of them have really come to fruition. There’s a vast gravitational pull that draws major-league teams back toward the ordinary, and these Padres haven’t yet found the antidote to its force.
It got me thinking, though. What kind of weird, outside-the-box ideas could the Padres try off the field for the rest of the season? After all, it is only July, so there’s still time left for a change of pace. After racking my brain a bit, I had one thing I really wanted to write about. There were other ideas that I considered (lowering concessions, coming up with better giveaways), but they’re super obvious, and others here at this site and across the Padres blogosphere could write about them with more familiarity than I could. So I decided to just write about that one thing.
That one thing is Giants Outsiders, a “live 30-minute multi-platform and fan-interactive show” recently created by NBC Sports Bay Area. It airs on NBC Sports Bay Area at 11 PM after every 7 PM Giants game, and it features longtime baseball writer Grant Brisbee and Therese Viñal. I’ve only caught a couple of shows, including one last Friday after a Padres-Giants game, but it’s really good. It’s kind of a more casual postgame show with a bunch of fan interaction through social media, but it also features the sort of off-beat analysis that you can only get from someone like Brisbee.
From what I saw, the show has the perfect combination of laid-back feel with a mix of hard-hitting analysis. In the Friday night episode, Brisbee and Viñal (particularly Brisbee) broached some sabermetric ideas, discussing why ERA isn’t a great metric for evaluating relief pitchers. They talked about the potentially juiced baseball, and referenced an article by Ben Lindbergh about a related topic, baseball’s blister epidemic. Mixed throughout were plenty of light-hearted jokes, a review of that night’s game, and big picture discussion about various storylines from the season, like Johnny Cueto‘s subpar performance, and whether the Giants will trade him at the deadline. As an added bonus, Giants Outsiders streams live on Facebook, with no actual commercials (the hosts chat with the streaming audience during TV commercials), which allows out-of-town fans to easily catch the show.
Turns out the Giants actually have an hour pregame and postgame show every night, plus the newly added Giants Outsiders. That’s two and a half hours of additional content surrounding each roughly three-hour game. It’s tough to track down schedules for some teams, but the Red Sox, for example, appear to roll with at least two different pre- and postgame shows, each a half-hour long. The Padres, by comparison, have just one half-hour pre/postgame show, and, after canceling Padres Social Hour at the end of last season, no additional gameday coverage.
That’s the big question, then: why don’t the Padres have more game-related content? The 30-minute pre- and postgame show setup seems like the absolute bare minimum these days. Padres Social Hour was a positive step in the right direction, and even if there were various shortcomings with that show (there were, at times), it checked off a lot of similar boxes as Giants Outsiders, getting some different voices on TV, interacting with fans through social media, and being available through streaming. And, mostly, it was simply just another outlet for more discussion about the Padres and/or baseball.
The goal for a show like Padres Social Hour, which aired at a weird time (too early), or Giants Outsiders, which airs at a weird time (too late), is not necessarily to make a bunch of money. Padres Jagoff, who discussed this with me yesterday, called it a loss leader. That is, in this context, something that’s designed to potentially lose money in the short term but make money, or at least create new fans/cater to existing fans, in the long term. When you’re in a business that is flush with television money, hefty ticket prices, and billion-dollar overall team valuations (and don’t forget those pesky high-priced concessions), there’s room to play around with some of that extra dough that’s overflowing from between the couch cushions.
ESPN’s now-defunct off-shoot website Grantland apparently lost money, but it also employed some of the sporting (and entertainment) world’s best writers, like Lindbergh and Jonah Keri, Zach Lowe, and many more, and it covered sports in a way that ESPN’s main site often didn’t. It made ESPN’s readers smarter and improved their brand, even if it didn’t necessarily make ESPN money directly. I’m not comparing Giants Outsiders—or a similar Padres version, or Padres Social Hour—to Grantland, but the idea’s mostly the same. It’s extra content that isn’t 100 percent necessary, by any means, but adds value to the overall product at what I would assume is a relatively low cost (Giants Outsiders looks like it’s shot from somewhere in the bowels of At&T Park.)
So far as I can tell, there’s no reason why the Padres couldn’t create a show like this. The new relationship with Entercom only affects the radio side. And if the Padres can create a show like Padres Outsiders, and stream it on their website, social media platforms, and/or broadcast it on Fox Sports San Diego, which they should be able to do, then they should create a show like Padres Outsiders. There’s clearly room for more Padres content surrounding 162 games a year, particularly for fans like you, the kind of fans who just slogged through 1,000 words on something the Giants have done.
The next step, of course, is to iron out the right premise for the show, figure out where to stream/broadcast it, and most importantly, to find the right hosts (this show doesn’t work without the right hosts). Further, to realize that it doesn’t have to be a major moneymaker right away to work.
But I’ll leave those parts to the experts.