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|Major League Baseball on Fox|
|Also known as||MLB on Fox|
Fox Major League Baseball
Fox Saturday Baseball
(Afternoon game telecasts)
Baseball Night in America
(Night game telecasts)
Fox Thursday Night Baseball
(Thursday game telecasts)
|Presented by||Joe Buck|
|Theme music composer||NJJ Music (1996-2010; 2020-present)|
Jochen Flach (2007-2010)
Scott Schreer (2010-2019)
|Opening theme||"MLB on Fox theme music" (1996-2010; 2020-present)|
"NFL on Fox theme music" (2010-2019)
|Composers||NJJ Music (1996-2010; 2020-present)|
Jochen Flach (2007-2010)
Scott Schreer (2010-2019)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||18|
|No. of episodes||1,730+|
|Producer||Lindz Rae (lead games)|
|Production locations||Various MLB stadiums (game telecasts)|
Fox Network Center, Los Angeles, California (studio segments, pregame, and postgame shows)
|Editor||Bill Webb (lead games)|
|Running time||3 hours (or until game ends)|
|Production company||Fox Sports|
|Original release||June 1, 1996 -|
Major League Baseball on Fox (shortened to MLB on Fox and also known as Fox Major League Baseball, and shortened to Fox MLB) is a presentation of Major League Baseball (MLB) games produced by Fox Sports, the sports division of the Fox Broadcasting Company (Fox), since June 1, 1996. The broadcaster has aired the World Series in 1996, 1998, and every edition since 2000, and the All-Star Game in 1997, 1999, and every year since 2001. It has also aired the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and American League Championship Series (ALCS) in alternate years from 1996 to 2000, both series from 2001 to 2006, and again in alternate years since 2007, with the NLCS in even years and the ALCS in odd years. In November 2018, Fox Sports signed a TV rights extension with MLB, allowing it to continue to carry MLB telecasts through the 2028 season with national broadcasts on Fox.
On November 7, 1995, Major League Baseball reached a television deal with Fox and NBC, allowing the former to obtain MLB game rights (assuming ABC's end of the contract). Fox paid $575 million for the five-year contract, a fraction less of the amount of money that CBS had paid for the Major League Baseball television rights for the 1990-1993 seasons.
Unlike the previous television deal, "The Baseball Network" (a partnership created through the league's joint contract with ABC and NBC that began in the 1994 season), Fox reverted to the format of televising regular season games (approximately 16 weekly telecasts that normally began on Memorial Day weekend) on Saturday afternoons. Fox did, however, continue a format that The Baseball Network started by offering a selection of games based purely on a viewer's region. Fox's approach has usually been to offer three regionalized telecasts. The initial deal also gave Fox the rights to broadcast the 1996, 1998 and 2000 World Series, the 1997 and 1999 All-Star Games, as well as coverage of the League Championship Series (shared with NBC) and five Division Series games each year.
When Fox first began carrying baseball, it used the motto "Same game, new attitude." to promote the telecasts, which had previously been used to promote the network's National Football League coverage when it began in 1994. Fox's primary goal when it first began airing Major League Baseball games was to promote their weak prime time schedule (which at the time included only a handful of hits, such as established series Beverly Hills 90210, The Simpsons and Married... with Children). Fox Sports president Ed Goren said, "We'll use the World Series and League Championship Series to spur our shows".
In September 2000, Major League Baseball reached a six-year, $2.5 billion contract with Fox that allowed it to retain rights to Saturday baseball games, and included rights to the All-Star Game, select Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series and World Series. 90% of the contract's value to Fox, which paid Major League Baseball $417 million per year under the deal, came from the postseason, which not only attracted large audiences, but also provided an opportunity for the network to showcase its fall schedule.
The contract protected Major League Baseball in the event of a labor dispute (something that did not occur with "The Baseball Network" in 1994). If some of the games were cancelled as a result of a strike or lockout, Major League Baseball would still be paid by the network, but had to compensate Fox with additional telecasts. On the other hand, a repeat of the 1994 league strike would have cost Fox well over $1 billion; the television contract created an incentive not to cause a strike, as it would hurt broadcast networks since they paid for the deal, unlike the 1994-95 television package.
Under the previous five-year contract, Fox paid $575 million (totaling $115 million per year) for the Major League Baseball rights, while NBC only paid $400 million ($80 million annually). The difference between the Fox and the NBC contracts was that the deal implicitly valued Fox's Saturday "Game of the Week" telecasts at less than $90 million for five years. Before NBC officially decided to part ways with Major League Baseball (for the second time in about 12 years) on September 26, 2000, Fox would have had to pay $345 million for the contract, while NBC would have paid $240 million. With the exception of the three-year absence from 1990 to 1993, NBC had carried Major League Baseball broadcasts since 1947. NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer stated regarding its decision not to renew its contract, "We have notified Major League Baseball that we have passed on their offer and we wish them well going forward."
Under the new deal, Fox would now pay an average of $417 million a year, an approximately 45% increase from the previous deal (which was worth $290 million per year) that Fox, NBC and ESPN contributed together. CBS and ABC reportedly were not interested in buying the rights at the prices being offered by Major League Baseball.
When asked about the new deal with Fox, Commissioner Bud Selig said, "We at Major League Baseball could not be happier with the result. They have been a good partner and an innovative producer of our games."
