Tag Archives: World Series

Setting the World on Fier

By Griffin Olah

November 21, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

Since baseball’s inception, teams have looked for a leg up over their opposition. Whether that is the development of signs from coaches, the shift or stealing signs, it is expected and even encouraged that teams innovate new ways to win. The Astros, however, have taken it to a new level. Earlier this month, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers dropped a bomb on the unsuspecting baseball world: the World Series winning team in 2017 cheated.

In 2017, reports came out that the Boston Red Sox were using an unapproved Apple Watch in the dugout. Naturally, that revelation turned to thoughts of cheating, and the opponent did nothing to dismiss those. The New York Yankees, arch rivals of the Red Sox tossed in accusations that the Sox were stealing signs from their catcher. The MLB launched an investigation into the team, and found them guilty of cheating. On September 15, 2017, Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Red Sox for their scandal and created a new discipline protocol to deter future teams (Davidoff, 2019).

At the same time, however, a far larger scheme was underway, which can now implicate 3 different MLB managers. In Houston, the Astros had a few veteran additions off to a slow start. It was then that a slumping addition who is yet to be named and a team official concocted the plan: they were going to electronically steal signs. Throughout the season, the Astros perfected the system: using a camera placed in center field to pick up the signs from the catcher, sending it to a laptop in the tunnel, where a staff member banged on a trash can to signal the coming pitch to batters (Passan, 2019). 

Fast forward to today, where the Astros are almost a certifiable dynasty. They’ve been to the past 3 World Series, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy only in 2017. Mike Fiers, a pitcher on that World Series team had just given an interview to The Athletic where he detailed how the Astros stole signs during all home games at Minute Maid Park in 2017. The baseball world exploded, shrapnel strewn all across the baseball landscape. Did the Astros cheat their way to a championship? Who ran this whole operation? Was Alex Cora, former bench coach and current Red Sox manager, involved? What about former Astros DH turned Mets manager Carlos Beltran? Information was at a premium, and nobody could pay the price.

The media, of course, jumped at the bomb Fiers threw into the world. Every major sports news outlet was looking into the Astros allegations, and the MLB opened another investigation almost immediately. Some sources tried to prove or disprove the allegations. Most, however, either ignored, or misused statistical evidence. One ESPN article cited the Astros success on the road, both in win-loss records and batting lines (Schoenfield, 2019). While these are good surface-level stats, they don’t tell the full story. Home and away splits can illustrate the differences between the Astros’ play in Minute Maid Park and away from it, but sign stealing won’t show up as a large impact on traditional stats. If one was to look at isolated power (ISO) and strikeout rate (K%), the numbers would tell a different story. Stealing signs is going to give the hitter an upper hand, that part is undebatable, but that advantage may not be evident in hits. ISO is simplified to slugging percentage minus batting average, which shows the player’s raw power (Slowinski, 2010). The MLB average ISO is .140, with higher values showing that players are hitting the ball harder for more extra bases and home runs (Slowinski, 2010). The Astros in 2017 paced baseball with a .196 ISO as a team, .56 higher than average (“Major League Team,” 2019). The Astros also bested the league in K%, which shows the percent of at-bats where batters struck out, with 17.3%, which was only 1.2% lower than the second place Indians (“Major League Team,” 2019).

Most articles, however, strayed away from making judgements. They simply relayed the information and waited to learn more before going after the Astros’ rings. Some, however, made sure to point to the Astros’ checkered past. During the 2018, reports from Cleveland and Boston of a uniformed Astros employee recording the dugouts made the MLB first investigate the Houston franchise (Passan, 2019). This came along with allegations from that same year of Astros players clapping signals to tell the batter what the coming pitch was ( Passan, 2019). While the past of the Astros is important, constant reminders and retelling can sway opinions. If the narrative that the Astros are cheaters is pushed by the media, an investigation into the allegations can become difficult. Fans make up their notions of what happened, and those fan ideals can destroy a franchise.

