MLB Playoffs: Do They Lack Buzz If Your Team's Not In It?

Are you less interested in baseball's postseason than you used to be? Why?

I've just watched Rays-Rangers, and only the thrilling no-hitter by Roy Halladay, must-see TV, compelled viewing of Reds-Phillies.

Apart from that, the buzz is dead.

And I don't know if baseball can ever do anything about it, shorting of making the NFL go "poof" and restoring the old four-team playoff system -- forgot the old 10-team leagues.

Spewing a final analysis, baseball may simply have to settle for permanent second-fiddle status to pro football. That's not such a bad situation to be in. But we've been conditioned to think of baseball as still our national pastime.

It isn't, and probably hasn't been for the better part of five decades amid the constant onslaught of football, the best-marketed sport in history. The only thing that could bring the country, the baseball-playing part of the world together again, in fact, would be a Cubs-Red Sox or Cubs-Yankees World Series. But successive ownerships and managements of the first team mentioned in this sequence have shown a singular inability to do what's right for the game, let alone themselves. 

The last time baseball was a true national social event was when the World Series was held in the daytime, kids sneaked transistor radios into class and scattered teachers, going with the flow, conjured up black and white TV's normally tuned into boring public stations to display the Fall Classic.

But when you see a 39.7 rating and 54 percent market share for Chicago TV ratings for the Bears-Giants game Sunday night, baseball just cannot keep up.

Baseball's successive expansion of the postseason into wild cards and three rounds has kept the game relevant in September against football's dominance -- but not on a national basis. Teams staying alive throughout September generates interest on a simply local level. The baseball fan pie has been steadily Balkanized. Even the Yankees' typical postseason bid doesn't excite the masses. If anything, it engenders resentment because of the uneven financial and promotional playing field on which the Yankees operate.

The playoffs are now hardly better than their NBA and NHL counterparts in compelling theater. That's regrettable. As late as the 1980's, the league championship series had sometimes surpassed the World Series itself in drama and memorable games. But both the LCS and World Series don't seem special anymore. The 1970s-vintage idea of televising the postseason in prime time has gone against itself, with many games being played too late into October -- all the way to Nov. 4 this season -- and in inclement weather.

Maybe this is a history lesson, but the postseason was originally designed to wrap up by Oct. 15. After that, "baseball weather" gets into short supply quickly.

And the postseason was designed for fans of the majority of teams who didn't make the cut to switch allegiences and root for the lucky two, or four. So the LCS teams and World Series participants would have national rooting interest. No more.

I supposed all of the above is the progression of society and sports. It doesn't mean I like it. Baseball has become increasingly choreographed and stilted in how it's presented to the public and covered by the media -- but does not remotely compare to the palace-guard mentality of football. The public is disgusted with the bland personality and lack of insight provided by Lovie Smith -- they want him gone -- and yet they lap up everything else Bears. Ditto in so many other cities.

And when all the former athletes hired as co-hosts and pundits on sports-talk radio are football players, you get down even further. Maybe more ex-Bears settled down in chilly Chicago (hey, they're playing into January anyway) after their careers wound down while the better-paid baseball stars fled to the Sunbelt, out of sight and out of mind. Maybe the dyed-in-the-wool baseball fans in media management are few and far between. Maybe there are a decent number of such fans calling the shots, but they're forced to play to the crowd for ratings, revenue and their own job security.

It's simply a bad time of the year with no Chicago playoff baseball, the game drops off the map. The time of the season still seems ridiculously early for hockey, let alone basketball. They're perfect on a bitingly cold December night, but not when it's still nice enough to play a ballgame.

Once the new Cubs manager is hired, free agents are recruited and trades are consummated, I'll perk up. But October, minus local playoff baseball, is the deadest of the dead. And unfortunately those playoff games going back to back to back on TBS might as well be played on the moon.

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