Neal Pilson, who served as the president of CBS Sports when the network had the exclusive television rights for Major League Baseball said of Fox's $2.5 billion deal:
It is a lot of baseball. It will force Fox to delay the start of its entertainment season every fall in order to cover the playoffs and the World Series, but I am sure they have taken that into account. Fox probably believes it has driven a good deal financially. It has kept its cost escalation at a very modest number. I'm sure Fox believes if it is the only national carrier, it can sell its commercial (slots) without having to face underpricing from a competitor.
Some observers believed that gaining the relative ratings boost from the League Championship Series and World Series meant more to Fox than the other broadcast networks. This was because Fox had suffered the biggest prime time ratings decline among the four major networks during the 1999-2000 television season, with an average prime time audience of 8.97 million viewers, down 17% from the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research.
On July 11, 2006, Major League Baseball announced that the Fox network had signed a new seven-year contract, which guaranteed that Fox would remain the broadcaster of the World Series through the 2013 season. Fox had widely been expected to renew the deal, but it was unclear what the network would be willing to air beyond the All-Star Game and World Series.
The package was officially announced on October 17, 2006. Under the terms of the arrangement, Fox retained its rights to the network's regular-season package, which would now begin in April, and would remain the exclusive home of the All-Star Game and World Series. Fox's postseason coverage beyond the World Series is limited to one League Championship Series per year (the American League Championship Series in odd numbered years and National League Championship Series in even numbered years), which alternates every year with TBS (which took over exclusive rights to the Division Series from ESPN) airing the other LCS.
One of the terms of the deal was that, beginning with the 2007 season, the Saturday "Game of the Week" coverage was extended over the entire season rather than starting after Memorial Day, with most games being aired in the 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) time slot, which was reduced to 4:00 to 7:00 after Fox cancelled its in-studio pre-game program for the 2009 season. Exceptions were added in 2010 with a 3:00 to 7:00 afternoon window being used on Saturdays when Fox was scheduled to broadcast a NASCAR Cup Series race in prime time (which would start at 7:30) and a 7:00 to 10:00 window, when Fox is scheduled to broadcast the UEFA Champions League soccer final (which would start at 3:00).
For 2012, Fox revised its schedule; while the 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time start time remained intact, weekly games on certain Saturdays when the network was to air NASCAR races held at Texas Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway start at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Starting with the date of the UEFA Champions League Final until the Saturday before the All-Star Break, all "Game of the Week" telecasts would start at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The Baseball Night in America moniker was used for all MLB on Fox games in that span.
On September 19, 2012, Sports Business Daily reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals with Fox Sports and Turner Sports through the 2021 season. Fox would reportedly pay around $4 billion over eight years (close to $500 million per year), while Turner would pay around $2.8 billion over eight years (more than $300 million per year). Under the new deals, Fox and TBS' coverage would essentially be the same as in the 2007-2013 contract with the exception of Fox and TBS splitting coverage of the Division Series, which TBS has broadcast exclusively dating back to 2007. More importantly, Fox would carry some of the games (such as the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week) on its new general sports channel, Fox Sports 1, which launched on August 17, 2013. Sources also said it was possible that Fox would sell some League Division Series games to MLB Network.
On October 2, 2012, the new deal between Major League Baseball and Fox was officially confirmed; it included the television rights to 12 Saturday afternoon games on Fox (reduced from 26), 40 games on Fox Sports 1, rights to the All-Star Game, two League Division Series (two games were sold to MLB Network, the rest would air on Fox Sports 1), one League Championship Series (in which Fox Sports and Turner Sports would each respectively alternate coverage of American League and National League postseason games each year on an odd-even basis, with Games 1 and, if necessary, 6 in 2014 airing on Fox), and the World Series (which would remain on Fox). In addition, all Fox Saturday Baseball games would be made available on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV (subject to local blackout restrictions), Fox Sports was awarded TV Everywhere rights for streaming of game telecasts on computers, mobile and tablet devices, rights to a nightly baseball highlights show, Spanish language rights to all games carried on Fox and Fox Cable (Fox Deportes) and rights to a weekly show produced by MLB Productions.
On November 15, 2018, Fox renewed its rights through 2028, maintaining its existing structure but with expanded digital rights, and a promise to begin airing more games on the Fox broadcast network (beginning with at least two of the first four League Championship Series games and all seventh games from 2020 to 2028, with additional games in 2022).
Fox has used numerous scheduling formulas for its Saturday regular season coverage. These have often changed based on the rights granted by new television contracts, and the pregame programs that the network has chosen to air. From 1996 to 2006, Fox began its weekly game telecasts on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend or the weekend before. The selection of games varied on a regional basis, and the start times were staggered based on region. A half-hour pregame show aired at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time, followed by game broadcasts held at 1 p.m. in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. West Coast games did not air until 4 p.m. Eastern Time (1 p.m. in the Pacific Time Zone). All of these games were exclusive to the broadcast network, and as a result, Fox's exclusivity window lasted through the entire afternoon.
In 2007, Fox began airing games every Saturday during the season. A new scheduling format was devised, in which all of the regional games started simultaneously. Fox moved the pregame, which became part of the exclusive game window, to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. All of the Fox games would then start at 3:55 p.m. Eastern Time, regardless of region. This format gave more leeway for teams not being shown on Fox to schedule daytime games. Fox's exclusivity began at the start of the pregame at 3:30 and ran until 7 p.m. Eastern.
