9/29: The Collapse of the Boston Red Sox

September 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Jared Goldman

In the wake of one of the strangest nights in my life as a Red Sox fan, I have to ask, “Why?”

The question is not rhetorical expression of despair, as in “Why is baseball so cruel?”  It’s a real question: “Why did the Red Sox collapse?”

It’s easy to come up with quick answer.  Injuries, poor conditioning, bad free agent signings, and lack of clubhouse leadership are all popular explanations.  Many will propose a combination of causes.

And it is also likely that some people will throw up their hands and declare that the reason cannot be found, because baseball defies reason.  Such is the greatness of baseball, they might say.  I am not one of those people.  In a few weeks, though, once I have entered the acceptance phase, perhaps I will be able to appreciate that perspective.

In the FiveThirtyEight Blog at the New York Times, Nate Silver crunched the numbers to determine the likelihood of the Red Sox missing the playoffs in such agonizing style.  In a calculation that was not “mathematically rigorous,” he determined “a probability of about one chance in 278 million.”

With odds like those, Silver speculates that some other factors may be involved in the latest Sox meltdown.  I would have to agree.  In this age of advanced statistics, when sabermetricians are ensconced in baseball’s front offices and celebrated in films like “Moneyball,” we should be able to empirically investigate why one team manages to defy all expectations.

I know where to start: stress.  Though it’s not an original explanation, the idea that pressure could be the root of the Red Sox’ woes jibes with their playing environment, where the weight of sports history, regional angst, and the local media can be overwhelming.  It also might explain player underperformance — see the Yerkes-Dodson law — and the large number of broken-down bodies.

How to measure stress?  Blood pressure and cortisol levels come to mind.  Players could also fill out questionnaires assessing anxiety.  Of course, the players’ union may not approve such measures, given how drug testing has been so fiercely contested.  Also, athletes may be loath to dignify the notion that stress affects their job performance.  Nonetheless, I still think it would be interesting to compare the subjective experience of playing in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium as opposed to say, St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, where the Rays might benefit from the breezy Florida vibe.

My point is not to invite pity for the Red Sox, a collection of millionaires, nor to excuse their futility.  The results would be just as interesting if there’s no demonstrable difference in stress.  Maybe there’s some other reason.  Either way, I can’t believe the answer lies in dumb luck or the resurfacing of a curse.  I can only hope that cold, hard facts might alleviate my own stress over the cruelty of the baseball gods.

7/11: Yanks, Red Sox Vie for First Place in the Stadium of Public Opinion

July 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Sports, Sports Bench

Major League Baseball’s midseason break is underway.  So, with tomorrow’s All-Star Game on the horizon, who do fans think will win it all in this year’s World Series?

gold bats and baseballs

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie L. Calvano

Click here for Complete July 11, 2011 USA Marist Poll Release and Tables

According to this Marist Poll, the rivalry lives on!  17% of baseball fans nationally believe the New York Yankees will, once again, be crowned the kings of baseball.  However, they are in a virtual dead heat with their arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox.  15% report the Sox will be victorious.  The Philadelphia Phillies slide into the third spot with 10% of baseball fans on their side.  2010 World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants, who weren’t even a blip on baseball fans’ scorecard this time last year, receive 4%.  The St. Louis Cardinals also catch 4%.  23% of fans think another team will receive the championship title, and 27% are unsure.

When Marist reported this question last July, the Yankees were more of a fan favorite.  At that time, nearly three in ten baseball fans — 29% — thought the Bronx Bombers would round the bases into another World Series Championship title.  The Red Sox hit a grand slam in the minds of 11% followed by the Phillies with 5%.  The L.A. Dodgers, who were called out this year by fans, made the top five in 2010 with 4%.  Little has changed for the Cardinals who also received 4% at the time.  20%, last year, thought another team would be victorious, and 27% were unsure.

Table: Team Favored to Win the World Series

MLB Division Divide

There’s talk in the MLB to eliminate multiple divisions within the American and National Leagues and just have two leagues where the teams play each other the same number of times.  It would also re-structure the playoffs.  Should the rules of America’s pastime change, or should the chatter be thrown out before it reaches first base?  Baseball fans divide.  42% think this change is a good idea while 39% believe it is a bad one.  18% are unsure.

Just how many baseball fans are there nationally?  A majority of U.S. residents are not fans.  52% report they don’t watch baseball at all.  49%, however, check out a game at least a little.  Included here, are 10% who watch the sport a great deal, 9% who catch a good amount of it, and 30% who follow the sport a little.

