Thursday, March 5, 2015

2 comments Bill Plaschke Also Claims Baseball is Dying, But Don't Worry, He Has Solutions

We've heard from many sportswriters about just how dead baseball is. For a sport that is dead, there sure is a lot of talk about that sport. One would think if baseball was really dying that it wouldn't create so much interest in it's death. Bill Plaschke adds to the chorus and provides solutions to increase interest in baseball. I'm not entirely sure how some of these changes for baseball will do anything for World Series ratings. I guess it's not Bill's job to create solutions that fix the supposed problem he is trying to fix. It's Bill's job to improve baseball, and even though these solutions have nothing to do with World Series ratings, these great World Series ratings will come. If baseball removes the DH, they will come.

The pressure is off, America. The Fall-Over Classic is finished.

It was a really good World Series. What I watched of it, I enjoyed. Much like any other sporting event that runs too late though, I can't always watch the whole thing live. There was no pressure, it was an enjoyable World Series. But that's not enough! Not by a long shot. How dare the World Series be enjoyable, because ratings. Ratings!

No more fourth-place teams battling fifth-place teams for a first-place trophy.

Yeah, but the fourth and fifth place teams beat the teams better then them in a five or seven game playoff. It's not a fluke if it happens in a five or seven game series...or at least it shouldn't be a fluke.

No more rules chaos, home-field confusion and seriously creepy Rob Lowe commercials.

Okay, where's the confusion about homefield advantage? The team who wins the All-Star Game gets homefield advantage. There's a lot of issues with how homefield advantage is determined, but it's a very simple idea to understand.

It ended Wednesday after the only one of the seven games that folks actually watched. 

If I'm not wrong, and I don't think I am, all of the seven World Series games were among the Top 20 shows in primetime during a given week. I have discussed this before.

You're off the hook for another year, America. You no longer have to feel bad about not watching the World Series.

Let me get this one watches the World Series, but those who do watch the World Series only watch out of guilt? Is there anyone who watches a television show or sporting event because they would feel guilty if they didn't watch it?

Even though the Game 7 victory by the Giants over the Kansas City Royals was watched by nearly 24 million viewers, that was nearly double the average of the previous six games, making this still the second-least watched World Series in history.

Which I am sure only increased the guilt those 24 million who watched Game 7 felt. Imagine how guilty these people would feel if Game 7 wasn't one of the most watched television programs during the week it aired.

Baseball's premier event was tackled for a huge loss by "Sunday Night Football," outsmarted by the "The Big Bang Theory" and devoured by the zombies of "Walking Dead."

Bill Plaschke has won awards for this type of writing by the way. I can't figure out why print media is dying.

Yes, there are many more channel choices than the days of, say, a 1978 Dodgers-New York Yankees series that drew a huge rating. But what explains a recent decline that shows five of the least-watched Series all occurring in the last seven years?

What explains it is there are many more channel choices then the days of, say, a 1978 Dodgers-New York Yankees series. The fact there are more channel choices would easily explain the recent decline in ratings for the World Series. It's not like many more channel choices is a trend that is 30 years old. It's been the last decade or so when Americans have had so many channel choices and have chosen to try and afford all of those channel choices.

This is like saying (and this is hypothetical), "Sure, there are healthier more affordable options available then 20 years ago when McDonald's had record revenues. But what explains a recent decline in revenues where five of the last seven years have been the lowest revenue earning years for McDonald's?"

There's your answer. It's right there. More options.

Make no mistake, baseball is a thriving sport.

It's thriving, yet dying. It's the Keith Richards of sports.

The Dodgers sold for more than $2 billion, then cut a cable television deal worth four times that amount. Baseball's top-10 attendance totals have all occurred in the last 10 years.

People still love their hometown teams.


So Bill Plaschke's conclusion is that interest in baseball needs to be rekindled based on World Series ratings. This despite knowing:

-World Series still draw relatively good ratings.

-MLB teams are worth more now than every before.

-People still love their hometown teams.

-More people than ever are choosing to attend baseball games.

So as long as Bill ignores the financial aspect and the fact fan interest in seeing their favorite team play live has never been higher, baseball desperately needs to rekindle interest in the sport. This because the World Series doesn't draw record-setting ratings. No one is interested in the sport of baseball, as long as you ignore those who are interested in the sport of baseball that attend games.

The problem is, they're increasingly falling out of love with the actual game. The national pastime has sadly become a regional pastime.

True. This isn't a sign that fans are falling out of love with the game, but simply choose not to watch a game between two teams they have no rooting interest in. It happens in every sport except for the NFL, because people are currently obsessed with the NFL.

Every team has plenty of fans, but when those teams are eliminated from postseason, those fans stop watching because suddenly it's all about only, ugh, the baseball.