Fox discontinued its pregame show in 2009, with the telecasts now beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern and the game time being pushed to 4:10. Fox gave up the first half-hour of its exclusivity, with its window now beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. This scheduling formula was used through 2011 for the regular season. Beginning in 2010, several of the Saturday games aired in prime time during the spring. These telecasts used an exclusivity window from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, as the network revived a pregame show for these games, airing at 7 p.m. with the game at 7:15.
In 2012, the pregame show returned full-time, prompting another change in scheduling. The normal scheduling in 2012 and 2013 was for the pregame airing at either 12:30 or 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The pregame is not a part of Fox's exclusive window, which began with the game telecast starting a half-hour later. The scheduling did not change for the spring prime time games, however, as the scheduling for these games remained the same as in 2010 and 2011.
For the 2014 season, sister cable channel Fox Sports 1 (FS1) began providing MLB game coverage, carrying a Fox Saturday Baseball doubleheader most weeks. FS1's coverage begins with the pregame show a half-hour before the game, which usually starts at 1 or 4 p.m. Eastern Time. A second game usually follows at either 7 or 8 p.m. Eastern Time. If there is a gap between the first and second game, a studio show is aired in between. All of the telecasts are aired nationally instead of on a regional basis; however, the telecast is not exclusive, unless the game is between two teams that whose games are broadcast on the Fox Sports regional networks. Prime time games continue to air on Fox, and once again used the 2010 scheduling formula for these telecasts, including full national exclusivity.
For the 2000 and 2001 seasons, the Fox network's then-sister cable channel, Fox Family (later ABC Family, now Freeform) carried a weekly Major League Baseball game on Thursday nights (a game that had previously aired nationwide on Fox Sports Net from 1997 to 1999), as well as select postseason games from the Division Series. Among the noteworthy games that aired on Fox Family was the October 4, 2001 game between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros, during which Barry Bonds hit his 70th home run of the season, which tied the all-time single season record that Mark McGwire had set only three years earlier (Bonds broke the record the next night).
Meanwhile, the Fox Broadcasting Company's other sister cable channel FX, aired numerous Saturday night Major League Baseball contests in 2001, including Cal Ripken, Jr.'s final game at Camden Yards. FX also aired one game in the Major League Baseball postseason each year from 2001 to 2005, on the first Wednesday night of League Championship Series week when the league scheduled two games at the same time. On that night, Fox distributed one game to local affiliates with the availability of coverage being based on region, and the other game aired on the corresponding cable affiliate of FX, the main DirecTV or Dish Network channel, or an alternate channel on the satellite providers.
As part of its 2001 purchase of Fox Family, in addition to rights to the Thursday night game, The Walt Disney Company acquired the MLB rights that were also held by FX. Those two game packages were moved to ESPN beginning with the 2002 baseball season; however, the playoff games remained on ABC Family for one additional year due to contractual issues. A deal was reached to move those playoff games to ESPN, which produced the games for ABC Family, starting with the 2003 season. Although the games aired on networks owned by Disney, Fox kept the exclusive negotiation rights to renew the contract after the 2006 season. Fox chose not to renew its rights to the Division Series, which went to TBS as part of its new baseball contract.
With the new 2014 television contract, Fox Sports 1's telecasts will not be exclusive until the postseason, though they may co-exist with local carriers. All games aired on the Fox network, including the Baseball Night in America pre-game show, the All-Star Game, pennant chase telecasts in September, and postseason telecasts, will remain exclusive to the broadcast network.
Since the network acquired the rights to postseason baseball coverage, Fox has received criticism from non-baseball fans for not airing first-run original programming during October. For the majority of the time that Fox has aired baseball, the network started the fall season for The Simpsons and other shows in November and the fall runs of a few other series beginning in August or September, before being put on hiatus until after the World Series (an exception was The X Factor, which some episodes rescheduled to other nights such as Sundays or delayed in its regularly scheduled timeslot during the singing competition's 2011 to 2013 run due to postseason games that were rained out on their originally scheduled nights or overran into prime time). In 2005, Fox started its fall programming season in September, put its series in hiatus in October for the Major League Baseball playoffs, and resumed non-baseball programming in November. Both approaches have drawn criticism, indicating that there may not be a perfect way for the network to accommodate both sports and regular entertainment programming.
For the first year of its exclusive six-year contract (2001), Fox did a split telecast (which had not been attempted since the ill-fated "Baseball Network" arrangement existed) for the League Championship Series. This meant that two games were played simultaneously on the same night, with one game airing on the Fox network and the other on the regional Fox Sports Net cable channel (depending on market, as some markets did not have a regional sports network with a relationship to FSN). The rationale behind the split-telecast was that because of the September 11 attacks, the entire post-season schedule was delayed by a week. Because of this, two Sunday LCS games came in conflict with a Fox NFL doubleheader. Fans and sports journalists were unimpressed with the situation and MLB commissioner Bud Selig vowed that it was a one-time deal necessitated by circumstance. However, in later years, Fox used split telecasts on a few occasions to keep the playoffs "on schedule" and maximize its prime time advertising revenue, and aired the second game on FX, which has virtually nationwide distribution on cable and satellite. This ensured that Fox did not have to air an LCS game on a weekday afternoon, when many viewers are unable to watch. The 2007-2013 contract eliminated this issue, as TBS had rights to one of the League Championship Series each year. However, Fox continued to air afternoon LCS games on weekdays through the entire length of the contract.
