Forbes scribe Tom Van Riper recently wrote
a shitty piece of link bait column about how the San Francisco Giants play boring baseball and because they do they’re a World Series ratings killer.
Van Riper has very voluminous hair, which is not boring.
His mug shot looks like he’s about to ride off on a stallion toward a supernova inside the Sears Portrait Studio, which is similarly not boring.
His pained-and-mysterious look says, “The chocolate fountain just broke at Golden Corral.” Or “Why couldn’t they have found just a small part for my boy Seth McFarland in the JJ Abrams Star Wars reboot?”
Nothing boring about that.
His not-boring rant is sounds like it’s from an alarmingly hungover commuter yelling spittle flecks on the steering wheel at sports talk radio from the cockpit of his ’97 Integra.
Van Riper said the boring-ass Giants, by making it to the World Series this year, are actually a threat to ratings (again). This is exciting commentary and also a bit of a strange way of putting things. It’s like saying the Loch Ness Monster not being real is a threat to Santa Claus. It’s linear logic, yes, but not necessarily the correct linear logic.
Not correct linear logic can never be boring. Ask the people in charge of the Creation Museum.
The rest of his salient points unfold in similarly un-boring ways.
They are as such:
• The NBA has the San Antonio Spurs. Major League Baseball has the San Francisco Giants. Steady, efficient, in the championship mix about every other year. And also boring.
I’m not sure what’s boring about a culture of winning or a potential sports dynasty to Van Riper. I guess using that line of logic, the ’36-’43 Yankees are the most boring teams in the history of baseball. Reggie Jackson in October is boring. Highlights of the Showtime Lakers are boring. The Madden Raiders and the Tom Landry Cowboys? …Boring. The Epstein-era Red Sox and those early Core Four years of Yankee return to dominance = boring. Michael Phelps in the pool is boring. Clint Eastwood with a maybe-empty chamber is super boring. Jennifer Beals ripping off her welding gear and dancing is over-the-top boringness boring. D-Day = boring. Because if winning against the odds is boring, than isn’t America boring? I put it to you Tom. Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to the Giants. But we’re not going to sit here—and listen to you badmouth …the United States of America.
• The Giants have already given Fox its lowest World Series rating ever, an average of 12.7 million viewers for their four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 2012.
This is an incomplete (but far-from-boring) statistic. Viewership in general of the World Series has been in steady decline since 1987. Cable, video games, mobile devices, Snap Chat storing all your nudie selfies and lots and lots and lots of internet porn have cut ratings in half since the Royals last made it to the Fall Classic three decades ago. I could refute Van Riper’s stat with a statement like, “What baseball really needs is an all-West Coast Series.” You have to go back to game one of the 1988 World Series (A’s vs Dodgers) to see the staggering numbers of 34.5 million or a 24 share tune in.
Van Riper did mention ratings bump up the closer series get to game seven and by only going a maximum of five games in their last two WS victories, the Giants didn’t give Fox that boost. Using Van Riper’s own hate-reader friendly logic, looking at a sample set of World Series Game 4s of the past six years reveals this:
2013 Red Sox v. Cardinals: 16 million/9.4 share
2012 Giants v. Tigers: 15.5 million/9 share
2011 Cardinals v. Rangers: 15.2 million/9 share
2010 Giants v. Rangers: 15.5 million/9 share
2009 Yankees v. Phillies: 22.9 million/13.5 share
2008 Phillies v. Rays: 14.5 million//9 share
With the exception of the 2009, all these numbers are virtually identical whether it’s Red Sox, Cardinals, Phillies, Rangers or Rays …or Giants. Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring. The Yankees all but guarantee a ratings boon, or at least a moderate spike in not-boring. Thus, a more accurate statement by Van Riper would be, “The Yankees should get a free pass to the World Series every year because the Yankees aren’t boring.”
• How boring are the Giants? Since their 8-0 thrashing of the Pirates in the National League play-in game, they’ve scored 27 runs in eight postseason games against Washington and St. Louis, an average of 3.4 per game.
Does this mean good clutch pitching is boring? Yes. To score a paltry 3.4 runs a game and win a wild card game, a division series and a National League pennant means the winning team would have to hold the opponent to fewer than three runs a game. Does this mean Koufax (.95 post-season ERA) was boring? How bout Riviera (.70) Whitey Ford? Was his .00 single-series ERA boring? How about Andy Pettitte with 19 post-season wins. Was that boring? It was pretty boring if I recall correctly. Talk about boring …Curt Schilling’s 11 post-season and one curse-breaking bloody sock? Boooorrrring. Is single-pitcher dominance in the post-season boring? Um, hells-to-the-fuck-yeah it is. Randy Johnson and Felix Rodriguez notching five wins each and the likes of Schilling, Cliff Lee, John Smoltz, Time Lincecum, Cole Hamels, Dave Stewart, Josh Beckett and Orel Hershiser with four. That’s one boring-ass group of dudes. Baseball historians especially classify mastery on the mound and grit under pressure as one of the more boring aspects of the game.
