So yesterday, good friend and fellow Deuce of Davenporter Turd Ferguson posted this. And while I respect his opinion on many, many sports-related matters, I have to take him to task on what he wrote about my beloved Major League Baseball. If his article appeared on any other respected website, I’d do the same. So Turd, no hard feelings.

I rarely write about baseball, mostly because it’s just not that appealing to me. If the ratings are to be believed then I far from alone.

Well, see that’s not the case  — you’re looking at an arbitrarily small sample size (three days) of ratings that included long rain delays and cancellations. Baseball attendance is actually up (barely) from 2010. And while MLB will never garner the same popularity as the NFL, it still does well enough to pull in over $6B in revenue, about $1B behind “big brother.”

Oh, sure, some “smaller market” clubs can break through here and there, like the Detroit Tigers, or the Tampa Bay Rays (or the Milwaukee Brewers), but we all know that the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves are almost assured to be in it and that they get the dominant coverage.

Little clarification here: the Tigers and Brewers are not small market, which I realize helps your argument. Nonetheless, large market teams in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago all missed the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, small market Tampa and NL West champion Arizona both qualified for playoff spots. I’m assuming “in it” means the playoffs, but that’s not really true for all of the teams you listed, either. The Yankees missed the playoffs in ’08, but that’s it, so you got me there. The Red Sox have only made the playoffs three times in the last six years (and not since 2009). The Phillies have made it every year since 2007, but before that, their last appearance was 1993. So, not exactly a given. While the Braves did enjoy a historical run of success in the 90′s and early 2000′s, they’ve made the playoffs only once since 2006. In the last 20 years, none of these teams have all been in the playoffs at the same time. Also, these are some of the game’s most well-run teams — this phenomenon is not restricted to just baseball.

We’ll get to “dominant coverage” later.

It doesn’t even matter that there have been five different clubs that have won the World Series the last five years; including a “small market” St. Louis Cardinals team.

St. Louis is more mid-market. And if St. Louis gets knocked out at any point this postseason, we’ll be guaranteed a different World Series winner for the seventh year in a row.

It was pretty lame for me to watch Indians Pitcher Cliff Lee face off against former Indians pitcher CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series but that’s not the worst for me, either.  It sucks that every August, just as the division races heat up, wealthier teams swarm like vultures and just scoop up players from other teams that either a) can’t afford to resign them or b) aren’t playing for anything.

I agree, that does suck. In a perfect world, Cleveland keeps both of those guys. However, Lee and CC had over five full seasons playing together and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the first round. In terms of wealthier teams sweeping in to pick up players from other teams, I suggest you check out the list of 2011 deadline transactions. Even the small market Pittsburgh Pirates were taking on cash to try to contend. Besides, football teams trying to turnover salary do this all the time: why didn’t the Raiders try to keep Nnamdi Asomugha? He was one of the best DBs in the league. It probably sucks to be a Raider fan and watch him play for Philly, no? Furthermore, is Philly’s offseason spending spree acceptable because it occurred under the NFL’s salary cap?

That’s bad, but not the worst, either. That’s not what I hate the most about baseball.  No, the worst in when one of those clubs DOESN’T make it; because then we have to hear about all the time.

Oh, no. I feel an ”East Coast bias” storm approaching.

Case-in-point; the Red Sox absolutely collapsed down the stretch to piss away the AL East division crown and slip out of the playoffs.  No big deal, right?

Actually it was a huge deal. The Red Sox had one of the highest payrolls in baseball, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents this past offseason, won close to 70% of their games for most of the season, then suffered a collapse so bad it was historic. Literally historic. Granted, Atlanta’s swoon was almost as bad, but when you take into account Boston’s talent, payroll, and four months of winning 20+ games a month, it’s pretty damn fantastic.

But, this is the Red Sox, why how will WE EVER BE ABLE TO WATCH THE POSTSEASON WITHOUT THEM!?  ESPN has been running constant coverage of the Red Sox; interviews with David Ortiz; “analysis” from fake bleeder Curt Schilling; and grainy footage of Terry Francona in dad jeans leaving the Red Sox podium.  I have heard more about the “lack of chemistry” and “too much partying” in the Red Sox clubhouse then I have heard about the entire rest of the postseason.  Baseball players party ALL THE TIME.  It’s not like baseball is a grueling sport to play. But because the Red Sox cleaned out their lockers last week we MUST HAVE ANSWERS!

I concede the point about the the coverage — it has been almost maniacal in nature. Yes, players partying and a perceived “lack of chemistry” are cop-outs/smear campaigns. Why weren’t we hearing about this in July? However, don’t delude yourself into thinking baseball is not a “grueling” sport to play. Walk that one back, because you’re wrong. Will baseball players start dying at 50 after spending their 40′s eating out of soup cans and forgetting to wear pants? No. But that doesn’t mean playing 162 games in 181 days across the country isn’t grueling.

Do you think the NFL yammers away when the Cowboys miss the postseason AGAIN?

