The MLB had the 2015 All-Star Game this week, and it was pretty fun. The thing is, that while about 10.9 million people tuned in their television sets to watch the game, the 6.6 rating on Fox was actually the lowest rating of all time for the game. The last record low was in 2012, and last year’s gave only had half a million more viewers than this year’s game. It makes sense that there were more viewers last year, given that Derek Jeter was going to be playing an All-Star Game for the last time. And the ratings aren’t technically bad, especially when you consider that Fox hasn’t had prime-time ratings that decent on a Tuesday since the last World Series.
Still, this begs the question as to whether or not the 2015 All-Star Game represents a trending downward spiral affecting baseball’s TV ratings. Since the article linked above contends that MLB’s All-Star Game is “the highest-rated all-star competition of the four major North American pro sports leagues,” does a drop in ratings indicate that fewer people in general are becoming interested in games that don’t directly affect a run to the championship?
We don’t know. But since the ratings indicate that there’s a good chance you may have missed the 2015 All-Star Game, we’d like to walk you through it, starting with the Home Run Derby the night before. We’ll also talk a little about what’s next for the MLB in terms of trade deadlines and the rest of the regular season.
The Home Run Derby
The night before the 2015 All-Star Game, we were treated to the Home Run Derby. That’s nothing new, but the derby itself was a treat with the new format. To those who have never seen a Home Run Derby before, the problem with them is that they can be boring. It doesn’t seem like that should be possible, since it’s basically an entire event dedicated to one of the best things that can happen in a baseball game. But a lot of batters who participate have often been content to wait around until a pitch looked good. Now that there’s a new timer, they don’t have that option anymore. The result was a derby that was a bit more fast-paced, and more exciting to watch.
And maybe that’s why the Home Run Derby got such good ratings. See, when we mentioned the all-time low ratings set by the 2015 All-Star Game, we neglected to mention that fact that the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby had the most combined viewers in the past five years. For that to happen in a year when the All-Star Game set a new low record, it would mean that the Home Run Derby attracted a ton of viewership. Although, since the two averaged 9.28 million (which is less than the actual total of All-Star Game viewers), it can safely be assumed that not as many were watching the Home Run Derby to begin with. The fact that the average is 700,000 higher than last season, however, demonstrates just how eager the fans were to see the new rules in action.
For one fan, however, the increased viewership of the Home Run Derby was somewhat unfortunate. During a Stand Up 2 Cancer tribute which preceded the last round of the derby, a fan stole the spotlight with a sign asking his lady to marry him. We don’t know who he is, but he used her last name, so at least she still gets to suffer the embarrassment of being the woman whose man capitalized on a cancer tribute. More importantly, though, is that he’s not the only one. The man next to him has a similar sign, although we can’t make out what it says. We can see the word “pizza” on there, so hopefully it’s not another marriage proposal.
As for the derby itself, it was a great prelude to the 2015 All-Star Game. Hosted in Cincinnati, it came down to Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds and Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And no matter which player had won, it would’ve made history. Pederson was in line to become the first Dodger ever to win the derby. He also would have been the first rookie to win since the 1986 win by Wally Joyner.
Since Frazier went home with the trophy, those titles were lost to Pederson. Frazier, however is the second player in history to win the derby while it was hosted in his home town. If he’d hit it a bit farther past right field, he would have also become the second player since Adam Dunn to knock the ball into the Ohio River. He didn’t quite make it that far (nobody did), but he did manage to win the Home Run Derby with a stellar fifteen homers. Not only did he beat Pederson, but he also beat two-time winner Prince Fielder of the Texas Rangers. Had Fielder won, he would have tied a record with legendary former All-Star Ken Griffey, Jr.
To recap, this year’s Home Run Derby was exciting not only because of the new format, but because just about every major player involved seemed as if they were trying to tie someone else’s record. There’s something exciting about watching an athletic event and knowing that it will likely have historic significance no matter who wins. And apparently, it’s contagious. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals wants to tie Frazier and 1990 derby winner Ryne Sandberg as one of the only players to ever win the Home Run Derby in his own stadium. That means he won’t be participating until Washington hosts in 2018, so it’ll be quite some time before we’ll know if he’s successful.
The 2015 All-Star Game
Now, onto the meat of this week’s proceedings, the 2015 All-Star Game itself. Just because it posted low ratings doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still chock-full of excitement. According to Phil Castellini, chief operating officer for the Cincinnati Reds, the team was one of the best hosts that All-Star week has ever seen. And while he may be somewhat biased, this isn’t just his opinion. He was reportedly given that precise compliment by numerous players and MLB officials who were present for the event. And despite the relatively low TV ratings, they had the second-highest three-day total in terms of actual stadium attendance.
Also, while we made an earlier quip about the 2015 All-Star Game not directly affecting the championship, we should take a moment to explain that this is not completely true. It does count, it just doesn’t count for much. More specifically, it plays a small part in determining which team will get home-field advantage in the 2015 World Series. That’s a ways off, and there are numerous games that will factor into the equation. So again, the 2015 All-Star Game was not much of a determining factor. But there are some who don’t think an exhibition game should be a factor at all.
