In case you haven't heard, ratings for the Boston Red Sox are down this year. Way down actually.
Count me among the guilty non-viewers contributing to this current situation. That's not to say I don't tune in. Just not nearly as much as in years prior.
According to a recent report by the SportsBusiness Journal, Red Sox television ratings on NESN are down nearly 36 percent from last season, a significant drop-off in just one year. Radio ratings are also down 16.5 percent.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the main reason is for the slippage.
Is the fad of being a part of Red Sox Nation and the love for the nauseating singing of "Sweet Caroline" coming to an end? It's possible. Often times things like that are cyclical. Prior to 2003, I don't remember seeing nearly as many Red Sox hats — whether they be blue, red, pink or whatever — around the Commonwealth. But if you ask me, Boston's heartbreaking loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 American League Championship Series seemingly increased the popularity of being a Red Sox fan. One more colossal failure that fueled the desire to end the curse, setting the stage for the Sox finally breaking through with a World Series title in 2004 that put their popularity off the charts.
Add in another championship in 2007, and it's no longer "cool" to root for a team that never won, and now wins all the time. So I guess reason No. 1 would be: it's just not cool anymore.
Another possible source for the ratings plummet is the fact that Boston is no longer a Red Sox town. It had always been a baseball-first city and everything else after that. But the NFL now reigns supreme all over this country and New England is no different, especially considering the Patriots have won three Super Bowl titles.
The Patriots success is not the only problem for the Sox. Both the Celtics and Bruins have discovered winning ways as of late. The Bruins endured a long postseason run this spring and the Celtics followed up a championship in 2008 with a long run in 2009 and a trip back to the NBA Finals last month.
It means that Boston's winter teams are playing longer into the spring and sucking the attention away from the Red Sox. Would you rather watch a mid-May Sox game against the Blue Jays or a playoff Bruins or Celtics game? Then when the Red Sox finally take center stage in mid-to-late-June, they have the city to themselves for a short time before the Patriots near training camp and everyone comes down with football fever.
Finally, and this may be the most obvious of all, maybe this year's Sox team is just flat-out boring. It's not that they're bad — entering Wednesday the Sox were 57-44 and were tied for the sixth-best record in all of baseball — they're just not interesting to watch. Of course, despite the solid record, Boston was seven games out of the division and five back in the Wild Card on Wednesday, which doesn't help things.
But let's get back to the boredom issue. The Sox lineup is built on a foundation of sabermetrics, the new-age philosophy of analyzing baseball through newly created statistics such as runs created and win shares. The emphasis strays away from batting average and RBIs, and stresses on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Baseball is not brain surgery. For years teams were built on players who produce runs and pitchers who prevent runs. Now, front offices such as the one in Boston are over-thinking things. It's why J.D. Drew gets paid $14-million to bat .270 and drive in 70 runs and why there has been a revolving door at shortstop since Nomar was traded.
The two everyday Red Sox players who are the most fun to watch, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, have only played 73 and nine games respectively, which also doesn't help.
A trip to the postseason, can help cure these problems, and the Sox are certainly still in the race with a little more than two months to go.
Still, Patriots training camp starts today, and football season is just around the corner.
Matt Langone can be reached at email@example.com.