Ratings are down, but MLB is still rich

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone except TV executives cares about MLB's TV ratings, and I cannot understand why anyone except writers about TV write about MLB's TV ratings.

Nevertheless, it's a popular topic of conversation every year around this time. At least a few thousand times every autumn, a radio host jokes about how unhappy the networks will be if there's not a New York team in the World Series. And Sunday in the New York Times, Harvey Araton wrote:

And a Cardinal advancement to the World Series, where they would face the Detroit Tigers, would no doubt darken thousands more television screens in New York and across the country, along with Selig's mood. … Television ratings generally don't interest me, particularly when year-to-year shifts largely reflect a prime-time blackout in a suburb of Cleveland. Precipitous declines are hard to ignore, though. This year, ESPN's division series ratings were off 24 percent from a year ago, and Fox's were down 26 percent. At least in part they are a commentary on the limpness of the competition. The Tigers' domination of the Athletics foretells more of the same for the American League Championship Series.