Aaaaaand we're back. Eleven days later. What does this half of the article hold? Will we learn about how popular triple A baseball is? Will Hench make an angry posting on a Sox message board? Will Bill talk about how it doesn't matter that Kevin Youkilis is out for the season, because he's not an exciting player in the mold of Jason Bay? (Unlikely, since the injury occurred after this article was written- although it happened since I wrote about the first half of this shitpile, so you never know, maybe ESPN's editors updated it.)
Before I try to bumblefuck my way through it, let me restate a key point that Chris W made in the comments of last week's installment: it's OK to be a frontrunner. It's not some major sin against all that is good and holy in sports- most teams thrive on frontrunners. With a few rare exceptions, when teams suck, fan interest goes down. When they compete for titles, fan interest goes up. Being a part of that group that pays attention to a team when they're going great and stops caring when they stink isn't that big of a deal. I mean... it kind of hurts your credibility as a fan. But whatever. So it's not that my last post and this one should be summarized as "HAHA BILL IS A FAIRWEATHER FAN AND THAT MAKES HIM DUMB," they should actually be summarized as "HAHA BILL IS A FAIRWEATHER FAN AND REFUSES TO ADMIT AS MUCH, INSTEAD CRAFTING AN ELABORATE WEB OF RETARDERY AND BULLSHIT TO JUSTIFY THE FACT THAT HE'S NOT WATCHING RED SOX GAMES THIS YEAR." You feel me? I know you do. Back to the madness.
THE DECLINE OF BASEBALL IN GENERAL: 5 PERCENTMLB's defenders will point to attendance numbers (dropped in 2008, held tight in 2009 and 2010), its history (by far the most significant of the four major sports), its World Series ratings (still better than the NBA Finals) and a new generation of younger-than-25 stars (Strasburg, Heyward, Price, Longoria, Posey, Santana, etc.) who rank among baseball's biggest talent boons ever. Troublemakers like me will point to the following things:
The attendance numbers didn't keep plummeting only because of discount deals and cheaper tickets.
Ridiculous argument, does not apply more to baseball than it does to any other sport or recreational activity that costs money. Now, let's stop and think for a moment. What... what happened in 2008 (and didn't unhappen, so to speak, in 2009 or 2010) that might have affected ticket sales numbers? What indeed. Hey, Mr. "Troublemaker"- how about instead of seeing a sales phenomenon in the real world and assuming it must be happening because durka durr people no like buying that thing no more, instead we look at the how the economy as a whole might have affected consumer interest in the good? Now, I'm not exactly getting my doctorate in economics here. I probably don't understand the whole situation. But I'm willing to be that economy shits the bed => people lose jobs => people have less disposable income => people stop going to baseball games is a reasonable chain of causation.
Shouldn't baseball worry that the onslaught of new ballparks (20 since the Skydome in 1989) caused an ongoing attendance bump that's soon coming to an end?
Shouldn't you try to justify your assertion that stadium attendance bumps last more than a couple seasons? The Nationals' new stadium (opened in 2008) is gorgeous and has reasonably priced concessions and tickets. Go to a non-Strasburg start there- I did four or five times this summer- and see if that bump is still bumping. (It's not. There will be like 5,000 people in the park.) That's one anecdote, but I'm fairly certain I've got this point locked down. It's not like the Orioles are still riding a bump from opening Camden Yards 18 years ago. It's not like the Mariners are still riding one from opening Safeco 11 years ago. Etc. So no, baseball shouldn't worry about this.
The honeymoon "we have a new park!" stage eventually wore off in Baltimore,
When they started losing. Last playoff appearance: 1997. Last winning season: 1997.
When they started losing. One playoff appearance since 2001. Two winning seasons since 2001.
Last playoff appearance: 1993.
They were actually pretty good for most of the '00s, but whatever.
Who's next? When the dust settles, attendance will hinge on the same thing it always did: winning.
Yes, diptard. Good for you. That's correct. That's why the Rockies, Phillies, Angels, etc. have good attendance numbers the past few years despite the fact that THE GLOSS HAS WORN OFF THEIR ONCE-SHINY STADIUMS. You can pack shitty Wrigley Field or Fenway Park with 34,000 fans a night if the Cubs/Red Sox are winning. On the other hand, people will not go to super fancy nice family-friendly affordable Nationals Park if the Nationals blow.
