Friday, October 21, 2011

14 comments It's Another "Baseball is Dying" Column!

I agree with this article in principle. The NFL is much more popular than MLB, mostly because baseball is becoming a regional sport. I am not sure this is going to change anytime soon and I really don't care if this changes anytime soon. Still, this doesn't prevent "Baseball is dying" articles like this one from being written. People either like baseball or they don't, and more people like the NFL than like MLB. It is just a fact and those who write articles saying baseball is falling behind football in popularity are about five (ten?) years too late. Still, it doesn't prevent the question from being asked. That's the topic a writer on Bleacher Report tackles and he uses ESPN as a measurement for what is popular and not popular way too much for my liking.

Major League Baseball has a significant problem on its hands. No it's not the declining attendance numbers,

Otherwise known as "the factually incorrect, declining attendance numbers." Maybe how many people were at each game would show a different story, but I'm not privy to that information. So let's not pull a Bill Simmons and say attendance is declining simply because your team isn't very good right now.

Baseball's biggest problem right now is that everybody quits caring as soon as the NFL season starts up

EVERYBODY quits watching baseball when the NFL comes on. I just overly don't enjoy exaggerated remarks that speak for large groups of people. Nobody likes remarks like these. Those individuals who still like baseball, still watch baseball when the NFL season starts. It isn't like the NFL takes up more than one day and two nights of the week. So those individuals who really like baseball still have time to watch. Maybe you, as the author, don't watch baseball anymore after the NFL starts, but your opinion doesn't reflect the opinion of everyone.

It's time for Bud Selig and the MLB to acknowledge it and make changes. The steroid era is out the door along with the awe of the home-run ball.

So the first step to making baseball more popular than the NFL is to acknowledge baseball will never be more popular than the NFL if changes aren't made? So the object is to alienate the people who do like baseball after September to appease those individuals who don't like baseball after September? Interesting.

Fans no longer are amused by seeing a home run like they used to be.

NO ONE is amused by a home run anymore. Which is why you rarely see fans cheer when a home run is hit, mostly because many of the fans attending a baseball game are watching an NFL game on their phone and barely paying attention to the baseball game they are attending.

Nor are they amused by going to the ballpark and seeing a game that is now dominated by pitching.

I would be interested to hear about some of these changes suggested if fans no longer are amused by home runs and don't like pitching to dominate a game. How do you raise the excitement level of baseball without home runs and/or good pitching?

Baseball is failing in a month when it used to be so exciting: September.

In fairness to this writer, he did write this before one of the craziest nights in baseball history a prior to the postseason beginning. So I won't criticize him for the statement, but I think that night is proof baseball isn't completely failing in September excitement.

When a Tedy Bruschi-Chad Ochocinco feud is getting more attention than a pennant race, you know that the NFL is the king.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. If you get all of your sports information from ESPN then you deserve what information about sports you receive. What I mean by this is if you aren't smart enough to understand the Tedy Bruschi-Chad Johnson feud was a completely hyped and manipulated feud by Bruschi and the morons at ESPN, then there is no arguing with you. Tedy Bruschi made a huge deal out of a small issue and then ESPN reported on it breathlessly as if they weren't inventing the story on their very own campus. It's just the latest example of an ESPN "analyst" creating a story that ESPN reports on.

So the Bruschi-Johnson feud is more of a reflection on how well ESPN can create their own stories to report on. A person's knowledge of the feud also reflects where this person gets most of his sports information from. If this person watches ESPN for their sports news and opinions, then this story will seem like it is a big deal. Otherwise, if you ignore ESPN-created stories then you will see this Bruschi-Johnson story for the hyped-up story that it was.

The NFL has been the king for awhile, but it always seemed to allow baseball to come in and get its glory every fall.

To be fair, the NFL dominates the summer as well. Even training camps are well-covered by the sports media. MLB isn't king and isn't going to be king anytime soon, but this really doesn't matter. There are those who like baseball and changing the sport isn't going to make it more popular...unless the commissioner wants to allow PED use by the players. Actually, I guess this wouldn't work because fans are not amused by home runs anymore, right?

ESPN might as well be called the NFL Network 2.0.

Don't disparage the NFL Network like that.

It's not as if ESPN ignores baseball; they don't. It's that the majority of the discourse that goes on in its shows revolves around the NFL.