While gathering information is vital in the process, making sure it is properly relayed is important. Statistics are among the few ways, along with video, to show the Astros have stolen signs. If their numbers are drastically higher, which some advanced stats like ISO show, then maybe there is creedence to Fiers’s claims. Those numbers, however, have to be given and shared with the public, as opposed to selective stats like batting average that can paint an incomplete and biased picture of the problem. The media has done a good job overall so far in their coverage of the Astros, but as always, some things could be better. It just so happens that with advanced sign stealing techniques, advanced and traditional stats could be the problem

References

Davidoff, K. (2019, November 21). Rob Manfred: Statement puts Astros in ‘serious’ sign-stealing trouble. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/11/21/rob-manfred-the-statement-that-puts-astros-in-serious-sign-stealing-trouble/

Major League Team Statistics. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2017&month=0&season1=2017&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2017-01-01&enddate=2017-12-31&sort=4,a

Passan, J. (2019, November 12). Ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers: Team stole signs with camera. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066522/ex-astros-pitcher-mike-fiers-team-stole-signs-camera

Schoenfield, D. (2019, November 12). What you need to know amid Astros sign-stealing accusations. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066847/what-need-know-amid-astros-sign-stealing-accusations

Slowinski, S. (2010, February 15). ISO | Sabermetrics Library. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://library.fangraphs.com/offense/iso/

World Series TV Ratings Boom in Game 7

By Nick Muhl

On October 29th, the San Francisco Giants took home their third World Series title in five years. The Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals 3-2, in a back and forth Game 7, behind their ace Madison Bumgarner. The pitcher threw a scoreless five-inning save on only two days rest.

Game 7 of the World Series drew huge ratings on Fox, averaging 23.5 million viewers and a 13.7 TV rating for the entire series. The viewership was over five million more than last years World Series final game between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

The ratings for the final game came as a relief for Fox, Game 1 of this years World Series drew a 7.1 TV rating, the lowest ever for a Game 1 of the World Series. The rating came as a shock considering the highly covered run to the world series by the Kansas City Royals.

Despite Kansas City not being a major market team, many members of the media and fans believed the great story behind the team, including this being the first time since 1985 that the Royals have reached the World Series, would help to boost the TV ratings. Jacob Shafer, a writer for the Bleacher Report, tagged the Royals with the “Cinderella” term attributing the name to their small market-status and playoff drought.

After Game 1 of the series, it was looking grim despite the optimism by the media and Fox. However, both teams would prove to downplay the Game 1 series ratings as each game gained more viewers. The largest factor in swinging the tide in Fox’s favor? This year’s world series came down to a deciding Game 7, and nothing screams drama more than a Game 7 pitching duel between Bumgarner and the Royals.

The game 7 provided Kansas City with a 58.3 TV rating, the highest rating for any one city for one MLB game. The Giants hometown, San Francisco logged a rating of 38.8. Despite the beginning of the NHL and NBA seasons and mid-season of the NFL and college football, the MLB remains as one of the “Big 3” alongside the NFL and NBA.

 

World Series Goes Unnoticed

By McKenzie Whiteman

You don’t have to be an avid baseball or even sports fan to know about the highs and lows of the World Series. However, this year it seems as if there’s literally no interest in the battle between the San Francisco and Kansas City.

Low ratings prove that the 2014 World Series may be the worst ratings in World Series history since it’s been made a regular television feature. Some attribute this to the competition the Series faces with the always increasingly popular NFL games. Others seem to think the lack of big name teams (such as the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox) limit the audience of the MLB. Some simply think that because the long baseball season is ending during the high point of the NFL and sometimes opening nights for the NBA, that the timing is becoming the cause of the ratings.

Whatever the reason may be, the World Series is gaining less viewers than some NFL match-ups receive in one night. FOX executives and MLB commissioners need to find some way to increase the popularity of the historical Series and preserve the loyal fans that it does have during the regular season.

