Hello ... hello ... hellooooo ...
Sorry. Just checking the echo chamber that is the 2010 World Series, which apparently is being watched only by me and about three other guys.
TV ratings for the Giants-Rangers have been predictably abysmal -- Game 3 was the second least watched in history -- and if that is not what this Series deserves, it might be what baseball deserves. When you sell your sport as the exclusive property of two teams (Yankees and Red Sox) because those two teams pull big numbers for you, this is what you get. When you allow a situation where all the established stars flock to those two teams and about three others ... this is what you get.
Too bad. Last night, if you were watching, you saw a 21-year-old rookie, Madison Bumgarner, pitch the game of his life, confounding the Rangers with a three-hit shutout in his first-ever World Series start. It was one more dazzling episode in a masterful performance by Giants pitching, which has shut out the Rangers twice in the Series -- something that hasn't happened since 1966.
Ah, but America never heard of Madison Bumgarner, just like it barely has heard of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Cody Ross, Brian Wilson, Josh Hamilton, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez. And it's only dimly heard of Cliff Lee, the best pitcher in baseball right now.
A fair amount of them are every bit as compelling, and every bit as skilled, as most of the established stars playing in New York or Boston or Philly right now. But nobody knows them since baseball is too busy giving us Red Sox-Yankees 25 times a year because, as a sure ratings bonanza, it's the safe play.
Ask yourself this, though: If the Rangers and/or Giants were on TV as much as the Yankees, Red Sox et al, you think this Series would be tanking so badly in the Nielsens? You think perhaps viewers would be every bit as familiar with, say, Brian Wilson and his Gorton's Fisherman beard as they are with Mariano Rivera?
Of course they would be. People are comfortable with what they know. But when you never give them a chance to know, who can blame them for tuning out?
After all, who wants to watch a bunch of strangers play?