Monday, October 20, 2008

Before This Gets Out of Hand . . .

Starting today you are going to hear a lot of griping about the low ratings the Rays-Phillies World Series will likely bring. You'll read writers and hear talking heads who only talk about baseball once or twice a year say things like "sure, the Rays are a nice story, but this World Series doesn't really capture the imagination." You'll hear things like this, taken verbatim from a FARK comment thread:

"Most boring World Series evar/and I don't even like baseball"

Not everyone who says such things will so willingly state what is inspiring them to heap scorn on this matchup, but I think it pretty much captures where they're coming from.

Look, I'm not a big fan of either of these teams -- and because I'm an N.L. East guy I have done my share of Phillies hating in recent months -- but there are all kinds of things to recommend about this pairing. If Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, the hunger of the long-deprived Philly fanbase, the excitement of the new for Rays' fans, and the lack of tired storylines for Buck and McCarver to lean on doesn't get you at least moderately excited about this World Series, you may want to ask yourself how big a baseball fan you really are.

Unless you are Rupert Murdoch or answer directly to him, the ratings of this series should not impact your enjoyment of it. If they do, you're probably beyond help.

19 comments:

Jason @ IIATMS said...

amen brother. why should I care how much advertising revenue the networks can pull?

it should be a great series!

Levi Stahl said...

The question in my household is what player gets his face on my wife's annual World Series jack-o-lantern. For the past four years, one of her favorites has been playing; this time, she's pretty close to neutral on both teams and all the players.

I'll admit that right now I'm pushing for So Taguchi or Matt Stairs, players I've long liked, but who would be borderline ridiculous choices for this role.

Suggestions are welcome--but be warned: the team of the player on her jack-o-lantern always wins. Last year it was Manny . . .

Craig Calcaterra said...

That is seriously cool, Levi. I suppose I'd nominate Ryan Howard. I like TTO guys, and he's got that big cuddly thing going on that might translate well to the face of a gourd.

If she wants to go with a Ray, I'd suggest Joe Maddon.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Levi, that carving is unreal! Nice work, Mrs. Stahl!!!

I'd recommend BJ Upton, sans helmet, doing the mohawk.

greg p said...

I would nominate Stairs. He lives up here in Maine in the offseason coaching high school hockey. How can you go wrong??

tadthebad said...

That is cool. One of the many things I'm not talented enough to pull off. Kudos...

Sara K said...

I thought Victorino was the "hot" Philly right now? Of course, Brett Myers is scarier...

Craig Calcaterra said...

You're right, Sara. It's been so damn long since they've played a game, however, that I'm kind of forgetting about the Phillies already.

In other news, the days off in the playoff schedule really, really suck.

mooseinohio said...

Carving out Joe Maddon glasses would be cool and honoring Dom Zimmer, if you could find a pumpkin larger enough.

As for the series itself - so many great stories and there is no way to say it will be boring before the fact. How many greatly hyped events that everyone thinks will be great actually disappoint us while the out of nowhere Rocco Mediate v. Tiger Woods Monday playoffs capture the nations attention.

mkd said...

Going into the playoffs all I wanted was to avoid a catastrophic Dodgers v. Red Sox series. Listening to FOX flog Manny-returns-to-Boston for a week might have actually made me turn off the World Series for the first time since 1986

I know he's not a player, but I vote for a Joe Madd-o-Lantern.

Anonymous said...

APBA Guy-

I'll be glued to the screen for the series, since part of my misbegotten youth was spent in Tampa at MacDill AFB.

Nostalgia aside, an earlier comment I made about a team's weakness being exposed in the playoff was evident in the last 3 games of the ALCS. Boston's bench depth was exposed clearly. Also, you could see John Lester run out of gas. The kid (he's 24) pitched about 80 more innings this year than last, a lot of them in pressure situations. He held out as long as he could, then manned-up as his stuff faded until the 7th. Just have to hope he doesn't enter 2009 seriously fatigued like the Tiger pitchers entered 2007.

Scary pumpkins: how about Jonny Gomes with that Mohawk?

Dave Rouleau said...

You could not have said it better, Craig. If the Rays going to the WS is not a story big enough for any baseball fan, than I really don't know what they are looking for.

As Jason pointed out: 'why should I care how much advertising revenue the networks can pull?'

Keep up the good work!

Daniel said...

I'm just happy the Red Sox aren't in it. But at its core, baseball is baseball and these are two great teams who played well at the right time. The Rays have some great young pitching. The Phillies have that huge power potential in the middle of the order. We don't need great stories to have a great WS, just great players. And these teams have them.

