When the news broke that MLB is in discussions with sports and pop culture blog, Barstool Sports, to broadcast games, many in the baseball world spat their coffee across the room, while others high-fived, craving the frat boy ‘n’ pickup content.
Personally, I doubt this relationship has legs, and even if it does, the “broadcast” will be minor content via social media and will never rival the big broadcasters like Fox, Turner or ESPN.
However, that’s not the point. The point is that MLB is engaging with the controversy-courting blog which unabashedly caters to the PC-phobic, 18- to- 34-year-old white, male demographic, which will further alienate two of the fastest-growing fanbase groups: women and people of colour.
Look, I’m not saying that all of the pro-Barstool voices heard “Dinger” at Coors Field, but…
We all know that MLB is desperately trying to increase the profile of the game and attract a younger audience, but surely there are better ways than teaming up with an organisation, vividly described by Craig Calcaterra as “radioactive slime”?
The most popular change to boost audience numbers, at least among my US contacts, would be to remove blackouts.
Here in the UK, we don’t have MLB blackouts – the restriction which prevents local (and I use that word laughingly) fans from live streaming games on MLB.tv, thus giving them three choices:
(1) Go to the game
(2) Pay for expensive cable
(3) Watch a different sport
The idiosyncrasies of MLB blackouts are well known. In Las Vegas, six local teams are blacked out (Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A’s and Padres). In New Orleans, you can’t access Rangers games despite Arlington being nearly 600 miles away.
MLB has done the math(s) and calculates that the reduced revenue from cable companies is not a worthwhile loss compared to any perceived benefit from addressing the blackouts situation. It’s a short-term view. People can’t discuss water-cooler moments if most didn’t see the action.
Creating controversy is a money-maker. Barstool and their apologists are revelling in this elevated level of respect afforded to them by MLB. They will be hoping that it lasts longer than the previous relationship with ESPN which survived just one show before the network quickly realised their error.
However, the reputation for misogyny and racism could make Barstool Sports great partners for Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his gang if the MLB gig doesn’t work out. The role is filled at the moment, but there could be an opening soon.
I would love to think that Barstool founder, Dave Portnoy, is wonderfully self-aware when he proclaims himself as the “Stool Presidente” and it isn’t just a language anomaly.
So, circling back to the headline of this article, why is this a genius move by MLB?
It’s obvious, isn’t it? While you guys have been focused on this nonsense, non-story, no one is asking “What the hell is happening with Trevor Bauer?”
The Dodgers disgraced pitcher is set for Day 1 of his court hearing on Monday 16 August, and MLB is desperate for it to disappear quickly and quietly. The game’s highest-paid pitcher remains under investigation for sexual assault, and the hearing will decide whether to terminate or extend the temporary restraining order against him.
The ramifications of the court hearing are far-reaching, not least as the police, MLB and the Dodgers are watching from the sidelines, having all decided to take a reactive rather than a proactive response to the case. If the judge kicks it out, the police are unlikely to investigate further, MLB will likely decide that no punishment is necessary, and look out for Bauer in the postseason. There are a lot of vested interests hoping that this case dies a fast and silent death.
If, however, Judge Gould-Saltman applies the restraining order, then the police and MLB will have to act. Until that time, Bauer, and his $93,000 per day salary, will remain on administrative leave, and retain his position as poster boy of Barstool Sports.
Look, I’m not saying that all of the pro-Bauer voices heard “Dinger” at Coors Field, but…
Featured photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
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