A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

From the basement November 03

WORLD SERIES ON TV Part II

Maybe I was wrong? I don't know, I'm back to square 1. Eric Fisher from SBJ convinced me that the late start times of World Series games does not have a negative impact on TV ratings - see my previous post. But William Houston @ The Globe & Mail thinks otherwise. See here and scroll to the postings from October 30 for full text.

Despite the spin, Fox Television’s audience figures for the World Series (Boston-Colorado) were not good.

Yes, the ratings were up 5 per cent from last year (St. Louis-Detroit), but given that the 2006 fall classic was the lowest rated ever, that’s nothing to boast about.

The fact is, the 10.6 average rating (percentage of potential households tuned in) this year ranks second lowest ever, despite the participation of the Red Sox, one of the few major league teams to have a national following.

Fox argues that the games’ late starts (8:35 p.m. EDT) and late finishes (midnight) don’t affect ratings, but obviously they do. True, the numbers climb after 11 p.m. EDT, but that’s only because viewership is increasing west of the Eastern Time zone. Viewership would increase even more significantly past 11 p.m. if the games started at 8:05 p.m. sharp or better still 7:30 p.m.

Who's right on this one? MLB / FOX / SBJ or William Houston ( very credible ) and every single sports columnist ( not so credible ) in the east?

I was definitely wrong when I wrote that the TV ratings for this World Series were great - obviously they weren't. I read after Game 1 that the share was up 37% over last year's Game 1 and mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that the presence of the Red Sox was responsible and the strong #'s would continue through to the completion. I missed the fact that the increased ratings for Game 1 were a result of moving it from a Saturday ( TV's lowest rated nite ) to a Wednesday.

So even with the presence of the Red Sox, the just completed World Series is the 2nd lowest rated ever ( albeit only a 4 game series ). Is this an indication that the popularity of baseball in the US is in decline? Absolutely not. The diminished ratings are a result of audience fragmentation. All other metrics ( I just want an excuse to say how much I hate that term ) indicate that MLB is healthier than ever.

GIRARDI, TORRE & HANK STEINBRENNER

How much impact do manager's have on their clubs' performance? ( I haven't a clue how to measure it but I know the math geeks are looking into it. ) I've always thought that their impact is grossly overrated & over analyzed by baseball writers because it's entertaining, we all like to second guess. But aren't the players overwhelmingly responsible for the #'s of wins and losses? At the MLB level shouldn't the difference between the best and worst manager be negligible? I.E It's not like I'm managing against Tony LaRussa. All this to say that I have been pretty much disinterersted in the very large amount of writing devoted to the hirings of Girardi and Torre.

I initially thought that the Yanks were unprofessional and took a cowardly route in ridding themselves of Torre. They made him an offer - a pay cut - they knew he would refuse, as opposed to telling him straight up that he was done. Hank Steinbrenner changed my mind when he said. "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him? My dad was crucified for hiring him. Let's not forget what my dad did in giving him that opportunity - and the great team he was handed." So said Hank ( I even like his name ) after Torre rejected the Yanks offer of $5 million ( plus $3 million in incentives ).

Right on Hank! The NYC baseball writers long ago deified Torre. I attribute this to his winning obviously, but just as much, the writers genuinely like the guy. Torre made their jobs easier. He cooperated with them, always accessible, always affable, was Torre. But I think Hank is right, they owe him nothing, he's not a victim, he had a great run in NYC.

REVENUE SHARING

The new CBA is supposed to have fixed this problem:

"Revenue sharing has little impact on the expected marginal revenue and marginal costs of ticket sales, and it especially has little impact on the expected marginal revenue product and marginal factor costs of hiring more talent for the team. As a result, many teams like, say, Tampa Bay, respond to what is essentially a lump-sum transfer by pocketing the extra cash." "So revenue-sharing also reduces the marginal revenue of an expected win, and not just for the big-market teams that are taxed to support the programme; it also reduces the incentive for small market teams, the recipients of revenue-sharing, to win too."

Those quotes from The Sports Economist - see November 03 post - in reaction to a NY Times op ed piece by Michael Lewis - not the Moneyball author, the assistant professor of marketing at the Olin Business School at Washington University - on revenue sharing in baseball.

These allegations of small market teams pocketing their revenue sharing dough have been reportedly widely for sometime. I.E. it's generally accepted that the Pirates have been using their share to pay down team debt instead of signing or developing better players. But I thought this era of unprecedented competitive balance ( 07 the first season in how many with no teams > .600 or <.400? ) was an indication that revenue sharing was having at least some of the impact that it was intended to. Yes? No?

PED's SCHPIEL #1

I wrote this offseason that I didn't think MLB's rank & file customers gave a hoot about PED's. I think I was proven right this season when MLB set it's 4th consecutive season attendance record, tallying 79 million. This during the same season when steroids - via the Bonds HR chase - was the subject of saturation media coverage. We watch sports because it's entertaining - has been for centuries. We don't care about the ethical issues involved. Look at the record popularity of MLB, the absence of a backlash from Knicks' supporters post Browne Saunders and nothing that NFL players do off the field ( and they're doin a lot of stuff ) has a negative impact on the bottom line of the NFL. We know pro athletes are not role models, nor do we want them to be. They're entertainers, we understand that, unfortunately a lot of sportswriters don't.

PED's SCHPIEL #2

Pro sports, baseball included, is so full of greed and cheating. Aren't you sick of it? I think it's indicative of our overly materialistic western values. Want further evidence? Read the following from James Christie @ The Globe & Mail.

"The human consequences of East German steroid use, long whispered about, were quantified in a recently published two-year study conducted by the Humboldt University in Germany. The study involved 52 Olympic and elite-level former East German athletes, now aged between 40 and 60 and their 69 children. This represents only a fraction of an athlete population that grew up in a state sport system that essentially sacrificed their health for the propaganda value of victory in sport during the 1970s and 1980s.

German researcher Giselher Spitzer told the Play the Game sports conference the incidence of abnormalities is frighteningly higher for those in the study than in the general population. Seven of the athlete offspring have physical deformities. Four are mentally handicapped. More than a quarter of the children have allergies and 23 per cent have asthma.

He said the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth in the female athletes was 32 times higher than in the German population. Thirty-two of the 52 athletes have received therapy for psychiatric issues and a quarter of those studied had suffered some form of cancer."

Jesus Christ.

Here you can find the full text, scroll to the postings from October 31.

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