old TV

Don’t get worked up about the television ratings


Every year we see it: a regular season NFL game beats the crap out of a baseball playoff game in the ratings. It happened last night with Indianapolis-Washington nearly doubling the numbers of the Giants-Phillies game. It may even happen tonight with a boring Titans-Jags game facing off against the Yankees and Rangers.  There are, and will continue to be, people who read a ton into this, but I think it’s kind of meaningless. Why? Because as far as the television business goes, baseball and football are different beasts.

Football is an exclusively national sport, television wise. Aside from preseason games everything is handled by the big networks. Yes, they provide regional coverage of some games on Sunday afternoons, but the Sunday night and Monday night games — and, for that matter, most of the late Sunday afternoon games — are national things. Baseball, on the other hand, is primarily regional thing until the playoffs start. There are like 90 games a week during the regular season. A handful are national broadcasts. The vast majority are on RSNs or local affiliates of one form of another, broadcasting to a limited area.

When the playoffs start, baseball is basically changing its model, and is going all-national, all the time. Fans of the participating teams are going to follow, of course, but for fans who have grown accustomed to understanding televised baseball as a vehicle through which one roots for the local nine, it’s a tall order to expect them to tune in. If football were broadcast in a pattern like this — an impossibility, I realize because of the limited number of games — you’d see a similar pattern.

While I’m sure Bud Selig would love it if baseball games got football-sized ratings, he and others in charge of the health of the game likely know that’s never going to happen. They know this because  baseball on TV is apples and football on TV is oranges.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Getty Images

On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.