When Chone Figgins and Don Wakamatsu first went at it in the dugout after the top of the fifth inning last Friday, broadcaster Dave Sims told FSN Northwest viewers about it moments after it happened. Sims is a paid Mariners employee while the crew that puts the broadcast together works for FSN Northwest. But Sims is also a former newspaper reporter and has taken those roots with him to the broadcast booth. For all the flak he takes from viewers about “spoiling” no-hit bids by mentioning them over the air, he has never backed down from doing so — claiming he’s a reporter first and his job is to deliver news to viewers.
And so, when video footage of the Figgins-Wakamatsu confrontation was shown privately in the booth between innings, Sims didn’t hesitate.
“The cameras were rolling on it, it was being recorded, it happened and it was news,” Sims said. “As a former newspaper guy — and I’m telling the play by play story of this ballclub — from my standpoint, I have to inform the viewers. Because you have to remember, from the first base dugout, a lot of the people in the ballpark saw it. And it was all over Facebook and Twitter within minutes because NESN and NHK had it.”
Which brings us to the second part of this story. That while Boston’s NESN network showed video footage of the dugout confrontation in the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Japanese NHK network following moments later, FSN Northwest did not broadcast any of its own footage to go along with the Sims commentary. In fact, FSN Northwest did not air any of its own footage until after the game was over.
In the meantime, they had been scooped for over an hour by NESN, NHK and even the MLB Network, which, when it was first created, was the target of criticism and concern that it would paint too rosy a picture of Major League Baseball as an in-house propaganda wing. In this case, though, MLB Network viewers around the country could see the Mariners throwing each other around in the dugout, while viewers in the Pacific Northwest had only the words of Sims to paint them a picture.
And Jon Bradford, executive producer of FSN Northwest, says it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Bradford chalks it all up to a communication issue between the folks in the network’s broadcast truck and the higher-ups. Notably him.
“Nobody said anything about not airing it,” Bradford said. “This was a communication faux pas.”
What it boils down to is, the people in the control truck, running the broadcast, wanted to check with the folks upstairs at FSN Northwwest to make sure they could run the footage. Bradford was in a movie with his family at the time and did not get in touch with the people running the broadcast until a few innings later.
By then, it was already late in a close ballgame and everyone decided, Bradford said, to go with the footage right after the contest was over. They would cut in live to Wakamatsu’s post-game press conference and use the footage to supplement the coverage.
Bradford also said that the FSN employees viewing the footage “wanted to get their facts straight” initially about what they were seeing on the video — which contributed to the initial delay.
This version from Bradford does correspond with some of what I’ve been told in speaking with various sources. I’ve also been told that FSN Northwest values its relationship with the Mariners and that some would rather err on the side of caution than rush to air footage of players and coaches hauling and shoving each other out of harm’s way without the proper context.
Bradford insisted the Mariners had not intervened to try to block the footage from airing.
Mariners vice-president Randy Adamack, the guy in charge of television broadcasts from the team’s perspective, said he even contacted the FSN employees on-site at the ballpark and told them the team had no objection to the footage being shown.
Adamack had been walking around Safeco Field when the dugout altercation took place. It took him some time to hear what had happened and he said that, when he got back to the pressbox later on, he was informed that FSN Northwest had not aired footage of the incident while NESN and NHK had.
Adamack said he wondered why that was and didn’t want anyone to think it was coming as a Mariners directive. So, he contacted the FSN Northwest people and let them know the team had no issue with it.
Chalk it all up to some FSN Northwest people being a little cautious. Maybe more cautious than a non-rightsholder might have been.
Whatever the reasoning, local viewers were initially kept in the dark visually while those in Boston had both video and words to explain the incident to them. Bradford says that is not what he wants for the broadcasts and that this wasn’t because of any network or team directive.
In other words, it won’t happen again.
On to some Mariners news, Franklin Gutierrez was scratched from tonight’s lineup and has left the team to tend to a private family matter. He’s expected back tomorrow.
Relief pitcher Shawn Kelley threw a 47-pitch bullpen session today and the team will now look to set up a simulated game for him.