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And that wraps up the baseball season… Wait, what!? The world series happened!?

30 Oct

The Major League Baseball season wrapped up just a couple of days ago as the San Francisco Giants were crowned the World Series Champions after sweeping the Detroit Tigers.

Wait a second…they were still playing baseball just a couple of days ago?!  The World Series was going on just a couple of days ago!?  Someone won the World Series just a couple of days ago?!

Why didn’t you hear about it?

Well, probably because you are just like a whole lot of other people who didn’t hear about it, didn’t realize it was going on, or simply chose to ignore it was going on.  In fact, that’s become the larger story than the series itself – the waning interest in the World Series this year and in recent years (with the exception of las year).  This year the television ratings were at an all-time low for a World Series broadcast.  In fact, the World Series has tied or broken its own previously low ratings with even lower ratings seven times since 2000.  Yikes.

Now I’m not a big baseball fan.  Sure, I played baseball from age 3 or 4 all the way through high school, but I have never cultivated an interest or an allegiance to the sport or any particular team.  Perhaps it’s because I’m from Indiana where we don’t have a team (though I’m perfectly happy to spend $10 for a day at Victory Field – Indy’s extremely nice triple a ballpark).  Perhaps I’m not a sports “purist”.  Maybe I just don’t have the attention span to sit through an entire game.  Maybe there’s just something wrong with me…

But it doesn’t appear to just be me that’s not interested.  Low ratings signal large-scale disinterest in the sport, at least to some extent.  Here are some interesting reasons for the low ratings that I came across on this blog:

  • Sweep Madness: too many recent World Series sweeps
  • Football: rising interest in football as well as scheduling conflicts; I have previously pointed out that the way the NFL season is structured and scheduled helps to make that sport more popular and easier to follow
  • Local: only those with local teams are apt to pay much attention (this applies to my specific case that I stated briefly above)
  • Starpower: a lack of stars in this particular World Series; I would argue a lack of stars in general in the MLB. As a slower moving game that is becoming less popular in some ways (attendance is high, but these broader ratings are clearly low), it also may not be attracting the best or most exciting athletes.  If you look at World Series MVP winners since 2000, you will only see a few names that the casual sports fan is likely familiar with…the last big-name star was arguably Manny Ramirez in 2004.
  • Kids out: he argues that we have lost a generation of kids as potential fans; these kids are more interested in football and are not growing up watching the World Series or thinking that it is important.
  • Length of season: at least, this is what I assume he means when he says that it wouldn’t seem right to have baseball in November.  I would say that with so many games that span such a long period of time, it’s hard for the average sports fan to stay engaged and excited about the sport.  We might expect a dip in the middle of the season due to this with an increase in ratings as the playoffs arive and a revival of interest for the World Series; we do to an extent (baseball certainly isn’t dead), but the World Series just doesn’t seem to rebound to a high level of interst compared to other sporting events.

I would also add media attention/coverage to his list.  In some ways (the general lack of) baseball coverage is a reflection of fans’ decreased desire to view the sport.  In other ways, this coverage does (or could), in some ways, drive and generate demand.  It says a lot when sports media outlets would rather cover the NFL and NBA in their offseasons than they would in the middle of the MLB season.  It also says a lot when weekly college football games (not even BCS games) as well as week 7 NFL football games dominate the highlight reels and cover stories over the World Series.  Again, in some ways this is a reflection of fans’ (lack of) demand, and in some ways it helps to shape and drive fans demand.

Although I am somewhat hard on baseball, I certainly don’t wish for its demise or for it to fail.  I do think that it clearly lacks the apeal and following of some of the other sporting events that Americans seem to be tuning in to watch; the low ratings are fairly clear.  It is interesting to look at the sport in general as well as our culture and make some arguments as to why this might be happening.  I found that particular blog to be compelling, and added onto it with some of my own insights.

What do you think?

Why have the World Series ratings consistently declined in recent years? 

Anything to add or quibble with?

Is there anything baseball can do to boost these ratings moving forward?

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14 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Sports

 

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14 responses to “And that wraps up the baseball season… Wait, what!? The world series happened!?

  1. Buddy

    October 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Detroit sucks!

     
    • trokspot

      October 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      haha. Saw that one coming.