I would submit if a person is determining the popularity of baseball from how much coverage ESPN provides the sport then this person needs to stop doing this. I know this may come as a shock, but ESPN is an entertainment organization that is concerned with making money and pretty much nothing else. If good journalism or good commentary comes from the network while attempting to make money then that is great as well, but the need is to make money, not provide honest coverage of a sporting event. So I really don't care how much coverage of baseball ESPN gives the viewer, I'm not sure that tells me how popular the sport is. I love baseball and I never watch ESPN for baseball news.

Will baseball ever be able to escape the NFL's ever growing shadow?

No, and it doesn't matter. Baseball is becoming more and more a regional sport, while the NFL is more of a national sport. Acknowledging this doesn't mean baseball should change, even if it does seem the demographic watching baseball games is getting older.

Not unless Commissioner Selig is willing to make some significant changes to make the game more enjoyable.

So make the game more enjoyable for those who don't care to watch in September, but do watch the rest of the baseball season? If a person isn't going to watch baseball because the NFL is on, why change the game to draw this person's interest and alienate those who really like baseball? Regardless, let's read some of the suggestions to make the game of baseball more enjoyable...

No more trips to the mound for the manager unless it is injury related. If a pitcher is getting shelled, take him out.

I hope the author realizes the manager going to the mound takes up maybe 0.5% of the time during a baseball game. Here's an easier solution. Make the umpires enforce the rules in the rulebook that says a batter has to be back in the batter's box to hit after a set amount of time. The manager can only go to the mound once to check on his pitcher. This really doesn't take up that much time.

When a quarterback is having a rough day in the NFL, you don't see the head coach come out to the huddle and give him a pep talk.

This is a pretty horrible comparison. For starters, each team in the NFL gets six timeouts per game which usually take longer than a visit to the mound takes. So during some of these six timeouts, head coach will call a timeout to calm his quarterback down or speak to him about something. For enders, (why don't we use this term after using "for starters"?) the head coach doesn't have to come out there because the quarterback has a headset in his helmet where the head coach can relay necessary information.

Saying the head coach doesn't come to the huddle and give the quarterback a pep talk also ignores the fundamental differences in the game of football and baseball. If a quarterback is struggling, the head coach knows he will be back on the bench very quickly since the team probably isn't going to be on offense for very long. So there's no need to visit the quarterback on the field and this pep talk can wait until he reaches the sidelines. In baseball, if a pitcher is struggling then he isn't coming back to the dugout until he gets three outs. So the manager may have to go out to the mound for a pep talk to ensure the pitcher gets those three outs without blowing the game.

I have come to the conclusion that changing baseball around will not attract new viewers to the sport. Putting the actions suggested here wouldn't dramatically cut down on the length of games, plus NFL games are over three hours long and they have a ton of commercials. So I'm really not sure it is the length of the game, but the pace of the game of baseball, which I am not entirely sure can be changed without overhauling the sport entirely.

Despite the similarity in length, you would be hard pressed to find somebody willing to watch back-to-back baseball games, but when it comes to football, there are individuals who watch the noon games, afternoon games and then the nightcap.

There are also people who watch both sports all day when they are on during the same day. I am not hard pressed to find somebody willing to watch back-to-back baseball games. All I need to find is a mirror and I have found person willing to watch back-to-back games. This is another time when the author lets his own personal opinion and experience speak for the masses.

Instead, baseball has ignored ways to make the game more entertaining for fans. Take the example of instant replay. Almost every sport employs it, but for some reason baseball has continuously fought against it.

I get it! In an effort to (as stated earlier in this article)...

Baseball is slow, methodical and boring at times. This is why Selig and Co. need to revamp some of the rules to speed up the game.

We should slow the game down more by using instant replay. So to make it faster, try to make it slower.

I'm in favor of expanded replay, but perhaps the reason baseball has fought against this is because it slows the game down in an age where fans like fast sports?

And what about that ridiculously long 162-game schedule that is followed by an incredibly short postseason?

The baseball postseason is approximately as long as the NFL postseason, except it has more games and takes a shorter break between games. The NFL and MLB postseasons would be very nearly of equal length if the NFL didn't take a two week break between the championship games and the Super Bowl. Sorry, I didn't mean to disrupt this discussion with any type of facts.