With Fox Sports 1 taking over most of the Major League Baseball coverage in 2014, postseason coverage on Fox Sports' end of the package began to be split between the Fox broadcast network and Fox Sports 1. The deal, which brought back Division Series baseball to Fox for the first time since 2006, put Fox's Division Series games exclusively on Fox Sports 1. In 2018, all games from both National League Division Series matchups aired on Fox Sports 1, except one game from each series airing on MLB Network (Game 1 of Dodgers-Braves and Game 3 of Brewers-Rockies in 2018). This will be the case for the ALDS in 2019, as Fox and TBS alternate leagues during the postseason each year (Fox airs NL postseason games and TBS airs AL postseason games on even years, while the reverse happens on odd years). Fox Sports then carried exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series - where most of the series is aired on Fox Sports 1, with some games being aired on FOX depending on scheduling.
In the 2014 NLCS, the 2015 ALCS, and the 2019 ALCS, Game 1 was on Fox and the rest were on FS1. In 2016, the NLCS was aired entirely on FS1. In the 2017 ALCS and the 2018 NLCS, Game 2 was on Fox and the rest were on FS1. As part of their contract renewal before the 2019 season, Fox has agreed to air any League Championship Series Game 7 on the broadcast network. Fox airs the World Series in its entirety, as has been the case every year since 2000.
For the 2020 NLCS however, Fox aired Games 1, 4 and 7 while FS1 aired every game except Game 1. FS1 however, helped simulcast Games 4 and 7. (Game 4 was scheduled to just air on FS1 but the postponement of a previously scheduled Thursday Night Football game that was supposed to air on Fox allowed both Fox and FS1 to air the game.) 
For the 2021 ALCS, Fox aired Games 1, 2 and 7 while FS1 aired Games 2-7 (Games 2 and 7 were simulcast on Fox). From 2022 on, Fox will air more postseason games as part of the renewal made in 2018.
Since its baseball coverage began in 1996, the Fox network has aired four regular season games on days other than Saturday. As part of its coverage of Mark McGwire's bid to break Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998, Fox aired a Sunday afternoon game between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals on September 6 and a Tuesday night game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals on September 8 of that year (McGwire hit his record-breaking 62nd home run of the season in the latter game, which earned a 14.5 rating share for Fox, and remains the network's highest-rated regular season Major League Baseball telecast to this day). On April 16, 2004, the network aired a Friday night game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to cover those teams' first head-to-head meeting since the memorable 2003 ALCS. On August 12, 2016, Fox aired a Friday night game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, as it was the final game for long-time Yankees player Alex Rodriguez.
For a Saturday afternoon telecast of a Los Angeles Dodgers/Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on August 26, 2000, Fox aired a special "Turn Back the Clock" broadcast to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the first televised baseball game. The broadcast started with a recreation of the television technology of 1939, with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck working alone with a single microphone, a single black-and-white camera, and no graphics; each subsequent half-inning would then see the broadcast "jump ahead in time" to a later era, showing the evolving technologies and presentation of network baseball coverage through the years.
Beginning in 2014, Fox Sports 1 added several non-exclusive Tuesday night telecasts outside of its regular Saturday schedule. These games generally feature marquee teams which may attract a large audience, along the lines of the 2004 Red Sox-Yankees telecast or the Mark McGwire telecasts. In 2015, one Thursday game was scheduled, though this was during a rare week in which Fox Saturday Baseball was not scheduled to air.
In February 2019, Fox announced plans to air two weeks of regional games on Thursday nights in September of that season, in lieu of Saturday games (which creates conflicts with its college football coverage). They will additionally serve as a prelude to Fox's Thursday Night Football broadcasts.
In the 2020 season, Fox aired Thursday night games through mid and late summer for 6 weeks and only aired Saturday games for 7 weeks from mid-summer to early-fall (due to the delayed start of the season).
Saturday baseball games broadcast on Fox have regularly been preceded by a youth-targeted baseball-oriented program: Fox aired In the Zone from the inaugural season of MLB rights in 1996 until 1999, and This Week in Baseball from 2000 to 2011 (the latter program had previously aired in syndication from 1977 to 1998). From 2012 to 2013, Fox aired MLB Player Poll, a show in which players and fans talk about current MLB-related topics and participate in opinion polls about the sport/players of baseball; it was hosted by Greg Amsinger. Player Poll was replaced in 2014 by MLB 162 (the title being a reference to the total number of games each team plays during the Major League Baseball season), which was hosted by Julie Alexandria and aired exclusively on Fox Sports 1. In 2015, Fox Sports 1 began airing MLB's Best, a half-hour weekly show completely containing highlights of the best plays of the previous week in a countdown format, with no host or interviews.
As part of Fox Sports' new Major League Baseball broadcast deal, in April 2014, Fox Sports 1 premiered MLB Whiparound, an hour-long nightly baseball highlight program (similar in vein to ESPN's Baseball Tonight and MLB Network's MLB Tonight) featuring quick-turnaround highlights, and news and analysis from around the league (live look-ins of games being played in progress generally can not be shown on Whiparound, as MLB Tonight is reserved that right exclusively). It is hosted by Chris Myers, who is joined by one or two analysts rotating between Frank Thomas, Eric Karros, Dontrelle Willis and C. J. Nitkowski. Although Whiparound airs most weeknights at 10 p.m., the Wednesday editions are usually delayed to 12 a.m. Eastern Time on weeks when Fox Sports 1 airs a sporting event in prime time during the MLB season (on weeks without predetermined programming conflicts, the program airs in its regular 10 p.m. slot).
