MLB's shortened season is scheduled to start on July 23rd. The NBA is set to return a week later. Both leagues open with double-headers on a Thursday night. Both leagues will show games on national television throughout their opening weekend. That's where the similarities end as the NBA is going to make an insane amount of basketball available to fans while baseball will go back into hiding.
Take a look at the opening night double-headers. The NBA has games scheduled at 6:30 PM ET and 9 PM. There's a good chance you could watch both those games and get to bed before midnight. Meanwhile, MLB has Yankees - Nationals at 7 PM and Dodgers and Giants starting at 9 PM. The next few days are full of games for both leagues split between their various broadcast partners. Then as basketball returns and MLB moves into its second week, baseball returns to business as usual.
On Thursday, July 30th, with the NBA returning, MLB has three nationally televised games scheduled between two time slots and they go head-to-head with basketball. Not a single game starts before 6 PM. On Friday, July 31st, MLB has one game that starts before 6 PM and zero nationally televised games. As the seasons go on MLB looks like it is just going to fade into the background like it always does.
On Thursday, August 6th for example, the NBA will broadcast a quadruple-header with games starting at 1:30 PM, 4 PM, 6:30 PM, and 9 PM. That same day MLB has given FOX the rights to two games at 7:15 PM. The next day the NBA has a triple-header that starts at 4 PM. MLB has a single game on FS1 at 9:15 PM.
While the NBA is giving fans all they can handle, MLB is treating 2020 like any other year. Blackout restrictions. A game or two every other night. The NBA bent over backwards to put Zion Williamson, who had to leave campus today for a family emergency, front and center for a couple weeks. He's scheduled to play in the first game from the NBA bubble. His second game will also be nationally televised. Six of the Pelicans' eight games are already scheduled for national television and a seventh is still TBD.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout is buried at 10 PM on the second night of the season and just two of his next eight games will be on national television. Not that anyone cares. Mike Trout is an 8-time All-Star who has been dominating for about a decade and unless you're a fan of frozen pretzels, you probably don't even know what he looks like.
What about MLB's future? Fernando Tatis Jr. will play on FS1 at 9:10 PM on the third night of the season. The only other game the San Diego Padres have scheduled on national television right now is at 9:45 PM on July 30th.
If you want to get a look at Ronald Acuña Jr., the Atlanta Braves play two of their first three games of the season against the New York Mets on ESPN. After that you have to wait eight days until you can watch Acuña again. Against the Mets. Do you get the impression MLB wants to promote a young star or that they might just accidentally do it while showing a team from New York who will play three of their first four games on ESPN?
This is a horrible situation, but a unique opportunity and baseball is throwing out a chance to create new fans and promote their most exciting young players. They're going to be especially sorry when America's complete lack of unified response to COVID-19 results in states starting to shut down again in a few weeks. People are going to be home. Baseball could be there for them, but they won't. I guess it doesn't get more American than that.