Posted by: mdegeorge | September 28, 2010

The fallacy of the evenly distributed TV time

Does it ever seem that every time your remote finds its way to a nationally televised baseball game it’s always, its always one of a handful of teams?

Oh yay, Yanks-Sox again! (Though the games have ceased to matter in the standings since before the All-Star break.) Wow, Phillies-Mets two days in a row! (Despite the painfully obvious fact that the Mets’ regulars have been on the golf course since early August.)

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=yankees+espn&iid=9246296″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9246296/mlb-yankees-dodgers-june/mlb-yankees-dodgers-june.jpg?size=500&imageId=9246296″ width=”500″ height=”332″ /]

Maybe that’s why the sports fails to hold the attention of neutrals like me. I’ve got no problem enjoying Chargers-Chiefs on Monday night, or a Sunday afternoon Caps-Flyers game, though I have no vested rooting interest in either.

Baseball doesn’t do that, though, mostly because I can just as easily tune into SportsCenter and see whatever crap Yankee game that just garnered a 0.6 national rating as part of a package of the only four baseball highlights shown before devoting a half hour to “The Heat Index.”

But maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe my admittedly anti-New York bent, borne of almost two decades drenched in Yankee and Met ubiquity living in the Empire state, has drastically skewed my outlook, assigning undue value to the NY-centric television dates over the other 28 franchises’ appearances in the national spotlight.

The numbers don’t lie though.Working from a variety of sources (primarily this list from March along with TBS press releases throughout the season), I’ve managed to track down 122 nationally televised games on Fox, the ESPN family of networks, and TBS (I’m just missing four games, TBS’s June slate, and ESPN’s flex programming).

That perceived bias on New York: realer than the Mets’ season-long funk.

If you turn on a nationally televised baseball game, you’ve got a better than 1 in 10 shot of seeing the Yankees. That’s one team (3.3 percent of Major League Baseball franchises) accounting for 10 percent of the league’s television share. Makes you wonder just how eager networks would be to schedule Yankees intrasquad scrimmages all year,

In second place—largely on the back of the alleged must-see television every time the Bronx Bombers come to town—are the Red Sox at 7.79 percent, followed by the hapless Mets (7.38) in third.

The single biggest perpetrator: the sham that is TBS Sunday baseball. In the 22 games I have accounted for, 10 have featured the Yankees. That’s just a hair over 45 percent. That propensity doesn’t bear out over the other networks, with ESPN (24 percent) and Fox (10 percent, though that numbers seems fairly low) showing drastically lower numbers.

The East coast bias also is verified by the stats. Just under 45 percent of the teams appearing on national television not only hailed from baseball’s Eastern divisions, but were from a group of just six teams (the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Mets, Phillies and Braves). That total was almost double that of the nine combatants in the AL and NL West (22.96 percent).

And television coverage sure doesn’t breed (or is indicative of success). Much like asinine All-Star ballots printed during the last week of Spring Training (you mean I can still vote in Ken Griffey, Jr. even though his knees broke down six weeks ago and he retired two weeks later!?!?), the national coverage slate is set in the preseason bliss where hope springs eternal and Ryan Kalish never bats cleanup.

As a result, only three of the top nine teams in national television coverage (the Phillies, Yankees, and Rays) will be playing postseason baseball, while a fourth, the Braves, are still in the hunt. The remainder of television’s favored darlings are comprised by big market also-rans (see Cubs, Mets, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Red Sox), some of whom were merely playing out the string by the time the calendar turned to April.

Sure, without the variability of ESPN’s schedule, I’m sure there’s a more proportionate share of Reds’ and Twins’ games that I’m missing. But it’s almost certainly a nominal subtraction from the wide margin enjoyed by the big market teams.

It’s bad enough that we have to listen to Ernie Johnson (God bless him for overcoming cancer, but the man belongs in a studio as Kenny Smith and Sir Charles’ straight man) and the occasionally Hispanic Jon Miller until we finally succumb to temptation and desperately use the mute button like a breath of fresh air after diving three minutes past our scuba tank’s air capacity.

If only fans could do it while actually stomaching a decent matchup with implications in the standings. This year’s standings.

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