       
  2. Scott

    October 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    As a serious, life-long, baseball fan and the father of another, I beieve that the decline in WS interest ties directly to the end of daytime (i.e., child-friendly) playoff and WS games. Most NFL games, other than SFN, MFN, and TFN (watch the creep) are day games, meaning children and parents watch together, fostering lifelong fanhood. But not MLB. Big TV $ = night games.

     
    • trokspot

      October 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      I can definitely see your point. I think that baseball, probably more than other sports, is one where true fanship is really passed down through watching together and bonding through that experience – in turn making it an even stronger bond to baseball. I guess the question then becomes, what does baseball do about that??

      I don’t think it’s really possible for them to take back the day game time slots away from football (at least on Saturdays or Sundays)…I think that at this point football is the favorite of the two. Should they consciously try to schedule games at reasonable times (i.e. 7pm-ish) only Tues, Weds, (maybe M/Th too)? Does that solve the problem? It certainly would change the traditional rhythm of baseball scheduling…

      I think they’re in a tough spot pretty much any way they slice it.

       
  3. William

    October 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    As we have already established on this blog, I am an atypical sports. As such I watched the World Series, and the NL side of the playoffs, almost in its entirety.
    A lot of your points are very good. I disagree with the lack of star power one for this year though. Both presumed league MVPs were competing in the World Series (Cabrera and Posey). I have no data, but I doubt that happens very often.
    As Scott points out, scheduling is very important. I found this year’s schedule to be awful throughout the playoffs. The final pitch of the World Series was thrown just before midnight eastern time on a Sunday. That will lose a lot of viewers. During the divisional series, the Giants and Reds played an elimination game at 10am on a weekday (Pacific time). Not many people in San Francisco can watch a game at that time.
    Sadly, I only think this will worsen for baseball. The changes put in place by the bud selig will continue to push people from the game. Part of the excellence of the World Series was seeing the best two team from the vastly different leagues play against each other. This special series has been cheapened by the advent of interleague play. While only a handful of series each of the past several seasons, there will be at least one interleague game each day starting next season.
    Baseball used to do the best job of rewarding only the best teams with playoff births. Only 4 teams made the playoffs each season, by far the least of any major sport (over half make it in hockey). Another ill-advised policy put in place this year took the first steps to change that. The one-game wildcard play-in game is a farce and cheapens the playoffs and the hard work the teams put in during the regular season.

     
    • trokspot

      October 30, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      Well, by saying that the ratings were down overall, I don’t mean to suggest that you are atypical for watching it – indeed those who did end up watching were probably the loyal fans (like you); the problem is maybe that they are no longer bringing in the casual fan (i.e. me – I usually end up watching bits and pieces of the playoffs and a decent chunk of the WS; this year I think I watched less than 5 innings of the playoffs and WS combined).

      I definitely see your point and hear you on the matchup between Cabrera and Posey. I guess my response to that might be that at this point I don’t know that either is well-established enough to create any type of “star draw” for the average fan (again, those entrenched in the MLB obviously know of their great seasons, but does the average sports fan recognize either…and if so, will they be drawn in by either of those two?). I know they’ve both been around at least a little while, but I still don’t see them resonating quite like some of the other big names in the MLB (again, maybe in part because I’m a bit of an outsider).

      You make great points about the scheduling and league changes. Will these piss off the already loyal fans and drive some of them away? Or will it create enough interest to make up for that and bring in some new fans…

       
  4. Jeff

    October 31, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Cabrera won the Triple Crown this year, which marks the first time this had been done since 1967. Buster Posey is baseball’s martyr after his leg was broken (he’s also an incredible player). A couple more names that may take away from the “star power” argument: Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander (He has rumors circulating about his involvement with Kate Upton), Tim Lincecum (even though he pitched poorly this year), the Kung Fu Panda, and Hunter Pence’s eyes. I’m not sure I understand the World Series MVP argument. The MVP is awarded at the Series’ conclusion.
    Bill’s comments about scheduling are apt. The play-in games were so highly rated in previous years, you cannot help Selig from wanting to ensure that happens every time. Which follows Scott’s sentiments that we should follow the money. I’m unsure if that impacted the Series, but it impacted my thoughts on it. Mainly I didn’t like it. My Cardinals gave me hope that they could win again, all the while tempering their poor performances with, “They shouldn’t be here; they won that stupid play-in game.”
    Here’s another thing: The teams that could have made the Series “exciting” for baseball fans outside of respective cities all lost. We had the Yankees, Giants, Cardinals, and Tigers working for another trip to the World Series. Those teams are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th, respectively, in trips to the Series. The Cardinals, Giants, and Yankees won the Series in that order in the past three years. I imagine people don’t like deja vu.
    That being said, an interesting storyline would have been a Baltimore-Washington Series. These teams would fit some of the categories above and really blow my above argument away. I also think that the fanbase of both of these teams is localized, and would draw minimal TV crowds.
    Another interesting thing, not really related, is that Melky Cabrera, a potential batting title winner, was suspended from the Giants for 50 games for PEDs.

