The conclusion, some will tell you, is simple: baseball needs to make drastic changes if it wants to avoid total oblivion.
Some of the “solutions” I’ve read are hilarious. One commentator, echoing others over the years, says that baseball needs to hold the Series at a neutral warm-weather site every year. It needs to add two more teams to the playoffs, others suggest. It has to play games in the afternoon, still others chime in, flogging a horse so long dead its bones are turning to dust.
It’s all nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with baseball that isn’t wrong with every prime-time show. The television audience is more fragmented than a French election. The Cardinals and the Tigers may not have drawn the audience that Fox wanted, but they still gave the network a win for the week in prime time, which means that the best the other three major networks could put up didn’t do any better than the World Series. It also drew the biggest audience among the all-important 18-49 demographic, which are the people who buy beer and cars.
On top of that, baseball has just come off its most successful season ever, with more people buying tickets to watch the games than ever before. It was a competitive success, as well, with most of the National League and half the American contending for playoff positions deep into the season.
So good is business that the players and the owners signed a new collective bargaining agreement two months before the old one ran out and without a single negative word being uttered in public during the negotiations, which went so smoothly, most people didn’t know they were taking place until they were over.
But, the doomsayers cry out, the ratings were down. What, oh, what, is baseball to do?
Short of arranging things so that the Cubs play the Red Sox in the World Series, not much.
The truth is that the game is doing just fine. Besides, there isn’t a lot the game can do — and even less that it should do — to bleed another point or two out of the ratings.
There is a problem with the perception that drugs are a huge problem compared to other sports, especially as it’s not true. The NFL has the same problem with performance-enhancers but nobody cares because they’re not used to hit home runs, just to hit other players. Baseball’s problem isn’t drugs but the knee-jerk reaction of columnists and commentators to every new allegation, which is to wail about how the very fabric of the game is ruined and no one should ever believe anything they see again.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
World Series, in pictures
See highlights from the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.