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Let down by MLB.com

by Matt Smith

“Let down and hanging around” – ‘Let Down’ by Radiohead.

What a sorry mess of a way to end the regular season.  No, I’m not referring to the Mets’ annual collapse (not yet anyway), but the way in which MLB.com disappeared off the face of the internet at the time when baseball fans needed it the most. 

The final day of the regular season is always a highly anticipated event.  There’s normally a play-off place or two to be decided and it’s the final chance to bathe in the simple joy of following lots of MLB games before the postseason and then that long, dark and depressing winter break.  With so many stories unfolding and so much drama to follow, MLB.com figured to be the perfect place for baseball fans to keep track of every little detail as it happened.

Early on in the British evening and things were looking fine.  I decided to follow the Twins’ game, largely because I had seen more of the Mets, Brewers and White Sox over the course of the season.  I was able to watch them take the lead on a Denard Span double, but after closing MLB.tv down and coming back to the action a little later on, I couldn’t get anywhere. 

First the MLB.com site loaded, but the MLB.tv window just refused to display anything but a bright white screen.  After impatiently closing that window and hitting refresh, I could only get to MLB.com by opting to view it in ‘Narrowband’ mode.  The scoreboard refused to load and the frustration was boiling over.  A quick check on the UK MLB Supporters Forum showed that this was no local problem related to my internet connection.  We were all in the same boat: frantically trying to keep track of what was happening, but unable to do anything about the technical breakdown.

“Hysterical and useless”, is a neat way to sum up the state most fans were in at that point.

I ended up watching the Mets on the ESPN Game Tracker (their version of Gameday).  While Damien Easley gave them hope with a two-out walk, as shown by the circle whizzing up the first base line on the graphics, Ryan Church added to his horde of strikeouts by flying out to centre field, ending the game and with it the Mets’ season.  Apparently it looked (or perhaps sounded) like Church might have got enough of the ball to send it over the fence?  Sadly I wasn’t able to experience that moment live. 

Were the Mets fans sat in stunned silence?  Were they ripping up the Shea seats and chucking them in the direction of Omar Minaya (as I was hoping)?  I had no idea.  I couldn’t see or hear any of it and was too busy trying to find somewhere else that could give me the latest scores from the other games in any case.

It’s one thing for baseball fans to have MLB.com come crashing down.  For MLB.tv/Gameday Audio subscribers who have paid good money to watch/listen to the games,  it was an absolute nightmare.  MLB.com must have been fully aware of the massive increase in traffic that the climax to the season would bring.  That they were unable to provide the service people had paid for at the most crucial part of the regular season is completely unacceptable.  Considering that the service is normally such a fantastic lifeline for so many baseball fans living outside the States, it was an unexpected blow.

To make matters worse, everything was fine when I logged on half an hour later.  It was almost as if the site was mocking me.  “Now the bit you wanted to watch is over, I’ll let you come back and read all about what you’ve just missed”.  After looking forward to the games all weekend, to not be able to enjoy the final moments (outside of the upcoming White Sox-Tigers game and possible tiebreaker) was a bitter disappointment.

“The emptiest of feelings,
disappointed people, clinging on to bottles,
and when it comes it’s so, so, disappointing

Let down and hanging around”

Oh well, at least I’m not a Mets fan.  Losing a decider against the Marlins on the final day once is bad luck, doing it again the following year is a horrible trick to play on your supporters.  What a miserable way to send off Shea Stadium. 

Thankfully, MLB.com has a chance to redeem itself today with the Tigers-White Sox game.  It’s scheduled to start at 19.05 BST, making it perfect evening viewing for British baseball fans.

So long as the website doesn’t crash again.

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