In July 2019, it was announced that Fox (airing on FS1) would air five documentaries throughout the remainder of the summer into the fall. This began with The Pence Method (produced in association with LeBron James' media company UNINTERRUPTED), a documentary chronicling all-star outfielder Hunter Pence, and the story and path to his resurgence. The final of the five documentaries was Seaver, a retrospective of New York Mets hall of fame pitcher Tom Seaver, set to air on the Fox Network on October 13. Re-airs of the documentaries were usually found after the last MLB on FS1 Saturday game, or during other empty slots on FS1.
After 21st Century Fox became acquired by the Walt Disney Company, the Fox Sports Networks were divested and were sold to Diamond Sports Group, a joint-venture between Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Entertainment Studios. All of the Fox Sports Networks are now rebranded as Bally Sports as of March 31, 2021.
As of 2021, Joe Buck is Fox's lead play-by-play commentator (a role he has held since Fox inaugurated its Major League Baseball coverage in 1996), with John Smoltz serving as color analyst; they are joined by field reporter Ken Rosenthal, and during select regular season and postseason games, Tom Verducci. From 1996 to 2013, Buck was teamed with Tim McCarver, although McCarver was considered the main reason behind the firing of Jack Buck from CBS five years earlier (due to poor on-air chemistry between the two) in favor of Sean McDonough. Unlike the team of Jack Buck and McCarver on CBS, Joe Buck and McCarver fused. According to McCarver, "The play-by-play man [should] explain what and where and analyst answer why and how. [Joe Buck] does both." During the pre-2001 period, Bob Brenly (who otherwise, typically worked with Thom Brennaman) acted as the third man in the booth with Buck and McCarver during the All-Star Game, League Championship Series and World Series. Buck and McCarver were at the microphone when Brenly led the Arizona Diamondbacks as manager to the 2001 World Series title. Since Joe Buck was hired to work on the NFL on Fox, following the retirement of lead play-by-play voice Pat Summerall in 2002, Dick Stockton, Kenny Albert, Matt Vasgersian, Thom Brennaman, Josh Lewin, and others have filled in for Joe Buck whenever he is unable to work a game.
Buck currently calls a limited selection of regular-season games each year (typically featuring big-market teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and/or Cubs), as well as the All-Star Game, one of the League Championship Series, and the World Series. Since 2016, he has been paired with color analyst John Smoltz and field reporter Ken Rosenthal. Besides working with Tim McCarver for 18 seasons (1996-2013), Buck also worked with former MLB player and current MLB Network/Fox Sports analyst Harold Reynolds and baseball writer/insider Tom Verducci for two seasons (2014-2015). About a month or two after the 2015 World Series, Reynolds and Verducci were demoted to the #2 team and John Smoltz moved up from the #2 team (with Matt Vasgersian) in order to take Reynolds and Verducci's places.
During the mid-2000s, Fox utilized active or former players and managers as "guest analysts" on the network's League Championship Series telecasts. These included Bret Boone (2003 ALCS), Al Leiter (2003 NLCS and 2004 ALCS), Brenly (2004 and 2005 NLCS), Lou Piniella (2005 and 2006 ALCS), and Luis Gonzalez (2006 NLCS). Many fans accuse Fox of choosing announcers biased towards large market teams, citing some of these choices, including Boone, whose brother, Aaron Boone, was playing for the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS games covered by Bret Boone.
The network's #2 broadcast team was initially led by Thom Brennaman. He was joined by several analysts: first by Steve Lyons, who was fired by Fox during the 2006 ALCS for racially insensitive comments toward guest analyst Lou Piniella. Lyons was replaced by Joe Girardi, who left after one season to manage the Yankees. Former ESPN analyst Eric Karros replaced Girardi in 2008. In 2014, the #2 role began to be split between Brenneman/Karros and the team of Matt Vasgersian, moving from the studio, and John Smoltz, moving from Turner Sports.
The #2 broadcast team covered various postseason games from 1996 to 2006. For the 2001 season only, Fox had rights to the entire postseason and used its top four teams to cover the Division Series. Like the #1 team, the #2 team was joined by guest analysts during the League Championship Series from 2003 to 2006. Fox was not contracted to cover simultaneous postseason series from 2007 to 2013, so only the #1 team worked during the postseason. With concurrent series returning to Fox starting in 2014, Vasgersian and Smoltz were called upon to work the postseason, with Brenneman working on the #1 team for games Joe Buck is unable to cover.
Starting with the 2015 ALDS and subsequent division series afterwards, Fox used its #2 and #3 announcers while using only Joe Buck for the League Championship Series and World Series. The role has rotated between Joe Davis, Kenny Albert, Adam Amin, and (formerly) Matt Vasgersian. John Smoltz would join the #2 team while A. J. Pierzynski and a guest analyst would form the #3 team.
Since 2012, MLB Network has aired a pair of League Division Series games. The first two years, with MLB Network sharing their series with Turner Sports, the former produced its own LDS coverage with Bob Costas and Jim Kaat. Beginning in 2014, MLB Network took both of its games from Fox's series. Due to the collaboration between Fox and MLB Network, Fox produces the cable network's games, with Vasgersian and Smoltz calling the game which MLB Network took from their series. Meanwhile, Costas will still call MLB Network's game in the other series but he was joined by the rest of Fox's #1 broadcast team for a Fox-produced telecast.
