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Behind the Mic: Fox Ignores the Mets in the Midst of Strasburg-Mania

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Critiquing MLB on FOX coverage of Mets-Nats; World Cup Ratings vs. Other Big Events

FOX Forgets There's Two Teams Out There In a Lot of Ways

A slightly shorter column since it's a holiday weekend.  Enjoy.

When the MLB on FOX flexed the Mets/Nationals game - a 6-5 loss for New York and their 10th in walk-off fashion - into yesterday's slate, I knew there were likely to be a lot of Met fans unhappy with how the game was presented.  After all, Superhero Stephen Strasburg is the only reason a July Mets/Nats game is on FOX at all.  That, plus FOX sending 2/3rds of it's A-team, Joe Buck, Ken Rosenthal and Kevin Millar, it was a likely recipe for disaster.  The network that broadcasts the World Series came pretty darn close, but in ways that don't have anything to do with Strasburg.  Let's get to that first, however.

First of all, this should be noted: For a team that sits two games behind the Braves for 1st place in the National League East, FOX never once showed highlights of the Braves/Marlins game that they were airing on other affiliates.  Instead, they showed clips of Twins/Rays and Yankees/Blue Jays - a game that was already over by the time the Mets/Nationals game started.  Especially when the net is showing Braves/Mets as their game of the week next Saturday.  Last week during Yankees/Dodgers, FOX did all they could to mention both the Mets and the Strasburgs coming the next week, but that brings us to the main problem: Total Strasburg fever.

You first had Chris Rose teasing the days coverage.  You had Strasburg and the Twins and the Rays and the Braves and the Marlins ... yet, the only clue hinting to anyone that the Mets would even be playing was a brief clip of David Wright sitting on the bench.  Yet, when we look at the ratings for today's game next week, I'll bet you the New York numbers are higher than Washington's and any other market in he country.  For a market that this network typically values so deeply, the Mets played third fiddle to Strasburg, then the Nationals.

Second of all, Tim McCarver may be a dull, boring, out-of-date baseball antique of an analyst, but he fits with Joe Buck in the FOX booth.  When you take McCarver away and replace him with anything resembling energy, as FOX did with former Red Sox/Marlin/Oriole Kevin Millar, Buck's lack of enthusiasm at times can shine right through.  Make no mistake, I'm one of Buck's bigger supporters as the man to call baseball's big moments, but boy, can he make a July Mets/Nats game seem like, well, what it is.  That's not what baseball needs right now, in my opinion.  They need a Mike Breen or a Mike Emrick, someone who makes every game feel like an important one.

Speaking of importance, why was the network denied access to the young pitching phenomenon?  It was mentioned on one of the SNY broadcasts that Strasburg is only allowed to talk once - to the print media - after each start he makes.  He can't do interviews with the team's radio or television outlets, and one on one interviews were completely out of the question.  Yet, FOX broadcasts your team and your new ballpark - basically giving you a 4-hour national Nationals advertisement - and the Nationals cannot give even a soundbite to let the people of the world know what the guy even sounds like.  There was no pre-game interview, he couldn't even do one of those in the dugout chats with Buck and Millar after he was done pitching.  I learned literally nothing about Stephen Strasburg yesterday.

As for new guy Millar, he just strikes me as a little weird, though funny and in touch with today's player.  In fact, the entire broadcast felt like it was coming in from some sort of Twilight Zone/Bizarro World angle when they did focus on the Mets.  David Wright's strikeouts were mentioned over his NL-leading 64 RBI by a count of 3 or 4 to 1.  Alex Cora and Jeff Francoeur were considered key elements in the Mets 10 games over .500 record.  But most of the day was very scattershot and unfocused - like a lot of FOX broadcasts - with discussions about Twitter, Facebook, LeBron, the All-star Game (hey, a baseball related one!) and Millar's bizarre promo for a restaurant in Beaumont, Texas.  They do their best to keep it entertaining, but FOX should instead be helping out the people who want to watch.

US-Ghana vs. Recent Big Events in the Area

The World Cup likely hit it's apex in the area with Saturday's Team USA round of 16 loss to Ghana in Extra Time, though the apex was certainly quite a bang, ratings-wise.  A whopping 11.2% of the New York market (includes New Jersey and parts of Connecticut) tuned into the game, with a 27-share - meaning 1 in every 4 TV's turned on at the time in the area were watching US Soccer.  Nationally, the game drew an 8.5 final rating.  How does that rank with the recent big money events in the area?

Well, not all that bad, but it still got beaten by a lot of championship events and marquee games featuring New York teams, especially - most interestingly - the US-Canada Gold Medal hockey game in February.  Here's where it ranks:

Recent Marquee Sporting Event Ratings in New York Market

2008 Super Bowl: NY Giants vs. New England (Fox 5): 44.9/67

2010 Super Bowl: New Orleans vs. Indianapolis (CBS 2): 41.1/60

2009 World Series, Game 6: Philadelphia vs. NY Yankees (Fox 5): 36.6/54

2010 Olympics: Gold Medal Ice Hockey, USA vs. Canada (NBC 4): 19.0/36

NBA Finals, Game 7: Boston vs. Los Angeles (ABC 7): 14.7/24

World Cup Soccer: USA vs. Ghana, Round of 16 (ABC 7): 11.2/27

MLB On FOX: Yankees vs. Mets (Fox 5): 11.0/18 

Stanley Cup Final, Game 6: Chicago vs. Philadelphia (NBC 4): 6.5/12 

And here's our weekly roundup of local ratings for various sporting events, including US-Ghana.

New York-Area Ratings For Recent Sporting Events

1. World Cup Soccer: USA vs. Ghana (Saturday, ABC 7): 11.2/27

2. World Cup Soccer: Argentina vs. Mexico (Sunday, ABC 7): 7.7/17

3. Fox Saturday Baseball: NY Yankees vs. LA Dodgers (Saturday, FOX 5): 4.9/9

4. MLB: Seattle vs. NY Yankees (Tuesday, My 9): 3.5/6

5. MLB: Minnesota vs. NY Mets (Saturday, PIX 11): 2.8/7

(Sources: pifeedback.com and @SonOftheBronx)