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Richie the Rally Goat

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I went off on a tangent in mikelink45’s extremely well written and thought provoking post “When Baseball was King”. But started thinking about why baseball isn’t king. In my mind a significant shift happened in the late 70s and early 80s. The sport that I think was a major contributor was the NFL and not just that the NFL broadcasted it’s games to wide regional audiences scheduled to minimize overlap and put premium matchups in prime time, there was one man…

If you’ve been watching NFL games lately, you probably know who I’m talking about: John Madden. The man was a superstar of TV broadcasting. The formula was simple, teach the game in understandable jargon, show everyone how much you LOVE the game.

1988’s John Madden Football video game has the quintessential story about it. The narrative is that Madden wouldn’t lend his name to the game unless it taught kids the strategy and critical thinking.

By the 90s many NFL commentators copied Madden, pulling out the telestrator and yelling “boom” but Madden’s legacy lives today through new teachers of the game like Tony Romo.

Henry Ford was quoted once "I will build a motor car for the great multitude...constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise...so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one-and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."

What Madden, the NFL, and Henry Ford got right is achieving accessible consumer products and experiences. By making them affordable, available and understandable the products/services blossomed into dominant actors in their segments.

But alas, this is not a football blog. This, is a baseball blog. In the early days of cable, the MLB didn’t coordinate on an mlb schedule or TV contract that facilitated the growth of the league or airing prime matchups to nation wide audiences. They let the individual teams reach their own TV contracts, competing not only on the diamond, but limiting viewership on the air waves.

Has there ever been an MLB teacher of the game, a John Madden-esque commentator who taught deeper insights, strategies? A superstar? Not just describing what happened, but why. There’s many Bert Blylevens’s and John Smoltz’s while on air, talk about why they don’t like the game, and bad-mouth the math nerds, while saying stuff that is antithetical to the strategy of why the shift or pitch call was actually happening in the game.

I fall into the camp of fan that the analytics enhances my enjoyment of the game. That is not the case for every fan. The analytical math nerds have taken over many of the successful teams, but of course we don’t want math lessons live on TV. How can baseball more thoroughly democratize the data? Teach the strategies that make the game so slow and confusing for casual fans? Accentuate the minutia that Madden did with the telestrator 40 years ago?

Who can be the baseball equivalent of Henry Ford and John Madden?

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I'm not one that likes the analytics as much as many do.  I'm not necessarily against them, but they don't really bring enjoyment to the game for me on the whole.  That doesn't mean that they don't have a place though.  I think @Sconniehas a good point.  There's no one there to teach that, especially on a national basis, the way Madden did.  Part of that is because of the newness of it.  A reputable person that everyone knows doesn't really exist.  Madden was a well known and respected commodity.  I don't think that the baseball analytics world has that person.  

Another potential issue is that Madden would describe and explain what people could easily see.  I'm not sure that can easily be done with analytics.  At least to the same scale anyway.

And despite my view on analytics, I do feel the game would benefit from such a person.  There's clearly a thirst for such a thing. 

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12 hours ago, wsnydes said:

I'm not one that likes the analytics as much as many do.  I'm not necessarily against them, but they don't really bring enjoyment to the game for me on the whole.  That doesn't mean that they don't have a place though.  I think @Sconniehas a good point.  There's no one there to teach that, especially on a national basis, the way Madden did.  Part of that is because of the newness of it.  A reputable person that everyone knows doesn't really exist.  Madden was a well known and respected commodity.  I don't think that the baseball analytics world has that person.  

Another potential issue is that Madden would describe and explain what people could easily see.  I'm not sure that can easily be done with analytics.  At least to the same scale anyway.

And despite my view on analytics, I do feel the game would benefit from such a person.  There's clearly a thirst for such a thing. 

you could superimpose a simplified spray chart and speak to the shift, or heat maps of pitcher v hitter to show why the catcher sets up, and when that wild pitch gets away... mechanics and fundamentals, there's ways even if the plays aren't as scripted

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On 1/24/2022 at 9:48 AM, Karbo said:

One person comes to mind right away and that's Jim Kaat. Over the years of hearing his broadcasts I have to say he is the best at breaking down the smaller parts of the game.

He is awesome, I agree, but he’s not going to be around the booth for much longer. The learning from him other broadcasters could especially do well: grace. Kaat is such a kind and graceful commentator, he speaks very well to what he knows (which is broad and deep) and doesn’t about which he doesn’t.

lots of wisdom there

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20 hours ago, Sconnie said:

He is awesome, I agree, but he’s not going to be around the booth for much longer. The learning from him other broadcasters could especially do well: grace. Kaat is such a kind and graceful commentator, he speaks very well to what he knows (which is broad and deep) and doesn’t about which he doesn’t.

lots of wisdom there

Couldn't have said it better!

