There is much surprise and discussion among the commetariat that Game 4 of the World Series topped Sunday Night Football last night. Preliminary results have baseball drawing a 10.1 in the ratings, the Saints-Colts an 8.2.*
But before we get lost in jocularity, let me just say that if the ratings didn’t matter when baseball was routinely getting beat — which I truly believed to be the case — they shouldn’t matter simply because baseball beat football on one random occasion. Especially given that the football game was out of hand before the end of the first quarter. I mean, I realize that the NFL is popular and everything, but a rerun of the “What’s Goin’ Down” episode of “That’s My Mama” could have won last night.
But the bigger point is that it doesn’t matter. It’s still apples and oranges even if the fruits change roles on occasion. Baseball gets better ratings when a series builds like this one is building. People’s tolerance for football does have its limits even if we rarely reach it. There is no real meaning here. It’s just a thing that happened.
*Full disclosure: I have no idea what the ratings points mean. I used to know before everything got converted to Euros, but now it’s all a mystery to me. Let’s say that those numbers measure hectares. Yes, I like that. The baseball game rated 10.1 hectares.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.