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Tim Kurkjian: It Isn’t Fair To Blame Players For MLB Covid Outbreaks

“My guess is if we have another outbreak, that might be enough to say the schedule is too messed up, the integrity of the game is in question, but most important, the health and safety of all people around the game is in question.”

Ricky Keeler

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As the baseball season goes into its second full week, the presence of COVID-19 continues to make itself known. The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies will return to the field this week after a week off of games (Phillies had 2 false positive tests). However, the St. Louis Cardinals have not played since Wednesday due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in their own organization. 

With several teams having to put their schedule on hold due to the pandemic, it has led people to believe the chances of a season being completed are falling. On Monday morning, ESPN baseball insider Tim Kurkjian was on The Jake Asman Show on SportsMap Radio and he mentioned he is not confident the season will be completed.

“The game is in turmoil and it should be given what it is up against, a pandemic like we have never seen before,” the ESPN writer said. “My guess is if we have another outbreak, that might be enough to say the schedule is too messed up, the integrity of the game is in question, but most important, the health and safety of all people around the game is in question. The commissioner does not want to make the decision, but he might not have a choice.”

On Friday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with ESPN’s Karl Ravech about what has gone in the game and Ravech got this response from Manfred: 

Some might be quick to solely blame players for their actions in causing games to not be played. However, Kurkjian said it is not fair to do that.

“We don’t know that much about this disease to say here’s what happened there. I think the bottom line is when this started, we were asking a bunch of young guys in their early 20’s to show discipline and restraint that maybe they have never shown in their whole life. That was a challenge to begin with and obviously some mistakes have been made, but to blame the players for this entirely, I’m just not sure that’s fair either.”

Over the weekend, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain and New Cain made a statement on Saturday while Cespedes did not show up to the ballpark and his agent reportedly did not tell the team until the middle of Sunday’s game.

“I think more and more players will get fearful of where this is going, but I don’t see a mass exodus,” Kurkjian told Asman.

Like many in the industry, Kurkjian, who has been covering baseball for 41 years, has had to adjust to calling games remotely while not being at the ballpark due to the pandemic. He mentioned it has been a weird season but adjustments have to be made in an unprecedented time.

“I have done games with Karl Ravech (in Connecticut), Eduardo Perez (in Florida), and I am in Maryland. It is so weird trying to call and analyze a Major League game when you are not at a Major League game. We are all flexible. We all understand this is how it works. These are extraordinary circumstances and everyone has to make an adjustment.”

Sports Radio News

16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming

The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.

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Streaming Radio

According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.

The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.

Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets

The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.

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Sports Radio News

New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend

More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.

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MLB Radio

When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.

In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.

Radio Listeners to MLB

Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.

The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.

Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.

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Sports Radio News

Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time

Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”

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Jeff Dean Show

Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:

“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”

Jeff Dean Facebook

Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”

Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.

Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.

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