This one, from Time Magazine’s blog, is more specific: how to fix the World Series. The only problem it identifies is low TV ratings which, as we’ve gone on and on about, mean very little in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a slow day, so let’s play along:
The first suggestion: don’t schedule games on Sunday or Monday nights because of conflicts with football. The verbiage:
Face it: these days, people are more worried about how Peyton Manning’s performance impacts their fantasy teams than they are about two star pitchers dueling in the World Series. The reason is simple: fantasy football is gambling, and in these economic times, fans have a vested interest in watching an event that may earn, or cost, them some money.
We’ve heard this over and over again, and each time I hear it my response is the same: the day baseball starts to actively chase after nitwits who care more about their NFL fantasy team than the World Freakin’ Series is the day I give up.
And this isn’t just an elitist point on my part. The entire economic model of baseball on television revolves around local TV packages showing 140+ games a year to a passionate local audience. Or, in the case of nuts like me who buy MLB.TV or the extra innings package, a passionate general audience. I understand that there may be some more viewers on a handful of national broadcasts at the end of the year if they schedule around football, but to do so is to make a grab for people who do very little to add to baseball’s bottom line to begin with at the expense of those who do. Will it inconvenience me greatly if they add an off day here or there to accommodate football games? No. But the very idea of cowering from a Week 7 Indy-Washington matchup seems like pure surrender. Or appeasement. Or something unsavory like that.
The next idea is that baseball needs to embrace social media more:
Of the three major sports leagues, baseball has the most tepid, least interesting presence on Twitter, by far. We kept hearing how those San Francisco Giants had a bunch of loose, bearded, eccentrics that the average fan could relate to. But according to the website tweeting-athletes.com, only one Giants player had an account: Jeremy Affeldt, who pitched 1 and 1/3 innings in the World Series. Texas also had just one player tweeting, pitcher C.J. Wilson.
Serious question: has an athlete’s Twitter presence made anyone watch a game? Indeed, if you’re following baseball players on Twitter, aren’t you already a certified junkie and wouldn’t miss the World Series anyway. And beyond that: have you ever actually sat and talked to a baseball player? Most of them aren’t — how shall I put this? — engaging. C.J. Wilson and guys like him are exceptions. In contrast, football has a lot of colorful personalities and every single player has at least spent some time in college. They’re way more conversational. Baseball player tweets would be, like, 85% about hunting.
The last one is the most interesting:
What if we go back to the pre-1969 setup, when the teams with the best records in the American and National Leagues went straight to the World Series? This arrangement would create intense national interest in the regular season. Fans on one coast would truly have to follow teams on the other coast, and all the ones in the middle. Fans would build familiarity with the best teams, and that regular season ratings momentum would carry into the World Series. And since those World Series games would be the only ones of the post-season, a bunch of other playoff games – the Division Series, the League Championship Series – would not longer dilute their impact.
Given my opposition to the expanded playoffs Major League Baseball is poised to adopt, I’m not sure what to make of this. I guess I’d say that, while more playoffs aren’t ideal, you can go too far in the other direction. The advent of the division series in 1969 was a direct result of expansion. In less than a decade, baseball had expanded from 16 teams to 24 teams, and there were simply too many teams out of the running way too early to stick with the World Series-only setup. They needed the divisions. Now that there are 30 teams, they need them even more. I’d like to see a four-team playoff, but that’s not happening. And please, let’s not go beyond eight. But two? No thanks.
Oh well. I can’t be too angry at this guy for throwing these ideas out there. At least if gave us something to think about. The first game of the World Series was a week ago today. Right now it feels like it was 100 years ago. The offseason stinks, so anything to kill the time . . .
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.