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I’m Sold on Dead Center – You Should Be Too

April 6, 2011

There is a luxury box in dead center field that A’s fans should lobby CSNCalifornia to buy. Not to whine and dine federal regulators when they propose merging Comcast with who knows who next. Not so that Glen and Ray can host a fan from Vallejo who wants to ask a stupid question like “what number does Dallas Braden wear?” But so we can have a dead center camera.

This is something I noticed when flipping through broadcasts, I was watching a bit of the highlights from the Rays and Halos game down in St. Petersburg. The camera angle was dead center, meaning the pitcher and catcher were in a line and you had a far better view of the strike zone, you can see that here:

Above is the SUN TV Broadcast of yesterday’s Angels-Rays game with the dead-center camera. Below is the CSNCalifornia broadcast of Sunday’s A’s-M’s game from the Coliseum with the much more common off-set camera.

Now there are pluses and minuses of the two approaches. Clearly there is a lot of “dead space” in the Rays broadcast, particularly with the advent of widescreen televisions showing us far more of the baselines than we may have previously ever wanted. But the problem is we can’t tell inside or outside on pitches. This is why some pitches where guys get out of the way appear to us to be over the plate. While the CSNCalifornia broadcast gets us “closer” to the action, we lose this understanding of the lateral movement of pitches and we lose perspective on the true strike zone.

If that doesn’t sell you, watch this video from Slate which I think was supposed to be included in this article but somehow was cut.

Sadly, CSN California’s Tom Adza – who directs A’s broadcasts (or at least did in 2009, I can’t confirm he still does) is not one of these people, from the article from Slate he says

“when ESPN started doing [the dead-center shot], the distance from the top of the pitcher’s head to the plate was fairly great sometimes. It was a really wide shot with a lot of dead space. As a viewer, you’re kind of looking at it going, I feel the need to be closer. The offset shot is more compact and fits the screen beautifully.”

However even he admits that:

“for a fan who wants to see live whether it’s a ball or a strike, there’s no question the dead-center is better. It’s kind of a strange thing. In sports TV, we’ve spent so much money to get better looks at what’s happening in a game. But here we show thousands of baseball games on TV every year, and we’re not showing the angle that gives the most exact information.”

I find it strange that there exist a legion of fans who somehow don’t want to see whether or not it is a ball or a strike. That seems a key component to me. Who are these people?

Regardless despite the setback when I first heard about this I looked to see the difference – loved it – and then I thought to myself well this would be easy to do in Oakland, we have that big batter’s eye in center field right and we have fans who care about balls and strikes and can sway Adza’s mind? Well wrong. The above Slate article mentions Oakland specifically stating that in the Coliseum “a wall of luxury boxes precludes placing a dead-center camera.”

So, here is what we must do A’s fans. Let’s e-mail Glen and Ray and ask this question “who has that luxury suite that we need for a dead center camera?” and then let’s get them to trade it for another one.

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