Last night was the kind of game that if the casual observer were to tune in, they might get hooked on baseball. The same might be said of kids, that is if they were up at that hour.
Five-hour games are an aberration, and this isn’t about speeding up the pace. It’s about starting games at a reasonable hour. If a game starts at 8:30 p.m., it stands to reason the game will end close to, if not after, midnight.
Is this any way to cultivate the next generation of baseball fans, not to mention, ticket buyers?
Of course, that doesn’t seem to be on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s agenda, much like it wasn’t on Bud Selig’s. A commissioner’s obligation is to act in the best long-term interest of baseball, and this doesn’t necessarily mean the best short-term financial interest.
Baseball’s lifeblood is in its network television contracts, first FOX, followed by separate cable deals. The Division Series and League Championship Series were shown on FOX, FS1, TBS and its own MLB Network. None of these networks can draw the ratings that really brings in the advertising revenue.
That these games are traditionally shown at hours that virtually eliminate East Coast viewers after 11 p.m., but that’s all right because it gets the Pacific Coast from start to finish.
How MLB determines the first two hours on the West Coast are more valuable than 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the East Coast is beyond me.
What is most aggravating about MLB’s network alliances is how baseball has given the television networks carte blanche to schedule games as it wants with no regard to the public or to the sport. What MLB mostly means to the networks is a vehicle to promote its primetime schedule.
MLB is letting its product get shortchanged just for the money. It’s why World Series games are no longer telecast during the day. It has been that way for decades and doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.
Quite simply, it is because FOX doesn’t want to bump its football coverage, both college and pro. The networks value football over baseball, but as long as baseball gets its money it doesn’t care being second best.
Is that any way to market a sport, or anything else, by accepting being No. 2?