• The (Giants) pitching staff is dull, too. The only standout, Madison Bumgarner, is a soft-tossing lefty who doesn’t exactly evoke memories of Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez glaring in at a catcher’s sign before blowing away a hitter on a 99 MPH fastball.
Whoa, wait. OK now I KNOW Van Riper, whose biopic will star puffy Val Kilmer as him, probably hasn’t watched baseball this postseason—maybe ever. (Hint: Why? Because baseball is boring.) At 6’5″ 235, “Big Country” Bumgarner throws a four-seamer about 94-96, a 90-mph slider, a curve that falls off the shelf around 78 and a nice change up at about 84. The Hickory, NC native may have been called a lot of things in his day, including most recently, NLCS MVP, but demure “soft-tosser” (though I have a feeling I know who the soft tosser is in this equation) is not one of them. I bet watching MadBum in an alley soft tossing a six-beer-at-a-time-pounding left hook at Van Riper’s face would probably be pretty boring too.
• The rest of the rotation has averaged just over 5 innings per start during the playoffs, making for a work-share program in which a host of average pitchers manage to string together a lot of effective innings…zzzz.
Want to know some of the pitchers who paved their way to Cooperstown with boring run-stopping, gut-wrenching performances in relief? Try Rivera, with 42 postseason saves. Eckersley with 15. How bout Rollie fingers with 9 and Goose Gossage with 9. You know what’s boring? Great bullpens are boring. The Giants’ bullpen has a 1.78 ERA this postseason. The Royals’, 1.80. All aboard. …Next stop, Grand Boring Station. You know what’s not boring? Onomatopoeia.
• Yes, this all seems unfair for a club that’s had so much success in recent years. But modern sports, fair or not, is a corporate game.
I wonder if Van Riper’s original lede was “Websters Dictionary defines boring as…” (kudos Forbes editors for Van Ripering that one out).
• Efficiency and fundamentals don’t sell, star power does.
Research and fact-checking don’t get clicks. Calling something boring does.
• At least the Spurs are a genuinely great team, even if it’s only the hardcore fan who appreciates them. The Giants aren’t a great team.
I can think of someone else who’s not very great at what he does. Hopefully he has hardcore fans who appreciate him.
• The three remaining contenders highlight a fundamental baseball problem: a watered-down, 10-team playoff field that’s become little more than a crapshoot among decent teams. The business logic for expanding the postseason is obvious: more television inventory. The question is how much the drop in quality will ultimately undermine the quantity. Did you happen to notice that Fox bumped Sunday night’s NLCS game to its Fox Sports 1 cable outlet so it could air “Family Guy” and other prime time programming on its flagship network? Ouch. The game delivered 4.4 million viewers, compared to more than 14 million who tuned into Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Hit me up Seth, I’m on Tinder <3 TVR
• The Royals and Giants didn’t even win their divisions.
Not winning your division and making it to the big dance is boring and makes for boring TV. Just ask the ’97 or ’03 Marlins, the ’02 Angels, or the ’11 Cardinals. The 2004 Red Sox didn’t win their division and were three outs away from elimination with Riviera on the mound, ostensibly extending Bambino’s 86-year reign (actually they probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place because, you know, Yankees need a bye to the World Series). Instead they staged one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time and made history as well as life a whole lot easier for Bill Buckner. BOOOOORRIIING. For good measure, boring non-division winners who went on to win championships in Van Riper’s beloved NFL include the ’80 Raiders, the ’97 Broncos, the ’00 Ravens, the ’05 Steelers, the ’07 NY Giants and the ’10 Packers. All boring teams which didn’t belong there in the first place because they weren’t division winners.
• Face it, each club’s ability to outlast the rest of the playoff field so far has been as much about luck as anything else.
Sometimes a little luck can take someone a long way. Take for example lucking into a job at a place like Forbes, a once venerable business publication and now Buzzfeed without the cat .gifs, from a place like the New York Daily News.
• Four of San Francisco’s playoff wins have been by one run. Kansas City’s magical 8-0 postseason also includes four one-run wins; in fact all but one of their eight victories have come by one run and/or in their final turn at bat. The standard baseball cliché is that good teams know how to win the close games. Reality is that the closer the game, the greater role luck plays.
To clarify: One-run games are boring. Winning close games is boring. And doing something over and over and over, like maintaining a winning roster, prevailing by the narrowest of margins or returning to the World Series for the third time in the last half-decade isn’t just boring, it’s sheer dumb luck.
• The World Series has gone the way of every other sports championship not named the Super Bowl: big interest in the home markets, tepid interest elsewhere. The Giants are the perfect microcosm–great stadium and fan base in San Francisco, painfully bland to the rest of the country.
True, San Francisco, its music, food, culture, activism and innovation have always been nothing if not
boring bland in the eyes of the rest of the country and the world. Columnists like Van Riper love the word tepid by the way (not a boring word). That and myriad have to get in there somewhere.
…Oh and thanks Van Riper for saying Lincecum lost his mojo. You just woke up a sleeping Giant. Should make for some good (not boring) baseball if you can stop paging Seth McFarland long enough to tune in Tuesday.