MLB Game Postponements Spark Scramble for Fill-In TV Programming

    • YES will show a 2009 World Series game while NBCSN replays a talk show in place of Monday’s postponed Yankees-Phillies.
    • TV execs fear a domino effect that could threaten 2020 MLB season.

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MLB's postponement of two games Monday set off a scramble by TV networks to find replacement programming for live baseball games. It also sparked fears the 2020 season is in jeopardy.
Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball’s postponement of two games Monday set off a scramble among TV networks looking to find replacement programming.

With at least 14 Miami Marlins players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19, MLB postponed the club’s home opener vs. the Baltimore Orioles less than a week into the already shortened season. Since the Marlins played the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, the league also postponed the Phillies’ Monday home game against the New York Yankees.

The Yankees’ YES Network was just getting into the swing of things after the nearly five-month sports shutdown. Now, instead of televising Monday’s highly anticipated interleague matchup against ex-Yankees turned Phillies Joe Girardi and Didi Gregorius, it will have to dip back into the vault.

In place of its planned programming, YES will extend its live simulcast of “The Michael Kay Show” before a “Yankees Classics” replay of Game 6 of the 2009 World Series at 7 p.m. ET, network spokesman Eric Handler said. 

Then at 11 p.m., it will air a taped version of the Brooklyn Nets vs. Utah Jazz game from the NBA bubble in Orlando, which tips off at 5:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ RSN, NBC Sports Philadelphia, will show a replay of “The Mike Missanelli Show” in place of the live Phillies-Yankees game, spokeswoman Maureen Quilter said.

As for the Marlins, they were still quarantined in Philadelphia on Monday. Rather than getting the TV rating jolt from their home opener against the Orioles, the team’s Fox Sports Florida network will air a live Orlando Magic scrimmage at 7 p.m., said Whitney Burak, a spokeswoman for Sinclair Regional Sports Networks. 

That scrimmage was originally supposed to stream on the Fox Sports GO app. Due to restrictions about showing Magic programming in the Miami Heat territory of South Florida, viewers there will get some ancillary Marlins programming and other “evergreen” baseball shows, she added. 

Derek Jeter, the Yankees star-turned Marlins chief executive officer, said in a statement: “Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation.”

READ MORE: MLB Postpones Two Games After Reported COVID-19 Outbreak

The Orioles’ Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is scheduled to televise seven games over the next week, including a home game against the Yankees on Aug. 3. A spokesperson for MASN could not be reached.

Similar to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the Yankees are the top television draw in baseball. Monday night’s Yankees-Phillies matchup was supposed to be the first of a four-game set between the two clubs in Philadelphia and the Bronx. Losing live Yankees games would be a financial blow to baseball networks at the start of the new season.

Over the next week, YES, NBCSP, Fox Sports, ESPN, FS1, and MLB Network are all set to air Yankees games showcasing telegenic stars like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. 

YES is scheduled to air seven live Yankees games over the next week, including the team’s home opener vs. the Phillies on July 29. 

Fox’s FS1 cable network is supposed to air Yankees-Phillies on July 28, while the league’s own MLB Network gets Yankees-Boston Red Sox on July 31. 

This weekend, the Fox Sports broadcast network is planning to show Yankees-Red Sox on Saturday, August 1, while ESPN gets the American League East rivals for “Sunday Night Baseball” the next day. 

READ MORE: YES Offers Classic Games With A Twist: Tweets From Players Involved

If one of MLB Network’s nationally televised games is postponed, the network will swap in an “alternate” live game from the league schedule, spokesman Lou Barricelli said.

Representatives for Fox and ESPN said it was too early to comment on replacement programming for possible canceled games this weekend.  

The latest coronavirus outbreak has sparked worries among TV executives that more positive player tests and game postponements are on the way. And that the entire 2020 season is in jeopardy.

“Baseball couldn’t even get through its first weekend. This is just going to cascade,” warned one worried TV executive. “I hope I’m wrong. But I think this is the beginning of the end.”