If I'm going to invest in following a team and have to endure the marathon that the season is, I don't want to see my team get knocked out in a five-game series, where a team could get hot for a few days and advance.

So why the hell do you like the NFL then? An NFL team can have a great year, only to get knocked out in one game during the playoffs. Ask the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons about this. Yes, there are more games in baseball, but it takes three losses to get knocked out of the playoffs, while in the NFL one loss knocks a team out of the playoffs. A fan can follow a team the entire year and then an opposing team has a great game and knocks this fan's team out of the playoffs.

How else could you explain that there is only one wild card winner in each league? There are 30 teams in MLB, yet only eight make the playoffs.

That seems like a fair number if you don't take into consideration that the wild card "race" is rarely a race. The past five seasons, the wild card has been decided by five or more games.

The Wild Card this year, which had not been decided at the point this article was written, was decided by 1 game in each league.

Also, this statement is completely false, so more accurate research needs to be done.

In 2010 the NL Wild Card was decided by one game.
In 2009, the NL Wild Card was decided by four games.
In 2008, the NL Wild Card was decided by one game.
In 2007, the NL Wild Card was decided by one game.
In 2006, the NL Wild Card was decided by three games.

So over the past six years, three times the NL Wild Card was decided by one game. So the Wild Card race is very much a race. Very, very much.

Increasing interest in September has to be baseball's top priority going forward, because as of now, the NFL is all that matters in the minds of the majority of sports fans.

Which is perfectly fine and I would agree baseball should make some changes. MLB will not be able to compete with the NFL in terms of popularity. I'm fine with this. If fans are really bored with the home run and hate good pitching, there aren't too many other ways for the sport to excite fans who don't like the sport anyway.

Instead, they're focused on their fantasy team and the status of Arian Foster's hamstring.

Get this...I am focused on my fantasy teams, the NFL and MLB. It is possible to be focused on more than one thing at once.

There's nothing worse than being irrelevant as a sports league and that's the direction that America's pastime is headed if changes aren't made.

There are improvements baseball can make. The sport will never be completely irrelevant and probably will never reach such low levels of popularity to make it a niche sport. Using the level of hype ESPN gives the sport and using the opinion of people who don't watch the sport after the NFL starts isn't the best way to gauge baseball's relevancy. Baseball is becoming more of a regional sport, there's no doubt about that, but this doesn't mean the sport is dying or losing relevancy as a whole.


rich said...

That seems like a fair number if you don't take into consideration that the wild card "race" is rarely a race. The past five seasons, the wild card has been decided by five or more games.

Other than the fact that this is absolutely 100% wrong as you pointed out, even if it were true, it's still bullshit.

Even conceding this point to then say:

There are 30 teams in MLB, yet only eight make the playoffs.

is stupid.

So there are 4 really good teams that make the playoffs and no one close after that (or else the WC would be less than 5 games)... why would you want more teams in the playoffs?

If there are 4 teams that are clearly better than everyone else... seems like 4 is the right number.

However, I will agree with one sentiment of the article. You can't follow baseball the same way you can follow football or even basketball and hockey.

For the NFL, you have to really gear up for 16 games, that's it. You then get a week to digest what happened and talk about it.

Baseball doesn't have that luxury. Wins and losses are forgotten about quickly because they play 162 of them and they're also probably playing the next day. There's very little emotional carryover.

When the Giants win a big game, you feel great for a week; when they lose, I feel like shit for a week. When the Phillies win, it lasts all of one day and then it's back to "I hope they win today."

Basically, I can get myself up for the 16 Giants games, but not for 162 games of Phillies baseball. Love the Phillies, but that's a lot of games.

Even beyond that, I wrote about this a while back, but if you follow a team for seven months to watch them lose to (at the very least feels like) an inferior team, you're out seven months of your time and energy.

The Giants lose, I'm out 16 days of rooting. The Phillies lose, then the 162 games I followed or watched have now become meaningless.

With so much time being invested in one team, when the Phillies aren't playing, I stop caring. I haven't watched a single pitch of the playoffs since the Phillies went out.

I can watch a football game b/w two shitty teams and still be relatively entertained, put on a Rangers - Cardinals baseball game and I probably couldn't watch more than 10 minutes of it.

