It’s another year of the World Series and that means another year of ESPN and other media networks harping on the television ratings for said event. As large market teams were eliminated, low ratings were already being predicted. Nothing was said for excitement, and little was said about the matchup, it’s all about ratings.
If ESPN, FOX, and MLB could have their way, every season would be a rematch of the Yankees and the Phillies, the Yankees against the Cubs, a few chances for the Red Sox – any possible combination of matchups that combine large fan bases and media markets with the Yankees or Red Sox.
Looking back over the last number of World Series’, the best ratings have always belonged to the Yankees and the Red Sox. The numbers don’t lie, that’s what people want to watch on TV. But survey non Red Sox or Yankees fans, and that’s the opposite of what they want to see.
On one hand, baseball has been implementing various forms of affirmative action to try and make sure all markets are represented in the All Star games and playoff baseball. At the same time, baseball is seemingly trying to crack the ratings enigma and keep televisions tuned into baseball.
There’s an obvious disconnect between those two ideals. But fixing it is another story.
Any purist baseball fan would cringe reading Gene Wojciechowski’s article on ways to improve the World Series. Trimming it down to a best of 5 series? Flipping the DH rule for AL and NL parks? Pregame concerts? In between puns and being witty, he even compared the dropoff in ratings to 1973.
The television landscape has changed in the past four decades and people now have more than a half dozen channels to choose between. Besides that, making a carnival or sideshow out of the World Series is damaging to the game and takes away from the prestige of winning it all.
Another common mistake is people comparing the ratings to the Superbowl. Doing that is like comparing Christmas to Hanukkah – football is one day while baseball lasts for seven crazy nights. Beyond that there’s the obvious errors in comparing Sunday afternoon tv to Monday or Tuesday night television. Even further, many football fans aren’t big fans of the Superbowl; a game that’s all hype and not usually very exciting.
And then you have baseball. If you want excitement, direct your PVR to game one of this year’s World Series and watch a thrilling late game victory by the St Louis Cardinals. After that gets your adrenaline flowing, watch game two and see the thrilling 9th inning rally to score a pair of runs and snipe the victory away from the Cardinals.
Baseball might not have the best ratings, and it might not have the hype and media attention surrounding football. But baseball still has the excitement. Rather than selling out baseball to the lowest denominator of reality TV fans, baseball should be bringing fans back up to their level.
Stop griping about the ratings. Let Bud Selig worry about that, or just wait another few years until the Yankees are back in the World Series. Quit with the hairbrained ideas to “fix baseball” and instead focus on relaying the excitement of what’s happening.
It’s only two games in, but this has already been one of the more thrilling World Series you can remember. It’s coming hot off the heels of a pair of thrilling LCS matchups which featured some record breaking offense and drama all around. Don’t forget the LDS play which saw down to the wire finishes for most of the matchups and one of the most memorable pitching duels in recent postseason play.
If people here about the excitement they’ll eventually get curious and wander in to watch. If all they hear about is a lack of ratings, they’ll follow suit. Let the excitement be the story.