Sunday, July 18, 2010
So the long anticipated MLB Network show on the White Sox front office, The Club, debuts tonight at 8 pm CT with a one-hour episode.
Having helped coordinate The Club from the White Sox perspective, I am interested in hearing what you all think of the first of the six shows. I will be hanging out on twitter @InsideTheSox if you want to carry on an on-line conversation during the show.
I wouldn’t really call The Club a reality show. Just to make sure everyone understands, it is not like the MLB Network has microphones and cameras on the White Sox 24/7. Instead, we work with them to come up with what we think will be the best opportunities and days to give baseball fans a behind-the-scenes look at how decisions are made at a major league team. The focus of the show is on Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen and the relationships the three men share in trying to help the White Sox win games, divisions and World Series titles.
You’ll get to sit in meetings fans and the media rarely see — organization-wide meetings in spring training, staff meetings in spring training and even private meetings in Ozzie’s office when players are told they’ve made the team … or are being sent down. You’ll also see and hear from Rick Hahn, our assistant GM, pitching coach Don Cooper and hitting coach Greg Walker. The show’s producers also wanted to show many of the characters away from the ballpark, so you will see footage of that as well.
For example, cameras weren’t around earlier this spring when Williams held a team meeting — perhaps when we look back on it the meeting will be seen as an important step in the creation of this team — when, as the team struggled on the field, he assured veterans that they were not being traded and told everyone that he believed in their ability to win. Basically, he called on the team to relax and play baseball, not to worry about trade rumors and critics crying out that the season was lost.
Probably the best footage in the first episode involves rookie Sergio Santos, but Cooper also steals some of the show, and as anyone who knows Coop would understand, some of the laughs.
A few critics have argued that this footage had to be scripted. It can’t be real, they claim. As someone who has worked for the White Sox for 20 years and who knows the “characters” very well, I can only laugh. At no point did anyone say “Action” or “Cut,” and I can assure you that the focus for everyone is on winning baseball games, not Emmys. In some cases, principals were asked specific questions before or after the fact, but no one was following any script!
People also assume that content is heavily edited by the team. Not true. While we did get to see advance drafts of the episode, the vast, vast majority of our comments were more factual concerns about the script or footage than whether or not something should be included or edited out. No significant portion of the first episode ended up on the editing room floor because of a White Sox concern about the team or our employees.
In fact, one argument I lost related to the spring training involved the Twitter “controversy.” My argument with MLBNetwork was that the general public did not really care about the issue and that it really had no impact on the team in any important way. I also questionned whether or not it was important to include specific tweets as examples. The guys from the MLBNetwork countered that to not include it would only open the show up to criticism of ignoring tough questions and/or stories. In the end, this show’s content belongs to MLB Network and MLB Productions, so the decision was theirs. It’s in.
The real work being done here is by the MLB producers. I cannot begin to imagine how many hours of footage have been shot and how much time has been spent since January in shooting, collecting and editing video. The real challenge is for the producers to take all of these hours, all of these possible story lines, and create 45 minutes of compelling story telling that is entertaining, dramatic and that makes sense.
Let me know what you think of the show tonight. All I can say is, “Thank Goodness,” our on-field performance in June appears to have helped us re-write the ending to this show come July 31 (when shooting ends).
Hope you enjoy tonight’s behind-the-scenes look at the White Sox.