Kurtis Blow

A twist on the “baseball is dying” thing: the NBA is killing it!


Saying that the NFL is more popular than baseball is both (a) true; and (b) old hat. It has become such an obvious thing that I didn’t even blink when I heard Frank DeFord say it for the ten millionth time just this morning, and most of what Frank DeFord says drives me kinda bonkers.

But how about basketball? Are NBA people knocking baseball down as a passe pastime? Yup!

Patrick Rishe of Forbes does it today, using the World Series’ low ratings as a hook.  And even though the article can’t truthfully claim that the NBA is a bigger business (for it is not) or that it gets consistently higher ratings on its telecasts (it doesn’t, though see below), it has the big mo!

There is little doubt that MLB still generates more revenue than the NBA … But when you consider that the NBA’s crescendo has outpaced baseball’s in each of the last 3 years (as the table shows below), this lends further credence to a changing of the guard.

And it’s hip!  The article goes on to note that “hip outplays slow,” “progressive outplays blind adherence to tradition,” and “athleticism and showmanship drive brand awareness more so than ever before.” Oh, and “baseball has no hipster feel,” the author says, as if that’s a bad thing. But the real thrust of the argument is about commerce. About how basketball stars have “personal brands” and how they have bigger endorsement deals.

What really gets me, though is the windup:

But baseball may one day (if not soon or already based on the data presented herein) be relegated to America’s 3rd most popular consumer sport if the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and the soon-to-be new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have anything to say about it.

The “data presented herein” is Rishe’s own caveat-laden talk about the TV ratings — Rishe himself notes that the NBA has had high-powered Finals matchups in recent years, but even those don’t compare to the ratings the Yankees got in the 2009 World Series or any World Series matchups before that — and some stuff about how NBA stars are more marketable than baseball players. Which, by the way, has always been true, even back when the NBA was teetering on the edge of oblivion.

But even then, at the end, he still concedes that the NBA is likely third, pending the big stars of the NBA and its new commissioner actually doing something about it change things. Which … they haven’t been trying to do already? Well, I’m convinced. Indeed, I haven’t been as convinced by a comparison since I read Rishe’s article about how Josh Hamilton is just like Whitney Houston last winter.

How about this:  the NBA, thanks to the recent dominance of marquee teams and exceedingly marketable players, is currently riding a nice wave, not unlike the sorts of waves it always rides when there are dominant, marketable players and/or the Lakers or Celtics are good. Baseball, meanwhile, has had a couple of World Series with matchups that don’t do much for national ratings. And given that there are probably no two major sports which serve more disparate demographics than do the NBA and Major League Baseball, marketing and star power is kind of irrelevant as a point of comparison.

But hey, I know apples/oranges analysis like that is not as sexy a story to write the week baseball season ends and the NBA season begins, so you keep on keeping on with it, bro.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?