Of course that doesn't get into the idea that baseball really isn't the most exhilarating thing either, so ya, you combine a slow moving game (thanks TLR and the Yankees/Red Sox) with two teams I haven't really followed and I suddenly don't have a reason to watch.

Murray said...

I will take a pitching duel 7 days a week over any slug fest

JimA said...

If someone is serious about changing baseball, the best thing to do is ask baseball fans what they like and don't like. If you are a football fan who stops watching baseball when football starts, you're already biased against baseball.
When I watch baseball, I'm into each pitch. I'll watch two teams I can get into. I haven't watched a full half of football this season, let alone back to back games. Part of it is just the opposite of the writer. Football, while it is about execution, has to be set up every down, running new players out each play. I get bored waiting for the play to begin (truth is, I'm a hockey fan first and foremost).

JimA said...

If someone is serious about changing baseball, the best thing to do is ask baseball fans what they like and don't like. If you are a football fan who stops watching baseball when football starts, you're already biased against baseball.
When I watch baseball, I'm into each pitch. I'll watch two teams I can get into. I haven't watched a full half of football this season, let alone back to back games. Part of it is just the opposite of the writer. Football, while it is about execution, has to be set up every down, running new players out each play. I get bored waiting for the play to begin (truth is, I'm a hockey fan first and foremost).

Pat said...

I enjoy this. I get to play my favorite game "Bleacher Report or Easterbrook?"

ivn said...

Gene WochEioedglsegwwski wrote a similar column a few days ago, focused around the average idiot's go-to talking point: World Series ratings being down. He says that 40 years ago, when there were "fewer people and fewer televisions," the ratings were a lot higher than they are today. Of course, in the early 70's there were like four channels. The only things the World Series was up against were Carl Sagan and the Brady Bunch. Hey, did you know that the Love Boat averaged more viewers (in a time with fewer people and televisions!) per episode than Breaking Bad? I guess they should drop the whole "meth dealer" thing, give Walter White a sassy gay friend, and have Charo guest star. Ratings are the most important thing!

He suggest shortening the season to help World Series ratings. I don't see any connection between the two but would the owners of the 22 teams that don't make the playoffs really give up eight games of revenue in the hopes that more people will watch the World Series?

The bottom line is that out of the five major team sports, baseball translates the most poorly to television. Name me any other sport where the cameras can only show maybe 30 percent of the players on the field at any given time. The best part of attending a baseball game is being able to see how everyone on the field reacts when the ball is put in play. You cannot see that if you're watching on TV.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I wasn't going to research that comment and then I did and couldn't believe how wrong it was. I agree with the idea you can't follow a baseball team as closely as an NFL team. There's no doubt about that. 162 is a lot of games. I think the season should go to 154 games, not that that is a small amount of course.

Much of what you have said is further proof baseball is a regional game. You follow your team all year and then when they are out of it, you stop watching unless they are good games. Personally, I wouldn't dream of missing a pitch during the playoffs if the Braves are playing, but I don't feel the same way after they are out of it.

Murray, I like pitching duels too. One mistake can change the game.

JimA, I DVR a lot of football games and watch them on fast forward. I think people would be surprised how much downtime there is during the game. I can watch a game pretty quickly and see every snap. For baseball, I would have the game move faster and put a certain amount of throws the pitcher can go to 1st base and have the umps enforce the time a pitcher has to throw the ball.

Pat, if Easterbrook wrote more that would be a worthwhile game to play nearly every week, twice a week.

Ivn, it doesn't shock me to see ratings are down. People lose interest after a long season and there are only two teams left. Plus, there are a ton of options on television now as you said.

I much prefer attending a baseball game than seeing one on television. Something about being at the park. That being said, I still like to watch on television too. I guess I just enjoy the game and others don't.

rich said...

The other thing that I think effects this season is that the NLCS and ALCS were all between "smaller market teams."

I watched some of the SF-Texas WS last year, but that was because I figured what's another week? This year? Watching an NLCS between two teams I had barely seen and didn't really care about, followed by a WS between two teams I had barely seen and didn't really care about... I'd rather watch college football or hockey.

As for what JimA said about the setting up in football and being into every pitch... I'm sorry, but some of these pitchers take eons between pitches. Then you have managers like TLR and Manuel making pitching changes every 4 or 5 pitches and it drags on. Heck, there are batters that step out of the box after every pitch.