     
    • trokspot

      October 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      I definitely get the Cabrera argument – in fact, going into the post-season I thought the Triple Crown win might boost interest. Hasn’t Lincecum just been “good” the past couple of years (I may be wrong on this). I think that people do know Prince and Verlander…but again, are they a draw to watch? Part of it, I guess, is that stars in baseball are quite different than stars in other sports…if you’re a pitcher (and a star), you still only impact 1 out of 4-ish games. If you’re a hitter/player, then going 1-3 per game is still on pace to have a good season…but it might not be all that exciting to watch on any individual occasion. It’s also much more likely to see ebbs and flows throughout a baseball season and sometimes playoffs than in other sports (i.e. getting on hitting streaks or going through slumps). So it’s sometimes the case that the stars disappear, and before you know it, the WS is over. This is mostly due to baseball just simply being a different kind of sport than other sports.

      Maybe baseball just doesn’t do quite enough to market the stars that they do have. Even of the individuals that you listed, it’s not as often that we see them making headlines, or doing commercials, or being promoted to the extent that we see other athletes in other sports. This might relate to media coverage, etc., but it would seem to me that it would behoove the MLB to try and get some of those guys out there so that there is a large-scale interest in following them. Either way, that’s just one aspect of the problem for the MLB.

      I think you and others have definitely pointed to some of the other factors that all help to account for the low ratings/interest as well.

       
  5. Andy

    October 31, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Like Bill, I also watched the WS in its entirety, but I recognize that you are right when it comes to the majority of sports fans. I think two things need to be done. First is a more reasonable schedule, as my dad pointed out above. The most exciting parts of baseball games usually occur in the late innings, and when those drag on near or past midnight, it’s too much to ask for the fans to hang around. If games started at 6 or 7 ET, then most of the country could reasonably catch the end of the games. Second, the pace of play needs to be picked up. When batters step out of the box after every pitch to readjust imaginary pieces of equipment, and pitchers walk around the mound like they have forgotten where they are before they get ready to deal, games drag on for 3.5 to 4 hours. In an age when our attention span is strained at 30 seconds, this is not sustainable. MLB should get rid of unlimited granting of timeouts to players at the plate, and should find some way to incentivize faster play in general. Will these changes make baseball more popular than football? No. But they might stabilize the declining interest and foster a new generation of fans.

     
    • trokspot

      October 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Yeah…it’s not an easy fix. Would incentivizing a quicker pace or somehow more action perhaps fundamentally change the game?

       
      • Andy

        November 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm

        I don’t think so, except to the extent that a 2.5 or 3 hour game represents a fundamental change from a 3.5 or 4 hour game, and in that case I think it would be a fundamental change for the better. We aren’t talking about changing anything when the ball is in play, just eliminating some of the time we spend waiting for the ball to get back in play.

        It might fundamentally change the game if you are watching the game on Fox, in that it would vastly cut down on the time Fox cameramen could spend zooming in for close-up shots of players faces in the dugout or celebs in the crowd instead of showing more classic baseball camera angles. But again, that seems like a fundamental change for the better. Also, if you are watching a White Sox home game, it might cut down on the time Hawk Harrelson has in between plays to make dimwitted remarks.

         
  6. Buddy

    October 31, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Once Stras and Bryce Harper win a playoff series, people will watch. They are my next bandwagon team after the Rangers. Also, Bryce Harper reminds me of Mike and Raul Ibanez reminds me of Andy. I always root for them.

     
    • trokspot

      October 31, 2012 at 10:08 pm

      I agree that the Nats would have generated some higher ratings – people find them pretty intriguing. I’m glad that you respect my baseball talent.

       

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