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Yet another “how to fix baseball” article

Nov 3, 2010, 4:07 PM EDT

This one, from Time Magazine’s blog, is more specific: how to fix the World Series.  The only problem it identifies is low TV ratings which, as we’ve gone on and on about, mean very little in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a slow day, so let’s play along:

The first suggestion: don’t schedule games on Sunday or Monday nights because of conflicts with football. The verbiage:

Face it: these days, people are more worried about how Peyton Manning’s performance impacts their fantasy teams than they are about two star pitchers dueling in the World Series. The reason is simple: fantasy football is gambling, and in these economic times, fans have a vested interest in watching an event that may earn, or cost, them some money.

We’ve heard this over and over again, and each time I hear it my response is the same: the day baseball starts to actively chase after nitwits who care more about their NFL fantasy team than the World Freakin’ Series is the day I give up.

And this isn’t just an elitist point on my part. The entire economic model of baseball on television revolves around local TV packages showing 140+ games a year to a passionate local audience. Or, in the case of nuts like me who buy MLB.TV or the extra innings package, a passionate general audience. I understand that there may be some more viewers on a handful of national broadcasts at the end of the year if they schedule around football, but to do so is to make a grab for people who do very little to add to baseball’s bottom line to begin with at the expense of those who do. Will it inconvenience me greatly if they add an off day here or there to accommodate football games? No. But the very idea of cowering from a Week 7 Indy-Washington matchup seems like pure surrender. Or appeasement. Or something unsavory like that.

The next idea is that baseball needs to embrace social media more:
Of the three major sports leagues, baseball has the most tepid, least interesting presence on Twitter, by far. We kept hearing how those San Francisco Giants had a bunch of loose, bearded, eccentrics that the average fan could relate to. But according to the website tweeting-athletes.com, only one Giants player had an account: Jeremy Affeldt, who pitched 1 and 1/3 innings in the World Series. Texas also had just one player tweeting, pitcher C.J. Wilson.
Serious question: has an athlete’s Twitter presence made anyone watch a game? Indeed, if you’re following baseball players on Twitter, aren’t you already a certified junkie and wouldn’t miss the World Series anyway. And beyond that: have you ever actually sat and talked to a baseball player? Most of them aren’t — how shall I put this? — engaging.  C.J. Wilson and guys like him are exceptions.  In contrast, football has a lot of colorful personalities and every single player has at least spent some time in college. They’re way more conversational. Baseball player tweets would be, like, 85% about hunting.
The last one is the most interesting:
What if we go back to the pre-1969 setup, when the teams with the best records in the American and National Leagues went straight to the World Series? This arrangement would create intense national interest in the regular season. Fans on one coast would truly have to follow teams on the other coast, and all the ones in the middle. Fans would build familiarity with the best teams, and that regular season ratings momentum would carry into the World Series. And since those World Series games would be the only ones of the post-season, a bunch of other playoff games – the Division Series, the League Championship Series – would not longer dilute their impact.
Given my opposition to the expanded playoffs Major League Baseball is poised to adopt, I’m not sure what to make of this.  I guess I’d say that, while more playoffs aren’t ideal, you can go too far in the other direction. The advent of the division series in 1969 was a direct result of expansion. In less than a decade, baseball had expanded from 16 teams to 24 teams, and there were simply too many teams out of the running way too early to stick with the World Series-only setup.  They needed the divisions. Now that there are 30 teams, they need them even more.  I’d like to see a four-team playoff, but that’s not happening. And please, let’s not go beyond eight. But two? No thanks.
Oh well. I can’t be too angry at this guy for throwing these ideas out there. At least if gave us something to think about. The first game of the World Series was a week ago today. Right now it feels like it was 100 years ago.  The offseason stinks, so anything to kill the time . . .
  1. Jonny 5 - Nov 3, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    I’m not for any revisions to playoff or WS Schedules overall. But here’s how I would do it if it had to be done.The 5 game series to get to the League Championship game would be changed to 7 games to a series. The Championship clincher for the Leagues would be a 9 game series, as would the World series. This gives teams that tend to funk from sitting too long, a little more time to prove themselves and get back on top of their game. Plus it gives a much better sample of a teams overall ability because you’ll need to see most of their starting pitchers that way, taking the huge advantage away from teams sitting on 2 aces. Sure, this doesn’t help ratings EFF THE RATINGS. But I think it would be just a hair better for the game. Just a hair…

  2. The Baseball Idiot - Nov 3, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    The problems that supposedly need to be fixed were all solutions to problems that needed to be fixed 5/10/15/25/etc years ago.

    Why don’t they just leave it alone and stop trying to fix what isn’t broken. That’s what got us into this mess to start with.

    The game is fine. It’s the people in advocating stupid solutions who need to be fixed. And yes, that means what you think it does.

    • Jonny 5 - Nov 3, 2010 at 4:47 PM

      That the media is full of a bunch of Jerkwads trying to impart their “wisdom” upon the “broken” sport of baseball? When it really isn’t broken at all, but we as a society are broken if we let things like “media ratings” tell us how to operate and change a sport that’s already as close to perfect as it can get?? Am I right??

      • The Baseball Idiot - Nov 3, 2010 at 4:52 PM

        You cleared the fence with that one.

  3. rabiague1986 - Nov 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Baseball is still making money off this no matter what. Now let us go point by point.

    Two days between games? We are not taking away baseball fans with at least an above average interest away from the world series because Peyton Manning is on their ESPN fantasy football team. Football has their fans and time, baseball should have its own.

    Social Networking? It would be great to see more of it but Bud Selig and most of the owners are politically correct not wanting to lose face because a player said something on twitter. @ Craig Some of the most educated people I know didn’t finish high school so that has nothing to do with interest.

    Pre 1969 Setup? We have as good a playoff system as you can get now. 8 teams the top two records in each league are guarranteed. If you wanted to go back to that fine but it would have to be a balanced schedule and the top 4 teams in each league making it. Or the more radical idea merge both leagues, have 5 divisions of 6 with 5 division winners and 3 wildcards.

    My own points – The series ratings stink because it was so late in October. Start the season earlier say the last week of March. Have every playoff game on the same day. Would it really matter if one playoff series was shown on MLB Network to accomidate this? I don’t think so. If done correctly the season could be over October 15-20 max. Make it happen.

  4. nhuskerjj - Nov 3, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Funny thing is that the people that want to “fix” baseball are not even fans of baseball. They are fans of sports. If they can’t sit on the couch and watch it for 3 and a half hours they want to “fix” it. I say take your thoughts ouf instant replay and changing the WS and get the heck out of the sport. Ever notice that people that want to shorten the game never have the idea of shortening the comercials or cutting back some of them. I listened to most of the playoff games on the radio this year, you wouldnt believe how many times they radio came back from a comercial saying “we will get back to the game in a few when TBS says we can start.” Seriously? It ain’t broke!!

  5. xmatt0926x - Nov 3, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    Baseball doesn’t need to be “fixed”. End of story. Yes, it’s not ever going to beat the NFL in general and gambling is a huge part of that along with fantasy football which is huge now. Football is also a party sport being played once a week with built up anticipation of that 1 game. Lets just accept this and move on. I love both and dont care about the nations general interest in baseball. Baseball seems to be doing just fine being second banana and making plenty of money. Whats to fix??? There can only be one #1 and being in 2nd place and still raking in billions of dollars isnt really a problem. Stop chasing the NFL. You’ll never cath them. Just be exactly what you are already since its easily good enough.

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