June 1993 (2) - Owners Off Base With TV Deal

If you think that the Major League owners really care about the fans, then I'd like to sell you the Brooklyn Dodgers. The truth is, the recent TV contract is a real slap in the face for baseball's faithful.

As with most actions of the owners, this deal is only about money -- more money for them. One doesn't have to be a genius to realize that this plan is just their latest attempt to control spiraling player's salaries. Collusion didn't work, so now this. We get leagues with three divisions, and a needless round of playoffs that only devalues the "regular" season and the LCS, much like the NHL, the NBA, and to a lesser extent, the NFL.

But guess what? We don't get to see all those devalued playoff games! Folks living in AL towns won't be able to see the NL games, and visa versa. This is supposed to build a bigger fan base?

The owners claim that by regionalizing the broadcasts of playoffs, more fans will be drawn into the game. This is television logic, and it is blatantly flawed. I want to see every pitch of the playoffs, even if it's Seattle! Anyone who's ever seen the Red Sox, Yankees or Cubs play on the road knows that the regionality argument is bogus. People root for teams for a variety of reasons, and proximity is only one of them. (I boldly admit to growing up in Colorado as a Yankee fan, partially because they were on CBS every Saturday afternoon. I have since seen the light and been converted.) I suspect that in baseball, like most other businesses, the "80/20" rule holds -- 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. After Labor Day last year, when the Red Sox were firmly entrenched in the basement, the people who came to Fenway Park were the true fans -- the 20%. They were attracted by the fun of seeing any ball game.

The owners think that by expanding their fan base into the fringes of their market that they will be better off than catering to the core group of fans -- whom, as usual, they are content to take for granted. Let's face it -- there are already too many yahoos at the park who are more fascinated watching a beach ball get batted around than a baseball. What I'd like to see is more people keeping score and fewer people doing the wave.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea to attract new fans to the game, but is putting an inferior package together on the field and on television really the way to do it? Will anyone be attracted to the game because of the additional tier of playoff?

If the owners want to build a bigger fan base, they need to do it at the grass roots level. Fewer and fewer kids are getting involved in organized baseball. The owners should realize that this group is not only the future fan base, but the source of future players as well! There isn't enough talent to go around the majors now; imagine what it's going to be like in 20 years. A small investment in these areas could pay great dividends in the future.

True baseball fans will always watch a competitive game between talented and determined players, no matter what level, league, or city. Non-fans won't watch no matter what. With expansion, the owners have diluted the quality of Major League Baseball for the sake of expanding into two new markets, and now this new TV deal will dilute our access to games on the tube. At this rate, the owners will end up saving bundles of money. They won't have to pay any player's salaries, just spring for a few beach balls.

©1993 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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