Letters

Readers respond to Keith Olbermann's "Why the World Series Is Going Down the Tubes (Literally)."


Salon Staff
November 2, 2002 2:22AM (UTC)

[Read "Why the World Series Is Going Down the Tubes (Literally)"]

You can sum up Keith Olbermann's overwrought lament on the World Series in two sentences: 1) The Yankees weren't in it; 2) the world was so much bigger when I was smaller.

-- Tim Kirk

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Keith Olbermann's insightful comments about the televised decline of the World Series are right on target. But don't expect things to change. As a longtime television producer, I've seen too much drooling by misguided suits like Bud Selig when the talk turns to TV dollars. They want cash, and they want it now.

Can you talk sense into them about the long-term damage to their business? Not any more than you can convince them a low-scoring strategic game is superior to two dozen runs in a slugfest. To the Seligs of the world, more is better, even if it drains the life out of their product.

It's a vision thing. In reverse.

-- Brian Seifert

Keith Olbermann's poorly organized rant against major league baseball only proved one thing -- his own nostalgia for an era of baseball that I, for one, am happy to be rid of.

Olbermann's claim that this year's wild card series featured one-dimensional teams was wrong and not researched. The Giants, for instance, had the second-best ERA in the National League and finished with the best run differential. Statistical analysts agree that the chief difference between a team's expected wins and losses based on their run differential and their actual wins and losses is merely luck. If they played an infinite number of games in the National League rather than the usual 162, the Giants would likely have ended up on top. Wild card teams are sometimes greatly inferior, but that was not the case this year. So a lot of runs were scored in the series this year. Well, that could have happened to any team. Even the most casual fan of the game knows that you never know what the outcome will be in baseball.

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Yes, not as many people are watching the game as they used to. Surprise, surprise. It is a television event, and television is a hell of a lot more competitive than it once was. Besides, so what? There are plenty of ways to entertain yourself these days. I suggest Olbermann find one of them and shut the hell up.

-- Sean Ford

It appears that Olbermann has the same East Coast bias that caused many to miss out on one of the best World Series in the last five years. If his gripe is watered down pitching, isn't it a fact that the Angels led the AL in bullpen ERA and have some of the best young pitching that if you dont know them now you will over the next five years. So the pitching was hammered in the World Series -- so what? The hitting was outstanding. I would have loved to see Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling get absolutely pounded by the awesome bats that the Angels displayed against all three opponents this postseason. If you want to attribute bad ratings to poor talent in the World Series, I have to ask: How do you explain last year?

-- Jeremy Nieto

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Mr. Olbermann's sourpuss "analysis" of falling TV ratings for the World Series falls flat on so many points it's hard to know where to start. First, he mentions that the Series was a "pitching-optional exhibition" utterly ignoring a few facts on that point:

1) Four out of the seven games ended within one run of each other.

2) A few pitchers were real standouts: Fransico Rodriguez had a postseason ERA of 1.93, right behind Curt Schilling. He was also No. 1 in strikeouts with 28 in 18.2 innings in the postseason, and tied Randy Johnson's record for most wins by a pitcher in the postseason with five. Russ Ortiz pitched a shutout for six and a third innings in Game 6. John Lackey allowed one hit in seven innings in Game 7. Jason Schmidt allowed one run in five and two-thirds innings in Game 1.

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3) Let's look at some of the incredible World Series records that were set in this Series: Most home runs, both teams (21). Most home runs, one team (Giants, 14). Most runs scored, both teams (85).

And when was the last time you saw a team facing elimination, down five runs in the sixth inning, come back and win a game? That's what most people would call exciting. Consider as well Anaheim was a team that in 2001 finished the season second-to-last in its division (and barely so). Let's not forget the fact that Anaheim has the 4th lowest payroll in the entire American League. Plucky, hustling buggers are they, wouldn't you agree?

Oh, and one more question, if Gene Autry and his widow are such bad people, what does that make George Steinbrenner?

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-- Valdemar Jordan

Thanks, Keith, for your great assessment of this year's World Series. It makes me sick when TV turns the owners and executives into heroes that they definitely are not. Every time they panned the camera to the box with Autry and Michael Eisner I wanted to scream. The trophy presentations have become a disgusting display of egotism by these people as well. The TV person standing on the stage controls the show and ignores the players to talk to the money people.