No, you can't claim to know what a large group of people are thinking like this. Those fans stop watching because there are other shows on television they want to watch, and while they enjoy the sport of baseball, they don't care to see another team celebrate a World Series victory. There are World Series I haven't watched because I can't stand to not watch my favorite team participating in the World Series. But no, Bill Plasckhe knows what every baseball fan thinks because he's so fucking smart and can read minds. I love baseball, but that doesn't mean I will spend my evenings watching two teams who aren't my favorite team play baseball game. It's a long season. I'm kind of tired towards the end of it.

Few people drive to their local stadiums saying, "I want to see a baseball game." No, it's almost always, "I want to see a (insert team name here) game."

I never say I want to go see an NFL game. I always say, "I want to see a Team X game." I'm not even sure what Bill is trying to say here. Only 30 areas of the United States even have a local baseball team (which obviously is a point that proves just how out of touch Bill Plascke is). Someone who lives in Nebraska isn't going to drive hundreds of miles to see the Texas Rangers play on a given night just because he wants to see a baseball game. That's an important point for Bill to understand. There aren't a whole lot of "local stadiums" with MLB teams around the country. I would ask if Bill was referring to minor league baseball here, but he doesn't once refer to minor league baseball in this article.

It's 2014. I don't have to pay for a ticket to go see a baseball game. I can turn on my television. It's certainly not the same thing, but Bill is acting like the ability to see a baseball game is a rare resource when that's not true. Baseball is everywhere. I disagree with Bill's assertions on so many levels. In fact, I would argue a lot of people who attend minor league baseball games go simply because they want to watch a baseball game. But again, Bill doesn't seem to be talking about minor league baseball.

It's not that way in football, where many folks watch the NFL just because they love watching football, which is the reason the league has thrived despite not having a team in its second-largest market. The same goes for pro basketball, where folks are attracted to the fast pace and incredible athleticism even if their hometown team — say, the Lakers — might not win a game again, ever, in the history of the world.

It must be awkward for Bill to write a column knowing the facts won't fully back up the assertions he is trying to make. He's acting like the NBA Finals get incredibly great ratings compared to the World Series. This isn't entirely true. The World Series are lower than the NBA Finals ratings, but Plaschke should hold off on the NFL comparison.

People love watching football, but the NBA has the benefit of their star players being in the NBA Finals on a near yearly basis (which isn't good luck, but good marketing). The NBA Finals ratings don't blow the World Series ratings out of the water as Bill suggests might be true.

Once again this fall, baseball did not have a true World Series. It didn't even have a National Series. It had a San Francisco-Kansas City Series with a few outsiders watching from the cheap seats.

This is really true of every sport's championship game or series. The NBA Finals are really a series between the two teams with everyone else just watching. The same goes for the Super Bowl. The difference is the number of outsiders who choose to watch from the cheap seats.

Baseball is my favorite sport, the sport I covered for 10 seasons as a beat reporter. It is the most regal yet rawest of endeavors, the perfect marriage of sport and humanity. I love it, yet as a columnist for this newspaper, I have not covered a World Series for seven years

So basically Bill Plaschke is one of those people who he claims have fallen out of love with baseball. Because he lacks interest in the sport, he assumes others lack interest as well.

because it is no longer a sport that resonates beyond the love for the local teams.

Right, but that's fine and doesn't mean baseball is dying. Baseball is a regional sport now, but it doesn't mean fan interest needs to be rekindled in the World Series. It just means the World Series won't draw the ratings it used to draw.

Baseball used to be Mr. October, now it is October miss.

Again, this type of writing has won Bill Plaschke multiple sportswriting awards.

Here's hoping incoming commissioner Rob Manfred can overcome his sports stilted smugness and agree. Here's some ideas to get him started.

Here is some ideas that will help increase interest in baseball and the World Series, despite the fact a couple of these ideas won't help increase interest in baseball because they are cosmetic changes to the game that wouldn't usually affect a person's enjoyment of watching the sport be played.

Use a pitch clock to shorten the games.

MLB is already trying this out during the offseason.

This season's Game 4 required nine innings but lasted four hours. In 1960, a pressurized seventh game of the World Series between the Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates produced 19 runs, yet lasted only 2 hours 36 minutes.

How many commercial breaks were there during this game? Also, there is no way to combat that baseball has become a more specialized sport. Teams make more pitching changes than they made 54 years ago and this slows the pace of the game. The only way to combat this would be to make each game seven innings long as opposed to nine innings long.

The simplest and best way would be to install an 18-second pitch clock, cutting down on the average major league delivery time of about 22 seconds. It would quicken deliveries, force batters to stay in the box, and make the game feel faster. Pro basketball tried this in 1954, and its newfangled 24-second clock saved the game.

I'm interested to see how this works. Now whether this would increase ratings for the World Series is an entirely other matter. If the game is faster, does Plaschke know more viewers will begin to enjoy the sport of baseball?

Increase the division series to seven games.

