Mike Bates is a Twins fan living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and he's also an editor and contributor with SBNation's MLB Daily Dish — meaning baseball is not just a pastime but part of his livelihood.
He seems like a reasonable man, but some things will send a reasonable man into a blind rage. Major League Baseball's television blackout policy is that tipping point for Bates.
And nobody should blame him. Bates lives more than 240 miles away from any major league city, a distance at which a fan might reasonably expect to be able to watch the full menu of games available through the MLB.TV package. After all, there are blackout restrictions on home viewing areas … but Cedar Rapids does not have a single home viewing area.
Technically, that last sentence is correct. Cedar Rapids doesn't have a single team in its home viewing area. It has six, according to MLB: the Twins, Brewers, White Sox, Cubs, Cardinals and Royals.
On any given night, when those teams aren't playing each other, he will be shut out of six of 15 games (40 percent). For the year, he's kept a running total: 183/573 (almost 32 percent) of available games have been blacked out in Cedar Rapids this season.
"The principle behind the blackout policy is pretty awful," Bates said. "I pay the same price as everyone else in the country for what amounts to two-thirds of the service because MLB wants to force me to get cable to watch my favorite team."
People who live in Minnesota with MLB.TV complain about the Twins blackout restriction, but they're the only team blacked out here. Imagine if you couldn't watch one-third of the games while living in a place nowhere near a major league ballpark.
And Iowa isn't alone. MLB.com has a handy spot where you can type in your ZIP code to see which teams are blacked out where you live. A Las Vegas ZIP code also brings up six blacked out teams: the A's, Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Padres and Diamondbacks.
While the courts have started to look into MLB's blackout rules, teams rake in so much money off lucrative regional sports network deals that it's hard to imagine things changing anytime soon.
Until then, Bates will keep tracking the blacked-out games. He has plenty of free time since he can't watch them.
"I'm a profoundly selfish person, and so I've only been tracking it since it started mattering to me," he said. "By the time the season ends, I figure we will be somewhere between 33 and 35 percent."