Author: Craig Calcaterra

Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland is “embarrassed”

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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.”

Better.

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”

Blodget
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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

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.11.27 AM
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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.

The World Series ratings are low. So what?

old TV
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The ratings for Game 1 and Game 2 of the World Series are out. And it’s not shocking that they’re low. Game 1 was close to the lowest-rated World Series game of all time (maybe it was the lowest). Game 2 was a bit higher, but still pretty low compared to the past. Fox and Major League Baseball, however, are noting in press releases that the games each won the night in prime time, broke all kinds of (carefully crafted, very recent and wholly relative) ratings records and had excellent ratings in the local markets of the two teams.

It’s a now-familiar story, which we’ve talked about here at length. For my extended take on what modern low World Series ratings mean, go read my big essay about the State of Baseball and scroll down to the section entitled “It Doesn’t Matter That Baseball’s National Television Ratings Kinda Stink.” The short version: everything, with the exception of football, gets much lower ratings than it used to because of fragmentation of entertainment in general. This, combined with baseball’s increasing emphasis on local ratings, local deals and its increasing efforts to push the product to cable and the Internet, exacerbate the effect with the National Pastime.

But what I’m more interested in than the ratings themselves is the reaction to them by many fans and sports commentators. The declaration that baseball is now a “niche sport” or the mere recitation of these ratings as if they prove something in and of themselves, with that thing being damning for the game indeed.

The question I have for these people is this: “so what?”

For your own purposes, you either care about baseball or you don’t. If you do, it should hardly matter to you what the TV ratings are. One of my favorite movies of all time is “Zero Effect” and it bombed at the box office. So did “The Shawshank Redemption” for that matter. I don’t enjoy them any less simply because not too many people went and saw them.

For broader purposes, though, what does it matter? Baseball is not some national consensus any longer, I’ll grant that. It’s not widely popular. So what? What, aside from the fact that it used to be widely popular, does it matter that it is not now?

Some may make arguments that its relatively lower popularity imperils its future. I’d take issue with that — baseball is a way more lucrative business now as a so-called “niche sport” than it ever was as The National Pastime — but I feel like most people who complain that baseball’s alleged decreasing appeal is a bad thing because . . . it just is. That just as they don’t make players like Stan Musial anymore, there is something wrong with this new era. We can’t put our finger on it and, by gum, we’ll ignore all of the other factors at play, including the many, many factors which point to baseball’s vitality, but we just know, in our bones, that something is wrong.

I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the playoffs. Most of you guys have too. Other people are enjoying the things they like, be it football, reality shows, Minecraft or watching the dang paint dry. As long as these low ratings aren’t hurting baseball’s ability to continue as a going concern (they decidedly are not) and as long as the networks which pay baseball to air the games are pleased (they clearly remain so) why should anyone give a crap?

Pat Gillick admits that the Phillies won’t contend in 2015 or 2016

Pat Gillick
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For years the Phillies have claimed that they’re winning now and, dadgummit, if things go just right, they can compete with the Jimmy Rollins/Chase Utley/Ryan Howard core. Team CEO Pat Gillick is not willing to whistle that tune. In fact, he’s pretty darn honest, saying that the Phillies are in rebuild mode, not reload mode:

“I think where we are right now, it’s probably a couple years,” Gillick told CSN’s John Clark in a 1-on-1 interview Thursday. “I wouldn’t think [2015] or [2016,] ’15 or ’16 I don’t think is in the cards. I think somewhere around 2017 or 2018.”

Check out his comments here, in his interview with CSNPhilly.com: