Football gets better ratings than baseball. So what?

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Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal thinks he’s throwing bombs when he compares baseball television ratings to football ratings:

Baseball likes to think of itself – indeed, likes to bill itself — as the “National Pastime.” But that time is long gone, a distant memory . . . But, give your average sports fan a choice between watching baseball and watching football and, well, it’s as predictable as asking your average, 18-to-35-year-old, prime-demographic, prime-time sports-watching male whether he’d prefer a night out with Ugly Betty, or with Jessica Simpson.

Setting aside the fact that Jessica Simpson isn’t on any right-thinking 18-to-35 year-old’s top ten list anymore, Donaldson is right.  As he notes, the ratings for the end of the Packers-Vikings game this past weekend were higher than any World Series game in even this highly-rated Series.  And yes, the Hall of Fame Game got more viewers than did a Red Sox-Yankees game in August.

But who cares? The notion that football has surpassed baseball as the most popular sport in America is at least a decade old. Maybe older.  Football draws better ratings because it’s, in essence, an exclusively nationally-televised sport whereas the vast majority of baseball viewership takes place via regional sports networks.  And there are 10 times the number of baseball games as there are football games, so catching any one baseball game is nowhere near as important to the average fan of catching one must-see football game.  They’re different beasts, and I would be shocked if baseball ever outdraws football in the television ratings again.

And I’m totally fine with that. Because Donaldson’s apparent point — that football trumps baseball as the National Pasttime because of the ratings — is an empty one.  Have you seen what else leads the television ratings? Or the box office? Or the album charts?  I’m not even going to mention beer sales in all of this.

Popularity only measures what’s popular. It’s almost always completely divorced from what’s good.  Pro Football can be the National Pasttime.  I prefer to enjoy a more exclusive, higher quality product, thank you.  

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.