There is little change on this question since last year.  At that time, 54% said they didn’t watch baseball at all, and 46% revealed they watched it at least a little.

Table: Changes to MLB Divisions
Table: Baseball Fans

Marist Poll Methodology

3/30: More Yanks than Mets Fans in NYC … Yanks Prepared for Season, Mets Not So Much

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Sports, Sports Bench

Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is tomorrow!  So, to whom do New York City baseball fans pledge their allegiance?  According to this NY1-Marist Poll, more than six in ten baseball fans citywide — 61% — cheer for the Bronx Bombers while 30% root for the Metropolitans.  Nine percent support neither team.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie L. Calvano

 

Click Here for Complete March 30, 2011 NYC NY1-Marist Poll Release and Tables

Have the Yankees and Mets done enough in the pre-season to improve their teams?  It depends.  A majority of baseball fans — 52% — say the Yankees have done just the right amount to make their team stronger.  More than one in five — 22% — report they have done too little, and 17% say they have gone overboard.  Nine percent are unsure.  54% of Yankees fans say the team has taken the appropriate steps to make the Bombers a better team, and another 15% say they have gone above and beyond.

However, the Mets are a different story.  Nearly six in ten New York City baseball fans — 59% — believe the Mets have done too little during the off-season to improve the team.  22% say they have done the right amount while just 5% think the Mets have done too much.  14% are unsure.  69% of Mets fans say their team fell short in their off-season preparations.

Table: Mets Fan or Yankees Fan
Table: Off-season Preparations: Yankees
Table: Off-season Preparations: Mets

World Series What If?  Yankees vs. Phillies …  Mets vs. Red Sox

The Yankees and Mets are cross town rivals, but each team has their own out of town nemesis.  Would Yankees fans root for the Mets or the Red Sox if the two faced off in the World Series?  Most Yankees fans have a greater dislike of the Red Sox.  83% would want to see the Mets take down the Red Sox.  14%, on the other hand, say they would cheer for the Red Sox over the Mets.   Three percent would not support either team.

When it comes to a Yankees-Phillies World Series matchup, about six in ten Mets fans — 61% — would back the Yanks.  However, a notable 34% would root for the Phillies.  Four percent would not cheer on either team.

Table: Mets/Red Sox World Series
Table: Yankees/Phillies World Series

Wilpon Family Scandal … Distraction for the Mets?

For the Mets to make it to the post-season, their focus needs to be on the field.  But, 53% of Mets fans think the financial troubles and lawsuit facing the team’s owners, the Wilpon family, will distract the team.  46% don’t think it will.  Only one percent of Mets fans are unsure.

Table: Wilpon Scandal – Distraction for the Mets?

Ticket Prices Strike Out

Nearly three in four baseball fans in New York City — 73% — don’t think the price of a Major League Baseball ticket is a good value for the money.  23% disagree and say that tickets are worth the price of admission.  Just 4% are unsure.

Mets fans — 82% — are more likely than Yankees fans — 69% — to think attendees don’t get a good bang for their buck when they attend a Major League Baseball game.

Table: Ticket Value

Take Me Out to the Ballgame?

When it comes to attending a Major League Baseball game this season, about one-third of New York City baseball fans — 34% — report they will attend the same amount of games they did last year.  14% will go to more games, and 10% will attend fewer games.  41% did not venture out to a stadium last year.

Table: More or Less Games than Last Year

NY1-Marist Poll Methodology

7/12: Yankees “Top of the Heap” To Repeat

July 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Sports, Sports Bench

As the 2010 All-Star game approaches, marking the proverbial midway of the Major League Baseball season, baseball fans across the country are weighing in on which team will win the World Series this year.  The New York Yankees take the top spot with 29% of fans saying they will take home another World Series trophy.  11% think the Boston Red Sox will be victorious in the Fall Classic and 5% say the Philadelphia Phillies will win it all.  Rounding out the top five are the LA Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals, each garnering 4%.  20% of baseball fans mentioned some other Major League Baseball team as their pick for World Series winner, and 27% are unsure.

©istockphoto.com/albtraum

©istockphoto.com/albtraum

When Marist last asked this question in April, the results were similar.   The top three remain the same with 33% of fans giving the Bronx Bombers the World Series nod.  11% picked the Red Sox, and 6% pitched for the Phillies.  There has been one change to the top five.   Since the beginning of the season, the Chicago Cubs have struck out.  In April, the Cubs slid into the top five with 3% picking them as World Series winners.  The same proportion of baseball fans favored the St. Louis Cardinals.  At that time, 12% chose another team and 32% were unsure.

