It's almost October, which means it's almost time for every hot take columnist’s favorite season: using playoff television ratings to decry The End of Baseball. It's no secret that baseball has problems on the horizon: an aging fan base that's not getting younger; a business model predicated on large regional sports network contacts buoyed by TV provider carriage fees. But when someone tries to tell you nobody is watching baseball anymore, don't believe a word of it.
For the sake of argument, let’s ignore the fact that Major League Baseball is raking in near $10 billion in revenue, and let’s also ignore that they just received a $1 billion investment in BAMtech, the company created to support MLB.tv, and address the argument on its own terms. According to data from Nielsen, this season nine clubs (Royals, Tigers, Orioles, Pirates, Indians, Red Sox, Mariners, and Giants) had the number one television ranking across all networks in primetime, and 16 (including the Rockies) were in the top three. If you limit it to just cable, 24 of 29 teams (Canadian data for the Blue Jays was not included) were rated as the top program in primetime. That means if you turn on a television in a major league city in primetime during baseball season (and it’s not tuned to a streaming service), odds are high that a baseball game is on. This is particularly interesting given the sheer number of games and how easy it is to say, “Nah, I’ll watch tomorrow.”
For the Rockies specifically, the numbers are quite interesting. Denver produced a 2.78 rating (which means nearly 3 percent of televisions across the Front Range are watching the Rockies; here’s how the ratings work), an increase of 36 percent from last season. This represents the second highest ratings increase for any team in baseball (Cleveland really loves their baseball now, with ratings up 71 percent from 2015). So not only have the Rockies been better, and likely to get better going forward, more people are tuning in to see it happen. They were ranked just 14th in baseball, but that’s up from 21 last season. Clearly, the reports of baseball’s death have been exaggerated.
Fortunately, due to people analyzing the myths surrounding the decline, we’re seeing this narrative play out less and less in the mainstream media. But just in case you hear it around your friends when you tell them, “Sorry, I can’t, I’m watching the playoffs,” at least you’ll have an answer.
The pathway to being an ace is a complicated one. In addition to regaining his slider, Patrick Saunders shows us how Gray has used his curveball--a fairly new weapon in his arsenal--to further solidify his rise to success. Gray makes his final start of the season tonight against San Francisco.