Yet another “how to fix baseball” article

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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 . . .

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).