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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.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.