Yesterday, either after the game on FOX Sports Midwest, Sunday morning on KSDK, or for me last night (after finishing up Gateway to Baseball Heaven) on KTHV here in Arkansas, the Cardinals aired their new in-house TV show, Cardinals Insider. Hosted by Lindsey Weber, who until she took on this project was the blogger liaison (among other things, of course) in the organization, it was designed to be a weekly half-hour news magazine showing some behind-the-scenes goings-on with the club. It’s tough to review a show after one episode, especially one like this that will likely continue to evolve as the season goes on, but never let it be said that this blog shies away from the tough things (except for the times when we do).
Going from memory, this was the basic rundown last night:
–Intro piece talking about the show, why the club was doing it, what to expect
–A “Question of the Week” where many players answered the question of how they were first introduced to baseball
–Kyle McClellan talking to the manager of Roger Dean Stadium about some new additions to the park
–A segment talking about season tickets being on sale and some of the promotions that we’ll see this year
–A look at the cover story of this month’s Cardinals Magazine, on Stephen Piscotty returning to his home town
–The history/memorabilia section, this week focused on Mike Matheny’s glove from his errorless streak while playing in St. Louis
–A Stan McNeal interview with John Mozeliak
–McClellan showing off some things to do in Jupiter if you come down for a game
–A piece on the new FRED award
Let’s break this down a little bit. The good stuff first.
- The question of the week was exactly the kind of thing you’d expect out of this type of show. It wasn’t a probing question, but it gave us a chance to get to know a little more about a number of the players and how they started out toward the major leagues. You had Matt Holliday talking about growing up on a baseball diamond due to his dad’s job, Brandon Moss saying that it was a stepdad that got him started, Michael Wacha remarking that his parents got him into basically any sport to keep him involved, things like that. I enjoyed this section, but it might have been interesting had they been able to get someone like Yadier Molina or Seung Hwan Oh to answer it, given their different cultural backgrounds.
- The interview with John Mozeliak was also a nice feature. It was interesting to hear what Mo does in the spring. While it wasn’t a surprise that this might be his most relaxing time of year, it’s still never something I thought about. It makes sense, though, given that the roster is pretty much set and while he’ll be in on the decisions of making cuts (something that would be nice if the show explored in the next week or so), it’s pretty much Matheny and the coaches running the show. It was also surprising (because it didn’t seem possible!) that this was his 21st spring with the Cardinals in one capacity or another. We talk about that Golden Era of Cardinal Baseball that we’re experiencing and John Mozeliak has been along for the whole ride. That’s not completely a coincidence, either.
- It was fairly interesting to see the discussion about how the Piscotty story came to be and to see video of the trip to his home town in California. This segment wasn’t an unqualified success, because I think it relied too much on the pictures that were in the magazine story to illustrate rather than the video. It would have also been interesting to hear Piscotty’s view of the process and of the story, even though he probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk about himself. Still, watching Piscotty work a potter’s wheel or be introduced to kids sitting in the seats he used to sit in was not a bad thing at all!
- The idea of the historic segment was pretty good and it’s a great way to showcase some parts of the Cardinal Hall of Fame, especially for folks that may not be able to get there. I look forward to seeing what other aspects of the museum that they focus on in coming weeks. I will say the presenter from the HOF came across as explaining some things a little simply, but given the fact that this is supposed to try to reach a wide range of interest levels and ages, that’s probably a necessity. We (at least we devoted and obsessed fans) aren’t necessarily tuning into this show for educational purposes. A lot of it we are going to know, but it’s interesting to see how they balance the different levels of knowledge in the fan base.
- Lindsey is a joy to watch, even though she’s only on there briefly to introduce segments as well as open and close the show. I’ll admit I’m biased, given that I consider her a friend (and good feelings are expected; I think I’d burst with pride if Tara Wellman, for example, ever got on the show) but I think she brought a cheerful presence to the brief time she was on the air. She also might be the most polished of those that were in front of the camera, which we’ll talk about in a little bit.
