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The SEC Network: What Does It Mean for Baseball?

Make no mistake: the SEC ESPN Network is largely about making the water fountains at SEC headquarters pour pure gold. But what does it mean for the "other" sport that the SEC dominates?

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

About a day after the Florida House decided to have a computer program read entire bills and the Florida Senate decided to break in the middle of its workday to have an ice cream social -- I am making neither of these things up -- the SEC announced its television network. There are times when my job is great, and there are times when it is less so. Trying to figure out whether a tax bill needed to get a two-thirds majority while your favorite conference is getting its long-awaited television outlet -- well, that's one of the less-than-great times.

Of course, everyone's attention turned quickly to what this meant for football and how likely it was that Les Miles will be able to replace his dietary grass with $20 bills. And, let's not be coy about it: This is all about football and making money. And mostly about making more money off of football, with the quickest route to doing that being creating your own network and cutting out the middleman. Oh, and making sure that we don't get into the same situation that I encountered on a trip to Michigan in 2007, when cable operators and the Big Ten Network were actually running attack ads against each other.

But my mind has lately been wondering about something slightly different: What does all this SEC ESPN TTFN $$$ Network hype mean for baseball? SECESPNN is so glad you asked, because they put it in their FAQ and everything:

13.How many basketball games? Baseball? Women's sports? Olympic?
At least 450 events will be televised on the Network each year. Of the 450 events, there will be more than 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games and 250 Olympic sports on the Network. More than 550 additional sporting events will be available on our digital platforms. The digital platform will include an outlet, similar to ESPN3, for the other 550 games and a live linear stream of the television network. This content will be available to Network subscribers across a range of devices.

In other words, they have no idea. Part of this depends on how you define all the above terms. Does "at least 450" mean "we're probably going to have 450 games, maybe 451 if something looks really popular or something," or does it mean "the floor is 450 and we'll go above and beyond that as warranted."? Does baseball count as an Olympic sport by this metric, even though it's no longer in the actual Olympics?

Doing the simple math would suggest that the answer to that second question is yes. Because we know there will be around 45 football games a year, and 45 + 100 + 60 + 250 = 455. So unless the network has no plans for baseball coverage at all -- which would be foolish for people who have figured out a way to make lots and lots of money -- then the baseball games almost have to count toward that 250. How many of those will be baseball games is another matter entirely.

The Big Ten Network and the Pac-12 Network might provide a little bit of context, but only a little. Because the Big Ten has 20 scheduled baseball games this year. (And they list it as an Olympic sport.) Sound good? This year, before the SEC Network has even launched, there will be 70 SEC baseball games broadcast either nationally or regionally. The Pac-12 Network doesn't appear to have its entire schedule mapped out like the BTN anywhere, but there will be two live televised games this weekend on the P12N. If you count the Thursday night game, 11 SEC baseball games will air this weekend.

How important all of this is depends at least in part on your fan base. There are some SEC schools -- my alma mater being one of them -- at which you could at least make an argument that the baseball fan base is more passionate than the basketball fan base. Whether that translates or not could depend on the Charlotte-based subsidiary of a Connecticut-based network is going to understand that. Yeah, that's not exactly a given.

The provision that can give everyone at least a little hope is the streaming concept. While I personally like to have a television on which to watch television and a computer on which to write snarky blog posts, even I can see that the two devices, as well as tablets and even smart phones, are starting to merge in ways that makes the whole field a little bit unpredictable. I just got a "smart" Blu-ray player, and once I figure out how to hook it up and get it all going, I can apparently find television stuff that's online. Through apps, or at least something very much like them. Meaning my TV is basically plugged into a quasi-computer that acts like a quasi-smart phone.

The promise of the SEC ESPN Network, for baseball fans and everyone else who enjoys SEC sports, is that the conference and the network seem to have figured out that this is where the future of television is headed. Whether that means good things for baseball fans in particular -- we might have to wait for another set of FAQs to figure that out.