April 14, 2005 [LINK]

Home opener: Nats on a roll!
(Blackout in some areas.)

The Washington Nationals will make their long-awaited grand debut in RFK Stadium later today not as hapless underdogs, but as a proud and very competitive team. They have now prevailed in two of their first three series of the season against some of the toughest divisional rivals in all of baseball. Just like they did against the Phillies last week, the Nats rebounded from a crushing defeat on Monday (11 to 2) to edge the Braves on Tuesday night, 4 to 3. Their 11 to 4 triumph in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon showcased the team's slugging potential, especially that of José Guillen, who currently leads the majors with 5 home runs! Well done, Nats!

I was all excited about watching the Braves host the Nationals on TBS this week, and guess what I saw? A black screen! Eegads: a blackout! I complained to Adelphia, our cable providers, and after two days finally got human response. It turns out that MLB Extra Innings imposes blackout restrictions on broadcasters within the territories specified for each team. I'm sure most folks who live in or near big cities are already quite familiar with this situation, but it's new to me. None of the MLB Extra Innings options is even available where we live in Virginia, however, rendering the blackout utterly pointless and self-defeating. Well, isn't that special?

Motivated by righteous anger, I went through the MLB Web site to find out who controls what territory. Not surprisingly, the infant Washington Nationals do not yet have any such blackout territories, but the Baltimore Orioles of course do. In fact, they control 3,515 zip codes, ranging from 17001 (Camp Hill, PA) to 28594 (Emerald Isle, NC). See for yourself at mlb.com I scoffed at Peter Angelos's territorial claim on March 21, but it turns out he is exerting control over his fiefdom quite well. Now I see the extent of his power in a very direct and ugly way -- as if I didn't have enough reasons to resent him already. Just another reminder of what a crooked, elitist monopoly that the business side of baseball has become. Below are the results of my quick and dirty research, which will eventually be incorporated into the Baseball cities page. A few franchises have an even bigger territory than the Orioles, mostly those in the central part of the country. Of course, there is a wide range of population from one zip code to the next, so these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

MLB franchise broadcast domains
Urban market Number of blackout zip codes
New York Mets
& Yankees
Los Angeles Angels
& Dodgers
Chicago Cubs
& White Sox
Houston Astros
& Texas Rangers
Baltimore Orioles
& Washington Nationals (?)
San Francisco Giants
& Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (overlaps) 1224
Florida Marlins (overlaps) 1233
Toronto Blue Jays all of Canada
Atlanta Braves 4064
Milwaukee Brewers 2462
St. Louis Cardinals 5170
Arizona Diamondbacks 1367
Cleveland Indians 2432
Seattle Mariners 1928
San Diego Padres 523
Philadelphia Phillies 1427
Pittsburgh Pirates 3385
Boston Red Sox 2243
Cincinnati Reds 5017
Colorado Rockies 1829
Kansas City Royals 4970
Detroit Tigers 1693
Minnesota Twins 3079