The original studio host when Fox's MLB coverage began in 1996 was Chip Caray. Dave Winfield and Steve Lyons were the show's original analysts. Unlike the network's primary broadcast teams, the studio personnel have not had the same longevity. Winfield left Fox after only one season, and both Caray and Lyons would move to the broadcast booth before leaving the network. From 1999 to 2000, Keith Olbermann took over the hosting seat from Caray.
According to Olbermann, he was fired from Fox in 2001 after reporting on his MSNBC program Countdown on rumors that Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox parent company News Corporation (which became 21st Century Fox through the July 2013 split of its publishing unit and certain miscellaneous properties into a separate company), was planning on selling the Los Angeles Dodgers. When asked about Olbermann, Murdoch said: "I fired him...He's crazy." News Corporation eventually would sell the Dodgers to Frank McCourt in 2004. That year, Olbermann remarked, "Fox Sports was an infant trying to stand [in comparison to ESPN], but on the broadcast side there was no comparison--ESPN was the bush leagues."
After Olbermann's departure following the 2000 season, Fox Sports Net's Jeanne Zelasko was promoted to host the pregame show. Kevin Kennedy was hired to be the lead analyst. The two would continue to host the pregame from 2001 through the 2008 season. In 2007 and 2008, the two were often joined by one of either Eric Karros, Joe Girardi, Mark Grace or Eric Byrnes.
As previously mentioned, due to poor ratings and budget concerns (Fox never made money on national advertising sales that are seen on Fox NFL Sunday as they were instead, sold by the local affiliates), Fox in 2009, decided to scrap the studio/pregame show altogether (in return, Zelasko and Kennedy were also dropped by Fox - Kennedy has since re-appeared on Fox Sports as a fill-in commentator). The show was retained for the postseason; for the LCS in 2009 and 2010, Chris Rose hosted from Fox's studio in Los Angeles with analysts Karros and Grace. For the 2011 NLCS and the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Series, the show used an on-field studio for the pregame show. Former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén was a guest analyst for the series in 2009 and 2010, with White Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski joining the crew for the 2011 series. For Baseball Night in America from 2009 to 2011, the pregame show was also broadcast from the Los Angeles studio with Rose hosting. However, with Karros and Grace calling games, Kevin Millar joined Rose as analyst. This would spark an eventual drive time talk show hosted by the two on MLB Network.
Also as previously mentioned, beginning in 2012, Fox and MLB Network collaborated on a revived 30-minute pregame show. MLB Network supplied production services and one of its studios, while using Fox's graphics and many of their personalities. Matt Vasgersian was the primary host, with Harold Reynolds and Kevin Millar serving as primary analysts (other analysts from Fox and MLB Network occasionally appear and/or fill-in as well). In both 2012 and 2013, Pierzynski was a member of the panel during the World Series, when the show traveled to the game site and was a complete Fox production.
In 2014, Fox ended its pregame production partnership with MLB Network, but continued the pregame show as it moved back to Los Angeles. Vasgersian was replaced as host by Kevin Burkhardt, who was joined by analysts on a semi-regular basis by C. J. Nitkowski, Frank Thomas and Gabe Kapler. Rob Stone was named as the primary substitute host. It was later announced that Vasgersian and Reynolds will move back to the broadcast booth, but they no longer work together.
On July 8, 1997, Fox televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, Fox introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate.
In October 2004, Fox started airing all Major League Baseball postseason broadcasts (including the League Championship Series and World Series) in high definition; Fox also started airing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in HD that year. Prior to the 2008 season, one of the three regional games the network televises each Saturday was presented in HD. Since 2008, all MLB games televised by Fox - including Saturday regional games - are presented in high definition.
On September 29, 2010, Fox announced that it planned to use cable-cams for the network's coverage of the National League Championship Series and World Series. According to Fox, the cable-cams can roam over the field at altitudes ranging from about 12 to 80 feet above ground, and would be able to provide overhead shots of, among other things, "close plays" at bases and "managers talking to their pitchers on the mound."
The 2020 season was delayed until July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fox soon announced that they would virtually fill the seats of Chicago's Wrigley Field, Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium, Washington's Nationals Park, San Diego's Petco Park and other ballparks that it broadcasts games over the next several weeks. Announcers later spent time explaining and demonstrating the use of virtual fans during the July 25 game between the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.
NJJ Music composed the original MLB on Fox theme music in 1996. This theme music was used exclusively from June 1996 until early May 2007. In mid-May 2007, an updated version was unveiled, featuring a more jazzy feel and implementing a full orchestra instead of the synth elements used by the 1996 theme. For the 2007 postseason, a Jochen Flach-composed slow orchestral theme was unveiled, and was used alongside the new orchestral theme for the All-Star Game and postseason from the 2007 ALCS until the 2010 All-Star Game. Fox Saturday Baseball, including the prime time games starting in 2010, still used the 2007 version of the regular theme song exclusively.
During the 2009 season, some Fox Sports regional affiliates switched to the 2007 theme while others continued using the original 1996 theme. However, all regional affiliates began using the 2007 theme starting with the 2011 season.
Beginning with the 2010 postseason, both the 2007 theme and the Flach theme were replaced by the longtime NFL on Fox theme music, which began to be used for all Fox sporting events. However, starting in 2011 and continuing to today, various songs from the album Heroes: The Olympic Collection were used when going into commercial breaks during the All-Star Game, postseason, and other marquee games such as Red Sox-Yankees games.
