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Did you know that the NFL gets higher TV ratings than baseball?

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Christine Brennan of USA Today writes about how bad it is that a midseason NFL game got higher ratings than a postseason baseball game on Monday night:

There’s no better example of baseball’s problems than what happened Monday night. Going head to head with a midseason NFL game, MLB gave it its best shot: Game 3 of the series to end all series, the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees American League Division Series from Yankee Stadium, tied at one game apiece . . . So, the comparative ratings? The baseball game, which turned into a 16-1 Boston rout, attracted 4.41 million viewers. The football game, also a blowout, a 43-19 Saints victory notable for Brees’ all-time NFL passing yards record and nothing else, averaged 10.6 million viewers.

MLB’s masterpiece was pummeled by a run-of-the-mill NFL game.

I was as dumbfounded as you were when I read that. No, not at the ratings thing because everyone knows that the NFL gets higher ratings than baseball, always, and it’s the epitome of non-news to note it. No, I was dumbfounded that USA Today continues to let Brennan write the same damn column year after year.

Here she was in 2010:

The NFL was saddled with two of its smallest TV markets when the Tennessee Titans traveled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football. Against it was crucial Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, featuring the loved/despised New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers from the sports-crazed Dallas area.

It didn’t matter. The NFL game, a 30-3 Tennessee blowout, was watched by 7.2% of U.S. households, according to overnight ratings. The baseball game, which turned into an 8-0 Rangers rout only in the ninth inning, was on in 6.5% of homes.

How is this possible?

Here she was in 2011:

 . . . the Brewers, who drew more than 3 million fans this year while winning the National League Central, were playing at the same time as the Packers. Green Bay’s game against Denver turned into a 49-23 Packers rout. The Brewers also ended up winning big, 9-4, against Arizona. If I had had to guess, I would have said the TV ratings in Milwaukee for the two games would have been about equal, considering the Packers were early in their season, while the Brewers were in a crucial, best-of-five postseason series.

It wasn’t even close. The Packers attracted 44.1% of the households in Milwaukee, the Brewers just 20.3%.

Each time Brennan writes this column she has a different reason for why baseball gets lower ratings. In 2010 she attributed it all to baseball not having instant replay. In 2011 it was because of the odd start times and channels for playoff games. Today it’s because the games are too long. Shockingly, her explanations for baseball’s lower TV ratings tend to correspond with whatever criticisms she currently has about the state of baseball.

In none of her columns, however, does she state the simple truth of the matter: the NFL is a national sport/TV product in which its teams play only once every week in nationally-televised broadcasts while baseball is largely a regional one in which fans of teams who are not in the postseason have little desire to watch non-local teams with which they are unfamiliar. Between that, and (a) the undeniable fact that football is simply more popular across the board; and (b) the baseball games she mentions are broadcast on cable networks with far less reach than the networks on which the NFL appears, it would be really big news if a postseason baseball game got higher ratings than any NFL game. When, as is almost always, always the case, that does not happen, it is the definition of non-news.

Acknowledging that is not super convenient for Brennan, of course. For one thing, it totally kills the conceit one finds in many of her other baseball columns that baseball now is supposed to be like the baseball of her idealized youth: a true national pastime, both popular and pure. And if you doubt the “pure” part just take a look at some of her PED columns in the past in which she literally asked how parents are supposed to explain Jhonny Peralta — yes, Jhonny Peralta! — taking PEDs to their children. The only reason she didn’t include the phrase “say it ain’t so” is, presumably, because it does not rhyme with “Jhonny.” In other news, if you find a single parent or kid, anywhere, who genuinely gave a rat’s butt about the state of Jhonny Peralta’s moral character in the 2013 playoffs, I’ll give you a crisp $100 bill.

All that being said, I suspect the bigger problem to her acknowledging the actual reasons why the NFL and MLB get the sort of ratings they do is that doing so would kill an evergreen column idea, forcing her to write things about baseball that do not involve how it has gone to hell since her childhood.

Seager homers, Dodgers edge Brewers 4-2 in wild-card opener

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Mookie Betts had two hits and an RBI, Corey Seager homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 in the opener of their NL wild-card series on Wednesday night.

The eight-time West champion Dodgers capitalized early in a bullpen game for the Brewers and can wrap up the best-of-three series on Thursday. Milwaukee – a playoff entrant despite a losing record – limped into the postseason as the No. 8 seed without its best starter and reliever, who are hurt.

The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on a leadoff double by Betts and four walks by left-hander Brent Suter in the first, tying for the most walks by a pitcher in a single inning in postseason history. Betts scored when Will Smith drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded. Seager walked and scored on AJ Pollock‘s bases-loaded walk.

Suter needed 32 pitches to get out of the inning. The left-hander gave up three runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings. His five walks were a career high, and he didn’t record a strikeout.

Chris Taylor doubled leading off the second and scored on Betts’ double, making it 3-0. Max Muncy walked with two outs and Ryan Braun caught Smith’s drive to right at the wall to end the inning, potentially saving three runs.

Braun winced as he hit the wall with his right shoulder. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

The Dodgers could have inflicted more damage but were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings.

Milwaukee pitchers retired 10 straight Dodgers during one stretch.

Clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Seager went deep to dead-center off Freddy Peralta, who gave up just two homers during the shortened 60-game season. The Dodgers led the majors with 118 homers.

Closer Kenley Jansen walked pinch-hitter Jace Peterson with two outs in the ninth. Christian Yelich came to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out swinging to end the game. Jansen earned the save.

The Brewers closed to 3-2 on Orlando Arcia‘s two-strike, two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. Betts made an over-the-shoulder catch to deny Avisail Garcia with a runner on for the second out of the inning.

Milwaukee had the potential tying run on in the seventh with Yelich’s two-out double in the left-field corner. Tyrone Taylor popped up to third to end the inning.

The Brewers also threatened in the sixth. Avisail Garcia singled to right and was safe at second on first baseman Muncy’s fielding error. Muncy turned and scrambled into short right, trying to pick up the ball with a swooping motion, but it booted off his glove and rolled away. Julio Urias retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Urias got the victory, allowing three hits in three innings and striking out five.

Garcia had three hits and Yelich had two to lead the Brewers.

Pitching with a blister on his right index finger, Walker Buehler allowed two runs and three hits in four innings for Los Angeles. He struck out eight and walked two.

Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes and reliever Devin Williams are missing this series with injuries that occurred in the last week of the season. Burnes has a strained left oblique and Williams has a sore right shoulder. Starter Brett Anderson also was left off the roster because of a blister issue.

WITHOUT WILLIAMS

Losing Williams is a big blow after he emerged as one of baseball’s top relievers this season and is a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. He is 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. “It’s really crushing, honestly,” said Williams, who felt tightness after last weekend’s outing. “If we make it to the next round, I should be back. With the progress we’ve made in just a few days, it’s been encouraging.”

UP NEXT

The Dodgers give the ball to left-hander Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16 ERA) for Game 2 on Thursday. He’s 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in the postseason and lost his lone start in last year’s NLDS. The Brewers start right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who was 3-5 with a 3.05 ERA during the shortened season. He came up big last weekend with 10 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in a must-win game that helped Milwaukee eke out the No. 8 seed.

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