Table: Team Favored to Win the World Series

Instant Replay Hits Homerun Among Fans

Currently instant replay is used to review homeruns — fair or foul, over the fence or not, and fan interference.  But, with a season that’s been riddled with controversy over questionable umpiring, Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball may need to look into expanding the use of instant replay.  What do baseball fans think about this?  Nearly three-quarters — 73% — think it’s a good idea for instant replay to be used to review other plays.  23% think it’s a bad idea and 4% are unsure.

America’s pastime is not passing time for a majority of Americans.  54% say they do not watch or follow professional baseball at all.  This compares to the 46% who say they pay attention to baseball at least a little.  This includes 8% who say they watch a great deal, another 8% who follow a good amount, and 30% who take in a little of the Major League Baseball season.  This is relatively unchanged from Marist’s early April survey when 48% of residents across the country said they pay attention to professional baseball at least a little bit, while a majority – 52% – said they don’t follow at all.

Could baseball become outdated as America’s pastime?  Future baseball fans may be few and far between.  Just 28% of U.S. residents age 18 to 29 are baseball fans.  Older Americans are more likely to watch the game, at least a little.  Included here are 49% of those 30 to 44, a majority — 55% — of those 45 to 59, and 48% of those 60 and older.

Table: Instant Replay in Baseball
Table: Baseball Fans

Marist Poll Methodology

4/1: Yankees Favored Nationally

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Sports, Sports Bench

Heading into Major League Baseball’s 2010 regular season, the New York Yankees are favored by fans nationally to win this year’s World Series.  Regardless of the team they support, 33% of fans think the Bronx Bombers will be victorious in the fall.  Their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, are a distant second with 11% saying the team will claim bragging rights this year, and the Philadelphia Phillies slide into third with 6%.  The Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals receive the nod from 3% of fans.

©istockphoto.com/Kameleon007

©istockphoto.com/Kameleon007

But, which team has the biggest fan base?  The New York Yankees edge out the Boston red Sox for top honors.  11% of fans say they pledge their loyalty to the Yanks, and 10% hold true to the Red Sox.  8% cheer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and 7% claim the Chicago Cubs as their team.  And, rounding out the top teams, 6% root for the Cardinals, and an additional 6% do the same for the Atlanta Braves.

Baseball is known as America’s pastime, but does it deserve the title?  48% of Americans say they watch the sport at least a little.  This includes 9% who tune in a great deal and another 9% who catch a good amount of games.  30% watch baseball a little compared with 52% who don’t follow it at all.

Table: Team Favored to Win the World Series
Table: Favorite Baseball Team
Table: Baseball Fans

Out-of-Market Fans

Nearly a quarter of baseball fans nationwide — 24% — report they cannot watch their favorite team in their TV viewing area.  71%, on the other hand, can.  5% are unsure.

Out-of-market fans are most prevalent in the South with 34% reporting they cannot watch the team they root for in their TV viewing area.  24% in the West, 18% in the Midwest, and 14% in the Northeast say the same.

Table: Out-of-Market Fans

Take Me Out to the Ballgame… Or Not!

Major League Baseball may need an image makeover.  Half of American baseball fans say they did not attend a baseball game last year, and they don’t plan on going to one this year.  29% say they will venture to the stadium about as often as they did last year, and 14% report they have every intention of going to more.  7% say they are going to attend fewer games this year.

What do fans think about the cost of a baseball ticket?  56% don’t think they are a good value for the money while 34% believe they are.  10% are unsure.  In an April 2009 Marist poll, 57% of fans thought prices were a rip off.  31% said they were a good value, and 12% were unsure.

Interestingly, more fans who root for teams in the American League, compared with fans of National League teams, say the cost of a ticket is not a good value for the money.  61% of fans who support an American League team and 54% of those who back a National League team believe the cost of Major League Baseball tickets is out of line.

Age and region also come into play here.  61% of fans 45 or older report baseball tickets gyp the consumer while 47% of those younger than 45 agree.  Around the country, 73% of those in the Northeast, 56% of fans in the Midwest, 51% of baseball lovers in the West, and 49% of those in the South share this view.

Table: More or Less Games Than Last Year
Table: Ticket Prices Value

Marist Poll Methodology