I'm not saying football doesn't have similar pacing issues at times (the whole TD commercial - PAT - commercial - KO - commercial comes to mind), but I only have to put up with it once a week and I typically do it while watching with friends.

I think that's kind of why the NFL is the biggest thing. You can get fans of different teams watching different games because almost every game is on the weekend and so even if you don't care about the teams, you still go hang out with your buddies and have a few beers and relax.

Whereas with baseball it's harder to do that b/c as you say Ben, it's a more regional thing and a lot of games are on weeknights when going out to a bar with your buddies to watch the game isn't as readily an option.

Also Joe Buck and Tim McCarver make watching baseball about as fun as a rectal exam. Football really only has 30-35 seconds between plays where you can talk about something about that play. There's not much you can say about a fastball that misses low and outside when the next pitch is coming in 20-25 seconds and so you end up with lots of down time.

Then again, if the Phillies were still in it, I'd kill anyone who would keep me from trying to get to watch the games.

Murray said...

I think the guy just wants baseball to cater to people who don't like baseball

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, it is true a/b the time between pitches. That kills me sometimes too. There's a lot of breaks between pitches sometimes. Personally, the throwing to first base annoys me to death. The pitcher stands on the mound for 20 seconds and then throws to 1st base, so it may take 2 minutes between pitches. It is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Football is more of an event b/c it happens only one day a week, so I can why it is more popular. The sports are different, but I think it is clear baseball is more regional.

Murray, I think you are exactly right about that. It's a losing proposition to me. Why cater to people who don't really like the sport?

Imojust said...

I think all of these authors of baseball is dead articles are forgetting about the radio. Baseball is one of the few sports that is pretty easy to enjoy on the radio. (my opinion anyway) The only games I've watched on TV in the past who knows how many years have been Brewer playoff games in 08 and 11.

Football sucks on the radio and should only be experienced that way when there is no other choice. Baseball kinda sucks on TV, as mentioned earlier. Good center field cameras are about all it has going for it.

Bengoodfella said...

Imojust, I don't remember much baseball on the radio, but a person certainly could have listened to a game while he did something else around the house. I don't think other sports play as well on the radio. So maybe the television age has increased the popularity of other sports because they play better on television.

I never listen to football on the radio unless I absolutely have to.

conshy matt said...

just getting to this article, and it makes me want to kick the author in his balls!

this guy is making it sound like baseball is some dying sport. he couldn't be further from the truth. as Ben points out, regionally, baseball is as strong if not stronger than ever. baseball is attracting a shit ton of casual fans who show up to the park in all sorts of team gear, tailgate, and cheer like crazy. moreso than ever.

now this is mainly in cities where the team is winning, but not always. baseball has one thing that no other sport has - beautiful weather in a unique and inviting atmosphere. people like going to baseball games. this even goes for non-diehard fans.

ratings are down, no doubt. but not everywhere, and home town games ratings really depend on the success of the team.

of course the casual fan tends to tune out once their team is eliminated, as do many passionate fans. i personally have had a hard time tuning in to the playoffs since the Phils lost, but i tend to check in and often get sucked in if it's a close game. many other fans do not, which makes sense b/c we spend the whole season watching OUR team (100+ games) and it's a lot different to watch a baseball game with no real rooting interest.

quite frankly, i don't really watch too much football outside of Eagles games. i'm probably in the minority though.

baseball will likely never be as popular as football, but that's not really the point. the sport is extremely popular right now, and is probably the healthiest of the other 3 major sports. this does not mean that baseball is in any kind of trouble. to imply that it is is the hight of hyperbole.

Bengoodfella said...

Matt, there is something enjoyable about going to a baseball game. Minor league baseball is probably my favorite for the atmosphere.

Baseball isn't going to beat the NFL in ratings. It just isn't going to happen. The NFL does a better job of making the games seem like events plus there are fewer of them so they feel more like events. I think the fact baseball is more regional confuses people into thinking it is declining in popularity, which couldn't be further from the truth.

I watch the World Series, but I do find myself flipping channels or watching something else if it is not a good game. To be fair, I would do that for another sport if it wasn't exciting either. When the Braves are out of it, I have a harder time watching.