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IDK who the baseball equivalent of John Madden could be but just in regards to dates and when the shift occured, id place baseball's de-crowning occurring in the early-mid 90's.....If you watch television from any time before about 1994 football was still largely in the backseat compared to MLB just based on comments and references in television (a far cry from scientific observations here....I know). I personally think the 94 strike fried people pretty hard and at that time football began to assert its dominance. 

I honestly detest football and pine to go back to the good ole days when baseball was king, but lets be honest with ourselves here: Baseball did this to itself. 

....Pretty sad its doing it to itself all over again with the ludacris side show CBA negotiations. 

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4 minutes ago, Deadfan said:

IDK who the baseball equivalent of John Madden could be but just in regards to dates and when the shift occured, id place baseball's de-crowning occurring in the early-mid 90's.....If you watch television from any time before about 1994 football was still largely in the backseat compared to MLB just based on comments and references in television (a far cry from scientific observations here....I know). I personally think the 94 strike fried people pretty hard and at that time football began to assert its dominance. 

I honestly detest football and pine to go back to the good ole days when baseball was king, but lets be honest with ourselves here: Baseball did this to itself. 

....Pretty sad its doing it to itself all over again with the ludacris side show CBA negotiations. 

The 94 strike absolutely hurt MLB fandom, but if you look back before the 94 strike MLB averaged a work stoppage every 3 years from the late 70s until ‘94. Your observation on the strike impact is astute but all of the other leagues had work stoppages since the last MLB stoppage in ‘94.

it’s a contributor, for sure, but less of a smoking gun

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I certainly think that MLB could use more voices in a national booth that are both engaging and educational about the nuances of the modern game. 

Thinking of the football parallel, John Madden also came at a time when football broadcasts themselves were changing.  Football television has always been more 'national' than baseball has - it's on once a week and a national broadcast team decides (well, especially at that point) what goes on the air and what doesn't.  Madden and Summerall were certainly two broadcasters that signified a must-watch football game.  In that sense, viewers tuning in to watch the game were just as interested in the play and analysis of the play as they were the players.  (The Vikings fan tuning in to an Oakland Raiders game probably wasn't as familiar with the players, but could still appreciate / be entertained by a particular blocking strategy - BOOM.)

Baseball broadcasts are different.  We tend to watch our teams (there are usually a lot of games running every day at the same time through the season), get to know the players and be just as interested in their stories as much as we are in the intricacies of the slower speed of a baseball game. When those things are gone, the broadcasts seem much, much different.  (e.g. how frustrated people get watching an ESPN televised game vs. Dick Bremer on BSN.)

I think having a national broadcast try to follow more of a "football" model would be fantastic - a broadcast where the 'analyst' is there to break down the particular hows-and-whys of technique and why certain things happen on the field the way that they do. (e.g. why does a team shift like crazy against Max Kepler?)  It seems most analytics in baseball focus on the fun graphics like an exit velocity, launch angle and those flight path diagrams without explaining how a manager / scout would care about those particular stats rather than just looking at the admittedly cool pictures.

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11 hours ago, h2oface said:

Damn. I was all stocked up to find out who it was.... who the new Maddon of Baseball was ...... and A QUESTioN !!!??!!??

OK. I have to decide now? 

Brockmire.

Jim Brockmire.

No one, including Brockmire himself, will ever surpass the home run call in S1E1: "That ball cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery because it just got tattooed!"

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On 1/24/2022 at 7:06 PM, wsnydes said:

I'm not one that likes the analytics as much as many do.  I'm not necessarily against them, but they don't really bring enjoyment to the game for me on the whole.  That doesn't mean that they don't have a place though.  I think @Sconniehas a good point.  There's no one there to teach that, especially on a national basis, the way Madden did. 

And despite my view on analytics, I do feel the game would benefit from such a person.  There's clearly a thirst for such a thing. 

For the most part I like analytics, but I hate watching baseball shifts, It makes me sick to stomach watching a player like Kepler pull the ball to the 2nd basemen with the whole left side of the field open, or watching Mauer at the end of his career continue to hit line drives up the middle that are just easy plays for the SS standing right there. 

Nobody wants a math lesson when watching baseball except the middle age men/women that post on boards like this; and then just maybe. Baseball analytics are so over the top complex nobody wants to hear how FIP is figured it or how how WAR is figured out and different depending on what sites you go to. People love easy math, how exciting is it when you can help a middle school or younger child solve math problems? That is why people loved ERA, W/L, BA, OBP, SLG, stuff that makes sense and you can see with your eyes, and know are being told by a few people they are wrong or worse yet stupid for thinking those things matter anymore . For example the NFL will throw out QB rating and everybody pretty much understands completion percentage, yards and TD's good, in-completions and INT's bad. The announcer doesn't need to explain well it is high because it was bad luck that WR dropped a pass, or ran the wrong route, or the defense showed zone but switched to man to man at the last second, and the QB actually had a good game but just unlucky.

