Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune became the latest sports writer to decree that “baseball is dying” in a column on Tuesday, joining a legion of scribes that use the World Series (or Opening Day or the All-Star Game) as a platform to take the — barely beating — pulse of the national pastime.
Acee makes a couple of fair points in his column, like the fact that baseball games can be, at times, excessively long. Even as scoring has been trending downward in recent years, average game time has been going in the opposite direction, peaking at three and a half hours this postseason. There are plenty of reasons: the specialization of bullpens, instant replay, batters stepping out of the box and pitchers off the mound, commercials, three-true-outcomes approaches from batters and pitchers, just to name a few. And baseball would be wise to look into picking up the pace of the game. They are, as Acee notes, experimenting with time-saving measures in the Arizona Fall League.
Then there’s the ratings, which as Acee mentions don’t hold up to the NFL on a national stage:
Depending on how you parse the ratings, about two to three times as many people watched the New England Patriots and New York Jets play a midseason game two Thursdays ago as watched the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals play in what turned out to be the deciding game of National League Championship Series.
It’s worth noting that the NFL game mentioned above, one in a season of just 16 regular season games, featured the first- and seventh-ranked television markets in the US, while the NLCS game had teams that ranked sixth and 21st. Or that the NFL game took place on CBS, while the MLB game was relegated to Fox Sports 1. But, sure, national ratings for playoff games could improve.