Especially in the 65-Inch HD Plasma/DirecTV Package/"Screw It, I'd Rather Just Stay Home and Flick Channels" Era
Which is why NESN ratings are way down this year. Oh waiiiiiiiiiiiiit. FRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRONTrunners.
There isn't a single baseball star who could have gotten a 4 rating for switching teams, much less a 9 rating like LeBron did.
Ridiculous argument, does not apply more to baseball than it does to any other league besides the NBA and any other player besides LeBron. No other athlete in the country could have pulled that kind of a ratings number. I don't even think that cockhole Brett Favre could do it. Among big US team sports, the NBA glorifies individuals the most. Add that together with the fact that LeBron is considered to be one of the greatest players ever, still in his prime, and yeah. It's a bit of a unique situation.
Right now, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are the only mainstream famous baseball players. That's the list. And they're a combined 71 years old. My goofy take on this: The narcissism, chest-pounding and me-first mentality of stars in other sports has, perhaps unfairly, made baseball players seem boring as hell.
That's fine, and maybe somewhat true, although hockey isn't a whole lot different. But the point of sports is not to generate ratings for some ill-contrived TV special. 99.9% of all professional athletes would never even begin to consider doing something as stupid as going forward with "The Decision," because only 0.1% of all players in all sports can even generate the kind of free agent interest LeBron did. This is not a strike against baseball. It's a reflection of how insecure and stupid LeBron is (in the PR department anyways). If Joe Mauer hadn't signed that extension with the Twins, and he wanted to do his own TV special during this winter's free agency, it would have generated a lot of interest. And would have been hilarious. Would it have generated "LeBron interest?" No. But that's the NBA for you. Trying to use "The Decision" as evidence that baseball is "declining" is like trying to base your entire argument that scripted television is declining on the fact that American Idol gets great ratings.
Hell, even when George Steinbrenner died, the ensuing coverage reminded us of that gloriously crazy era in the '70s and '80s when players wrote tell-all books and ripped teammates,
That happened in the 00s too- with hilarious consequences.
drunk managers fought drunk pitchers in hotel bars,
Now drunk managers just leave the bar, get behind the wheel, and fall asleep on their way home. Oh wait, that's just legendary hyprocrite/asswad Tony La Russa.
players swapped wives,
Probably still happens.
superstars made quotes like "I'm the straw that stirs the drink,"
Bonds used to drop some pretty good one liners. My favorite is "I'm not afraid to be lonely at the top." Rickey Henderson, perhaps the most quotable superstar of all time, played into the 00s. Granted, those guys aren't around in 2010. Still, this isn't just a 70s thing.
owners derisively called their best player "Mr. May" and hired convicted felons to frame them,
Probably doesn't happen much anymore.
pitchers beaned guys just for sport, guys took 26-second home run trots, teams had bench-clearers five times per year and everything else that made baseball so much fun. Now, it's all about RESPECTING THE GAME, MAN!
Yes and no. The league itself has harshly cracked down on beanballs and fighting, because it's worried that too much of that hurts fan interest and costs everyone money. (Bless hockey for not giving in to that line of thinking too much.) The players are also pretty interested in getting their share of all that money, so they generally avoid getting suspended/being labeled loose cannons and generally toe the league's line. I don't think it's so much about respect as it is about money. Players are also a lot more buddy-buddy with one another than they once were, probably due in part to the rise of cell phones (and the damn social networking face books!) and in part due to how often most guys change teams and meet a new set of teammates. It's all one big happy family. This is why I say: Brandon Phillips rules for defying that culture.
We're feeling the effects of two solid decades of World Series games ending well after the bedtime of any prospective young fan.
True, starting games at 8:30 eastern really hurts the number of kids in the Eastern time zone who can watch them. That's half the country's population. On the other hand, half the country's population isn't subjected to those kinds of late nights. Twenty percent of the US lives in the Pacific zone. Even kids out there with a 9 PM bedtime have seen nearly every out of every world series ever televised. Not saying this is a good policy by the league, but it's funny and east coasty for Bill to talk about "any prospective young fan" up there. Especially considering where he lives. Maybe he's referring just to kids who are Red Sox fans? But those little assholes are everywhere, coast to coast. Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
And don't kids have dozens more choices in 2010 than they did in 1975? Back in 1975,
A NICKEL WAS REALLY WORTH SOMETHING!
