Big League Stew - MLB

In case you missed the news late Friday afternoon, Showtime and MLB Productions have announced they'll be teaming up this season for a behind-the-scenes show on the San Francisco Giants.

From the press release:

The soon-to-be-titled series is currently in production and will be shot over the course of ten months in numerous locations at home during the off-season, on to Scottsdale, Arizona for Spring Training and embedded with the team during the regular season. The series is set to premiere with a preview episode timed to the opening week of the 2011 season, followed by regularly scheduled episodes during the second half of the season. 

This is great news for those of us who have openly pined for a baseball-themed "Hard Knocks"-style show and were then disappointed by last year's relatively shallow "The Club," which aired on MLB Network and featured the Chicago White Sox. Stocked with young and interesting players — plus possessing the cachet of being the defending World Series champs — the Giants are a perfect centerpiece for MLB Productions' latest attempt at getting it right.

That said, the show's producers have a lot of challenges ahead of them, which is why I've taken the liberty of making a list of suggestions for their upcoming work:

1. Take your time and film everything you can: One of our biggest complaints about "The Club" was that there was no real story arc to the series. Juicy themes were started and completed within the span of one episode and many of the players weren't fleshed out as real characters that anyone quickly cared about. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the cameras weren't around 24/7 and that needs to change quickly. Trust your best storylines, write them well and give us as much focused material as your resources will allow.

2. Make a star out of Bruce Bochy: The star of the Giants' manager shone brightest during last fall's postseason and I'd be content with a full show that only features Bochy talking about his baseball philosophies at length. Bochy isn't the type to beat his own drum, but I'm betting you can elicit and build a few good segments on his strategies. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he goes about his business.

3. Pablo Sandoval(notes) as "The Biggest Loser" = TV gold: While those interested in seeing Sandoval return to his 2009 form want to see less of Kung Fu Panda, remember that those of us watching will want to see more of him. His offseason weight battle has already been one of the winter's most intriguing and the personable Sandoval is facing some real big stakes as the Giants have made it clear he's heading to the minors if he doesn't get his act together. Point your cameras his way. 

4. Buster Posey(notes) and Brandon Belt(notes) will make a good study in contrast: Even if Posey weren't around, Belt would make for a good feature character as the Giants' top prospect will be battling for a major league job in Scottsdale this spring and could provide a fresh-eyed perspective if he makes the big league team. Posey, however, adds some great texture and context to the story as he was in Belt's position last spring and now stands on the brink of superstardom.

5. When in doubt, give us more Tim Lincecum(notes) and less Brian Wilson(notes): The temptation to hand the show over to Wilson will be great as the eccentric closer became one of baseball's breakout stars last October. But the truth is that Wilson's brand of weird is best taken in measured doses and anything more makes him seem a lot more like the annoying punk kid hanging out around the Cinnabon after his shift at Hot Topic (that is, if that annoying kid had a right arm that could throw a fastball more than 90 mph).

But as someone who possesses both a love for pitching and an easily marketed personality, Lincecum should be featured as much as possible. From his home to the clubhouse to the mound, let this show serve as a vehicle to introduce Tiny Tim to an even wider segment of society. He's already a big star in the baseball world, but he can be even bigger.

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