Is there a company out there that mismanages a great product better (worse?) than MLB?
Opening Day happened this week. Three times (Opening Night, April 1st, and for the Orioles, Rays, Indians and Blue Jays, April 2nd). That, my friends, does not an entrance make.
Opening Day used to matter. It still matters of course. But it used to MATTER. It of course matters very little in the grand scheme of things. Statistically, the results of Opening Day are poor barometers of a season’s success. It is, after all, only one game out of 162 games. But Opening Day matters in that it is symbolic that America’s National Pastime has returned. It is the unofficial start of spring for those that live in climates that experience such things as “seasons.” It is the end of what has felt like an interminable break from the final out of the World Series (where chances are you were not happy with the result) and the beginning of a campaign that just might be “our year.”
It matters in a historical context as well. It is often a showcase of presidents, celebrities, new acquisitions, the beginning of final seasons for giants of the game. It is, without question, the single most dissected regular season game of the year that has no discernable post-season stakes.
So why can’t MLB get it right anymore?
First, there’s the Opening Night abomination. According to the MLB, did you know that Opening Day was March 31? Which means, unless you were in Texas that day, as far as MLB is concerned, you were just at some regular ole game. Look, I understand the theory. The NFL starts off with one game, all to itself, with the attention of the country on it. And it’s a spectacle. Pre-game concerts, big halftime show. It’s basically a watered down Super Bowl.
But the NFL does one thing above all else right with their Opening Night game. They get a matchup people care about. Last year it was the Dallas Cowboys vs the New York Giants. One of the league’s most storied franchises vs the defending Super Bowl champions.
MLB? The Texas Rangers vs Houston Astros. A team that lost its most marquee player and a team that even diehard fans would have trouble naming one player on. On top of this, MLB took this clash of the titans and put it up against NCAA’s Elite Eight, the season finale of The Walking Dead and the season premiere of Game of Thrones. In an era of severely splintered viewing habits, you better come up with something way stronger than Rangers/Astros to grab eyeballs. (Giants vs Dodgers for example. The defending World Series champion against the team that had one of the most expensive winters in MLB history. And a historical rivalry to boot!)
I’m not suggesting that MLB try (or frankly, care) to match NFL’s ratings numbers. That’s a lost cause anyway. But I, as a diehard baseball fan, could barely muster the interest to check the score from time to time in that game.
But fine, have your little Opening Night that no one cares about. It will all be good once the REAL Opening Day starts. Can’t wait to watch my Padres play…at 10am?
The Padres have played 3 games in 2013 and so far I’ve seen maybe 4 innings of play in total. This is to be expected when they play weekday games Back East of course and I’m certainly not asking New Yorkers to begin baseball play at 9pm so I’m home from work in time. But I am asking that the Padres not be shipped off 3,000 miles to open the season against a team that they have no history with at 10am local time. 10am is reserved for the Price is Right and the drunken 4th hour of Today. Not Opening Day.
Out of curiosity, I asked on Twitter how people followed Game #1 of the 2013 season. Mind you, if you are following me on Twitter and respond to a Padre question, I will assume you go beyond the level of “casual fan.” These guys (and gals) are diehards. So, how did they follow Opening Day, a day steeped in tradition and history, a day some would consider a National Holiday?
Editor’s Note: As most of these responses involve people following along at work I have kept this anonymous so as to avoid anyone from hearing it from the bossman.
“Mainly Internet. Caught some on the radio at lunch.”
“On iPhone at work.” (NOTE: This person works in a mine and couldn’t get reception to stream MLB.tv so was checking via Gamecast. Also, this person had to follow Opening Day WHILE UNDERGROUND!)
“MLB.tv on at work.” (For some reason it was the Free Game of the Day and not blocked in San Diego County)
“Gamecast and Twitter.”
“MLB At-Bat App and radio broadcast.” (I was told by this responder that this is in fact their preferable way to follow games)
Only Vocal Minority responded saying they watched the game on television and that was only because he has Mondays off.
Is this any way to celebrate the beginning of the baseball season? By people having to follow along on iPhones while inside of mines? We can do better MLB.
The Padres should never start the season on the East Coast any more than the Cardinals should be forced to start the season in Arizona. If we are going to treat MLB’s Opening Day like a holiday, then let’s get some matchups that make sense both from an interest level and a geographic one. This year, MLB got a few matchups right (Boston at New York, SF at LA). But they got so many more wrong (aforementioned SD at NY, an INTERLEAGUE GAME!, Rockies at Brewers)
So here’s what you do MLB. Everybody plays either a division game or a game against a team within two timezone of each other. Want to pair LA vs SF and COL vs AZ? Fine, then SD can open with Seattle (VEDDER CUP!) or Cubs (history). Or open with interesting rivalry matchups. Angels vs Dodgers, Mets vs Yankees, a repeat of the previous year’s World Series.
I don’t care what you do. But the Padres have played 3 games so far this year. And I’d have a better time describing a dream I had three years ago than describing any of them so far.
You can find my nonsense at Padres Public every Friday. And follow me on Twitter @LeftCoastBias for 140 characters worth of nonsense on a variety of subjects ranging from Padres to Pearl Jam to PGA Golf. And I like alliteration.