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August 4, 2015

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

The MLB Extra Innings package is great, but you won’t see every one of your team’s games

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte loses his sunglasses after missing a fly ball during a baseball spring training intrasquad game, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla.

Buyer beware.

If you are a Southern Nevada resident planning on purchasing the MLB Extra Innings package from such providers as Cox Communications and DirecTV, or the MLB.tv version to be streamed to a tablet or smart phone, make sure you understand what you are buying. For us in the Las Vegas area, it’s not exactly what’s being advertised.

The Major League Baseball season starts today, and several fans will order the package — priced at $129 for the MLB.tv version or around $200 by cable providers — with hopes of following their favorite team all season. Residents in Las Vegas come from all over, and some feel closer to home if they can follow the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox or whatever team they grew up cheering for.

The dirty secret with the package is you can’t follow any of baseball’s 30 teams for every game, which is a disappointment to several buyers because that is what is advertised in “The Ultimate Season Ticket.”

Since Las Vegas doesn’t have a big-league team, six West Coast franchises — the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants and A’s — consider the city within their broadcast market and claim us as part of their territory. Additionally, ESPN’s Sunday night game and FOX’s Saturday afternoon game also are blacked out for all teams, and games on other stations aren’t available during those times to protect the networks' exclusive broadcasting rights.

So, if you are a Pirates fan like me — insert joke here — you miss about 15 percent of your team’s games. That’s when they are playing out West, or when a team from the West is away from home. Every game. No exceptions.

While blackouts are part of doing business with purchasing the package, providers need to be more upfront about the limitations. Here’s the sales pitch: “Even if you live in one city and your team is in another, MLB EXTRA INNINGS lets you see the match-ups you want to watch. See the hottest games and biggest stars throughout the action-packed regular season.”

Well, that’s not exactly forthright and always comes as a big-time surprise to new subscribers. I was one of those poor souls a few years ago, but I still continue to buy the package.

The good news is Cox subscribers get most Dodgers and Angels games on Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West, and several Padres games are available on Channel 96 for those who can tolerate San Diego play-by-play guy Dick Enberg’s bizarre calls. Some Diamondbacks games also are televised on weekends.

While that’s a nice benefit of paying a monthly cable bill, it doesn’t take away from the mess of the incomplete package. Having six teams claiming the area is excessive, especially when two of those teams are 700 miles away in the Bay Area and not popular with locals. (We bleed Dodger blue in Las Vegas.)

Here is MLB’s logic on blackouts: “Blackouts are regional television restrictions distributed in order to protect the local television rights’ holder broadcasting the game. Blackout restrictions are based on the home team’s television territory as defined by Major League Baseball.”

It’s mind-boggling that San Francisco and Oakland would be considered part of the Las Vegas territory. Those poor Giants and A’s fans are simply out of luck. Unless a national network, or the regional Fox station, picks up your game, you won’t see any action again this year.

In Reno, which is a hop, skip and jump away from the Bay Area, the Giants and A’s games are blacked out, but viewers get the Angels, Dodgers, Padres and Diamondbacks. Can someone explain that to me? It’s virtually the same distance from Reno to San Francisco as it is from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, but fans in Las Vegas have to tolerate more blackouts.

In fact, Southern Nevada’s territory is packed with the most teams in the nation, according to a map on fangraphs.com. Each big-league team has a different color on the map, and most states have one or two teams that consider them their territory. Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, all are green on the map for the Atlanta Braves.

For Southern Nevada, the map looks like a rainbow. Folks in Iowa have the same problems because the Cubs, Brewers, Royals, Twins, Cardinals and White Sox consider them part of their territory.

You won’t hear me complain about Southern California teams being blacked in Las Vegas. But excluding games for teams playing Arizona, Oakland and San Francisco doesn’t feel right. Las Vegas deserves better. The nation deserves better.

There needs to be consistency with how territories are defined, and distances from a big-league market to a territory can’t be excessive.

Still, I was a hypocrite this year and purchased the package again.

One of these days the Pirates are going to be good, and I want to be there for the journey. Well, most of the journey.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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