It was the same thing in the Super Bowl and the NBA Playoffs. Maybe someday these mega-corporate types will open their minds a little and see that money isn't the most important thing, and that by realizing that, the World Series might become more important than school again and they might even make a little money along the way.

-- Chad Berkley

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Keith Olbermann is an idiot. There is nothing worse than the "when I was a kid everything was better" column.

First, the World Series is going to be played at night. Get over it. Move the series to weekday daytime games when adults are working and kids are in school? Yeah, that will increase the ratings!

Second, the Giants and Angels were "one-dimensional"? What planet is Keith living on? The Texas Rangers (No. 5 in runs scored this season and No. 27 in earned run average) were one-dimensional. The Toronto Blue Jays (No. 8 in runs scored and No. 24 in ERA) were one-dimensional. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (No. 25 in runs and No. 30 in pitching) were no-dimensional. But the Angels (No. 4 in runs and No. 4 in ERA) were about as balanced a team as they come and the Giants (No. 2 in ERA and No. 11 in runs) weren't far behind. The one-dimensional kings of the playoffs were (once again) the Atlanta Braves (No. 1 in ERA and No. 21 in runs scored). That's why they lost (once again).

Here's a clue: Both the Giants and Angels came out of the only divisions in which three teams won at least 90 games. And this during a season with an unbalanced schedule. Why are the 97-win Cardinals, who got to beat up on the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers, better than the 99-win Angels, who had to take on the A's and Mariners? And the Yankees? That must have been a tough 40 games against the Devil Rays and Orioles.

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Wild cards vs. division winners: Who cares? There was never a perfect golden age when all teams were above average. But that's what Olbermann apparently wants us to believe.

-- Mike Showalter

Keith Olbermann's criticisms of the World Series were woefully myopic. The best teams were not in the Series? I hate to tell him this, but that has been the case in most of the past several years -- in fact, this was the first since 1998 that the Yankees were the best team in the American League. Managerial mistakes? Bob Brenly made enough to fill a book last year, but still won. I'm surprised he didn't also mention Barry Bonds, who was vilified by Frank DeFord.

Could the problem be that MLB doesn't know how to market itself? I think no one expected either of these teams to last -- they were all ready to beat the drums for the A's, the Yankees and the Cards. If Cal Ripken instead of Bonds had been on the Giants, can you imagine the media blitz? The press must share the blame -- the series was a great story this year, and they didn't know what to do with it except lambaste it.

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-- Brian Gygi

Olbermann goes too far in criticizing the style of today's game as the cause of this year's poor World Series TV ratings. That's a shame, since he'd been largely right up until then. The total failure of the MLB to cultivate new fans by ensuring that kids get to watch baseball games is a perfect example of the shortsighted idiocy that passes for management among the owners today.

But as an unconditional Yankee fan, I have to admit I was thrilled to see the Angels win the Series this year because they richly deserved it. The Yankees have relied for too long on the same aging pitching staff, and been too quick to look outside the organization for starting talent. As a result, they have rich, old free agent pitchers who are more prone to wearing out by the end of the season. As great as the Yanks were this year, the younger and more evenly balanced Angels were better equipped for the October playoffs, and they showed it.

-- Chris Odell

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I agree with Mr. Olbermann. If the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing in the World Series, I would watch no matter what. But I can't reasonably expect to see that happen again in my lifetime. So, given the choice between watching television shows featuring two industries characterized by greed, venality, arrogance and corruption -- major league baseball and the Mafia -- I would choose to watch "The Sopranos," because it is more entertaining, less predictable and just a whole lot more fun than professional baseball.

-- Lynn Lightfoot

Why did this World Series (politely so-called) draw the lowest ratings in history? Pretty simple reason, it seems to me. But for the abhorrent "wild card" system, shamelessly copied from the NFL, the winning team's players would have been out fishing, hunting, golfing and otherwise enjoying the long off-season weeks ago like God intended. That did it for me. Two "wild card" teams [aka teams that lost their division races] vying for the World Series title? Not in my league.

Maybe the NL entry next year can hire the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to work the crowd for them between batters. And maybe the AL can go to two designated hitters (do fans really want to see some banjo-hitting featherweight shortstop in the lineup when they can see instead a beloved slugging outfielder whose legs have gone?) And then, after that ...

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Bah. A pox on 'em.

-- Robert A. Becker


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