I went outside, whipped a baseball off the wall, dove for it and pretended I was Freddie Lynn. Do kids do that now? Isn't it more likely that they're watching Nick Jr., playing video games, watching DVDs, messing around with the computer ... how could baseball possibly mean as much to a young kid now?
Ridiculous argument, does not apply more to baseball than it does to any other sport or outdoor activity. The NFL seems to be doing OK these days.
THE TIME OF THE GAMES: 55 PERCENT
Soooo.... more than half of the reason Bill isn't following the Red Sox is because their games are running long. Let's see where this leads.
Certainly not NCAA football games, which regularly run that long, or NFL games, which are usually right around 3 hours and occasionally run longer. THE EXTRA 27 MINUTES MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE THOUGH! RED SOX FANS ALWAYS LOSE INTEREST IN THE TOP OF THE 8TH!
The second: It's not that fun to spend 30-45 minutes driving to a game, paying for parking, parking, waiting in line to get in, finding your seat ... and then, spend the next three-plus hours watching people play baseball ... and then, leave, find your car and drive home. That's potentially a five-hour commitment. Ludicrous.
Ludicrous! When did this start happening? Decades ago? Oh. Also, I understand Bill is mostly focusing on the Red Sox here, and (as he's about to explain) their games are longer than average, but most MLB teams are finishing up most of their games under 180 minutes. Just saying.
By the way, have you ever looked around during a baseball game these days? It's 35,000 people texting or writing/reading e-mails while they wait for something to happen.
Ridiculous argument, does not apply more to baseball than it does to any other spectator sport or outdoor activity. Have you ever looked around a concert? A restaurant? A movie theater? Assholes everywhere are on their cell phones every waking minute. I would know, I'm one of them.
I went back and examined the times of games of my most memorable Red Sox seasons (1975, 1978, 1986, 1999, 2004, 2007) along with 2002 (when we first worried that games were becoming too slow) and 2010 (through 101 games). Check this out; it's incredible.
Check out how it totally explains how Bill has just now, just this season, stopped following the Red Sox.
[data from earlier seasons, when games were shorter, skipped]
2007 Red Sox
2 or less -- 0
2:01-2:30 -- 11
2:31-3:00 -- 48
3:01-4:00 -- 97 (5 extra)
More than 4 -- 6 (2 extra)
(Note: Uh-oh. One-hundred three of 162 games dragging past three hours??? Call it the Tipping Point ... as in, "I'm tipping over because I just fell asleep." I blame the recent frenzy of milking pitch counts, the constant preening between pitches and more frequent pitching changes. Yes, I look forward to those arguments being struck down by an angry blogger within the next 48 hours.)
2010 Red Sox (101 games)
2 or less -- 0
2:01-2:30 -- 1
2:31-3:00 -- 41
3:01-4:00 -- 53 (7 extra)
More than 4 -- 6 (4 extra)
(Shaking my head.)
So as you can see, Red Sox fans like Bill were paying attention in 2007 because games were so much shorter back then. In 2007, 63% of their games lasted for more than three hours. But here in 2010, that figure has skyrocketed to 59%.
What a nightmare. I'm the same guy who once created the 150-Minute Rule for all movies, sporting events, concerts, even sex -- if you edge past 150 minutes for anything, you better have a really good reason.
Again, see: NFL and NCAA football.
Meanwhile, National League games move significantly faster: Every NL team has played at least 50 percent of its 2010 games in less than three hours, led by St. Louis, who cranked out 71 of its 102 games in less than three hours. That tells me the following things:
1. We need to dump the DH. Like, right now.
Agreed. But not because it might make games marginally shorter.
It's stupid, anyway.
OK, we're on the same page. [Insert Chris W rant about how awesome the DH is here. YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE PITCHERS BAT, DO YOU? THEY'RE NOT EVEN GOOD AT IT!]
