Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All-Star Game's Loss of Relevance

Tuesday night was baseball's All-Star Game. The 83rd edition of the midsummer classic was a thrashing, with the National League coasting to an 8-0 win. It was 5-0 by the middle of the first inning.

So, yeah, I can't imagine these ratings will be good.

It would be part of a trend. The 1988 game scored a 20 rating for ABC, but FOX hasn't seen a number in double digits since 2001. Last year's 6.9 rating/12 share was the lowest rating ever for the game. With this year's game being a total blowout from the start, it's not a stretch to suggest the number will be worse this time around.

Why has this happened?

There are easy targets. For starters, there's interleague play, which has allowed fans to see more players they wouldn't normally get to see. However, I don't think it's a huge problem. Interleague play started in 1997, and the All-Star Game was already suffering from a ratings downturn.

Using the same Baseball Almanac source already linked, you can see the number go from a 17.4 on CBS in 1991 to a 14.9 the next year. 1993 was a 15.6, followed by a 15.7, 13.9, and a 13.2. 1997 saw another drop, to 11.8, but that was the first year of the game being on FOX, a network not as widely available then as it is now. The number jumped for the next two years, peaking at a 13.3 in 1998, before falling back below the 1997 number and eventually into single digits.

People blame the players for not showing enough willingness to play the game. I don't buy it. If you look at the NFL Pro Bowl, there is more roster turnover than any other all-star game in any sport. There is usually more turnover in hockey than baseball, too. Baseball is in a different spot because of the every-day nature of the season and the number of games in a season, but its players generally seem to understand the need to be at the All-Star Game and be visible.

There are two huge problems, in my view. They are issues the sport is not going to overcome. Instead, baseball has to figure out the best way to deal with them and generate interest in the mid-summer classic once again.

(Or, it could continue to let it flounder in the ratings and become a bit of a laughingstock in that regard.)

For starters, the lure of seeing the game's big stars is gone. On practically a nightly basis, the game's big names are available on television. ESPN carries games. MLB Network carries games. Local regional sports channels have games. If you have DirecTV or a good internet connection, you can purchase the right to watch any game you want, most in HD. If you're a dedicated baseball fan, you likely have access to one or more of these things.

Want to see Stephen Strasburg pitch? Well, there's a good chance you'll have the opportunity eventually. That sweet swing of Prince Fielder? He's on television at least once every couple weeks, even if you don't live anywhere near Detroit or an AL market.

You don't have to wait for the All-Star Game to see the out-of-market stars anymore. They're on TV all the time.

The other issue is just that.

They're on TV all the time, because every game is televised.

FOX gets low ratings for its Saturday Game of the Week because the Game of the Week isn't what it used to be. The Game of the Week -- even when I was growing up -- was the only time during the week that baseball was on television. Yeah, playoff games were on TV, and so was the All-Star Game. Other than that, it was almost exclusively Saturday games for us.

Now, every game is on. There is no motivation to watch a game that doesn't count when you can watch dozens that do every week.

And, no, putting home-field advantage for the World Series on the line hasn't helped. You can blame FOX for the fact it still happens, and that FOX hasn't looked at it and thought it was a really stupid way to decide such a thing is just illogical to me.

It isn't helping make the game better. It isn't helping ratings. It isn't helping interest.

Getting rid of it won't fix anything, but they should get rid of it anyway. Just for the sake of common sense.

1 comment:

Tom Boustead said...

This is why football is king in this country. It is on only two days of the week for most of the season. If the NFL keeps adding games during the week or weeks to the season, it could suffer the same issues. Is to much of a good thing really a bad thing?