In 2014, the 2007-2010 jazz theme was brought back for regular season MLB on FS1. The NFL theme was retained for MLB on Fox, including Fox Saturday Baseball, Baseball Night in America, the All-Star Game and all coverage of the postseason. However, occasionally one of the two themes was heard on telecasts that were designated for the other, implying that the designations are slightly fluid.
In 2020, MLB on Fox reintroduced the original 1996-2007 theme; Fox Sports regional affiliates continued to use the 2007-2010 theme until the network was rebranded to Bally Sports in 2021. As of the 2021 season, the original theme is now used for coverage of all games across both Fox and FS1.
Fox Sports has received criticism[unreliable source?] from sports fans for perceived bias[unreliable source?] toward teams in the American League in Major League Baseball (especially the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox). Fox rarely shows teams from outside the top-10 media markets during the regular season. In addition, in recent years, "O Canada" was preempted during the All-Star Game for commercials.
In 2007, Joe Buck was only scheduled to call eight regular season MLB games out of a 26-game schedule for Fox (along with a handful of regional St. Louis Cardinals telecasts on FSN Midwest). In an interview with Richard Sandomir of The New York Times, Buck defended his reduced baseball commitment:
If you or the casual fan doesn't want to consider me the No. 1 baseball announcer at Fox, it's not my concern ... I don't know why it would matter. I don't know who had a more tiresome, wall-to-wall schedule than my father, and I know what it's like to be a kid in that situation ... He was gone a lot. He needed to be. I understood it. So did my mom. Because my career has gone the way it's gone, I don't have to go wall to wall. ...While I'm deathly afraid of overexposure, I'm more afraid of underexposure at home with my wife and girls.
In 2008, Buck drew criticism for comments he made during an appearance on ESPN Radio's The Herd with Colin Cowherd, in which he admitted to spending "barely any" time following sporting events he does not broadcast, and facetiously claimed that he preferred watching The Bachelorette instead.
In general, Fox's initial lead broadcast team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver had been heavily scrutinized, much less criticized over time. During the 2012 National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, Buck and McCarver were accused by the San Francisco media[unreliable source?] in particular, of being too biased towards the Cardinals.
In Game 4 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, on a wild pitch with runners dashing around the bases, when umpire Durwood Merrill gestured to where the ball was, color commentator Tim McCarver sarcastically commented that "maybe he was trying to tell himself where the ball is!" Merrill heard about that, took offense to it, and fired back in his autobiography that he was letting the other umpires know that the situation was under control. Meanwhile, when rule questions come up during a broadcast, McCarver frequently will explain the rule, sometimes incorrectly. For example, after a St. Louis Cardinals balk in Game 4 of the 2006 NLCS, McCarver explained, "You have to have 'one thousand one' when coming to a stop, and you have to stop your glove in the same place every time in front of your body", when the rules state that there must be merely a complete discernible stop anywhere in front of the pitcher's body; no certain duration or location is necessary.
McCarver has also been known to make verbal gaffes, particularly with player's names (notably confusing Albert Pujols with the retired Luis Pujols, as well as repeatedly referring to Bronson Arroyo as "Brandon Arroyo" during the 2004 World Series). During the 2009 World Series, he referred to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as "Jerek Deter". In 2006, an episode of the Fox animated series Family Guy lampooned McCarver's broadcasting ability with the quip, "Well, at least he couldn't be any worse than Tim McCarver is at sportscasting." To make matters worse, during the 2011 World Series, Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated argued that McCarver was becoming more and more useless as an analyst. McCarver has in general, been accused of overanalyzing situations, being too verbose, and not allowing a game to "breathe".
During their broadcast of Game 3 of the 2006 American League Championship Series, Lou Piniella, who is of Spanish descent, made an analogy involving the luck of finding a wallet, and then briefly used a couple of Spanish phrases. Fox color commentator Steve Lyons responded by saying that Piniella was "hablaing Español" - Spanglish for "speaking Spanish" - and added, "I still can't find my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now." On October 13, 2006, Fox fired Lyons for making these remarks, which the network determined to be racially insensitive. Lyons was replaced for the rest of the series in Detroit by Los Angeles Angels announcer José Mota. Piniella later stated that he thought that Lyons was just "kidding" and that Lyons was, per Piniella's experience, not bigoted. Lyons had previously maligned Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, who is Jewish, for sitting out a game on Yom Kippur in 2004, saying "He's not even a practicing Jew. He didn't marry a Jewish girl. And from what I understand, he never had a bar mitzvah, which is unfortunate because he doesn't get the money." Lyons was suspended briefly without pay after his remarks, and Fox apologized for Lyons' comments, though Lyons never made an on-air apology.
On July 24, 2012, Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing questioned Fox's need to hire local broadcasters on their national telecasts and therefore, bringing about a perceived sense of favoritism towards one of the participating teams. For example, Billy Ripken, who played for the Baltimore Orioles alongside his Hall of Fame brother Cal, was roundly criticized for his perceived favoritism towards the Orioles while broadcasting an Orioles-Detroit Tigers game (even by actor Jeff Daniels via Twitter) for Fox the previous week. The following week came a Philadelphia Phillies-San Francisco Giants telecast on Fox, which was called by Phillies play-by-play announcer Tom McCarthy and former Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams. McCarthy and Williams were in particular, singled out for their rather downbeat manner of calling a Matt Cain home run off Cole Hamels in the top of the 3rd inning. This was contrasted by their more enthusiastic call of Hamels returning the favor with a home run in the bottom half of the inning. In 2019, Len Kasper, who is currently the voice of the Cubs, broadcast Cubs-Nationals on Fox with a rather monotonous tone of voice while calling Nationals home runs.
