Oct 30

Were You Up Last Night?

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?

 

Oct 18

Playoff Scheduling Needs Fixing

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the experience of coming from two games down to beat Cleveland in the Division Series helped them in coming back from two games down to take a three-games-to-two series lead over the Astros with the ALCS heading back to Houston.

While it could have a contributing factor, I think it is secondary to Major League Baseball’s inane playoff scheduling of 2-3-2, which in this case rewards the wild-card team of having three straight games at home.

Such a format neutralizes the home field advantage the Astros earned by winning 101 games during the regular season compared to the Yankees winning 91 games.

Isn’t having the best record supposed to stand for something?

The fairest playoff format in all sports for a seven-game playoff series is 2-2-1-1-1. Baseball doesn’t do it that way, saying it wants to cut down on cross-country travel. Seriously? In October it wants to cut down on the travel?

Beginning with the wild-card games, why do they have to be played on different dates? That’s because MLB cares more about playing as many games as possible in primetime.

Normally, that would carry some weight if we were talking about the major networks broadcasting the games. But, instead there were games telecast on four networks: FOX, FX1, TBS and MLB Network.

I wonder how much of the country missed out on some games?

For the ALCS and NLCS rounds, only four times was each league scheduled on the same date. That’s ridiculous scheduling.

It’s bad enough that if the World Series goes seven games, Game 7 will be played Nov. 1.  I know things will never go back to the way it was, and I know MLB – like all sports – cares more about placating television than the fans in the stands, but c’mon, you have to do better than this.

With some creative scheduling during the regular season, MLB could easily cut a week off the calendar and start the playoffs earlier.

For example, since we have the unbalanced schedule thanks to interleague play, have at least once a month have teams play day-night doubleheaders within the division. Three home; three away.

That would cut six days off the schedule, it would make for more off days during the season, and enable the playoffs to start a week earlier.

C’mon Manfred, be a commissioner for the game and not just the owners.

 

Nov 01

Welcome to November ….

It is November and tonight is Game 4 of the World Series. There are so many things wrong with that picture.

We know this is all because of greed and MLB prostituting itself for the bucks. We also know that as long as Bud Selig remains commissioner things will not change. Hell, regardless of who is commissioner things will not change.

That’s because the owners are running the game in all capacity, and the Players Association, once powerful, doesn’t stand up anymore because they are getting their share.

Yes, the World Series scheduling is dictated by the network, but so are the earlier rounds. With both FOX and TBS broadcasting, MLB will not schedule conflicting games as to interfere with each other’s ratings. That also necessitates spreading out the scheduling. God forbid they broadcast in the afternoon (there were some, but not nearly enough).

There is another solution, but it is doubtful MLB will go in that direction because it makes too much sense.

MLB can cut a week off the season – and STILL keep it at 162 games – if it implemented day-night doubleheaders throughout the season for division games. Interleague play and the unbalanced schedule has provided enough opportunities because teams within the division play each other up to 19 times.

We know MLB won’t go for the traditional doubleheader because of its insistence of not wanting to lose a gate. So, schedule the day-night variety once a month. In doing so, over the six-month season you’ll free up six days. That means starting the postseason a week earlier.

Even better, would be doing it every other week. That could free up to 12 days.

MLB says the Players Association won’t go for it, but they never asked. I’ve spoken to numerous players and they like the idea because it would mean more off days during the season.

Returning to the old way of starting the World Series on a Saturday would be a prudent thing to do. IT’S THE WORLD SERIES!!!! People will watch on the weekend, and they’ll watch during the day, too.

MLB, in capitulating to the networks, says the ratings will go down. Who’s to say? Will the drop be that significant? We won’t know unless they try it.

Instead, MLB doesn’t want to compete with college and pro football. In taking that approach, the sport is saying it isn’t good enough. Nonsense. Baseball is plenty good enough to compete, and if the match-up is good, it will win. If the match-up is bad – and MLB defines that as anything without the Yankees – they won’t watch anyway.

This weekend, the games are in the National League city. Had Colorado made it, we’d still be stuck on Game 2.

MLB should say, “this is when we’re playing, if you want to broadcast the games, show up. … If this isn’t good enough for you we’ll get somebody else to televise the games.”

Instead, MLB just takes the money and rolls over.