GOW MEDIA'S BIG MONTH

David Gow: A peek inside the family

David Gow: A peek inside the family
A.J. Hoffman (center) and Fred Faour (right) had the No. 1 sports show in the city in January. Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Last year I caught up with an old friend.  Amazingly, during the conversation, he failed to tell me some exciting news about his kids.  They had gotten exceptionally good grades and were on their way to Stanford.  A very exciting time!  Yet, out of modesty, he said nothing, and I had to learn the big news from a third party.   His omission almost made me feel left out.

Today I will not make the same mistake.  I will share with you some exciting news about “the kids” at the station, who recently got a very good report card.  When Nielsen ratings came out last week, ESPN 97.5 FM finished with the three top-rated sports shows in the city (for Men, ages 25-54, the standard metric for sports).  The top three shows:

No. 1: The Blitz, with Fred Faour and AJ Hoffman; weekdays 4-7 p.m.

No 2:  The Usual Suspects, with Joel Blank and Barry Laminack; weekdays 1-4 p. m. 

No. 3:  The Bench (John and Lance!), with John Granato and Lance Zierlein; weekdays 7-9 a.m.

As always, there is a story behind the successes.    

  • At 8-years old, The Blitz is now the longest continuous-running sports-talk show in the city.  Fred and A.J. do their homework and know all-things-sports.  For that matter, Fred is now also the cerebral editor of SportsMap.com.  But do not consider them the class nerds.  Fred and A.J. talk sports with an edge, perhaps an air of cool.      

  • The Usual Suspects launched one year ago, almost as an odd couple. Joel came from the Rockets and seemed to see everything through the prism of sports.  Barry won our Rock the Mic contest and as a stand-up comic, seemed to see everything through the prism of humor.  Like most good couples, the two have found a solid, compelling balance.  Sports and humor?  Absolutely: the odd couple is now a successful couple.

  • The Bench.  There are many famous duos: Bert and Ernie, Batman and Robin, Heckle and Jeckle, etc.  But in the history of Houston sports talk, John and Lance stand apart.  When we got the opportunity to reunite them, I knew they would be successful; what I did not know was how quickly the market would come.  In this first ratings book since the reunion, they are No. 1 in their daypart.  And they are just getting (re)started.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the other kids.  In middays, Raheel and Del are rising stars on 97.5.  We have one of the country’s top authorities on soccer, Glenn Davis, who hosts Soccer Matters on Tuesday evenings.  Also, I am often asked: what ever happened to Charlie Pallilo?  We got him.  He is on SportsMap 94.1 FM, weekdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. And 94.1 FM now includes Golic and Wingo, Barry Warner, Charlie, Nate and Creight and the Sean Salisbury Show.  Check it out!   

Finally, as you read the names above, the family is big now.  Bluntly, we have more sports experts in our building than any other media company in the city.  What do we do with them all?  Our “Stanford” is our new media and new platforms.  All members of the team are now talking on air, writing on sportsmap.com and now appearing on videos here on the site.  A very exciting time!   

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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