The Rundown: Cubs Could Be Thrifty This Winter, Baseball Loses a Legend, Breaking Down Those Poor World Series Ratings

You know what really grinds my gears? People who overlook the obvious and instead focus on the minutiae when looking for resolutions. The old man called it stepping over dollar bills to pick up shiny nickels. So you get my drift. Let me give you an example.

It was announced yesterday that the World Series television ratings were some of the lowest since baseball started televising the Fall Classic. Pace-of-play and length of games are the shiny nickels here because there’s an obvious, though circumstantial, culprit. Games are too long, so people stop watching. It’s easy to make that premise-to-premise connection.

But there is other evidence at play here, which I would love to submit.

  1. Dodgers apathy – You know what’s as bad as watching the Red Sox win all the time? Watching the Dodgers lose. It’s not even interesting anymore to see if you are going to get the good or bad version of Clayton Kershaw. The Red Sox ran roughshod over all of baseball in 2018 and Los Angeles never had a chance in this series. I had predicted Boston in six but in my heart I believed they would sweep LA. The outcome of this series was never in doubt, and fans in every other market outside of Boston had no reason to follow.
  2. Far too many commercials – It’s easy to connect that higher salaries mean higher ticket prices, but prime time television costs a lot of money, too. So when the playoffs move from niche outlets (MLB Network) to national subsidiaries (ESPN, FS1, TBS) and ultimately to the FOX flagship network, advertising rates go up substantially to cover the airtime costs. In three instances, and there were probably more, I counted SIX commercials between innings. That will push most viewers away.
  3. No compelling storylines – Other than the fact that the two organizations hadn’t met in the World Series since a baseball resembled a beanbag, there were no secondary storylines to attach to the hearts of viewers. “Manny Being Manny” just doesn’t sell to most of America, and other than David Price obliterating his personal postseason narrative, there was nothing compelling about this series.
  4. Information overload – If you are tuning in to just watch a baseball game, good luck. Viewers are inundated with information as everything from spin rate to launch angles is dissected and dissected again, accompanied by graphics, video comparisons, and deep dive after deep dive into any analytic available. For the baseball nerds, who are still the minority, it’s pure heaven. And for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, MLB analytics via Amazon Web Servers is a billion-dollar cash machine. But, that leads to…
  5. Squeezing out Joe Casual – The regular baseball fan has had enough. The entertainment value for the casual fan is completely lost in a sea of analytics. Since baseball is connected to so many networks, perhaps they should consider a “just the game” feed going forward. Whether MLB wants to admit it or not, most viewers still lean on the Big Six: Batting average, home runs, runs batted in, wins, saves, and ERA. That landscape is changing, but the pace exceeds the acceptance rate of the regular fans.
  6. Cord Cutters – I’m not one just yet, but at some point during each of the five games I left baseball for Netflix. I’m positive I wasn’t alone. And how many other folks consume the game through means that were unheard of even five years ago?

Godspeed, Willie McCovey

The baseball world lost a legend Wednesday with Willie McCovey’s death at age 80.

The slugging first baseman spent 19 of his 22 major league seasons with the Giants, retiring with an awfully impressive resume: MVP, Rookie of the Year, six-time All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, and induction by the BBWAA into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He finished his career with 521 home runs, tied for 20th in MLB history, and 1,555 RBI.

Cubs News & Notes

The move was a no brainer and officially put the Cubs above the luxury tax ceiling, but the team exercised its $10.25 million option on starting pitcher Jose Quintana.

The Cubs could improve in 2019 without really signing a major free agent this winter. Evan Altman explains why.

The Cubs are an almost positionless baseball team. Does a consistent, stable lineup make better sense, especially when talking about continued player development at the major league level?

Brandon Kintzler forced his way onto the 2019 roster. Okay, that may be a tad harsh, but the reliever really struggled down the stretch. In 18 innings across 25 appearances, Kintzler allowed 14 earned runs while managing just 12 strikeouts against nine walks. That will get you $5 million these days, I guess.

As the Cubs consider what do do in free agency, might the ghost of Carl Crawford offer a bit of insight as to what Theo Epstein will or won’t do, as well as what he should or shouldn’t do?

Thursday Stove

On Deck

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at a rivalry that Brewers fans fervently need just to validate their existence.

Extra Innings

A quick shout out to Taco Bell today. I included an item about the demolition of the Wrigeyville Taco Bell last week and one of their ad agency reps was nice enough to responds in thanks. She wanted me to remind our readers that they can pick up their free Doritos Locos Tacos TODAY thanks to Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox, who stole second base during the 1st inning of Game One of the MLB World Series, becoming Taco Bell’s seventh Taco Hero and winning everyone in America free tacos through Taco Bell’s  “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion.

They Said It

  • “We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs. The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it’s important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.” – Jeff Bezos

Thursday Walk Up Song

Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Down on the corner, out in the street, [Willie] and the Poorboys are playin’…….

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