MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Justin Huber of the Aces bats during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showground. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Without the foresight and benevolence of the MLB Network this weekend, your options for televised sporting events would have been college basketball or college basketball. Arrowpoint State against Marnol. UC Stockton vs. Jumping Tech. There was a chance that you would have succumbed. You wouldn't feel good about yourself right now.
Instead, we had the option of watching baseball. If you so choosed, you could have watched Bubbie Buzachero pitch a fantastic relief outing that wasn't quite fantastic enough. Bubbie Buzachero pitched eight innings of relief. Bubbie Buzachero almost pitched the Melbourne Aces to a championship. Bubbie Buzachero.
The Australian Baseball League had their Championship Series over the weekend, and the Perth Heat took the Claxton Shield. The deciding third game of the series came down to a wild pitch in the 13th inning -- it was just as goofy and thrilling as it sounds. Bubbie Buzachero pitched, too. The best part: It was televised on the MLB Network.
It was tape-delayed, probably because Australia is so far in the future that it's not even winter there, but it was still baseball. Pitchers hunching over, checking for signs. Batters cocking their bats, looking for pitches on the outside corner. Runners taking a lead, then scampering back to the bag on a pickoff throw. It was a bright, sunny day in Australia, and they were playing baseball. That it ended with a thrilling, extra-innings outcome was just a bonus. It was baseball. On TV. In February.
The MLB Network has all of the stuff you'd expect from a league-run network -- they have talking heads debating the moves of the offseason; they have shows debating the best catchers of all-time. They also have Clubhouse Confidential, an analytically focused program that always has amazing guests!!!! You might quibble with the particulars of the programming, but at any point in the day, you can turn to a station and have something baseball-related on. That's not a small thing for a baseball junkie needing a winter fix.
What the ABL Championship showed, though, was that there is room for a lot more winter-league baseball on TV. I have absolutely zero idea of the logistics it would take to televise Dominican or Venezuelan games, so that might be where the discussion ends. And considering the cost-to-viewer ratio, it would probably be a money sinkhole for MLB Network to produce the telecasts themselves.
But if there's a way for games to get on TV any possible way they can -- at 3:00 a.m., with the original Spanish-language broadcasters, even -- it would make the offseason that much more bearable. Maybe it could be something that starts small, like televising the Venezuelan home-run derby:
That's Pablo Sandoval ceding his spot to a 47-year-old Andres Galarraga, and while the Big Cat didn't exactly make a case that an MLB team should pick him up, it was a spectacular moment. The huge crowd was into it. There was a dinger. It was glorious. And even in the years where a Venezuelan legend doesn't make a surprise appearance, televising the Venezuelan home-run derby would still be a couple of scraps of methadone for the long offseason.
Hopefully the dramatic finish to the ABL championship drew more interest than the network execs might have expected. Maybe there's a unexpected buzz around Australian baseball that isn't just coming from the Justin Huber fanatics on the Internet this time. With any luck, we'll get to watch all sorts of things from the right-sidebar here next winter. I'll even chip in a couple of bucks and pass the hat. There's only so much talking about baseball that a person can read or watch. They actually play the stuff in the winter, too. Here's hoping we can watch more of it.