Possibly the best solution is the Game 7 that ultimately did result from Kansas City’s 10-0 win. The Royals, who haven’t seen the World Series playoffs in 29 years, have earned the advantage of playing the deciding game on their home turf. This could be the answer FOX executives have dreamed for. A Game 7, on the underdog’s home turf, on a night that hosts no football…there couldn’t be a better setting.

This season’s series needs to be an example for the future. FOX needs to be prepared for future series where the two competitors don’t include big name teams. Marketing and public relations strategies need to be reexamined so that regular season baseball fans see the importance of watching the post season, even when their favorite team may have not clinched. In addition, MLB executives need to constantly be evaluating the fluctuating audience. Baseball’s beginning to take a backseat to the hype of the NFL’s increase in criminal interests and even NCAA rivalries.

Ratings have the potential to completely change with Game 7 tomorrow night. However, involved parties with the World Series, no matter how big or small, need to examine their strengths and weaknesses in the series’ previous games. Whether it be a marketing or promotion effort, alterations in broadcasting, or simply the way the Series is advertised, the World Series has to find some way to compete with conflicting pro-sport schedules. If adjustments are not made, ratings will continue to struggle even with the luxury of big name teams competing.

Miami Marlins Fan Causes Controversy at Game 1 of World Series

By McKenzie Whiteman

Being the big Cleveland Browns fan that I am, I know firsthand what happens to fans that are brave enough to show up to a game wearing a an opposing team’s jersey. While I do respect their bravery and dedication to their team, you can’t help but wonder if they know the consequences they undoubtedly have coming. It’s always been this way. Show up to game wearing the enemy’s apparel, get ready for drinks to be thrown, violent words to be exchanged, and you better think twice about standing up and clapping with a sea of glaring eyes around you. Wearing a controversial jersey typically just goes to the extent of offending the home team fans, however I never thought this type of attire would ever cause front office personnel to take action. After all, it is supposed to be for the love of the game…right?

This World Series took on this concept, but with a twist. If you watched Game 1 of the World Series you HAD to have seen the bright orange shirt in the sea of royal blue behind the backstop. Now the orange was not that of the San Francisco Giants, but of a jersey baring the Miami Marlins logo. After doing more digging I found that Miami lawyer, Laurence Leavy, is an avid baseball fan and had spent over $8,000 in post-season tickets, totally disregarding the fact that the Marlins were nowhere near making it to the playoffs. However, this did bring about an interesting controversy.

Kansas City staff was so adornment about trying to set a certain scene for the country. They obviously didn’t want him sticking out like a sore thumb where the media captures the majority of its broadcast. They offered Leavy everything from a private suite to World Series apparel, but were declined on every offer. Instead of letting a true fan enjoy the year’s two best teams in baseball, they were distracted by trying to give off a persona that Leavy’s apparel obviously wasn’t fitting into. It wasn’t the person himself…it was simply his clothing, something that visually affected how the Royals organization wanted the nation to view their environment. It seems as if they wanted to depict an atmosphere where dedicated Royals fans flocked to in order to support the once lowly regarded team in their nearly undefeated quest for the World Series title. But at what point do organizations worry too much about “setting the scene” and not nearly enough about the love of the game?

While I agree it’s important for organizations to create a certain atmosphere, front offices are now going to extreme lengths in order for society to view them a certain way. As depicted by this recent event, they’re trying to persuade fans to take different action in order to achieve the atmosphere that they want to portray. I’m conflicted as to whether this action by the front office was ethical or not. It’s something, however, that should be in the back of an organization’s mind…when is it less about public relations and atmosphere and more about the pure love of the game? I realize that the atmosphere they create is what encourages profits, but it’s something to be evaluated.

Broadcasters just now showing interest in Kansas City Royals

By McKenzie Whiteman

While I must say that I was impressed by the showing that the Kansas City Royals gave in the American League Championship Series this past week, I was somewhat disappointed in the broadcasts that were given during the series, in which Kansas City swept the Baltimore Orioles. As in every professional sport, there are teams that are known to be stronger than others. Until this season, Kansas City tended to be on the weaker end of the spectrum. While other teams spend big bucks to attain high quality players, the Royals seemed to be a team that tries to acquire young athletes in order to build skills and technique. In other words, they’re often viewed as the underdogs in the regular season, much less the playoffs. While I feel it’s important that broadcasters mention the underdog element, I feel like it’s not something to be the main emphasis, especially during the hunt for a World Series title.

