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Mitch Perry Report for 4.6.15 — Play ball (a little quicker, please)

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It was a big Easter weekend full of news.

The top local story is penned by Caitlin Johnston in the Tampa Bay Times regarding the treatment and working conditions at the Tampa Fire Department. Sort of embarrassing that a majority of the city’s fire stations still lack designated women’s bathrooms and private changing areas.

Rolling Stone magazine’s editors are being lambasted in some quarters on the Internet this morning for their response to that independent review on that University of Virginia rape story.

But let’s focus on Opening Day, shall we?

Spring training is over, folks. The 2015 Major League Baseball season cranks up for real today (actually it began last night in Chicago, but never mind), and locally that takes place in St. Petersburg, where the Rays host the Baltimore Orioles at 3:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field….It will be interesting to see how Desmond Jennings performs this season. A guy he’s been compared to as never fully reaching his potential, B.J. Upton, was just traded from Atlanta to San Diego incidentally. The Padres are sort of the sexy pick to break on through to the playoffs this season.

But can we just be real here?

Baseball is in crisis. What else would you call a game that is suffering from the greatest drought of scoring in nearly four decades? (the last time it was this bad the designated hitter was created) and also is running a full half-hour longer per nine innings than in the 1970s. And no team plays longer games than your Rays.

And the ratings? As The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, an average of 13.8 million viewers watched the (riveting) seven-game World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants last year. That’s a lot of people, no?

Well, it’s 16 percent less than the seven-game World Series in 2011, and a stunning 44 percent less than the audience watching the seven-game series in 1997 between the Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins, clubs with almost no national following. Just 3.8 million viewers on average watched last season’s National League Championship Series between the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, two of the game’s marquee franchises.

As perhaps the biggest Giants fan who lives in Tampa, I can tell you I was one viewer among those dwindling millions — and I loved those games. Because that’s the post-season, when baseball is great.

So is opening day, with all the color and pagaentry, it’s neat. But while today’s game at the Trop will be a sell-out, tomorrow’s surely won’t. Nor Wednesday. There are just too many games during the season, and with the lack of scoring, I say something’s gotta be done about it.

Rob Manfred is saying the right things about trying to do something about it. Will he? The new commissioner succeeds the very annoying Bud Selig, and he says he has a mandate from the owners to speed up the game itself. Color us skeptical.

The Rays are honoring the late Don Zimmer today, which is cool.

And San Francisco Giants fans and others in the Bay Area are mourning the death of Lon Simmons, the longtime voice of the Giants, Oakland A’s and San Francisco 49ers during the ’60s thru the ’90s. Incredible pipes. He was 91.

In other news…

We spent part of the weekend talking to both Kevin Beckner and Pat Frank about their different interpretations over some conversations they’ve had in recent months. Just another issue to divide Hillsborough Democrats.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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