You know how many times I have watched a game and seen a pitcher get hit fairly hard, throw in some bloppers and maybe a Texas leaguer or two and gives up multiple runs in a few innings and was explained to how well he actually pitched and was just unlucky. Nobody wants to watch their favorite teams pitcher go 3 innings give up 5 runs and be told to their face, he was actually pretty good today just unlucky and I use analytics to prove what you saw with your own eyes is wrong.

I am not an NBA fan but I know looking at PER and comparing players by it will give me a pretty good idea how good a player is compared to another. Baseball doesn't have that one stat, if you have to explain why Nicky Lopez was the 36th best non-pitcher in baseball while hitting .300, 21 2B, 2 HR, 43 RBI, 22 SB, and SLG .378, that is a huge problem. (I am not saying he wasn't the 36th best, but how many baseball fans have even heard of him or said oh yea he is one of the top players in the game)

I guess what I am really trying to say is there is fine line between boring the tv fans and entertaining them and baseball probably has the hardest of all sports, they play a ton of games so how many times do you want to hear the same thing over and over? and the Analytics are so important to building a franchise from the bottom (minor leagues) up and projecting what might happen going forward, but who want to hear about spin rate? Certainly not my teen age son. He want to here how hard and how far his favorite player just hit that homer, or how fast his favorite pitcher is throwing and what is his pitch count so he know many innings he has left, so he tell his friends when he will be available because he doesn't want to watch the end of the game and all the commercials (I mean pitching changes)

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1 minute ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

I guess what I am really trying to say is there is fine line between boring the tv fans and entertaining them and baseball probably has the hardest of all sports, they play a ton of games so how many times do you want to hear the same thing over and over? and the Analytics are so important to building a franchise from the bottom (minor leagues) up and projecting what might happen going forward, but who want to hear about spin rate? Certainly not my teen age son. He want to here how hard and how far his favorite player just hit that homer, or how fast his favorite pitcher is throwing and what is his pitch count so he know many innings he has left, so he tell his friends when he will be available because he doesn't want to watch the end of the game and all the commercials (I mean pitching changes)

This is my biggest hang up.  I watch sports to be entertained, not analyzed to death.  The analytics have made the game very boring for me.  I understand the why and I'm not even necessarily against them, it's just not what I'm looking for in entertainment.  Others will disagree, and that's fine.  I'm not going to tell people how to enjoy things.

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Baseball lost because it lost the TV audience. It lost for 2 reasons (1) baseball can't make fans care about a "national" game, and (2) it can't make the game exciting enough. I like both baseball and football. I'll watch a football game between two teams I don't follow because it's exciting entertainment with plenty of action, with interesting comments by the announcers,  and because football does a good job of explaining the game and context. Baseball tried a national game for awhile. it seemed to always be the Yankees and the Red Sox, and I still have nightmares of Dustin Pedroia adjusting his gloves after every pitch "to focus his concentration" after the Yankees had a deliberate strategy of "working the count" to get to the bullpen. 3.5 to 4 hour games with maybe 30 minutes of actual action. 

It may be that baseball just inherently isn't good TV, although I have seen some good TV baseball. The game as now played is death on TV, and that's if you care about the teams playing. If you don't, it mind numbing ennui commentated by guys talking about "the good old days" or stories about where they went to dinner. The NBA has more irrelevant mediocre matchups than any sport outside of college basketball and it's better on TV than baseball for the casual fan. Add the lack of availability and streaming and you have one completely incoherent media strategy. Baseball's inability to adapt to media like TV and streaming is why it's 4th instead of 1st and soon heading to 5th or 6th. 

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1 hour ago, TheLeviathan said:

Baseball is too slow and too regional as the poster above indicated.  There is no Madden and won't be.

Major League Baseball made that choice 40-ish years ago. Why can’t they make choices to change it?

why is this a permanent situation?

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Just now, Sconnie said:

Major League Baseball made that choice 40-ish years ago. Why can’t they make choices to change it?

why is this a permanent situation?

Because baseball staunchly refuses to acknowledge the underlying issues.  

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9 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

Because baseball staunchly refuses to acknowledge the underlying issues.  

Agreed, but that’s won’t not can’t.

