If you are a regular viewer of Cardinals games on Fox Sports Midwest or in any way involved in Cardinals Twitter, you’re probably aware: The network changed it’s main center-field camera angle and it’s really bad now.
After more than a month of complaints from fans, there’s no sign it’s going to change.
I don’t know who was the very first to complain about it, but VEB Site Managers Emeritus Craig Edwards and Ben Humphrey have both bemoaned the change. Our own ‘lil Scooter summarized the controversy here one month ago.
Three days later, a spokesman for FSMW did respond to the controversy, saying that the change was made to keep the pitcher from occasionally obscuring the strike zone box, that the network had already adjusted the camera position somewhat, and would “monitor it” going forward.
Since then, it seems nothing has changed.
Let’s start by highlighting why this new style of camera angle - and FSMW’s in particular - is so bad.
The fundamental conflict of every baseball game is batter vs. pitcher. A casual or novice fan may just sit around sipping beer waiting for a hit, but any serious fan wants to watch the chess match play out between batter and pitcher (also while sipping a beer). The way the pitcher attacks the hitter is by utilizing a full arsenal of pitches across the zone, and the best way to see the location and movement of each pitch is from a camera centered behind the plate/mound.
A perfect example of this came from Monday night’s game. It was Bryce Harper vs. Jordan Hicks, and despite the fact the Cardinals already had the game in hand, the broadcasters noted that all the players for both teams were on the top step to see how it played out.
Hicks put Harper away with a filthy slider. At least... we can assume it was filthy. It back-footed Harper, and Yadi had to lunge across the plate catch it. But from this off-center camera angle, it looks absolutely straight.
Hicks does Harper #dirty pic.twitter.com/LjSPkwRz2N— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) May 7, 2019
Fangraphs is among the outlets that have rated in-stadium cameras over the years, and in their most recent rankings from last year, they basically rank from most-centered to least-centered. St. Louis came in at #10. As a reminder, here’s what that old angle looked like:
Now, there is an aesthetic argument that can be made for the off-center angle. By framing the batter and pitcher more side-by-side, you can make each one larger and spread them out across the frame. This emphasizes the two most important characters, even if it obscures the pitch itself. Here’s an example from Cleveland:
But here’s the thing: Fox Sports Midwest’s new angle manages to give us the worst of both worlds. It presents the pitch in a way where we cannot appreciate its movement, and it makes the action farther away than any other camera in baseball.
I can see 10 rows of fans in the stands. How is this giving me a better view of the game when nearly half the frame is made up of people in the club seats with Resting Oaf Face?
I realize this is the kind of change that a casual fan might not even notice... but who does FSMW think is watching these games? On a weeknight? The poll on ‘lil Scooter’s post found that 96% of VEB readers prefer the old camera angle. Sure, this blog’s readership tends to be hardcore fans and also extremely attractive... but is there any reason to believe a majority of fans prefer this new, lousy camera angle?
I’ve seen some suggest this move might have been made to show more advertising, but the screenshots show both this year and last year’s angles show exactly one green screen ad board on either side of the backstop... so that seems irrelevant.
In the limited response from FSMW, spokesman Geoff Goldman said the goal was “more of an offset view like you see in other stadiums, and similar to what national TV uses when they broadcast from Busch.” That makes it sound like somebody at the network thought the dead center camera was old and busted and the offset view is the new hotness. That is not the case.
Go back to most any game in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and you will exclusively see the offset view. As I recall, the value of the centered camera really came to the fore in 2001, when ESPN debuted the “Dead Center” camera as part of its Sunday Night broadcasts. Interestingly, it was later that same year they debuted the “K Zone.” So even in its earliest incarnation, nearly 20 years ago, ESPN was able to provide both a centered view of home plate and a strike zone box.
I have no clue why Fox Sports Midwest made the change, but I would guess somebody simply thought it was a good idea. It is our job to continue to remind them that it very much is not.
Every night my Twitter timeline filled with fans complaining about the camera, yet aside from the one written statement to Fox 2, I’ve seen no response from FSMW to myself or other fans. I guess that means we need to make even more noise.
Perhaps it’s time to rattle the cage of FSMW’s sponsors. Should we collectively tell Ryan Kelley that we do not want to refinance our homes, PMI or not? Should we burst onto the Charlie-Rose-looking set of those Carrollton Bank commercials with our own grumblings about horizontal movement? Should we not heal our homes with Helitech? I say it’s all on the table.
Fox Sports Midwest: Please return the camera angle we watch for like 90% of the game to the one your fans overwhelmingly love. I understand you thought this was a good idea and it may even cost some money to reconfigure your setup. If you have to fire Al Hrabosky to cover the costs, we the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are willing to accept that.