The ratings for this World Series, which has been compelling, are down but should pick up by Game 6, which is a certainty. I’m betting on a Game 7, the game’s ultimate gem.
But, that’s not enough for Maj0r League Baseball because the East Coast giants aren’t involved. With MLB’s penchant for panic and knee jerk reaction, I am beginning to wonder what the response will be.
Tinkering has already done damage to the credibility of the regular season. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, not every team runs the same race to October, which had been a constant for nearly a century. I guess 100 years of a good thing is not enough.
Major League Baseball is seriously considering expanding the playoffs to create interest in more cities and to add extra gates. Another round in the postseason turns baseball into the NFL, the NBA and NHL, which rewards mediocrity.
What had been unique to baseball – and valuable to the sport’s identity – was the difficulty in getting to the postseason. Every team facing the same obstacles gave value and integrity to the regular season. That has been diluted.
It’s now a crapshoot where just about anybody can get in, and this year we have two teams that play the sport correctly, but don’t attract a national audience. What MLB wants is for the playoffs to be expanded, but in the end have the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers somehow involved.
It doesn’t work that way.
Ratings are down for a variety of reasons, beginning with conflicts from the NFL and college football, and so many other viewer options on cable and satellite. At one time, even when the Series started being played at night, baseball was the popular choice.
It’s not that way anymore.
For years, MLB operated in a fashion to discourage growth from a young fan base by scheduling the playoffs later in primetime and its regular season pricing for tickets. It is more inconvenient for a young fan base – and also for the older fans who long supported the sport – to follow baseball. Those in their 70s and 80s who watched games in Ebbets Field and in dozens of parks that no longer exist, can’t afford tickets and don’t stay up as late. They have been shut out, just like the youth who are choosing other convenient options.
MLB needs to re-evaluate its marketing strategy to get back the fans who long supported the sport and attract its future fan base. Its not enough to get cities to build new stadiums and ride that enthusiasm, because eventually the thrill fades.
As those of us who are watching can see, it is still a remarkable, attractive sport that when played well is a joy to watch. We should savor what we are seeing and not regret those teams that aren’t here.
MLB could start by starting the games an hour earlier as to not shut out the East Coast in the late innings. Start the telecast at 7:00 p.m., with first pitch a half hour later. I’d rather have a small West Coast following in the first two innings than lose the East at the end of the game where memories are made.
In doing so, MLB would sacrifice money in its TV deals now, but it will pay off in the future, and that’s what’s best for the game.