Regardless of how you feel about the tie-in to the World Series and whether or not Rob Manfred should be putting an end to it, it’s still an exciting exhibition. This is especially true for people like Amy Crawford. Her older brother is shortstop Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants, while her boyfriend is pitcher Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates. So seeing the two participate together in the National League team was a treat. It was especially exciting since Cole has not participated in an All-Star Game before. And for first-timers, the opportunity to play with and against so many star athletes on the same field is an exciting experience. Almost as exciting as realizing that they’re considered to be on par with said players.
It’s a good thing that the experience was so rewarding on its own for players such as Cole, since the National League was not fortunate enough to go home with a win. The American League won 6-3, meaning that the Home Run Derby was the only part of All-Star week in which a player from NL’s Cincinnati was able to win on his own field. Mike Trout won MVP for the AL team, having also won MVP at last year’s All-Star Game. Given that the NL team has only won three times since 1997 (that’s nearly twenty years), it wasn’t too surprising to watch the AL take home a win. A few NL players, such as Andrew McCutchen, still gave it their best. But great players like Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper didn’t really put up the fight that some fans might’ve hoped.
Naturally, Mike Trout didn’t win it alone. In fact, many give just as much credit for the win to Prince Fielder. He was one of the major kinks in Kershaw’s game, and it’s worth noting that this is just one more example of greatness in a season that has generally been favorable for Fielder. He barely played more than forty games last season, and he had surgery on his neck that could have put him out of a career if anything went wrong. This season, he’s got 14 home runs under his belt, with 54 RBIs. He’s leading the AL in hits, which he says is his primary concern this season: “Hit the ball. It’s that simple.” Oh, and he boosted his career home run record to 81 during the Home Run Derby. That’s a record, in case you’re wondering. And while some stat-crazy fans refuse to count anything that doesn’t occur during an actual regulation game, it’s still worthy of note.
There are some who don’t think the All-Star Game is important anymore. And to be certain, it was probably a much more exciting event back when there were only so many channels that offered athletic events, only so many outlets for sports news in general, and no internet that people could use to read recaps and pirate recordings of the game. But whether or not it’s still “important,” MLB’s 2015 All-Star Game continued to prove that pitting a bunch of star athletes against each other is still an entertaining experience for fans and a rewarding experience for players. It’s a shame there weren’t more people watching.
What’s Next for the MLB?
The 2015 All-Star Game marks about the halfway point in the MLB regular season, meaning that it’s easy to wonder what’s next for the MLB. From here, it seems like more or less a straight run to the 2015 World Series. But there are still a few questions to be answered in regard to what comes next.
The first question is one we’ve talked about before. Namely, will Pete Rose make the Hall of Fame? That question’s always been around, but it was renewed when Pete Rose was honored during the game and received a standing ovation from fans. Rob Manfred has said that there is currently no pending meeting on the issue of whether or not Rose’s lifetime ban will come to an end. Since it has recently been discovered that he was less than honest about not having placed any bets while he was a player, some believe that his situation might not have much of a positive outlook. But there are many fans who think that it is about time to forgive and forget.
Of course, that’s really not the most pressing issue facing the MLB in the wake of the 2015 All-Star Game. More pressing is, as we mentioned above, whether or not the World Series will be affected by the game’s outcome. Howard Cole of Rolling Stone writes about “home-field in next year’s World Series going to the league which slugs most prodigiously in the 2016 Home Run Derby,” which we’re assuming (hoping?) is more of a joke than an actual suggestion. He also mentions the ballot-stuffing issue involving the Kansas City Royals, who are currently first in the AL Central Division and might easily grab the pennant this year. Either way, Manfred is either undecided on whether or not the 2015 All-Star Game will be a factor, or he has simply decided not to change it up. Either way, we might be watching four of seven World Series games in Kansas City this year.
The last major issue facing the MLB right now is the trade deadline. Bleacher Report points out that the trade deadline is not as strict as it used to be, but it’s likely that many teams are still going to be rushing to complete trades over the next two weeks. One of the most highly sought players right now is Ben Zobrist, and one of the teams possibly looking to add the most to their roster is the Houston Astros. Whether or not these two puzzle pieces will result in Zobrist moving to Houston is unclear. He’s also sought by the New York Yankees, the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. But he’s just one player of many who may or may not be traded in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll have to revisit the issue after the deadline to see who’s been picked up and who hasn’t.
The 2015 All-Star Game made for decent entertainment, as did the preceding Home Run Derby. But now it’s time to get back into the real meat of the sport. The World Series isn’t until October, so there’s still a lot of potential for big and breaking news stories over the next couple of months. There’s no telling what may happen during the second half of the 2015 MLB season, but it’s sure to be exciting.