Maybe televised baseball can learn something from televised poker.
It seems like forever ago—it arrived, in fact, the year of Brandon Webb’s rookie season—that America fell in love with the game of poker. The 2003 World Series of Poker, broadcast on ESPN, was a ratings hit, and every evening somewhere along the dial you were liable to stumble upon a screen like this:
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For good reasons or bad, these playoff jingles have proven tough to forget.
1. We Are Family
The 1979 World Series is the first one I can really remember at all. That’s largely because it had a theme song. I knew the tune by Sister Sledge, which was co-written by R&B legend Nile Rodgers. It was very popular, having gone to no. 1 on the R&B charts and no. 2 on the pop charts that year. When the Pirates—really paterfamilias Willie Stargell, who also doled out those gold stars (excuse to link to image of Kent Tekulve) and maybe also amphetamines—adopted it as their theme song, I guess I just assumed all championship teams had one. From what I can recall, though, it didn’t happen again until the 2005 White Sox latched onto Journey’s warhorse “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but that song didn’t have the same zeitgeist feel—it was released in 1981, much closer temporally to the “We Are Family” Pirates than Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox. In any case, its associations aren’t exclusive, as any Sopranos fan can tell you.
If one of the remaining teams in the post-season takes on a theme song this month, I’m hoping they choose one of the tracks off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, preferably “Get Lucky.” The song was a ballpark staple all summer, but that’s not the only reason I hope it’s chosen. It’s also because “Get Lucky” was co-written by Nile Rodgers. —Adam Sobsey
Maury explains the challenges that MLB faces in attracting young and minority fans.
Whether it was the release of the movie“42,” the anniversary of Hank Aaron surpassing Babe Ruth as the all-time home run leader, or one of many articles each year telling baseball it has an “issue,” Major League Baseball decided recently it was time to create a task force to deal with the decline of African-Americans at the highest levels of the game. Baseball, like other professional sports leagues, likes to create this type of task force. It shows that the league cares, and well meaning be damned, is often stocked with people that likely aren’t difference-makers. Recommendations will be made, but they will be around things that don’t get at the heart of the matter, because those things are difficult—if not impossible—to fix.
The “problem” isn’t really a problem in the way that MLB’s task force is likely to look at it. It’s about the change in society, the growth of other sports, the power of television, the internet, how fast players can transition, the growth of other minority groups now playing the game, and, yes, marketing.
Often you read what we write, and sometimes you listen to what we say, but only relatively rarely do you get to (or have to) see what we look like. But some days we smile for the camera and show up on a screen of some sort, and then you can watch us form words in unforgiving high definition. I did that a couple times on TV last week, and both appearances are online for the benefit of anyone who wants to watch them.
In all the many media entities based on the Sherlock Holmes character created by Arthur Conan Doyle, there had never before 2012 (to my knowledge) been one in which Holmes applied his deductive skills to baseball. Nor would one expect there to be, since 19th-century London—traditionally Holmes’ home—was not a hotbed of baseball analysis. But since his character was created, Holmes has become an accomplished traveler in both space and time, making it possible to conduct two TV shows and a movie franchise based on his character concurrently. And, thanks to the newest of those shows, also making it possible to expose the world’s most famous fictional detective to baseball.
The CBS procedural Elementary, now approaching the end of its first season, reimagines Holmes as a tattooed modern-day detective, freshly released from rehab and relocated from London, who offers his consulting services to the NYPD. And it takes Elementary all of one episode to bring up baseball, as if to remind the viewer that this is Sherlock Holmes in New York,like you’ve never seen him before. The scene, which I’ve embedded below, comes at the end of the pilot and shows Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) winding down after a long day of deducing by watching the Mets.
A look at the ten most likely places for a new MLB club
It seems that nearly every week, articles surrounding the potential relocation of the A’s and Rays surface. A panel looking into a potential San Jose relocation for the A’s has been gridlocked since 2009 (and remember, the A’s have been looking to move to San Jose for a heck of a lot longer than that). The Rays haven’t been far behind in their efforts to get out of Tropicana Field. Whether it’s the commute for fans to get to the domed stadium, the aesthetics, or the need to be closer to an urban core, it seems that Tampa Bay has been seeking a new ballpark for just as long. Relocation for these two clubs is crucial.
Another thing that comes up less frequently but has extra meaning going into 2013 is expansion. With the Astros moving into the AL West, the American League and National League will now be balanced at 15 clubs a piece. The problem is that 15 is an odd number, and as a result, interleague will become a daily affair. It’s unlikely that’s something that the league wanted, so getting to 32 clubs would take care of that matter. That would mean revenues spread thinner with two extra mouths to feed. Additionally, it’s no given that one or both wouldn’t be revenue-sharing takers, and trying to get ballparks built is no easy feat in this economy. So, 30 is a number that seems to suit the “Big Four” sports leagues in North America. The NBA has it. Ditto for the NHL. Currently, only the NFL—which has the advantage of being highly centralized (revenues are shared more evenly across the franchises) and exceptionally popular—is the exception at 32 clubs.
Earlier this week, we talked about what the future of baseball's national TV contracts might look like. Here's a glance at their past.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Earlier this week, Maury Brownexamined the future of baseball's national TV contracts. For a look at its past, revisit the piece reproduced below, which was originally published as a "The Imbalance Sheet" column on September 28, 2000.
With a week's worth of shows in the can, has MLB Network's "Clubhouse Confidential" been the coming-out party sabermetricians have been hoping for?
Last Monday in this space, I interviewed Brian Kenny, host of MLB Network’s newest show, “Clubhouse Confidential,”in advance of the show’s premiere. If you haven’t heard of it yet, “Clubhouse Confidential” is a first-of-its-kind show that puts advanced statistics in the spotlight. Gone are the days of analyzing players using batting average and ERA, at least in MLBN’s 5:30 p.m. EST timeslot. With a week of shows in the books, I thought I’d take today to talk about what the show offers, what it lacks, and whether it’s worth your time to watch.
As I’m sure many people were, I was a little skeptical about how advanced analytics would translate from writing to television. While certainly possible, it needs to be done right in order to hold an audience’s attention—especially since on television, much of that audience is going to be unfamiliar with many of the stats and concepts. Kenny seems to be aware of this, since he makes sure to point out that “this isn’t math class” at the start of each show. Like he said in our interview, we’re still dealing with baseball, and it’s supposed to be fun. Intentions and reality are often two different things, but in this case, Kenny manages to it pull off, keeping the show light and fun while still engaging in intelligent analysis.
During the regular season, I can see where MLB might fail to get the national deal they'd like. But what's happening this post-season is a disaster.
I love the playoffs. Yeah, I complain about the announcers and the scheduling that seems to favor a particular team (say, the Diamondbacks) every year. But I also tape games I can't get out of work to see, or if they conflict. During the regular season, you can pick out particular games you really want to see, great pitching matchups or any game with Barry Bonds. During the playoffs, they're all good games, and some of them are awesome.