ESPN shut out of All-Star Game


NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball has limited ESPN's access to Tuesday night's All-Star Game after the network broke an embargo and broadcast news of the players' selections a few minutes after an exclusive, rain-delayed telecast on TBS.

Baseball executives told ESPN that it must pare its broadcast efforts from AT&T Park in San Francisco, where the All-Star Game is being held. So, most coverage will be done out of ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., rather than having "Baseball Tonight" and a portion of "SportsCenter" originate from California as planned.

ESPN doesn't have the rights to carry the All-Star Game -- those are Fox Sports' -- and didn't have the rights to carry an All-Star selection show, with those going to TBS as part of the new rights deal with Turner Broadcasting. ESPN had previously done the selection show.

Sources said MLB was angered after ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Sunday reported the National League rosters using an Associated Press story and the entire NL and American League rosters a few minutes after they were unveiled on TBS. No one was allowed to disclose the names until after the Turner show. Fans pick the starting players through a weekslong voting process.

Baseball executives have told ESPN that it cannot telecast from AT&T Park beyond an hour on Monday (not including the network's coverage of the Home Run Derby) and limited access to hours before Tuesday's game.

The decision spiked ESPN's plans to telecast several hours of programming from San Francisco. The ESPN set was taken down Thursday from AT&T Park.

"ESPN viewers will receive the same complete, in-depth All-Star coverage they have come to expect," ESPN said in a statement Friday. "We have a long and productive relationship with MLB that we value."

Representatives for Turner Broadcasting and MLB declined comment.

NBC also was in apparent violation of the embargo, mentioning during a 5:46 p.m. sports news update during the women's U.S. Open golf tournament that Barry Bonds of the Giants had been voted in by the fans.

TBS had scheduled its All-Star selection show for between 4 and 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday, following the Atlanta Braves-Florida Marlins telecast. But the game was delayed 85 minutes by rain, then went into extra innings, so the All-Star show did not start until after 6 p.m.

Sources said ESPN had scheduled a selection show for between 5 and 6 p.m., after the scheduled end of the TBS telecast. It filled that airtime with other baseball news. But just after 6 p.m., "SportsCenter" announced the names of the All-Stars, only a few minutes after they were unveiled by Turner.

That drew the ire of MLB, even without Turner having to say anything, sources said. MLB took the unusual step of telling ESPN that because it didn't respect the embargo of the rights holder, it would be treated like a non-rights holder for the All-Star Game and not given special treatment.

"It broke the spirit of the agreement," a source said Friday.