Whenever the masses consider low ratings an inevitability, it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. People are sheep. The reason why so many people found themselves watching “American Idol” wasn’t because it’s a good show with good music, it’s because they heard other people talking about how they watched “American Idol.” It’s that’s the only logical explanation, anyway.
Since so many writers have decided that baseball is something called a “regional sport,” where fans only care about the teams in their own backyard, everyone expects the 2011 World Series to garner ratings somewhere between a Sunday Morning repeat of “The Sports Reporters” and that “Whitney” show.
But why? Here are ten reasons I thought of in between film sessions on the Cleveland Browns. Hey, it’s never too early to prepare for the 49ers’ opponent in Week 8.
1. No east coast teams. Notice that didn’t read “no teams from the coasts” like some have claimed, because the nation at large doesn’t care about baseball teams on the west coast either. What, the ratings would be so much higher if the Angels, A’s or Mariners were in there instead of the Rangers? And even though life stopped around here when the Giants won last year, the 2010 World Series was one of the least-watched World Series in history.
2. Albert Pujols is boring. There’s a reason why ESPN did a commercial about Pujols actually being a machine. Great hitter, by all accounts a great guy, fun to watch hit. But his consistency on and off the field is mind-numbing to casual baseball fans.
3. The postseason is too long. One could say the same thing about the NHL or “the league that won’t be mentioned,” certainly. But the difference is everyone tunes in as those leagues’ playoffs start and interest increases gradually, partly because the end of their regular seasons are completely worthless to all but the mediocre teams trying to fight for the eighth seeds. Baseball’s September pennant races are incredible, and the last day of the 2011 regular season was one of the best days in the sport’s history. So everyone’s riding an emotional wave, and then the divisional series start. Then the playoffs plod on for almost three weeks, and by the time the World Series starts you have millions of fans who’ve had their hearts broken by a tense pennant race or a playoff series loss, and it’s hard to get excited again. Can’t wait for the MLB postseason to add more teams in future years!
4. A lack of dominant starting pitchers. C.J. Wilson vs. Chris Carpenter … pretty good matchup, but not exactly Tim Lincecum vs. Cliff Lee. And it falls off pretty severely from there. No disrespect to some solid pitchers, but it’s hard to think you’re watching an historic event when Colby Lewis, Mark Harrison and Kyle Lohse are involved.
5. BuckCarver. One of the things about watching a Fox broadcast of the World Series is that since Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the announcers, you have to listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
Okay, the headline was a lie. This is the World freaking Series! It’s baseball! Don’t let people tell you that just because the 2011 World Series doesn’t have Big Papi, Derek Jeter or Scott Proctor it’s not worth watching. Sure, those five reasons listed above could sway someone to watch programming other than the World Series. But who cares about ratings and what the public at large likes? The public likes stuff like “American Idol,” Justin Bieber, “Two and a Half Men” and Transformers sequels.
Here are five reasons why people SHOULD care about the World Series, ratings be damned.
1. Nelson Cruz. Last year he ended the World Series when he struck out against Brian Wilson (although his solo homer in the 7th represented the Rangers’ only run in Game 5). This year he comes into the Series on a legendary power tear, hitting 6 home runs in the ALCS.
2. Managerial moves we all can judge. Tony LaRussa tries to put his stamp on every game, and Ron Washington is going to be second-guessing himself at every turn after many considered him to be severely out-managed by Bruce Bochy a year ago. Lance Berkman probably won’t catch, and Neftali Feliz probably won’t be used as an emergency starting pitcher. But you can’t count anything out…
3. The Texas Rangers have a shot at history. I don’t really care who wins this series, although I’m predisposed to root against the Cardinals ever since Ozzie Smith, Jose Oquendo and Terry Pendleton ganged up on Will Clark at second base — otherwise known as Candy Maldonado’s best moment as a Giant:
(Did you catch Thrill’s mustache at the end? That alone should put him in the Hall. And the brawl actually took place on July 24, 1988, not during the ’87 season.)
But if the Rangers lose, they’ll be the first team to lose two consecutive World Series since the 1991-92 Atlanta Braves. If the Rangers lose Game 1, it’ll be interesting to see if they freak out even though they’ve won 21 of their last 26 games.
4. Teams that score runs. This might not be as much of a national theme as a regional one for fans accustomed to watching the Giants and the A’s. But the Rangers come in averaging 6.1 runs per game in the postseason, and the Cardinals averaged 5.6 runs in 11 postseason games. For fans used to infield pop-ups, first-pitch outs and soul-crushing double plays, this series will be a nice respite. And I wasn’t really serious about Pujols being boring. If you don’t like watching the best hitter of this generation at the plate, maybe baseball isn’t the sport for you.
5. Good baseball fans without the ego. Even fans who can’t stand the Cardinals have to admit that there’s something cool about the crowds that pay to watch the team play. A full house dressed in red, paying attention to the game and loud. And Rangers fans, after watching so much great baseball over the last two seasons, are going to be delirious in hopes that their team will finally win it all. Bonus: neither fanbases have anywhere near the elitism or entitlement issues that the supporters of two unnamed franchises on the east coast display. Put it all together, and it’s almost enough to make up for all those shots of George W. Bush in the stands.