Last week, having two capital S’s inÂ your nameÂ seemed like a good luck charm.Â Stephen Strasburg was selected as the number one pick in the Amateur Player Draft, leading to what should be an historic pay day.
This week,Â bothÂ Sammy Sosa and Setanta Sports will be left feeling like the double S hasÂ turned intoÂ a curse.Â
Sammy slammed in drug-link story
The New York Times’ allegation this week that Sammy Sosa was one of the 104 players to test positive in the 2003 drug-testing programme doesn’t come as much of a shock.Â Sosa was found guilty by many in the court of public opinion long before this recent revelation.
I always thought I had been lucky to stumble upon baseball back in 1998.Â So much about the game appealed to me that I’m sure I would have become hooked anyway, but undoubtedly the â€˜Run for â€˜61′ helped the process by catching my imagination.Â It’s sad that both Sosa and McGwire have since turned from heroes to zeros, although in one sense â€˜zeroes’ were always at the heart of their home run hitting exploits.Â
Take a moment to think about the money McGwire and Sosa generated for baseball.Â Any confusion over why so many people were happy to turn a blind eye to allegations of drug use immediately disappears.Â It wasn’t just their own bank balances that suddenly increased by a few zeroes, everyone in the game benefitted from the increased revenue that swilled into the coffers via TV rights and fans filling the stands.
And that trend continues despite the bad press.Â A big name is leaked or disclosed via the current drug-testing programme and it doesn’t have a great impact on the sport as a whole once the initial feeding frenzy has passed.Â The naysayers, most of whom have already determined that the sport is a waste of time and will never be convinced otherwise, briefly put the boot in and then go and fuss about something else. Baseball fans continue to love the game regardless; knowing full well that some players used drugs in the past and hoping that the current testing programme will greatly reduce the number of people willing to go down that route now and in the future.
The allegations against Sosa do have potentially severe consequences for the player.Â He was one of those who stated under oath in front of Congress in 2005 that he had “never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs”.Â We don’t know what was found in his sample in 2003, but the authorities are likely to ask questions to determine if Sosa should face an investigation into perjury.Â
The leaking of Sosa’s alleged positive test also ruins his case for election to the Hall of Fame.Â If the voters refuse to endorse Mark McGwire’s candidacy on the back of suspicions of drug use, Sosa doesn’t stand a chance unless the New York Times’ story is proved to be unfounded.Â Â
Come the end of the 1998 season, there was still a lot I had to learn about baseball.Â One thing I thought I knew at the time was that I had just witnessed two future Hall-of-Famers making history.
Sadly, it looks like I was wrong.
ESPN America remains in limbo
Brits face further uncertainty over their access to MLB games on TV following the news that Setanta Sports have lost their rights to Premier League football after defaulting on a Â£10 million payment on Friday.Â Â It’s not simply the future of Setanta that is important, but what now happens to those Premier League rights.
There had been signs of a last-minute reprieve for the struggling Setanta Sports since my previous post on the matter.Â A Â£20 million bid was tabled by Access Industries for a 51 per cent share of Setanta and they were once again accepting new customers after a temporary suspension thought of by many as a clear sign that the administrators were about to be called in.Â It’s very unlikely that many people parted with their cash since then as the broadcaster’s future has remained under threat.Â
These concerns were realised when the Access Industries deal fell through prior to the Premier League’s Friday deadline.Â Setanta simply did not have the funds available to meet their commitment and the Premier League terminated the deal with immediate effect.
The key question now is where that leaves both Setanta and ESPN.Â
On the face of it, losing the Premier League rights would seem fatal to Setanta considering how important they were to their business model.Â However, you didn’t need to be Sir Alan Sugar to know this business model was failing and that the company was unable to attract anywhere near enough customers to turn a profit (or break even) against their expenditure.Â Without the massive Premier League commitment, it’s possible that new investors could shape a more modest Setanta Sports, one that could continue trading.Â
Yet it is no guarantee that ESPN America would continue to form part of Setanta Sports. ESPN have been consistently linked with the Premier League rights and now that they are available, we could see the media giant taking its first big step into the European market.Â
If they do, ESPN America may well move out of the Setanta Sports package to group all of ESPN’s content in one place.Â This would be either as a subscription service or sold wholesale to Sky and Virgin Media to include in their wider subscription packages.Â The timing of any such move would depend on ESPN America’s contractual arrangement with Setanta, if the company continues to exist.
It’s probable that not even the higher ranks in Setanta, ESPN and ESPN America know precisely what the next couple of months have in store.Â In any case, either because of Setanta folding or ESPN expanding, right now the odds are in favour of our access to ESPN America changing at some point. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s for better or worse.