November 12, 2007

Saving Baseball

Posted in Life in Los Angeles, NFL and other lesser sports at 12:03 pm by loolar

So with the World Series now a distant and mostly irrelevant memory, I have come to wonder – why don’t I care? Why are fewer and fewer people watching baseball?

Let me start off by saying that I have nearly zero baseball knowledge. Football is my sport. Now, there are certainly age-old debates why one sport is better than the other, but as my man Jimmy recently stated, “can’t we just agree that these are apples and oranges?” Sure. Delicious, juicy oranges vs. rotten, mealy apples. But I digress. It doesn’t change the fact that baseball is in trouble.

While stadiums are routinely selling out, the newer stadiums being built are also smaller. And television revenues are shrinking compared to other sports (most notably, NFL, NBA, and NASCAR*).

The fact is, the boys of summer are, well, boring. Watching the Cleveland-Yankees series a few weeks ago, I’d swear a reaction shot of Joe Torre showed him nodding off. During the game. I mean, why not? Nothing was happening anyway.

Now, I can argue about a number of things about baseball that are pointless. Five and seven game series for instance (what kind of a pansy game makes you beat the other team more than once? Damn, it’s already got 9 innings for a comeback, now you want another chance tomorrow – and the next day?); or how about the terminally long 162 game season. Are you serious? How do the fans keep up?

I have a theory about this**: I think baseball, developed back when there were a lot of vacant lots and people with nothing to do anyway, had to justify these guys playing a game for a living, or face resentment from the new fans. Solution? Make these guys play as often as a working stiff goes to work, five days a week.

Well, now that we have pampered pansies like Manny Ramirez and A-Rod making millions every time they scratch their jockstrap, do we really need the illusion?

But those things aside, and recognizing that baseball is steeped in tradition, even really, really, really pointless and annoying ones (Is there any good reason not to put the player’s name on the back of the jersey? That was a rhetorical question, because the real answer is, “who gives a rat’s booger about baseball,” but if you were to take that question seriously, the answer would be, “only to annoy me.”), I think I can still offer some critical changes that would really change the face of things:

  1. No more than one relief pitcher. I would love someone who cares to look up the stats on this (I got bored after two minutes), but I would be shocked and awed if I’m wrong. It’s my perception that the number of triple plays has drastically shrunk in the past 2-3 decades, and the double play is as rare as the triple play used to be. Baseball has become a boring pitcher’s duel, or a slugger derby. Where is the fielding? What are the other seven guys doing while the pitcher and catcher have all the fun, y’know, besides spitting and scratching their crotch? BORING. However, if managers can’t substitute seventeen guys in from the bullpen; if they only get a single reliever, you’d see a lot more interest and debate as to when to bring in your single reliever when your starting pitcher tires (the current debate consists of five words: “Jesus Christ, take him out!”).
  2. No designated hitter (related to the first point). Weakloaf in extra weaksauce, you pansies. Perhaps if the pitchers had to work on their hitting as much as their pitching, we’d have more excitement in the fielding game, and no more nancy-skirts prancing up to the plate and swinging like Mary Poppins with an umbrella. Again, more interesting fielding opportunities, and less pitching duel-slugger crap.
  3. Cheaper Tickets. Look, the fans of tomorrow are in diapers today, and there’s no way in hell I’m taking my son to a Dodgers game when it’s going to cost us $120 in tickets alone ($80 if we ditch his mommy) – to sit in the damn nosebleeds! Add a couple of hot dogs, cokes, crackerjack and peanuts, and there goes another $40-50. Want a hat, too? $35. And face it – if you don’t take your kid to a live game, his head will explode from the boredom of watching it on TV, especially compared to, y’know, watching grass wilt (or, as is more likely, playing a video game or watching an action movie). So with more families electing not to go to a live game, and therefore never becoming fans enough to endure it on TV, you know that means lower television revenues. Start realizing what Hollywood has figured out about feature films – they’re just commercials for the DVD. And the live game should just be the “concert” that gets you to buy the “record.” Make it cheap, or face losing your fans – and lucrative TV contracts – of tomorrow.
  4. Cheaper Parking. You bastards. After charging me $40 to sit with the pigeons in the rafters, you’re going to charge me $15 to park my car, too? Forget it. Not going.

And I haven’t been to a Dodgers game in nearly two years. I did go to a single MLB game this year – the Padres at Petco park (corporate naming to be attacked in an upcoming rant), because, hey, Jimmy got tickets for free, and that park is lovely. But we spent $60 each on food and beer. Crap food and crap beer, mind you. For that cash, I can get a steak and a nice glass of wine.

Oh, and I think you should be able to get a runner out by pegging them with the ball. But let’s be realistic; if we’re going to allow that, the batter should be able to take the bat to first to club the First Baseman.

*not actually a sport
**based purely on nothing

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5 Comments »

  1. rob sama said,

    The season length is really what gets me. It’s like, well into football season by the time the baseball season ends. And then it starts up again in what, like March or April? Any season that lasts longer than 6 months really isn’t all that seasonal. It’s like seeing Christmas decorations up before Halloween happens…

  2. thebrowncub said,

    No more than one relief pitcher is insane. If he isn’t pitching well, you have to keep him in and lose the game? Not to mention when a pitcher is injured and has to leave the game. Double plays are becoming more and more common as more ground ball pitchers are entering the league, finally realizing that you don’t have to throw 96 to get guys out. I agree on all the prices needing to come down on pretty much everything there is to be bought at a baseball game, especially when baseball teams are making more money than ever. The whole television revenue thing has always been complicated, because so many different stations carry the same team at different times. Not to mention the blackout rules that apply to most Major League games, which mean if you live close too close to a Major League team, you won’t get to see the game. That alone kills revenue for television. Baseball is a sport that lives on story lines created by the players, managers, and history, something that other sports really can’t do. There is really no middle ground for baseball either: You either like it or you don’t. Football is pretty entertaining even if you don’t care to watch it.

  3. Mike Torres said,

    I just read somewhere that attendance records are being broken across all of MLB and that the game’s growth outpaces any previous era. That baseball is bigger than it has ever been. Maybe it depends on who you ask (i.e. sources). I happen to love it (and don’t love football!) so it could be selective reading on our parts.

    I do know that FOX did very, very well with the ALCS prior to the Series.

    Albeit no one wanted to watch the World Series so the ratings sunk. One mega-payroll team (tied for #1 with the Yankees despite claims to the contrary – those claims don’t include Dice-K’s negotiation) vs. a team with one superstar no one knows or cares about. Everyone knew how that would end.

    I do agree with #3 & 4 – but not #1 (I just think they should RUN instead of WALK to the mound) or #2 (watching pitchers hit is like watching a 7-year old try and hit a fastball).

  4. Mike Torres said,

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3112210

    From the article:

    “When you look at the final numbers and you see what’s happened, it’s remarkable. There are times, honestly, when I have to pinch myself to make sure all of this is happening. … Growth and revenue, growth and profitability; it’s just been really, really good.”

    And with attendance up, and Major League Baseball also making a concerted effort to expose its product to other parts of the world, Selig is confident the game will continue the trend next season, and beyond.

    In addition to enforcing existing rules, the commissioner said consideration will be given to adding new rules. “We just need to speed things up a little bit for everybody’s best interest,” Selig said.

  5. Jimmy V. said,

    Next time I get free tickets (which is quite often), don’t expect an invitation.


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