Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fixing Baseball

World Series television ratings this year continue a downward trend, with the series between Philadelphia and Tampa on a path toward being the least watched series in terms of market share ever.

Some of this is unavoidable due to the ever expanding number of entertainment choices, including sports entertainment choices, available. However, baseball is hastening its own decline in popular viewership through shortsighted or misguided decisions. If they would be interested in restoring at least a plausible argument that baseball is the national pastime, Bud "Lite" Selig and his minions should do the following:

1) Have nationally televised games in the regular season that feature teams from places other than New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. It is understandable that you want the big markets for your national games, but your current regular season strategy is short-sighted, as it does not allow teams from other areas to be seen enough for their players to become known nationally. While many baseball fans -- this correspondent included -- love to see teams from those three cities tank, it means that you have a World Series with teams lacking much interest outside their home areas.

2) End the season earlier. First, it is obscene to be playing baseball at night in late October. Next year, because of the calendar, the World Series could extend into November. Reggie Jackson used to be known as "Mr. October." We've never had a "Mister November" before. It is too cold in most parts of the country to play baseball outdoors at night this time of the year. In addition, you push the baseball season into a time frame when basketball and hockey have gotten underway, and football is reaching the midpoint of its season. This results in increased competition for viewers. The World Series should end by around the ides of October.

3) Market your product to the cities of America again. Baseball had such an important place in the integration of America, but we have reached the place where ever fewer black kids play baseball. MLB spends millions of dollars on baseball academies in Latin America. That is cost effective, because the players are cheaper to sign if they are good enough. However, in terms of both athletes and marketing, it is short-sighted not to invest more resources into baseball in the inner cities in the United States.

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