Making baseball’s postseason great (again)

Baseball is America’s pastime. If you think football is, think again. The NFL has been head and shoulders above all others for a while now, but why? You have passionate fans in football but a large amount are pulling more for their fantasy football teams than their favorite team. Let’s just say the NFL is America’s pastime. Our pastime would be played by more people online than on the field. Yikes.

Now, go ask a baseball fan if he roots for his fantasy baseball team or his favorite team. Most, probably, don’t even play fantasy baseball. The thrill of winning and the pain of losing is real for baseball fans (I should know, seeing as I’m a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan). You can get behind and follow your teams unlike any other professional sport. You can watch a 16-year-old sign a free agent contract out of Venezuela and follow his path from a prince to becoming King Felix Hernandez. You get to see a player progress through the minor leagues until they finally make their debut. You become invested and root for the person almost as if they were a family member. In what other sport can you do that?

I love a good free agent signing or trade as much as the next person but watching a player develop through the farm system of your favorite team is special.

The regular season is long and grueling for the players as well as the fans, but nothing beats going to a major league stadium to watch a baseball game. One complaint you hear is, well the game is long and boring, so is a Cleveland Browns versus Jacksonville Jaguars game. I applaud the efforts by Major League Baseball to try to speed up the game without changing it. Also, adding a second Wild Card team was a great move, keeping more teams (and fans) involved late in the season.

After the season, the real fun begins with October baseball. The weather cools down and the action heats up as every decision, run and at-bat matters.

Baseball is the greatest game on earth, so why aren’t all the television sets in the United States on baseball?

The Kansas City Royals were a great story a year ago, but even their run couldn’t do much for viewership in the World Series. I know the Royals aren’t the biggest draw or name, but they were a great story. The World Series last year averaged 13.8 million viewers, down from 14.9 million the year before. However, the 23 million-plus viewers who tuned in for Game 7 were the most for a World Series game since 2011 when the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers drew 25 million viewers.

In the late 1980’s the World Series was drawing 34 – 36 million viewers per game on average. I know we have 600 channels to choose from and a million different shows, but DVR is a great tool to use on TV shows. While it will be tough to reach the numbers of the 80’s, I don’t think it is unfair to think the postseason could draw viewership in the 20 million per game range throughout the playoffs.

Here are some thoughts on increasing viewership (however far-fetched some might seem).

  1. Get the games on local channels. I for one am not joining the streaming show revolution and going away from cable anytime soon. Even if you are using NetFlix and dropped your satellite, you should be able to buy a receiver to tune into local channels. You look at the channel lineup for the playoff games and it’s Fox Sports 1, TBS, ESPN, MLB Network. Can we not get some playoff games on FOX before the World Series? The schedule says “Fox or FS1” for the first time in ALDS Game 4. I know FOX, ESPN, etc. pay a lot of money for the rights to the games and they can do what they want but not everyone has FS1 or MLB Network. The NFL isn’t playing on NBCSN or something similar. They are on local channels all the time.
  2. Don’t schedule early afternoon weekday games. I know why MLB schedules games in the early afternoon. They don’t want multiple games going on at the same time. That is fine, but a majority of people are working at 1:00 P.M. on a Friday (not great for ratings). Why not spread the schedule out a bit so this doesn’t happen? It’s only for one round of the playoffs and would only extend the playoffs a day or two. You could always start the season a day or two earlier. Another thing, if games are being played on Sunday or Monday, schedule them to start 30 minutes or an hour before the prime-time football game. Everybody has their fantasy football teams set by that time of day anyway so why not try to draw them in to the greatest game on earth?
  3. Root, Root, Root for the Cubbies. Rig the games to where the Chicago Cubs are playing a Game 7 in the World Series. I’m kidding about the rigging part, but as a baseball fan no matter how much you dislike the Cubs, the buildup and hype around a Cubs World Series run would be off the charts.

While some of that may seem like a dream (Cubs winning the World Series), a few slight changes could make all the difference.

I’ll say it again and I believe it will be true until sports are no longer played; Baseball is America’s pastime for the love of the game not the love of fantasy points.

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