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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.

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
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In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.