So the key to rekindling interest in the World Series is to increase the division series to seven games? If the division series is seven games more people will watch the World Series and fall back in love with baseball? I don't see how the hell this makes sense logically. I don't think the length of the division series has anything to do with baseball's World Series ratings or someone's love for the sport. Does Bill really think there is someone out there who says, "I used to love baseball, but now the season isn't long enough. If they just increased the season by two more games I think I could fall in love with the sport again"?

This wouldn't lengthen baseball's schedule — just reduce the days off between series — but it would fortify baseball's integrity.

Ah yes, "fortify baseball's integrity." How many people don't watch the sport of baseball because it lacks integrity? And since when does playing more games involve having more integrity?

Of the three major sports that conduct their postseasons in series of games, baseball is the only one where the first round is only five games, which means it's the only sport where six months of greatness can be erased in three bad days.

But there is also an argument that what makes football so exciting is that the sample sizes and margin for error are so small. Every game means something, so fans of football tune in to see what happens because teams only get one chance to win a game and advance in the playoffs. I don't see how making the division series longer is going to make baseball more popular.

Fans should want the World Series to be contested by the two best teams over the course of six months, not simply the hottest teams in October. The Giants and Royals were fun, but do you really believe they were baseball's two best teams?

No, but both teams won a five and seven game series. They proved they deserved to meet in the World Series. The NFL has one game playoffs and I don't recall Bill Plaschke bitching when a Wild Card team makes it to the Super Bowl or claiming the "real" best NFL team didn't make it to the Super Bowl. All of a sudden, baseball has to ensure the best teams make it to the World Series, so obviously extending the playoff season will make this happen. 

DH or no DH, make up your mind.

How the hell would making a decision about the DH create more fan interest in baseball and the World Series? Maybe choosing to implement the DH in both leagues or in neither league is a positive change for MLB, but whether both or neither league have the DH should have no effect on the World Series ratings.

It is stunning that baseball's most important series is still conducted under two different sets of rules, with no designated hitter allowed in the National League city. Can you imagine the NBA eliminating the three-point line for three games in the middle of its championship series?

It's not entirely the same thing. A better comparison would be if a three-point specialist was allowed on the home court of a Western Conference team, but not on an Eastern Conference team. MLB doesn't change the rules of baseball on an American/National League field, they just change the use of two players within those rules.

Without the use of their DH, Billy Butler, the rules change seriously hurt the Royals this October, and it almost always hurts the American League team. Of the last nine World Series, 25 games were played under National League rules, and the AL team is 8-17 in those games.

Of the last nine World Series, 24 games were played under American League rules, and the NL team is 11-13 in those games. It's not like the National League thrives under American League rules.

Not to mention, whether the DH is used or not probably won't have an effect on how many people choose to watch the World Series and whether the sport will stop becoming more popular regionally.

Give home-field advantage to the team with baseball's best record.

I don't understand how the hell this will positively affect the ratings for the World Series. Does Bill honestly think there are people who don't watch baseball or don't watch the World Series because they don't like how homefield advantage is decided for the World Series? This would be a cosmetic change that shouldn't have a significant impact on baseball's ratings.

Manfred's first act should be to end the practice of allowing an exhibition game in the middle of July, a.k.a the All-Star game, to determine home-field advantage in the most important games of the season.

Fine, let's say I agree. How does changing homefield advantage to the team with the best record increase World Series ratings? People are going to love baseball again because they like how the Giants got homefield advantage because they had a better record than the Royals? I doubt it.

That further cheapens a World Series that has been discounted enough.

Sure, fine. Will this increase ratings though? It seems Bill Plaschke has four suggestions to rekindle interest in baseball and increase World Series ratings, yet two of these reasons really are cosmetic changes to the sport and wouldn't necessarily increase World Series ratings nor seem to have to do much with why baseball is considered more of a regional sport. Not well done, Bill. 


Snarf said...

Without the use of their DH, Billy Butler, the rules change seriously hurt the Royals this October, and it almost always hurts the American League team. Of the last nine World Series, 25 games were played under National League rules, and the AL team is 8-17 in those games.

I'm not sure I agree with this. AL teams may not be able to use a weapon at the DH position, but if that guy is really so important, he can be played somewhere on the field generally. Ortiz and Butler are both 1B when asked to play the field. Butler has played 400 games at 1B over his career, so I'm not sure what the point is. If they need his bat so badly, play him at 1B. It's not like the Giants were able to use a DH in games under NL rules. Is it unfair that they have guys who can hit and field their positions?

If anything, I think the alternating rules favor the AL. Over the course of the year, the AL teams can justify carrying (and more importantly paying) a strong hitter who can't field for shit because they can play him at DH and hide him as a defensive liability. NL teams cannot justify this expense, so they generally do not have an additional bopper like Ortiz or Butler that is not already playing in the field somewhere.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, that's a good point. I'm an NL guy, so I don't always feel bad that an AL team has a guy who can't field his position and hit. Your second point is also good. For example, Evan Gattis would still be a Brave if they could justify carrying him on the roster and not on the field. But they couldn't afford to do that, so he was traded.