Today we mark a couple of notable baseball broadcast anniversaries

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I’ll talk these up tomorrow when the latest Hardball History video comes out, but it’s worth noting a couple of notable baseball broadcast anniversaries on the day they happened.

Seventy-four years ago today, on August 26, 1939, NBC televised the first major league game in history on its experimental station W2XBS. It was a Dodgers-Reds tilt, as they played a doubleheader that day.  We don’t have any attendance numbers for those games and we certainly don’t have any Nielsen ratings for the broadcast given that, like, four people on the planet had TVs then.  But we do know this much: thanks to Major League Baseball’s ridiculous blackout rules, more people were able to watch that 1939 Reds-Dodgers game than people in Las Vegas in 2013 can watch a Dodgers-Padres game or people in parts of Iowa can watch a Cubs-Cardinals game.

Also of note: while 1939 seems like ages and ages ago, it was only 11 years after that when Vin Scully began calling Dodgers games. He’s, of course, still at it today.

Moving to the digital age: On August 26, 2002 the first video streaming coverage of a major league baseball game took place on the internet. Approximately 30,000 fans visited MLB.com to see the Yankees defeat the Rangers, 10-3. That’s far short of the over 42,000 who saw the game live in Yankee Stadium, but it’s a pretty solid number for the pre-Facebook/Twitter age.

Some day all games will be available on multiple platforms and watched wherever and whenever the viewer deigns it so, without blackouts. Hopefully it takes less than 74 years for it to happen.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.