I read a report in either the NY Post or the NY Times (sorry, did not make a note of the source of this info) that said the Yankees and Mets had both sold the broadcast rights for many of their Friday night games to Amazon Prime so that access to those games would require access to that streaming service. Because the streaming service is not required to carry every game – – some of which are guaranteed to be irrelevant and uninteresting – – I am sure that on a “per game basis” this is a lucrative deal for the two teams. However, I wonder if both teams are sacrificing a piece of the future for immediate cash-flow.
MLB has had to confront – – even though it has tried to ignore – – the flat fact that baseball’s audience skews old and that surveys show that young people are not falling in love with baseball as entertainment nearly to the degree that has happened in previous generations. Because I like baseball, I do not understand how young folks cannot be attracted to the game as I was when I was growing up, but I am sufficiently grounded in realism to recognize a simple actuarial fact:
- Older folks (baseball fans) die off at a higher rate than young folks.
- Young folks (not attracted to baseball) are not “replenishing the ranks” of departed fans.
Every team ought to be concerned with the two trends noted above, but it is not really the business of individual franchises to “go it alone” as the entity of “baseball” tries to secure the future of the game. This is an issue for MLB and the MLBPA. And as is often the case, when it comes to big issues about the future of the game, both sides recuse themselves and hide behind the assertion that there are other important issues that need to be addressed in the immediate term.
- Horse hockey! There is a CBA in place through the end of the 2027 World Series.
- This is the “down time” that both entities could use to address long-term issues related to the health and growth of the game itself.
Friday night games are ones that kids might – perhaps and maybe – be able to watch on TV because it is not a school night and MLB night games rarely if ever end before kids have to be in bed on school nights. Do not blame the Yankees or the Mets for taking the money and running here; their “job” is to maximize their individual revenue streams. This one rests on the shoulders of MLB and its Commissioner and on the union and its CEO who ought to be working together now that a new CBA is in place to find ways to grow the game. Trust me, I shall not be holding my breath until I see any such behaviors from either side of the labor divide here…
Since I am off on the baseball vector today, let me share with you a report I read over the weekend that said the pitch-clock experiment in the minor leagues has shortened the average time of games at the AA and AAA levels by 29 minutes per game. Games took an average of 3:04 in 2021; and so far in 2022, games take an average of 2:35. Having seen minor league baseball games, let me assure anyone who has not seen them that his is not something that destroys the game and makes a mockery of its history. In fact, catching a game that goes 9 innings and ends in two-and-a-half hours takes me back to the baseball games of my youth. Such occurrences were commonplace then. Here are the pitch-clock rules in place in minor league baseball this season:
- In AAA, a pitcher has 14 seconds to begin his pitching motion if no one is on base and 19 seconds to do so if there is/are baserunners.
- In AA and below, a pitcher has 14 seconds to begin his pitching motion if no one is on base and 18 seconds to do so if there is/are runners on base.
The pace of play is increased but it is not crazed; I have never seen a pitcher panic as time was running out. Basically, pitchers have adjusted their “mound practices” to fit their needs and simultaneously fit the countdown clock. I recognize that for some ultra-pure baseball fans the insertion of a clock onto the core of the game is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. I am not in that camp; I think a pitch clock in MLB is an addendum that is necessary and that it is something that might make the game more attractive to potential young fans.
Sticking with baseball one more time, the Yankees are on a pace to win 119 games this season. Let me put that in perspective for you:
- The 1927 Yankees – – the team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri and Earl Combs – – won only 110 games in a 154-game season.
- The most games ever won in a 162-game season is 116 – – a record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
- The most games ever won in a 154 game season is also 116 by the Chicago Cubs in 1906.
For the balance of the season, the Yankees can be seen as chasing greatness as a team in a season. For most fans, that could be a significant reason to pay attention to baseball even after football season starts around Labor Day. Moreover, it would represent a positive record that could be under assault as opposed to the negative record that seemed to be in the offing just a month or so ago.
Recall that the Reds began the 2022 season with only 3 wins in their first 25 games. That would have shattered the record for most losses in a season, but the Reds seem to have pulled themselves out of that miasma and have a record today of 23-44. While that is nothing to write home about, it means the team that started the season at 3-22 has gone 20-22 in the intervening games. I doubt that anyone would be unable to see that there is progress in that latter part of this season…
Finally, since today has been all about baseball, let me close with a comment from Marsha Warfield – of Night Court fame on TV:
“Every time a ball player grabs his crotch, it makes him spit. That’s why you should never date a baseball player.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………