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Report: 2019 World Series on pace to be least-watched ever

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David Bauder of the Associated Press reports that the 2019 World Series is on pace to be the least-watched ever, according to Nielsen ratings. The first five games averaged 11.6 viewers, falling under the 12.64 million viewers on average who watched the Giants sweep the Tigers in 2012.

Bauder also points out that Game 5 was severely outpaced, 18.3 million to 11.4 million, by the audience for the Sunday night NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. That’s the widest gap between an NFL game and a World Series game since Nielsen’s records became more precise in 1987.

We’ve covered in the past the myriad reasons for MLB’s lackluster television ratings, particularly in comparison to the NFL. Whereas NFL games are, for each team, once a week and a nationwide event, MLB games are frequent and highly regionalized. Baseball also has to compete with an ever-expanding swath of entertainment options besides the other three major sports. There are more than a handful of streaming platforms for movies and TV shows, several more for video games, as well as the usual YouTube and other forms of social media. It’s probably always going to be the case for the foreseeable future.

It is worth pointing out the play during this World Series hasn’t been terribly interesting. Given the non-baseball-related events like the Brandon Taubman saga, an umpire threatening armed insurrection, President Trump getting booed mercilessly, and the two flashers, the headlines and the general focus has hardly been on the play on the field. Add into the equation that the home team has not yet won a World Series game, and there haven’t been many comeback threats aside from Game 1. The 2019 World Series really hasn’t been that thrilling.

But! The World Series still has the potential for great drama. Tonight’s match-up between Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander should be thrilling inasmuch as it could be career-defining for both players. Verlander hasn’t earned a W in a World Series game yet in his illustrious career, and could clinch his team’s second championship in three years. Strasburg is a postseason king in the making. If the Nationals survive to force a Game 7, Max Scherzer — who sat out Game 5 due to a debilitating neck injury — would start with the potential to become the pitching version of Kirk Gibson in the ultimate game of the Fall Classic. A Game 7, if it happens, would be of historic intrigue. Whether or not the viewership at large agrees remains to be seen.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.