2. We're only a few other tweaks away from getting these games to a manageable time. What about giving managers six timeouts during a game in which they can cross the baseline, and that's it?
Horrible idea, and most managers don't cross the baseline that many times in a game anyways. I bet there's an average of like 2.5 mid-inning pitching changes per team per game.
What about a 15-second pitch-clock?
If the bases are empty, maybe. Otherwise: horrible idea.
What about giving hitters three seconds to leave the batter's box, or it's another strike? (Unless you've tipped a ball off your foot, caught something in your eye or desperately need to adjust your boys.)
What does this mean? Three seconds to leave after a pitch? Most guys do that- the problem in terms of game length, to the extent that there is one, is that the hitters leave after a pitch and then spend the next 30 seconds outside the box, fucking around with their clothing/equipment and looking for hot women in the stands.
What about two minutes between half-innings for commercials, then the next hitter has to be standing in the batter's box at 2:01?
This kind of already exists, I believe.
Look, we could throw out unrealistic suggestions like "no baserunner can take a lead past a defined line within 7 feet of the base" (to eliminate pickoff throws); "every batter needs to bring a second bat to the on-deck circle" (in case he breaks the first one); "relievers don't get to warm up;" "catchers can visit the mound only once per inning;" "we wire the area around the home plate and electrocute batters any time they step out to adjust their elbow pads or their crotch;"
To the extent that any of these (except the last one, obviously) are serious suggestions, the people who made them should be kicked squarely in the balls.
The most damning fact about these interminably long games? They pushed some die-hard fans toward English Premier League and World Cup games mainly because we knew those games would end in less than two hours.
Second best line in the whole damn article. LET'S BREAK DOWN WHY THIS IS COMICALLY DUMB, SIMMONS STYLE
1) "Some die-hard fans" = Bill and maybe a few of his friends, mostly while the World Cup was on
2) World Cup games and EPL games, if watched live, take place in the morning or early afternoon here in the US
3) The EPL and MLB seasons overlap by like a month; saying you've switched fandom from one to the other is like saying you've stopped being a fan of going to the beach during the summer because you're much more interested in going snowboarding during the winter.
Like you, I have a lot of crap going on. I have a job (no, really, they pay me for this),
His job is to watch and write about sports. With a job like that, who has time to watch sports?!?!?!
I have a wife, I have kids, I have a bunch of things I like to watch at night.
Like the Red Sox, as long as it's 2007, 2008, or 2009 and they're on track to make the playoffs.
Slogging through a 3-hour, 45-minute anything just isn't entertaining. We have too many choices in 2010. That, over anything else, is why those NESN ratings dropped in 2010.
Best line in the whole damn article. Let's review. Entertainment/family/etc. choices in 2009: nearly infinite. Same choices in 2010: apparently even MORE nearly infinite. Let's read that again, because it's so beautiful.
Slogging through a 3-hour, 45-minute anything just isn't entertaining. We have too many choices in 2010. That, over anything else, is why those NESN ratings dropped in 2010.
Soak it up, folks. Soak it up. Everyone in Boston will remember 2010 as the year we had too many time usage choices (as opposed to any of the previous three years, when there were way fewer choices AND it just so happened that the Red Sox were much closer to playoff contention).
The big question? Will Bud Selig do something about it?
Bud Selig is an asshole. To the extent that game length (or at least RED SOX NATION GAME LENGTH) is a problem, I doubt Selig does anything about it.
I do think Selig cares a little; if he didn't, baseball wouldn't have made such a concerted effort to reduce prices for families. Three facts since the economy went south:
You're just now connecting that dot with the "ticket sales are down" dot?
87 percent of MLB clubs now offer tickets for $10 or less; 80 percent of MLB clubs now offer price reductions on merchandise and concessions; and 57 percent of the clubs now offer tickets for $5.50 or less on a regular basis. Team Selig has done a terrific job of keeping fans coming to ballparks. Now it should start worrying about keeping them awake.
I think it should start worrying about moving the Rays over to the NL (assume it's within league rules to do that before the end of the 2010 regular season). What do you think that would do to NESN's ratings?
Estimated time of arrival for Bill's next article about baseball: June 2011, when the Red Sox have just swept the Yankees and sit four games up in the AL East.