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Spare Parts: White Sox involved in other kind of Stadium deal

Jun 13, 2023

It's been a week since word leaked that Jerry Reinsdorf's sports media entity Silver Chalice Sports had taken majority control of Stadium, and yet plenty of dots still remain unconnected.

Stadium is described as a "multiplatform sports network," differentiated by its distribution on over-the-air platforms (I first came across it when I ditched cable for a digital antenna). While it offers major sports programming, its live events are mostly limited to college sports. Sinclair Broadcast Group previously held the controlling stake, but it's having all sorts of problems with the live sports field, if you haven't heard.

Stadium isn't much now, but it could be something else with the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks, all of whom are planning to stick together for the foreseeable broadcasting future. Maybe it takes the shape of a new regional sports network, or maybe it frees up the teams to sell their games to fans on a direct-to-consumer level, without Comcast running interference.

Perhaps those dots won't be connected for quite some time, because those three Chicago teams are under agreement with NBC Sports Chicago until October 2024, and there's no need to rock one of baseball's more stable boats in the most turbulent of environments.

Over in San Diego, for instance, Major League Baseball assumed control of the distribution of Padres games after the Sinclair-owned Diamond Sports Group stopped making payments on its $52 million agreement to broadcast games on Bally Sports San Diego. It's offering fans a separate in-network subscription to, as well as a replacement channel on some platforms called "MLB San Diego Padres."

Thirteen other clubs have relationship with Bally Sports networks, including all the other AL Central teams. Payments might’ve stopped with the Padres first because they have an enormous, peak-RSN deal that helped support their spending spree, but other teams should be nervous as well, and the turnover should give the White Sox plenty of examples to learn from.

It’d be ironic if Reinsdorf's strategy involved over-the-air distribution considering he steered the Sox away from it, but I’m guessing the studio and infrastructure are the most valuable parts of this deal at this time, because it gives the three Chicago teams a head start in going their own way if that is indeed the best route.

Misericordia University in Pennsylvania has designed a team to exploit the inherent flaws of lower-level college pitching by refusing to move in the batter's box. They recruit players who don't flinch, then run like hell afterwards, and it seems to be an incredibly successful science project.

By this account, Stephen Strasburg sounds like a more distressing version of Lonzo Ball, as he's still dealing with complications from surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome years after the fact. Between Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel's contract was merely inefficient by comparison.

He tried to ramp up three different times this past winter, progressing to multiple bullpen sessions. But after throwing one in late January, he felt discomfort on his right side and couldn't continue. The surgery, which he underwent in 2021, removed a rib and two muscles from his neck. As recently as last summer, Strasburg couldn't stand for long before his right hand went numb. He often had to lie down and press his hand against his chest to be a warped version of comfortable.

Hannah Keyser notes that managers have felt the squeeze from MLB's pace-of-play initiatives, because with a shorter window of time to flag a play, they’ve taken a hit with their accuracy. A manager like Buck Showalter, whose challenging methodology prioritized precision, just isn't pulling the trigger.

Max Kepler was briefly tied to the White Sox as a right field solution over the winter, and my assessment that the White Sox would be acquiring another Nomar Mazara was too kind. Kepler is hitting .192/.264/.376, and now he's getting in the way.

Just when Chris Sale thought he was in, a shoulder injury pulled him back out. He has only pitched 107 innings over the last three years.

I welcome the Defector business model of consolidating writers I’d read into one subscription that pays everybody a decent wage, although it's a difficult model to emulate.

The college baseball team shattering HBP records is playing for the D-III World Series — Fox Sports Stephen Strasburg is completely shut down from physical activity again — Washington Post MLB managers should be challenging a lot more in 2023 — Yahoo Sports How long will Twins let Max Kepler block Matt Wallner and Trevor Larnach? — The Athletic Injured again, Chris Sale has few answers but frustration, defiance are clear — The Athletic Defector in pursuit of a journalists’ utopia — Columbia Journalism Review