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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.