McAdam: MLB ratings paying the price for parity

191542.jpg

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.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

cleveland-indians-andy-marte-killed-12217.jpg

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

kansas-city-royals-yordano-ventura-killed-12217.jpg

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.