Apr
29

Spicing up the game a bit

By

While you and I don’t think baseball is a boring sport, TV ratings for the game’s big-ticket events — the playoffs and World Series come to mind — have been trending downward recently. Yesterday, the Freakonomics blog tried to look at ways to make the game more “interesting.” The piece fails, in my opinion, because it focuses instead on new strategies and not overall ways to draw more casual fans to the game. Yes, managers are getting more creative with their pitchers. We’ve seen relievers play the outfield and return to the mound; we’ve seen pitchers bat eighth; and we’ve seen starters come in as relievers if the weather’s bad. But do any of those moves really draw in more fans or do they simply excite the baseball geeks in all of us?

Categories : Asides

7 Comments»

  1. TomG says:

    The fundamental assumption of the article, that baseball needs to be changed in order to attract fans, is flawed. Television has never been the ideal way to enjoy a baseball game, just because television ratings have dropped doesn’t mean people aren’t tuning in to games on the radio and the internet. Baseball has actually gotten more popular in the past few years because of the wealth of information available online, stats and analysis are easier to come by now. Stadium attendance is way up. Teams are making tons of money. Why would anyone think about changing the game to adapt it to an old and diminishing format like television?
    Imagine watching a game in a future enhanced gameday format, with live streaming video and multiple camera angles to choose from, and the ability to highlight the pitcher warming in the bullpen or the player in the on deck circle with your curser to access their stats. All this without Michael Kay blabbing about Jessica Alba or some other ridiculous BS.

  2. Another piece from a ‘fan’ bitching about the game….. I long ago stopped trying to convince people that baseball was not just ‘a bunch of guys standing around.’ It sounds like the writer just can’t accept that his interests changed and baseball no longer suits his lifestyle.

    I’m sure there are many of us who regret how television — a medium totally unsuited to baseball, but that’s not news — has motivated some to wonder out loud about how to ‘invigorate’ the game. The game is fine. I sit in front of my TV every morning here in Taiwan and keep a scorecard, monitor pitch counts, wonder about tomorrow’s starting pitchers…. and thank Heaven for this game. If that NY Times writer would rather watch the Arena Football League, he’s welcome to it.

    As for the casual fan, well…… life has too many choices in this century. We’ll never convince casual fans to come over and listen to a game on the radio and enjoy baseball the right way. As for me, I’m happy to just enjoy it with those who enjoy it already.

  3. Ed says:

    For me, I know I watch very few games now, despite watching a lot of games when I was younger. A few reasons:

    a) XM Radio. I can listen to the game and get the key information displayed on the radio’s screen.

    b) Live updates on the internet.

    I generally choose one of those options in cases where I used to have the TV on but not be paying full attention.

    And then there’s blogs, which give a lot of the interesting details, making me feel less of a need to actually watch the game.

  4. r.w.g. says:

    The nature of baseball is fine as it is. Those neat little moves that you mentioned are kind of just cool quirks in the game.

    The big problem is the length of the games. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I absolutely hate watching a batter step out of the box after every single pitch and I hate watching pitchers step off the mound after every pitch.

    Stepping out happens.. sometimes it’s good and it builds suspense. But i mean, we have guys stepping out and fixing gloves and taking practice swings and spitting tobacco and inspecting bats like 9 times an at-bat with like 2 out and nobody on in the 2nd inning. I don’t like the idea of a timer so I don’t know what to do.

    I don’t see how you could enforce a rule about stepping out of the box/off the mound too many times in an at-bat.. what would you do? assign strikes if a guy steps out too much? award a balk? it would just be stupid and an over-reaction. But somehow they have got to get these guys to just PLAY FASTER.

  5. JRVJ says:

    Personally, the only rule that I would enforce is an automatic IBB rule (i.e., if the catcher gets off his crouch, ask for an intentional ball and the pitcher does throw a ball, the batter gets an automatic IBB. I would have the pitcher throw the ball, so as to have the batter alert that it’s not a sneak strike).

    That would shorten games a little, and frankly, there’s nothing more boring (and unnecessary) than seeing 4 intentional balls thrown to walk a batter.

  6. Chris says:

    Wouldn’t it help to stat the games earlier, particularly if an east coast team is involved? They generally start at 8pm or later, with most playoff games running a good 4 hours.

    For comparison, the Super Bowl starts at 6:30 on the east coast, and is done by 10.

  7. Chris says:

    The other change they need to make is eliminate most of the off days during the playoffs. I want to see which team is best – and this means forcing situations where the 5th starter has to actually pitch. Higher scoring games lead to more interest…

    On the other hand, Baseball passed Football last year for most revenue by a sports league, which suggests that it doesn’t need to be fixed much.

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