Football writers: please stop trying to write about baseball

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Usually we have to wait until playoff season for people who don’t know a lot about baseball to write columns in which the declare it dead or dying and then vainly attempt to explain why.  But today we’re lucky!  We have one from Andy Benoit, the NFL blogger from the New York Times!

The rating for this year’s first Saturday afternoon M.L.B. on FOX was 2.3. That’s about 10 percent of the audience that Fox’s Sunday afternoon N.F.L. Week 1 telecast attracted. Obviously, a regular-season baseball game and a regular-season N.F.L. game do not make an apples-to-apples comparison (there are 10 times more regular-season M.L.B. games, 162 per team, than N.F.L. games, 16 per team). But if they were apples, one would be rotten and the other perfectly ripe.

New rule: if you compare football ratings to baseball ratings without acknowledging that all but a handful of baseball games are televised locally by 30 distinct networks nearly every single day of the season thereby rendering national baseball telecasts far, far less useful as an indicator of the sport’s health and popularity, you have to donate $500 to the anti-ignorance charity of my choice. Cool?  At the very least, go read any of the hundreds of stories written about the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers recently, all of which explain quite clearly just how big local television revenues are to baseball.  Apples and oranges? Local TV is a peach, and football doesn’t have it.

Beyond ratings, Benoit goes on to explain that baseball’s central problem is that, unlike football, it’s not a fluid game played all over a field that demands its athletes get bigger, faster and stronger and constantly innovate and improve their game. Rather, baseball is stuck with the same old field — 126 square inches, he claims, referring only to home plate — and thus is stuck in history, not the shiny new future like football is. As a result:

This is largely why there is so much monotony and downtime in baseball, and why so much emphasis has been placed on peripheral nonsense known as the unwritten rules … Can you imagine anyone in the N.F.L. even batting an eye (let alone fighting) at such inconsequential stuff?

I’m sorry, but if you cover football for a living and you are of the opinion that it does not have more than its fair share of “peripheral nonsense,” you owe another $500 to the Ignorance Fund.  This is a sport that will put on a three hour telecast about its schedule, for crying out loud. A sport that has a scandal about injury bounties. A sport that, due to several days off between games each week, seems to create some new off-the-field drama at every turn, be it comic or tragic. It has plenty of nonsense, thank you very much.  Oh, and before you go crowing about that fast, furious, fluid on-the-field action in the NFL, go read this first.

Benoit ends this piece thusly:

Baseball might be back in full swing, but in the big scheme of things, fewer people are watching. Meanwhile, the N.F.L. draft is just a little over a week away and new ratings record will probably be set. Evolution at work.

He and the millions of people who tune in to watch an old man call out names from a podium and young men put on baseball caps with football logos while wearing business suits can have their draft. I’ll watch the sport I love. If that’s evolution at work, I think I know who the dinosaurs are.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.