Even at a time of year when there’s no basketball, no hockey, and no football to watch, people aren’t tuning in to the MLB All-Star festivities. Despite Marlon Byrd’s efforts, Tuesday night’s 2010 MLB All-Star Game registered the lowest overnight ratings of any Midsummer Classic in history. The previous evening, the Home Run Derby’s ratings hit a five-year low and were down 22 percent from 2009.
What’s going on here? The answer with the Home Run Derby is a simple one; no one wants to participate. It was fitting that a high-profile slugger like David Ortiz took home the crown this year, but look at the rest of the field. I don’t care how many home runs they’ve hit at the All-Star break, fans don’t want to see players like Corey Hart, Chris Young, and Vernon Wells hitting the long ball. They want to see Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, and the rest of the game’s elite home run hitters belting moon shots.
The perceived end of the Steroid Era has hurt the Derby as well. When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa each had over 30 homers before the All-Star break, fans were foaming at the mouth to see them in a home run hitting contest. When the kings of the long ball are vying for the crown, it sparks interest. Home run numbers are going to be lower at the All-Star break now that we’re beyond (for the most part) PED usage. If Major League Baseball can’t convince the more popular power hitters to participate in the Home Run Derby going forward, the event will be run right into the ground.
As for the All-Star Game itself, we have a couple of theories. First, did anyone see the pregame show leading up to Tuesday night’s game? Saying it was excessive would be an understatement. There’s no need for it to be as long as it was and I wouldn’t be surprised if people were tuned in, changed the channel to wait for the pregame festivities to end, and “forgot” to switch back.
Along the same lines, the high level of pitching in the game did not make for good television. Analysts are calling 2010 the “year of the pitcher” and that was certainly true Tuesday night. There’s a good chance people lost interest in the game when the supposed best hitters in baseball were striking out or chopping ground balls to the infield every time they came up. Yes, they were facing the best pitchers and pitching generally trumps hitting, but the fact of the matter is that’s not what the casual fan wants to see.
Another thing the casual fan doesn’t want to see is an excessive amount of fresh faces on each roster. For rabid baseball fans, new faces are refreshing and the All-Star Game is a chance to showcase the future of the league. Casual followers want to be able to identify. The NL roster featured only five players with five or more All-Star appearances that were able to play. The AL had only seven. The point is there were probably a significant amount of players on each side that the casual fan hadn’t even heard of. Is there anything that can be done about that? Not really, but it’s probably contributing to lower ratings each year. It likely doesn’t help that players like Joey Votto have a poor attitude toward the game, either.
It doesn’t seem as though Bud Selig’s decision to make the game count for home field advantage in the World Series has mattered. Players don’t want to participate in the Home Run Derby and they don’t want to play in the Midsummer Classic if they have anything more than a hangnail. With all the factors that could contribute to ratings being down for the All-Star festivities, the most influential is probably the lack of interest from the players themselves.
All-Star Game Hits Record Ratings Low [Fanhouse]