How Baseball Whiffed with Phenom Strasburg


Major League Baseball blew it by not putting Stephen Strasburg in the All Star Game, plain and simple. I don’t care about the mechanism for getting him in, it is a missed opportunity for positive PR – and ratings.

If commissioner Bud Selig would have held a sudden press conference one day and said, “You know what?  I’m the commissioner. And this guy is in.” do you know the positive PR and attention for the event it would have garnered?

I’m not talking about from the hard core fans and roto-geeks who think some guy named Joey Votto should be in the All-Star Game. They’re all going to watch anyway. They don’t move the ratings needle one way or the other.

I’m talking about the mainstream sports fans who have heard about the Washington fireballer but haven’t yet seen him. Or the curiosity Fox’s strong marketing team could have built with a couple weeks of promos. Those would have been additive eyeballs next Tuesday night. And baseball (and therefore Fox) missed out on them.

The All Star Game is the big TV event of the summer, and viewership has been rising three years running on Fox Sports. This could have helped up that trend, as every tenth of a ratings point counts, as we all know. A tenth of a rating point can literally be the difference between the words “Down” and “Flat” or “Flat” and “Up” in the headline of a press release.

On a media call previewing the game, Fox’s Joe Buck pointed out Strasburg literally doubled the regular attendance at a stadium recently. And while Fox Sports chief Ed Goren said it’s too hard to put a definitive amount of ratings gain on what Strasburg would bring, he acknowledged that “obviously there would be an interest in seeing him in the All Star Game.”

Bottom line: this was a huge opportunity lost for Major League Baseball, and Fox has to pay the price, as it has no say whatsoever in the rosters, of course.

Had Selig put in Strasburg with enough time to promote it, there would have been a direct lift in the rating, and a nice PR boost for Selig, not a bad thing in the same season as the Jim Joyce disaster.

It’s easy to hide behind tradition and rules all the reasons not to put Strasburg in. But once in a while it is nice to see a decisive leader step up and make a bold move and shake things up. Call it the commissioner’s pick, and put Strasburg on the National League team.

Then for another ratings boost and to even out the rosters, you put former New York Yankees uber-bust and current Minnesota Twins success story Carl Pavano on the American League roster.

Now, that move wouldn’t help the All Star Game ratings themselves. But if you had the MLB network stick cameras in front of a ton of Yankees fans when you announced Pavano as an All Star, those reactions (and subsequent invention of several new profanities) would undoubtedly result in some of the best television the All Star festivities have ever produced.