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 . . .
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.