Before I get to some of the faults of the show, I do want it clear that I enjoyed watching it and I look forward to seeing it regularly this season. I do think they are going to have some adjustments as they see what works and what doesn’t. Also, obviously, the below didn’t work for me, but it might not have been nearly an issue for someone else watching, especially a casual viewer. With those caveats out of the way, let’s jump in.
- The biggest problem that I had with the show was that, save for maybe the question of the week and the talk with Mo, it felt more like a half-hour infomercial than a behind-the-scenes look at things. The Piscotty segment was obviously trying to sell the Cardinals Magazine (which is a good magazine, for sure, and one that I need to renew my subscription on now that I think about it) and the HOF segment finished by trying to sell the Redbird Relics book. Obviously, the ticket/promotional items segment was about getting people to the park. All of this might not have felt quite as over-the-top if it wasn’t that there were actual Cardinal commercials during the break as well, meaning that you never got away from it. While I know that this is a method to increase sales, it doesn’t have to be only that. A few more segments that don’t have an obvious sales pitch with them would probably make the ones that do more tolerable.
- There were a lot of talents involved with this project, but screen presence wasn’t high on the list. Stan McNeal is coming from a writing background and I completely understand being better in that medium than on air. (There’s a reason Tara does the video blog, not me. Podcasting is enough of a stretch for me.) It’s not that he was bad, but he seemed a bit awkward interviewing Mo and talking about the Piscotty story. McClellan, of course, has that “ex-athlete” stiffness when it comes to talking about non-baseball topics. I know McClellan is enlarging his media footprint (I’m not comparing talent when I say this, but he could be our generation’s Ricky Horton) and I think that increased repetition will help him. I do hope, though, they’ll play to his strengths, having him lead a tour of Busch from a player’s perspective or talking with the current squad. I think he’d be more relaxed and could bring some insights that way. It seemed to work when he was doing color on the online only broadcasts this spring, at least the little I heard.
- It was a bit ironic hearing Ron Watermon (who, as you know, I also consider a friend and interviewed last year about the Twitter situation) talking about social media and the FRED award when I had just read this devastating social media critique on Double Birds. We’ve said it time and time again that the Cardinals’ social media presence needs work and some of the same flaws have the potential to crop up in this show. We’ve talked about the Twitter account, for instance, being focused on being commercial rather than engaging the fan base. While it’s tougher to do that with TV, there probably should be a concerted effort to try. I know that every week is going to have a FRED award given out (similar to FOX Sports Midwest’s Hungo award, though actually given to the winner) and we’ll see how that goes. If it’s just a focus on one person, I think they are missing the boat. Give us Top Tweets from the fans as well as the best videos or other media. Let us know you are reading and interacting. There was a great story recently about how the Rockies do this. We’ll see if they can incorporate some of those ideas into this new show. (Also, I can’t believe THIS didn’t win a FRED for Best Blogger Performance in a Social Media Campaign. Stunning.)
All in all, I enjoyed the show. This is not a deep dive, nuts-and-bolts kind of show and I don’t think anyone expected it to be. If you want that, you pretty much have to go to the paper, the blogs, the podcasts. This is a show about the Cardinals produced by the Cardinals. It’s not investigative journalism or a sabermetric breakdown of the lineup. What it does do is bring you to the people that play the game, the people in charge, the places that you can’t normally go to without a press pass–and, at times, even that’s not enough. Those are the strengths that the show should play to. Talk with the players. Get the retired guys, both HOF and otherwise, to make an appearance. Heck, maybe even a Cardinals trivia segment between a guy like Ozzie Smith and a current player like Adam Wainwright.
If the show can make the players seem like real people, if they can continue to get access to John Mozeliak and have him be open about decisions, what’s going on, things like that, if they can show us more of what it’s like on a daily basis at Busch, I think it’s going to be all right. It’s still spring training for them as well and hopefully they can work out some kinks and be really ready to go when the Cards get back to St. Louis in April!