MLB rips Bally Sports: Kevin Pillar is must-see TV!

Major League Baseball promotes its star players, the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Fernando Tatis Jr. The league has never launched a marketing campaign around Kevin Pillar.

“I was never deserving of it,” Pillar said Tuesday at Angel Stadium.

The league depends upon rosters populated by players like Pillar, the Angels outfielder who played at West Hills Chaminade and Cal State Dominguez Hills. Pillar has been good enough to play 12 years in the majors, but he never has made an All-Star team.

On Tuesday, however, the league promoted Pillar in a curious place.

In a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the league took aim at the parent company of Bally Sports for depriving fans of “memorable, exciting and historic performances and games.”

MLB dropped names — among them seven-time All-Star pitcher Chris Sale of the Atlanta Braves, five-time All-Star infielder José Ramírez of the Cleveland Guardians, and electric young shortstop Elly De La Cruz of the Cincinnati Reds.

And then MLB cited Pillar, and in particular the game last week in which he hit two home runs and drove in six runs.

Bally holds local television rights for 12 MLB teams, including the Angels. The bankruptcy process is 14 months old, and Bally plans to ask the court next month for permission to exit bankruptcy and start its corporate life anew.

However, the viability of the new Bally’s could depend on revenue from agreements with three major distributors: DirecTV, Charter and Comcast.

Bally has reached deals with the first two but so far has struck out with Comcast.

As a result, Comcast removed Bally channels from its cable systems on May 1, depriving some fans of the star turns of Pillar and other players, according to the league, but also putting all the Bally channels at “substantially increased risk of shutting down altogether.”

A court hearing is scheduled Wednesday, at which Bally can respond to the league’s concerns.

Pillar thought back to the seven years he played for the Toronto Blue Jays, where there are no similar issues over local television rights because a cable company owns the team and airs games on its cable systems.

“If I played well, I became a very popular player,” Pillar said. “There was never an issue with promotion there, because the games were televised all across Canada.”

MLB has made no secret of its desire to collect broadcast rights of as many teams as possible, then package those rights in a way that would eliminate the blackouts often granted as inducements to local cable companies.

Live sports remains the primary reason fans do not cancel their cable or satellite subscription in favor of streaming, so those companies will not easily surrender those rights, and individual teams will not easily surrender the guaranteed millions from those deals.

“I think it’s a sad thing for the sport when there are people out there who are unable to watch their teams,” Pillar said.

“I just feel like baseball is in a really good place, in the amount of talent. Every market seems to have really good players. There’s a lot of superstars in this game, a lot of young superstars, a lot of young players coming through the pipeline that are going to be superstars.

“They’ve done a good job of making the games quicker and more entertaining. So, to me, it’s very sad that we still have some of those issues, where fans aren’t able to watch their favorite players or favorite teams.”

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