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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Barnes takes the blame in loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

QUOTES

“That one’s one me. I’ve got to do a better job of securing that lead and getting out of that inning.” - Matt Barnes on giving up the lead.

“When he tries to go down and away to right-handers, the ball’s leaking back to the middle a bit. That was the case against [Lorenzo] Cain [and Raul] Mondesi in this case tonight. It’s on the plate first pitch, bases loaded he’s trying to get a strike to get ahead. But in general, Barnes has pitched to the edge at times and missed, and then when he’s on the plate it’s probably found the middle of the plate a bit too much.” - John Farrell on Barnes’ outing.

“I think everybody in that bullpen believes in every single person down there.” - Barnes said on the bullpen.

“It was good, everything was good . . . Just the fastball command was a little out of control.” - Eduardo Rodriguez on his left hamstring and his performance.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz launched his 31st home run of the season, which also marked the 534th of his career, tying Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time home run chart.

* Mookie Betts recorded his Major League-leading 56th multi-hit game of the season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. finished 1-for-2, bumping his average to .317 (77-for-243) at Fenway this season.

* The Red Sox grounded into four double plays, tying their season high on 6/12 against Minnesota.

* Matt Barnes’ ERA jumped from 3.68 before Sunday’s game to 4.45 after giving up 5 runs without recording an out.

 

STARS

1) Raul Mondesi

Mondesi’s bases-clearing triple in the sixth opened the floodgates and gave Kansas City the lead they would continue to build off.

2) Matt Strahm

 Strahm relieved Yordano Ventura after his short 4 and 1/3-inning outing. He held the Red Sox scoreless through 2.2 innings to earn his second win of the season.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez launched his sixth home run in his last eight games against Boston. He became the Royal to homer in three-straight games at Fenway since Billy Butler did in 2011.

First impressions: Red Sox implode in 6th inning, lose to Royals, 10-4

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First impressions: Red Sox implode in 6th inning, lose to Royals, 10-4

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Boston’s bullpen continues to be a roll of the dice every night.

This time Matt Barnes was the latest reliever to suffer from the plague that’s filled this bullpen all season.

Part of it was bad luck on two perfectly placed balls, the other part was Raul Mondesi lacing a triple, and Lorenzo Cain smacking a single.

Robbie Ross was better, but not by much.

No lead seems safe in the hands of any Boston reliever.

 

David Ortiz keeps putting himself in the same breath as legendary Hall of Famers.

This time it was former Red Sox great Jimmie Foxx, who Ortiz is now tied with at 534 home runs, 18th all time.

Early in the season he’d match a legendary player every so often, it was impressive. Now it’s almost to be expected every night he plays.

Next on the all-time home run list is Yankee Legend Mickey Mantle with 536.

 

The bottom of the order continues to play an important role in Boston’s run production.

Chris Young got things started in the fifth, then Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. kept it rolling so both Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts could cash in all three runners.

Moving JBJ back to ninth Saturday proved to be a good move, and moving Leon back down with his recent scuffles seems to be the best move, too.

Not only can they knock each other in any given instance, but they also put Dustin Pedroia (or Holt) and Bogaerts in run-producing situations, as opposed to just setting the table.

 

Chris Young’s hamstring shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

He was able to leg out the soft grounder to third base in the first inning.

Young has lost a step or two with age, but it seemed like he opened it up on the play.

Hopefully that’s a sign of the end of the injuries in left field this season.

 

Junichi Tazawa looked strong.

That’s more so an observation of his fastball reaching 94 mph.

Tazawa has a long way to go before he’s back to where he was, but the righty took a step in the right direction Sunday night. He retired Kansas City’s 2-3-4 hitters in his first inning and working past a leadoff single in his second inning of work.