SportsBusiness Daily reports that multiple teams have seen increased ratings in the early going, as have the national networks who broadcast games:
The Orioles’ four-game average in Baltimore has pulled in a 7.8 rating and 79,000 HHs. The team last season averaged a 3.4 rating in Baltimore … Meanwhile, WPHL-MYT’s broadcast of Friday’s Astros-Phillies game “set an opening-day rating record” for the net, while Sunday’s game between the two teams “broke the record for a regular-season telecast.”
Same goes for the Rangers and the Blue Jays, who each saw big opening series numbers, as did FOX and ESPN over the weekend.
Cold weather over much of the country had to have helped, but so too, I think, do the facts that (a) the season starting on a Thursday/Friday for most teams was a good move, as people are way more likely to slough off work or to stay up late later in the week than for a Monday start; and (b) there are a lot more teams with legitimate shots at contention this year than we’re used to seeing. There’s some definite excitement in the fan base.
Both just my gut feelings, of course. But the beginning of the year certainly feels different this season than in previous ones.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.