Holy shit, do you not have basic cable? The Cowboys are the only team in the league that ESPN assigns a permanent beat reporter to! Ed Werder has spent the better part of the last decade wondering when he was going to be allowed to stop deciphering what type of plastic surgery procedure Jerry Jones just underwent. And what control does the NFL, or MLB for that matter, have over how their teams are covered or perceived in the media? Not much. Blame ESPN, not the leagues. Furthermore, check-out the MLB Network. Surprisingly, Yankee and Red Sox-free. It’s a nice change.

In 2007, Alex Rodriguez opted out of his $252 million contract with the New York Yankees just before Game 4 of the World Series.

(A contract that was negotiated and signed by Tom Hicks, former managing partner of the mid-market Texas Rangers.)

A-Rod is a self-centered lame who forces himself into every situation as soon as a camera comes around. Total prick. We all agree on that? Good. Let’s move on.

It pissed off a lot of people because it took away interest from the game.  Not ESPN; they ran 24/7 coverage and moved the two teams playing in the World Series to the back of the bus. More Yankees stories, YES PLEASE? (claps like a seal)

Agreed, people were pissed off… At A-Rod. He and his agent were universally pilloried. The two teams in the World Series? The “over-hyped” Boston Red Sox and record-breaking Colorado Rockies (they won 22 of their previous 23 games before they met the Red Sox in the Series). We have a contradiction here: if A-Rod was so important, and Boston is so over-hyped, who wins out? To be fair, Boston swept that World Series. Wasn’t exactly a barnburner. Also, ESPN dedicates close to 15 hours a day to NFL programming — don’t come at me with “24/7 coverage” even if it is meant to be hyperbolic.

It illustrates the other thing I hate about baseball.  ESPN is a huge part of the problem. They spent years building up the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry to some obnoxious crescendo.  It helped that they had willing participants; why, who could forget Pedro Martinez, who grew up in the Dominican, and started his career with the Expos, throwing down former Red Sox bench coach Don Zimmer, who looked curiously like Don Rickles. Or the footage of A-Fraud Alex Rodriguez and Jason Veritek [sic] sissy-fighting was played thousands of times. In the process of building up this phony rivalry, they managed to make the game stale. How much breath and footage can be wasted on this?  ESPN plans to find out.

I really like this paragraph. I wish I had written it. I agree completely with all of your points. However, I think the same could be said for ESPN’s relationship with the NFL. The NFL and MLB Networks run laps around ESPN in terms of the quality of coverage and the presentation.

Look, I don’t give a shit that Theo Epstein is going to go try to fix the Chicago Cubs, another team that doesn’t do shit every season but we have to hear about it because Michael Wilbon likes to remind people that he once lived in the midwest more than 30 years ago.  GMs move teams all the time. I don’t even care that Terry Francona is being made the scapegoat for the collapse of his team; doesn’t that happen with EVERY coach that gets the door? I just know that every time one of the “evil empire” teams misses the postseason ESPN runs about a thousand stories; and an angel gets it’s wings. I also know that many more people would rather watch pre-game coverage of an early season NFL game when airing opposed to October baseball.

The coverage of Epstein’s move is not the fault of MLB. Again, this was a historic circumstance. Say the Patriots start this season 10-1 with a five game lead over the second-place team in the AFC East. The Pats subsequently lose five in a row, the division, as well as a Wild Card spot. The small-market Bills go 5-0 down the stretch to knock them out, winning the tie-breaker on the last day of the season with a hail mary touchdown pass, capturing the game and the division. Then, Bob Kraft decides to fire Bill Belichick and the rest of the front office. Would this not be a huge ESPN story? That’s the NFL version of what happened to the Red Sox this season.

Lastly, we have to stop comparing NFL and MLB ratings. They aren’t the same. Back me up fellow baseball nerd,

The vast, vast majority of baseball games are consumed on a local level. Fans watch their own teams’ games and rarely watch others. Why? Because their team is on TV every day. The couple of national broadcasts a week aren’t at all significant in comparison.

Football, in contrast, is a nationally-televised sport. As in, every NFL football game is carried by a national broadcaster. Yes, there is “regional coverage,” but without looking I bet you that the majority of the nation had access to either a Packers or a Steelers game every week this past season.  Cowboys and Patriots too. The marquee teams are defacto national teams with national fan bases in the habit of watching them on national broadcasts.

That is what leads to gigantic national television ratings for football games. That and a host of other factors such as scarcity of actual games, weather and attractiveness of the sport on a flat screen that naturally makes football a better TV sport than baseball is.  I seriously doubt that the underlying economics of the game enter into your average fan’s decision to tune in the Super Bowl vs., say, the World Series.


Turd, I think you make some solid arguments here, but I disagree with your reasoning. Yes, the sports world would be better if ESPN (and sports writers in general) were less lazy and more ambitious, but that’s hardly the fault of MLB, its players, or management. Same thing with the NFL. Instead, let’s place the blame squarely where it lies: President Barack Obama. He’s the most powerful man in the world and he still can’t figure out how to get us a playoff system in college football. For shame, sir.

Follow Duke Jackson on Twitter: @Duke_Jackson


Be Sociable, Share!

Tagged with:

Filed under: Uncategorized

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!