McAdam: MLB ratings paying the price for parity

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McAdam: MLB ratings paying the price for parity

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Any day now, commissioner Bud Selig will probably point out, with great satifsfaction, that of the final four teams remaining in baseball's postseason, none was ranked higher than ninth in payroll during the regular season.

He'll cite the presence of the Detroit Tigers (10th in payroll) and the Texas Rangers (13th) in the ALCS, and St. Louis (11th) meeting Milwaukee (17th) in the NLCS as proof positive that competitive balance has been restored to baseball.

He may also make a subtle, passing reference to the fact that the top two biggest spenders -- the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies -- were wiped out in their respective Division Series and didn't survive the first round.

And, while he's at it, he could note that the next seven teams on the payroll leaders -- Boston, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, both Chicago teams, the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins -- all failed to even qualify for the postseason.

Later this month, if anyone other than the Cardinals wins the World Series, Selig can point to the fact that baseball will have had seven different champions in the last seven seasons.

Of course, he'll be right on all those points. Hard to argue with the cold, hard facts, and the cold hard facts suggest that the game's revenue sharing plan is working as designed.

There may still be great economic disparity in the game, as evidenced by the 160 million or so gap between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. But big payrolls don't guarantee big results: Just ask the Red Sox.

Though it gets little credit for it, MLB has achieved the parity it long sought.

But that parity comes with a price, and the bill will come due when the national TV ratings are released for the two League Championship Series and, later, the World Series.

Already, the Division Series' numbers were down about 15 percent. And remember: The Yanks and Phils, which typically attract big ratings, were involved.

It didn't seen to help that three of the four Division Series went the maximum number of games (five) and that all three featured terrific contests in Game 5, each one decided by a single run.

If the presence of the Yankees and Phillies, plus highly competitive series' going the distance didn't help, what will?

Certainly not the Brewers, Rangers, Tigers or Cardinals.

All four might be compelling teams. The Brewers are in an LCS for the first time in almost 30 years. The Tigers are in search of their first championship since 1984. The Rangers have never won a title and have established themselves as a powerhouse.

But that's not going to translate into good TV numbers.

And that's where baseball has a major problem. They don't want the same, familiar teams -- Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies -- in the LCS and World Series every year, because people complain that, well, they're the same familiar teams and that's no room for underdogs in baseball.

But when those underdog clubs like the Brewers or Tigers play deep into October, people don't watch. Or, more to the point, not as many watch as when the Sox, Yanks or Phils are involved.

Talk about a conundrum.

If the teams people want to watch keep winning, baseball has to answer for its stacked deck and its over-reliance on a handful of big-market teams. And if less heralded teams go deep into the postseason, the competitive balance narrative improves, but the TV numbers sink as too many fans in big Eastern markets use their clickers to turn to football or other pursuits.

Even Mother Nature seems to be working against MLB. Twice, games pitched by Justin Verlander, the game's most compelling starting pitcher, have been interrupted by rain this month. Twice, games scheduled for prime time have been rained out and moved to afternoon starts, when TV numbers are a fraction of what they would be in prime time.

As baseball gets closer to negotiate new TV deals, it finds itself in a no-win situation: If the most popular teams dominate October (and ratings), the sport has to listen about the uneven playing field. Meanwhile, if some different clubs reach the Series, not enough people are interested.

Talk about a losing battle.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr.'s tough 2017 has reached a potentially scary moment.

Expected to be the team's lead lefty out of the bullpen, Ross has twice been demoted and struggled in the majors. Now, he's on the disabled list at Triple-A Pawtucket with inflammation in his throwing elbow — a health situation that might explain why he wasn't pitching well in the big leagues.

The Red Sox expect to know more about Ross' situation later in the week.

Ross hasn't pitched in game for Pawtucket since he was most recently optioned. If the 27-year-old was indeed hurt in the majors, it's possible he could retroactivley wind up on the major league disabled list. Ross was demoted May 19, and is on the DL retroactive to May 25. 

Per BrooksBaseball.net, Ross sat at 93 mph with his fastball on May 12. He dropped down to 92 in the following appearance, and the next two outings were at 91 mph. He averaged 94 mph in 2016.

Ross had a 7.00 ERA in eight major league appearances this year, striking out nine and walking five in nine innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA in a 2016 season where he established himself as a key member of the 'pen.

Ross said he was shocked when he was demoted for the first time this year. 

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

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Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

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