Pat Hajovsky said...

Craig, the ratings bellyaching shows, once again, MLB's incredibly stupid strategy of riding only the Red Sox/Yankees/Cubs/big market horses. Your product is not the Red Sox or the Yanks, MLB, it is major...league...baseball. Why they don't promote the game itself is beyond me.

Are women and the casual fan not going to want to watch a show made interesting by focusing on the brilliance of these players? Note to MLB, they're already not watching because you've framed the show as uninteresting for the lack of your featured participants!!! My wife last night, "You mean the Red Sox lost? Is the season over now?" NO!!!!

For changes, how about mandating that ESPN and Fox show games other than those including just Red Sox/Yankees/Mets/Cubs/Dodgers? Not every week, but how about even one week we see a Sunday night game between Oakland and Minnesota, or Houston and San Francisco, or San Diego and Florida?

Point is, the product is what's superior, not the Red Sox and the Yanks. I guarantee you that Fox has a story during the World Series about how the Red Sox/Yanks/Cubs are handling being out of the postseason. ("Kevin Kennedy, tell us, is the Manny trade responsible for the Rays being in the World Series??") The first time I hear that, I'm assenting to a channel change for my wife to watch Dancing with the Stars, SpongeBob Squarepants, or whatever else she or my daughter may want to watch.

How about a World Series preview special on Fox focusing on the interesting players in this Series? Make it interesting to watch and, guess what, people will watch! Roger Angell continues to successfully write about baseball because he makes it interesting. He doesn't write just about the Mets, Yanks and others, he wrote/writes about the game itself. The World Series is the best event in sports. Cover it as such and people may start to believe it.

Joist said...

It does irritate me that ESPN shows the "big-money" teams an inordinate amount, but their one job is to maximize ratings, and, for better or for worse, those big-money teams attract better ratings. It might offend the serious baseball fans like you or me, but the casual fan is more likely to tune in to watch the Yankees or Dodgers or what have you.

There's more room for outrage, I think, in the NFL, which has an exclusive deal with DirecTV, which not everybody can get. With MLB, you can watch live games online, or you can get the Extra Innings package through virtually any satellite or cable provider. So any fan of a small-market team can watch all of his team's games anyway and doesn't need to rely on ESPN, which often has more annoying announcers and longer commercial breaks anyway.

Similarly, with regard to the annual hand-wringing over "small-market" World Series...who cares? This isn't hockey, where you don't know from year to year what network will broadcast the Stanley Cup and whether you get that channel. Fortunately, baseball is popular enough that we don't have to worry about whether the games will be broadcast, and the ratings, as Craig and others have already pointed out, do not affect us in the slightest.

Scott said...

Maybe FOX should cut its losses and try to save a little money. How about dropping Buck and McCarver, and replacing them with the Rays' and Phillies' announcing teams. For each game, the home team gets to use its own announcers.

I know it's ridiculous, but wouldn't it also be wonderful?

mkd (pdx or) said...

but the casual fan is more likely to tune in to watch the Yankees or Dodgers or what have you.

My impression has always been that the big-market teams get better ratings because those teams simply have more fans.

When the Red Sox are in the World Series, the entire city of Boston watches every game with rapt attention. Now that the Red Sox are not in the World Series the entire city of Boston will watch their commemorative Sports Illustrated 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox DVD instead.

It's not that casual fans are more interested in watching the Red Sox than the Phillies or the the Rays. It's just that Red Sox fans aren't really interested in watching anything but Red Sox games. And there are so many Red Sox fans that this causes a precipitous decline in ratings.

To make a political analogy- MLB loves when the Yankees/Mets/Cubs/Red Sox are in the World Series because it motivates a fanatical base, not necessarily because it appeals to independents.

(PS I love Red Sox fans and Yankee fans and Cub fans and don't really care that so many of them won't tune into a game that their team isn't involved in. They account for a great deal of what makes Baseball a commercially viable operation. Lord knows that if this league relied on Mariner fans the whole thing would have folded years ago. So keep buying those Yankee hats! Let's keep this thing in the black!)

Richard Dansky said...

It's lousy business on Fox' part.

They've paid a gazillion dollars for the rights to baseball. Why not try to grow the product by expanding the potential audience and playing up how cool stuff beyond LA/Boston/NY/Chicago is? Ditto for MLB - you'd think they'd want a national/worldwide audience pumped about the possibility of buying a whole new set of caps and jerseys and suchlike, instead of just Red Sox ones.

Jason @ IIATMS said...

"For each game, the home team gets to use its own announcers."

Now THAT is a great idea.