This CBA negotiation shows me a continued unwillingness to change, but if things continue down the observed course, they could change out of necessity. As the other poster identified in the 94 strike, losing fans can change attitudes 

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On 1/28/2022 at 6:17 PM, LA VIkes Fan said:

Baseball tried a national game for awhile. it seemed to always be the Yankees and the Red Sox

The "Superstation" era was quite successful. Baseball was a regular show on television. During the day it was the Cubs on WGN and evenings were the Braves on TBS. Fan interest grew, especially in areas that don't have a local MLB team to follow. I've met Cubs fans in Idaho and Braves fans in Nevada because they watched the team every day on cable.

Baseball is a soap opera - you follow your favorite characters. This is part of why Oakland and Tampa have a hard time building a fan base - they kill off the main characters in the middle of the story arc.

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I believe a couple of things have really affected baseball over the years.  One, the cost of going to games has increased so much that it makes it hard for a family to go.  It used to be really cheap to go, and you could go to several games a year.  Now, a family rarely has the money to go more than one or two times.  

Two, the game has not evolved with the changing viewing of fans.  As teams have learned what makes winning more likely, it is dropped the excitement of the game a ton.  The fact that a game may take into 4 hours with little action has affected some fans in my opinion.  

Further the lack of evolving for the fans in terms of entertainment.  You never have sound bites of players really getting excited.  If you see a player watch a HR or something like that they get dogged and say they are breaking unwritten rules.  NFL used to be called the "no fun league" because when players danced after getting a touchdown or other things they were flagged.  Now, the league said hey, we have a whole group of fan base where they pay money in a video game to have dances to show off, why not allow are players to do the same. 

Baseball has evolved to have less balls in play, and more pitching changes.  Less stolen bases, less bunting, overall just less stuff going on.  For the most part in some games is basically a HR derby on how can hit more. 

If baseball does not look out, it will really drop down in popularity, and as players leave to play other sports then you will lose even more fans too.  

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1. Gambling. The invention of fantasy football transformed viewership in creating rooting interest in out of market games one would not otherwise care about. Even as fantasy filtered into other sports the once of week simplicity of fantasy football makes it easier to play for the layperson.

2. TV deals removed accessability. I don't have cable and cannot watch TV on weekends w/o seeing thousands of NFL, NBA, NCAA FB and basketball, it's truely annoying. Air one game a week on a local station and watch interest grow. I've never watched more Saints baseball in my life seeing them on FOX9+

3. Speed of play is still a huge issue removing interest. Even die hard fans have 4 hour games. Number of pitching changes and human rain delays are part of it but TV commercial time needs to be addressed. With the avereage TV size in America at 55" there is pleanty of real estate and no reason not run adds on screen while the game runs w/o commentary. This would allow umpires the ability to keep the pace up w/o being chastised by MLB for not allowing ad time.  

After reading this it maybe strays from accessability a bit, oh well...

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42 minutes ago, SockNet said:

I've never watched more Saints baseball in my life seeing them on FOX9+

Isn't it crazy that it's easier to see AAA baseball on local TV than MLB?

I worry that gambling sponsorship is going to ruin the broadcast TV experience. Every situation is going to be framed in terms of betting odds (37% odds of a strikeout in this plate appearance) that only appeals to compulsive gamblers.

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17 minutes ago, SockNet said:

1. Gambling. The invention of fantasy football transformed viewership in creating rooting interest in out of market games one would not otherwise care about. Even as fantasy filtered into other sports the once of week simplicity of fantasy football makes it easier to play for the layperson.

2. TV deals removed accessability. I don't have cable and cannot watch TV on weekends w/o seeing thousands of NFL, NBA, NCAA FB and basketball, it's truely annoying. Air one game a week on a local station and watch interest grow. I've never watched more Saints baseball in my life seeing them on FOX9+

3. Speed of play is still a huge issue removing interest. Even die hard fans have 4 hour games. Number of pitching changes and human rain delays are part of it but TV commercial time needs to be addressed. With the avereage TV size in America at 55" there is pleanty of real estate and no reason not run adds on screen while the game runs w/o commentary. This would allow umpires the ability to keep the pace up w/o being chastised by MLB for not allowing ad time.  

After reading this it maybe strays from accessability a bit, oh well...

1) I think the FF popularity is a symptom and enhancement of the accessibility, not a cause. Because people understand the game better than they used to, the fantasy football experience became more fun and created newer and deeper fans. Fantasy Football was absolutely a late stage driver, but it needed a Madden to build the baseline first.

 

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8 hours ago, Sconnie said:

Agreed, but that’s won’t not can’t.

This CBA negotiation shows me a continued unwillingness to change, but if things continue down the observed course, they could change out of necessity. As the other poster identified in the 94 strike, losing fans can change attitudes 

I think we've reached the stage where won't has persisted to the point of being too late.  I hope I'm wrong, but I think we won'ted our way into a can't situation.

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