These types of comments were commonly heard during the Royal’s first series against the Los Angeles Angels…until they swept them. As the Royals quickly acquired W’s against the Orioles, it was evident that broadcasters had changed their opinions of the once lowly regarded team. I realize that the Royals haven’t seen the playoffs since 1985 and that an undefeated playoff run is an amazing feat, but broadcasters tended to show little interest in the team until they made this run. While it’s hard to not favor the team after the adversity they have overcome, I feel as if reporters should strictly report their view of the game to help fans further understand, rather than show what seems like a secret fascination towards the Royals organization.

I realize that this opinion may seem strict, but I’m afraid this same type of reporting will carry  on to the World Series, where it will not be appreciated by National League fans. I respect the Royals for performing so well in the post-season, but I feel like broadcasters should have shown interest even before their extra-inning fight for the wild card with the Oakland Athletics, instead of giving the spotlight to big name organizations. It almost seems as if broadcasters are becoming bandwagon fans of the Royals.

The moral of this is that broadcasters should show the same interest in teams whether they are undefeated or have a losing record. This way it doesn’t seem as if broadcasters are only taking notice to teams that pull off the unexpected, whether it be an unexpected win or loss.

World Series: Game 6

By Matt Ostrow

The two commentators on call for Game 6 of the World Series between the Rangers and the Cardinals were Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. It was an amazing back and forth game that fans enjoyed. The commentators did an average job, but there were multiple things that took away from such a great game.

Joe Buck did the play-by-play and, at times, was the only one speaking for almost the whole half of an inning. Buck was also very unemotional during very exciting plays that had me running around my apartment. For example, when Adrian Beltre for the Rangers hit a home run in the top of the 7th inning, making it a 5-4 lead for the Rangers, with no emotion, Buck said, “that one is gone, the Rangers now lead.” The job of the commentator is to capture the moment with emotion. It was a huge home run in the scope of the game and he needed to show more excitement with a play of such magnitude.

The other big issue I had with Buck’s commentary was that for a big part of the game, he would not even comment on the plays happening in the game, but talked about Pujols and his future. For almost the whole top of the 8th inning Buck talked about Pujols and free agency. He completely ignored the pitches being thrown by the Cardinals pitcher and only commented on the actual game if their was an out recorded or the ball was put in play. I understand Pujols is one of the best players in baseball and his future is important, but that conversation should not be happening during Game 6 in the top of the 8th inning. Those conversations need to happen pre-and post-game. Also, the coverage felt pretty unfair because most of the conversations were about how great of a comeback story the Cardinals were even when the Rangers were ahead 7-4 in the 8th inning and about to clinch the World Series.

Buck did do some things well, though. He gave many good statistical comparisons between the two teams or similar players. Another thing he did that was beneficial to the fan was: every time a new player entered the game he talked about how they came to be on their current team.

Tim McCarver rarely spoke, but when he did he had good insights into the game of baseball. When there were big plays, McCarver would explain why that call was made by the manager. I really enjoyed his analysis of the big plays and what possibly the player or manager could have done.

There were some things that Fox did well in producing the game. There were great replays of big plays with multiple angles and speeds. There also were a lot of great shots showing the managers reacting to big plays throughout the game. Something Fox did poorly was, it played the same song that they play for Sunday football and it totally does not fit the emotions of baseball.

The most memorable moment of the commentary was when Freese hit the walk-off home run in the 11th inning and Buck said, “We will see you tomorrow night.” This was not only a a great phrase to use, but is an honor to his late father, Jack Buck, who used that same phrase in 1991 when Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off home run in Game 6 of the World Series. A walk-off is always a special moment no matter what, but that call by Joe Buck made it even more memorable.