Since along with Tom Verducci, succeeding Tim McCarver as Fox's lead color commentator in 2014, Harold Reynolds has been accused contributing to little more superficial, surface-level stuff on telecasts. For example, during Game 5 the 2015 American League Championship Series, when Toronto's Chris Colabello cranked a solo homer in the second, Reynolds' simple contribution was, "Well, I guess he made an adjustment." More to the point, immediately after, Verducci jumped in and explained how that was the first home run that Kansas City starter Edinson Vólquez had allowed in his past 1,228 changeups. Reynolds' response was "How do you know that? Unbelievable, Tom. You were sitting on that one, weren't you?"
During the 2018 World Series, John Smoltz was heavily criticized for appearing to hate the direction baseball was going in. Two years later, Smoltz throughout the National League Division Series, National League Championship Series, and World Series, appeared to spend the bulk of Fox's MLB broadcasts complaining about shifts to pitcher usage to the catch-all of "analytics."
While covering the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Comerica Park in Detroit, host Jeanne Zelasko angered many fans for her treatment of legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Many disliked the way Zelasko abruptly - and in many fans' eyes, awkwardly - cut Harwell off just 17 seconds into a pre-game interview, as Harwell was detailing the accomplishments of famous Tiger Al Kaline.[unreliable source?] Harwell later said he was not offended by Zelasko, and let the matter drop. In September 2008, Zelasko took heat for referring to the Tampa Bay Rays as the "Tampa Rays". Jeanne Zelasko has, in general, been accused of being too flippant,[unreliable source?] not particularly knowledgeable about the sport of baseball, and inserting too many corny clichés or plays on words[unreliable source?] during broadcasts.
Chris Rose has been criticized for appearing to be too chummy[unreliable source?] with players that he has interviewed during Fox's baseball coverage. For example, during the 2009 World Series, Rose referred to Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees as "Jeets". One year later during the World Series, Rose referred to both Brian Wilson and Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants as "his friends".
Field reporter Erin Andrews' performance has been criticized since she joined Fox Sports' MLB coverage in 2012. For example,[unreliable source?] Andrews during trophy presentations, has been accused of showing an extreme lack of knowledge by reading off notes. More to the point, during the trophy presentation at the end of the 2013 American League Championship Series, Andrews misidentified former Anaheim Angels owner and honorary American League president Jackie Autry as her late husband Gene. Andrews was further criticized during the trophy presentations for the 2014 World Series due to her very generic questions that for the most part, lacked insight.
Scooter debuted in the 2004 baseball season on April 16, during a game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. While Fox Sports television chairman David Hill called Scooter "really cute and really terrific", the character has garnered few positive reactions otherwise, with Sports Illustrated writer John Donovan warning "purists everywhere, grab the barf bag," and Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch using Scooter as an example of "how technology does not always help society." The Sporting News reported polling their staff with the question "What best summarizes your feelings for Scooter, Fox's talking baseball?": 45% of responders chose the answer "Send him to a slow, painful death." Despite most reactions, Scooter would still be used in televised baseball games until after the 2006 World Series.
From the 2010 MLB playoffs until the 2019 MLB playoffs, Fox used its NFL theme music for its MLB coverage (and all other Fox Sports properties, including NASCAR and UFC events). There has been backlash from fans who believe that the NFL theme does not belong on MLB coverage,[unreliable source?] and that the previous MLB theme should return. A poll by Sports Media Watch noted that as of October 23, 2010, while nearly 60% of fans thought that Fox made a bad move, only 11% thought it was a good move and 30% had no opinion (all percentages rounded). However, beginning with the 2020 MLB season, MLB on Fox reintroduced the original 1996-2007 theme.
As previously mentioned, in July 2010, the on-screen graphics were repositioned for the 16:9 aspect ratio, as all HDTV programming from the Fox network began to be presented in a letterboxed format using an Active Format Description code for standard definition viewers. The supposed high-definition picture, however, has been derided as coming across as highly imperfect,[unreliable source?] lacking the detail and clarity normally expected from a high-definition broadcast.
During the 2012 National League Championship Series, Fox's camera angles were criticized for being directly in-line with home plate, thus often ensuring that a pitcher's head blocked the view. Fox's camera angles were again criticized (this time in an elevated and more dead center camera angle) during FS1's coverage of Game 1 of the 2016 National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
During the bottom of the 9th in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, Fox's cameras missed Boston closer Koji Uehara picking off pinch runner Kolten Wong to end the game (it was the first postseason game in baseball history to end on a pickoff).[unreliable source?]
For Fox's broadcast of Game 4 of the 2019 American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays on FS1, they opened up the broadcast with an off-center camera angle, which is basically a view from the shortstop. This immediately drew a lot of complaints on Twitter from viewers, who were used to seeing the center field camera angle for Rays' home games, and wanted a better look at the pitch movement and location from Houston's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's Diego Castillo. FS1 changed to the center field camera angle in the bottom of the third.
During a nationally broadcast game between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds in September 2020, Fox mistakenly showed Pittsburgh's skyline while broadcasting the Major League Baseball game from Cincinnati.