Author: Craig Calcaterra


Baseball is dying, you guys


UPDATE: A reminder that the New York Times has covered this story before. And before. And before.

The New York Times copies and pastes one of the many, many “oh no, baseball’s TV ratings suck and the sport is dying” articles it has published over the years. Seriously, you can play bingo with this thing:

It may be America’s national pastime, but it has never felt less national.

On Tuesday night, the first game of the 2014 World Series drew just 12.2 million viewers to Fox, making it the lowest-rated Game 1 on record. Game 2 on Wednesday night fared somewhat better, with 12.9 million people tuning in . . . there’s no avoiding the reality that the World Series is not what it used to be.

I’m not going to add any more here because I go on about this enough. But I do offer this because there is a segment of readers who claim I’m arguing against strawmen when I take on the “baseball is dying” crowd. Except here they are, like clockwork, chiming in with their perfunctory articles about the health of baseball based on metrics that really don’t matter.

Maybe the best response to this came from someone else anyway:



“The San Francisco Giants are what the Yankees used to be”

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The headline calls the Giants “obnoxious,” and John McGrath of the Tacoma News-Tribune writes that “The San Francisco Giants are a nuisance,” but whatever words are used, his argument is clear: he’s sick of the Giants. For some reason. I dunno, it’s never really clear why he thinks so. He just thinks so. The Yankees comp he throws out is not explained, though, but cut him some slack. He’s on a roll.

He throws any possible criticism of the Giants out there — somehow missing Barry Bonds — in an effort to show how sick he is of seeing the Giants in the World Series. They’re not as cool as they were when Willie Mays played. Their old ballpark sucked and . . . that mattered for some reason. Hunter Strickland is a punk. The Giants have been too good in the past few years. Blah, blah, blah. He does make exceptions, though: Hunter Pence and Buster Posey are “whatever-it-takes gamers.” Whatever the hell that means.

There may be some people who have Giants fatigue out there. I get that. If so, don’t watch the World Series maybe? Or at least try to explain why that matters. Because, really, there isn’t anything particularly loathsome about the Giants. If you think there are you are either a Dodgers fan, in which case you get a pass for rivalry reasons, or you’re stretching.

Whatever the case, this is what happens when someone says “write about the World Series” and you have nothing to say. But, dammit, you’re gonna say something sharp and controversial.

Hunter Strickland is “embarrassed”

Hunter Strickland

After his little meltdown at Salvador Perez on Wednesday night, Hunter Strickland said he was caught up in the moment and talked about “miscommunication” and stuff, but he pretty well undersold it. Strickland didn’t have some confusing verbal interaction with Perez. He just went momentarily nutty.

He addressed it again yesterday. He seemed to get the point a bit better with a day of reflection:

“I’m embarrassed. I’m not going to deny it. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys over there. I do. It happened and I can’t take it back. There’s a lot of emotion going on but you’ve got to control it. That’s part of your job. You’ve got to be under control no matter how upset you are.”


Of course, he’s still in a bit of denial about other things. Later in the article he talks about how he’s prepared to pitch in another World Series game which, boy howdy, if that happens it either means Bruce Bochy has lost his meds or else it’s a 15-run blowout.

“No one cares about baseball”


The video at the top of this article from Yahoo Finance features Business Insider’s Henry Blodget arguing that baseball’s ratings are low because baseball is too slow and 19th century and boring, the games are too long and that there is too much down time. Contrast that, he says, to the action-packed NFL.

Which is pretty hilarious when you remember that NFL game broadcasts are just as long — often longer — than baseball broadcasts and that if you take away all of the standing around, there is around 11 minutes of actual action in a football game and 14 minutes of action in a baseball game. Plus, as I’ve argued in the past, much of the “standing around” part of baseball is actually overestimated and, in fact, should be considered part of the action, which would vastly increase that 14-minute number. But let’s be realistic here: it’s Henry Blodget and he has a bit of history of bending the facts for his own purposes, so it’s not like he’d admit that even if he knew it.

I’ll give credit to the host of that video segment for pushing back, however, both on the action level in baseball and on the overall trends in baseball TV ratings. He seems to get it, and the article accompanying the video makes a pretty fair case about how and why we are where we are with baseball in the public consciousness.

I will take issue with one assertion, however:

This secular challenge of trying to gain notice in a crowded field of on-demand viewing, copious entertainment options and a fragmented audience pool is one Major League baseball needs to get serious about addressing. It’ll take more than a blue-ribbon commission about forcing pitchers to deliver the next pitch a few seconds faster.

Major League Baseball’s dirty secret — though it’s less “dirty” than “smart,” even if they’ll never admit to it — is that they don’t really mind if they don’t “gain notice in a crowded field” like that. Sure, they’d love it if it happened, but MLB has, shrewdly in my mind, decided that if it can’t be a national consensus like football, it will maximally exploit that fragmentation and make a lot of money off it. The reason Fox has launched Fox Sports 1, for example, is to take advantage of that fragmentation. It willingly overpaid MLB for the right to put playoff games there in order to boost the fledgling network. If MLB cared about mass appeal over the bottom line, it’d offer the World Series to all of the networks for free. Everyone would watch then! It prefers to take the billions from cable companies, however.

Baseball will always claim, for political and traditional purposes, that it is the National Pastime. It has proceeded, however, as if it is aware that that title is both in the past and of almost zero utility to it as a going concern. Frankly, it’s a pretty smart play.

World Series Reset: On to AT&T Park

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The Game: World Series Game 3. Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants tied 1-1
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: Fox
The Starters: Jeremy Guthrie vs. Tim Hudson
The Upshot: We have ourselves a series at least. And a new setting, as we move to AT&T Park. While both it and Kauffman Stadium are, more or less, pitchers parks, the new joint certainly changes things for the Royals. For one, they lose DH Billy Butler, who has been hot of late. They also could — and probably should — lose Nori Aoki in right field. As we saw in the NLDS, the winds they whip in right field and that big brick wall makes things tough out there. Aoki has been a bit of an adventure in right field as it is, so look for Ned Yost to bench him, insert Jarrod Dyson in center and move Lorenzo Cain to right. As for the pitching, Hudson has had two postseason starts this year, including a not-so-great one at home against the Cardinals. Guthrie has gone once, and pitched well against the Orioles.