Friday, October 24, 2014

Enough 'baseball is dead' talk

If baseball is dead, then I must be a zombie.

As the television ratings continue to get watered down with every new cable outlet, each ridiculous reality show, along with various dramas and sitcoms, combined with the DVR society in which we live, Major League Baseball’s national prominence has been brought into question.

It’s crap.

While the Kansas City Royals are not a television ratings treasure, sitting in the 31st largest TV market in the country, their fans are rabid and tuning in, in droves. As the World Series shifts across country, the Royals and the San Francisco Giants are now knotted at one game apiece increasing the chances of drama, and a new-found appreciation for each of the teams could be in the making.

Regardless of whether that comes to fruition, there is renewed hope in Kansas City, one of baseball’s better cities. If the Royals win the World Series, won’t there be a flux of interest in the team nationwide? And further this club is going to come back in April looking very much the same. That more than likely will lead to a growth in their recognition around MLB, and has the chance to stretch further if they reach the playoffs in 2015.

Won’t there be even more regional respect for the Giants if they win their third World Series in five years? Can any Bay Area sports fan discount a run like that?

So what about those outside Kansas City and San Francisco. They don’t care, right?

Anyone who reads my work, knows I’m a Yankee fan. It doesn’t mean that I cannot respect the play of others because at heart I’m a baseball fan more than anything. I’m not rooting for one team or the other to win, but I am interested. I am watching. And if two small market teams reach the World Series next year, I’ll still tune in.

On social media, I follow and am followed by plenty of fans outside Kansas City and San Francisco and I can tell you that they are interested in this World Series and baseball in general. They love their respective teams, but if baseball is on, they’ll be watching to matter what the uniforms say.

This is true of many fans around the country. While they may not stay in touch with a game from start to finish people are following. They know they can watch The Big Bang Theory and switch back and forth to see the score. They can follow the game on their sports app via their mobile device and tune into the game when it’s rife with suspense.

Game 1’s low ratings (12.19 million viewers) can surely be attributed to the quick Giants lead courtesy of a Hunter Pence first-inning bomb, and then the stifling pitching from Madison Bumgarner as the Giants tacked on runs against James Shields. Game 2’s rise in viewers (12.92 million viewers) came about with a spike in the sixth inning as the game was tied at two and then continued to rise as the Royals stroked hit after hit turning the game on its ear.

Similarly, if the Royals and Giants continue to trade wins, pushing the series back to Kansas City, it assuredly means an influx of casual viewers and increases the time spent watching a majority of the game by more avid baseball fans.

My point is simply this, while the national numbers seem to be off there is not a lack of interest in the sport. Does the sport bring in as many viewers as the National Football League? No. Does it even need to in order to succeed based on the regional focus MLB has decidedly put their arms around? Not at all.

Major League Baseball continues to drive record revenues with each regional television network it comes to an agreement with and by filling a majority of its stadiums for each of the 81 home games a team plays. To me, that’s the measure of the sports' health.

Television is willing to pay MLB teams billions of combined dollars knowing there is a strong fanbase attached in each market. And fans pay to sit in the stands on a fairly regular basis despite the fact that there are ten times the number of home games as the NFL produces.

Baseball is not dead. It’s thriving just like the zombies on The Walking Dead.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In.